The Severnsiders from Stourport live up to their name.
Stourport 5 take all the points with a comfortable 7-0 win over Sils 4.
With just eleven players and no subs the mighty 4s were missing a few key players. Nevertheless, we started brightly and had most of the play for the first fifteen minutes or so. Somewhat against the run of play they scored two goals in quick succession and this tipped the balance of play very much in their favour. This was very frustrating as they didn’t appear to be a particularly strong side and we have played so much better against much more difficult opposition. However, appearances can be deceptive. They are currently lying third in the table having won nine of their thirteen fixtures and they also beat us 8-1 in the first half of the season.
By half time they had scored two more while we had barely tested their goalkeeper. In the second half we had spells where we played well but our attacks were few and far between. For much of the time we were pinned down in our own half and we conceded three more. The closest we came to scoring was a flick across the goalmouth from a very narrow angle by Dan Bridges. He did well to lift the ball over their goalie who had gone to ground. Unfortunately, it went just inches wide of the far post.
Sometimes the luck just isn’t there. Tony wriggled his way through their defence and sprinted free down the left wing, leaving his opponents stranded. All it needed was an easy reverse stick tap to our forwards waiting in the D. He composed himself, lifted his stick back and then brought it down perfectly in line with the ball. Just as he was about to make contact the ball hit a pebble (the only one I’ve ever seen on our astro) and popped up. The Whippet’s stick swished under the ball. Tony looked incredulous as he watched the ball run out of play. Only Tony could lose the ball to stationary pebble! I can’t print what he said but another green card followed, he’s getting quite a collection.
It wasn’t so much a lack of effort or desire to win on our part that cost us the game. In fact, we probably put in more effort and expended more energy than they did. Dave and Mike tackled really well at the back as did Charlie. He has also started getting some power into his clearances. Sam made some good runs up the right and John was as strong as ever. Alex and James worked well together in the centre and both of them worked really hard. James thoroughly deserved his Man of the Match accolade. Apart from the pebble dash incident Tony also got stuck in and Dan used his close control to good effect.
So what went wrong?
Well, they came with a game plan that they were all familiar with, one that suited their style of play and one that they stuck to throughout the game. It worked.
They kept their shape well and got into position very quickly for set pieces.
At our 16s they set up very quickly. They had a forward positioned directly in front of each of our defenders and a little further back their midfielders moved into the gaps to block the open channels. (Exactly how Shaun had told us to set up in previous seasons.) This made it very difficult for Dave and Mike to find one of our players from the 16. They made good use of this pressure and often stole possession from us.
In contrast, at their 16s, we usually had only one player in front of the defender taking the hit and no players in front of the other defenders. (Shaun would be apoplectic!) They also had a defender on each side-line drop deep inside the 16 to provide a wide outlet to the right or left. As a result, they had little difficulty in feeding the ball out successfully. We have talked about having the wide outlet option at 16s but we didn’t do it in this game.
They were also prepared to take a risk when attacking by pushing a lot of players forward into our final third. Some of their goals came about simply because they had a lot of players in and around our D and were able to pick up the loose ball. Yogi made some cracking saves and clearances that even they applauded but there is only so much even he can do.
However, by far the most effective aspect of their play was their ability to make quick, short, simple passes. This helped them to retain possession until gaps opened up that they could exploit.
When receiving the ball in space, they were well drilled in what to do:- control the ball; look up; make a simple pass; move into a better position. Quite simply, pass before you come under pressure and make the ball do the work.
In contrast our first instinct, especially when in space, is to run with the ball. Inevitably, the player in possession is soon closed down and then has to either beat the defending players or try to make a pass under pressure and without being able to look up and make a simple pass.
This seems to be the one glaring difference between our style of play and that of our opponents.
We can certainly make it a lot easier for ourselves by learning from those opponents that beat us. We should watch what they do well and try to emulate it. The sides that are beating us all pass the ball better than we do. They make simple passes quickly, knowing that by moving the ball around gaps open up.
With six left to play staying up will be a challenge. We still have to play both of the Edgbaston teams that are currently first and second. Beating them will be a tough ask but against the remaining four we had a win, draw and two close losses. We can still do it.
Man of the Match. James Gregory.