A shorter first half match report this week with the roving reporter being dragged into linesman duty in this nail biting game.
A pre-season thrashing by this Spencers Wood team set the scene for tough game, but Shinfields recent form against strong teams has been good – so fingers were well and truly crossed by the parents as we prepared for kickoff.
And the game couldn’t have started better. Shinfield pushed hard early on and within one minute Max had grabbed a through ball, run at the goalkeeper and slipped it to his left to put Shinfield in the lead. Spencers Wood responded hard with opportunities of their own but after ten minutes, another break through the defence saw Max score an identical goal to the first. 2-nil to Shinfield.
But the first half traffic wasn’t all one-way. Spencers Wood proved very dangerous on the fast break with two very fast attackers causing us all sorts of problems in the final third. They hit the post, they shot wide. Eventually their persistence paid off as they pulled a goal back. Shinfield continued to counter attack with Ellis slipping a first-time shot just wide of the left post and Aidan coming close with a couple of opportunities
Our defence had to work extra hard. A fast break down the left by the lightning-fast centre forward left our defence standing, but as he pulled the ball back to cross it, Jack Brown timed a perfect sliding tackle to push the ball out for a corner.
The first half ended with Shinfield ahead on goals but by no means safe. This was a very open game with opportunities being created both ends.
The second half started with Spencers Wood eager to level the scores and within one minute they had done exactly that – their attackers just too fast for our defence who tried hard to stop the advance. 2-2
But as in recent weeks, Shinfield did not drop their heads. They kept battling and carving out their own opportunities. Our defence kept a good back line to draw the offside, but conscious that the fast attackers could break through any time.
Despite Spencers Wood putting on the pressure, Shinfield took the next goal – Casey broke through the defence, took a long shot at goal from the edge of the area. The goalkeeper appeared to have captured the ball but then it dropped in front of him. Thankfully, Jack had followed through and while the keeper scrambled to collect the ball, Jack snuck in and tapped it in. 3-2
Spencers Wood continued to make opportunities but failed to finish, letting Shinfield off the hook a few times. Luis played a blinder, coming off his line well to collect the though balls and showing a safe pair of hands when the ball came anywhere near him.
Our defence cleared the ball to Casey just yards inside the Spencers Wood half. He ran past the defence and had a long, clear run towards goal. The keeper barely came off his line to close down the angle, and Casey tried to shoot to the left corner but over-hit it just wide of the left post.
Aidan continued to work hard down the left flank against a strong and physical defender. Eventually, Aidans persistence and hard work paid off as he drove into the penalty area, cut across in front of goal to steady himself for a shot but was barged to the ground from the back. Casey stepped up and slammed a low hard penalty into the bottom left corner giving the keeper no chance. 4-2
Spencers Wood were given a couple of free kicks near our penalty area but they came to nothing, thankfully.Then at the other end, Aidan was yet again fouled on the left flank. He put a lovely set-piece cross towards the back post where Dan and Ellis were waiting. Unfortunately, their lack of communication led to confusion and as a result, Ellis headed just wide of the post.
The final fifteen minutes saw a different Spencers Wood emerge. They had a surge of energy and passion which was not evident earlier and their pace suddenly increased causing Shinfield real problems. A Spencers Wood attacker slipped down the left, drove at Luis, tried to slide the ball into the goal to Luis left, it hit the post then dribbled dangerously right across the goal where an oncoming attacker ran in and tapped it in. 4-3
This fired up Spencers Wood even more. Suddenly the game now looked within their grasp. Shinfield had a couple of breaks which were snuffed out, but all the pressure was now coming from Spencers Wood who played with urgency to get the ball back in our area. A lucky escape as a shot whistles past the Shinfield post. Our players now frantically trying to keep the ball away from our goal, but like a group of schoolkids trying to swat a persistent fly, the ball kept coming back.
Nerves were setting in among the Shinfield parents. Then the inevitable happened. The big, strong central midfielder for Spencers Wood (maybe he eats a lot of Spinach?) picked up the ball 10 yards inside the Shinfield half. With no apparent danger to Shinfield he launched a rocket of a shot which might have actually reached Spencers Wood home ground had it not been trapped by the Shinfield net. Luis bravely dived to divert it, but would have been as effective as a fly-swat against an Exocet. 4-4
The referee was heard to say there were 4 minutes left. Excitement levels were through the roof. Spencers Wood were on a roll and could smell victory. Pete controlled his army of players deftly, ensuring no opposition was left unmarked. Shinfield parents clenching teeth and fists in sheer panic as Spencers Wood rattle the ball about in our 6 yard box, then miss a sitter of an opportunity by hitting the ball over the bar.
Everyone was willing the referee to blow the whistle to end the nerves. He did, but only for a free kick to Spencers Wood, right on the edge of our area as the ball had accidentally hit James hand. Could this be a tragic end to a superb Shinfield performance? The big Number 6 steps up. Surely this ball will be slammed so hard that we’d need a slowmo replay to see it? To everyone’s relief, he dipped it over our defence towards the bottom left corner. It would easily have outclassed Luis had the attacker not put too much curl on the ball – it whistled agonisingly close to the left post. A close shave for Shinfield.
With no more than a minute left to play, the fast Spencers Wood centre forward, took on our defence, beat them with a burst of speed. Luis raced off his line. The attacker flipped the ball over Luis, but it didn’t have enough pace to reach the goal. A flurry of players raced in to either clear it or score, but Dan was first to the loose ball and wildly hit it to safety
Finally the whistle blew to end the excitement. A 4-4 draw against a very strong team. In the end this was a fabulous result. Shinfield came close to a win in a game where they never sat back. Free-flowing, end-to-end stuff in a good-natured but hard-fought game. Even the Spencers Wood Coach turned to me at one point and said that our team wanted the win more than his team did. Well that was before the final 15 minutes when Spencers Wood did finally wake up and stepped up the effort.
The last few weeks has seen some fantastic effort from the whole Shinfield team. They have proven that when they play as a team, they really can perform well.
Final Score: Shinfield 4 – Spencers Wood 4
Scorers: Max (2), Jack, Casey (Pen)
Trophies: James, Casey, Max
Reported by Chris Starke