In most situations, the less said about last week’s performance and result the better. With the first game of the ‘season’ being a cup game, we took one of the worst beatings in recent memory, losing 10-0 in a game where we barely created a chance. MOTM became ‘Least Worst’, and the whole team received a fine that was more than warranted considering the performance and the result.
Week two had the potential for more of the same, with another cup game against a team a few leagues higher than us. But with it came the potential for redemption, with several players from the first game desperate to make amends. There were some new faces, with Bruno opting to join the 2’s rather than put up with the return of Kieron in the 1’s. The sight of ‘luxury’ Burns-Peake was a welcome one in the midfield, as was some much-needed support for Tommo with the return of John Edwards upfront.
A week ago, as we donned our new, oddly short-sleeved kit, we were praising the phenomenal impact that Joy Indian Restaurant has had on the club. What a difference a week makes, as our primary sponsor revealed their true motive by pressurising Dicky into giving a 2017 debut to their new signing from Delhi – Mike Lutz. Money has ruined football, and I for one hope that the impending change to close the transfer window prior to the season starting will put an end to this nonsense.
Changes were not limited to personnel, with Dicky opting for a 4-3-3 formation intended to make the most of our attacking strengths. And what an inspired decision that turned out to be. I’m not sure there has been a finer first 15 minutes from an OTFC side, with Old Crosbeians barely getting a touch. The build-up work was calm and calculated, with quick passes and calm heads showing that we did learn a lesson from last week’s opposition. It was a Joy tm to watch, and the only thing missing from this excellent passage of play was a goal.
There was no bigger threat than Matt Burns-Peake, who dominated the midfield with powerful and direct runs that left defenders in his wake. They soon realised that he could not be stopped fairly, and changed tactic to instead tackle him around the knee. Their captain was guilty of this on multiple occasions, and after being beaten for the 7th time spared himself further embarrassment by taking himself off.
Piling on the pressure we created several good chances, and it looked to be a certain goal as Tommo rounded the keeper only to find he still had the keeper to round. I’m still not sure what happened there, but we regrouped and broke again – this time the chance falling to Ollie who almost broke the deadlock with a difficult header.
Latecomer Joe Sammarco did not want to miss out on the action, and after watching Tommo and Ollie miss their early chances decided he could go one better. And sure enough he did, missing two great chances in quick succession.
The OTFC back four rarely looked threatened in the first half, with the stand out play coming from Tom Nichols at left back. It was possibly his finest performance in an OTFC shirt, winning tackle after tackle and providing an outlet going forward. The only chance they made was pushed away with a great reflex save from Cottee and the score at half time was somehow nil-nil.
As often happens when a team dominates but fails to score, the lack of cutting edge in front of goal would prove costly. The second half was still one that OTFC would dominate, but the chances were more snap shots and hopeful long range efforts that failed to trouble their keeper. The legs started to tire, but still we pushed forward to find the breakthrough. It was after one of these surges forward that our luck ran out, as a long kick from the keeper and a flick on put their striker through on goal who calmly slotted home to give them an undeserved lead.
The tackles got heavier and Matt was lucky to be able to continue after a horror tackle resulted in the first yellow card of the game. Bruno – who calmly controlled the game from the back – started to push forward in the closing minutes and was unlucky with a 40-yard effort. Another yellow card was shown – this time for time wasting – and OTFC kept pushing until the very end but fell just short as the final whistle blew.
This game may go down as another cup exit, but the performance and effort did not deserve it and if we play like this we will be a force to be reckoned with in the league. Tom Nichols deservedly took the MOTM plaudits, but several other players would have been worthy recipients. The demons from week one had been banished, and now it’s on to the league and hopefully our first goal(s) of the season
Tom Nichols shares his valuable insight the performance that earned him Man of the Match: