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2011 – 2012

10 September 2011 – Sinjuns 6 Belgravians 1 

For any of us who thought we would cruise through this season in Senior One having come down a level, we received a harsh lesson at the weekend with a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Sunjuns Grammarians. Their whippet striker tore us to pieces in the first half with four breakaway goals and, despite showing a bit more fight in the second half, we were well beaten.

It was a very disappointing start, but I don’t propose to dwell on the details too much. We obviously need a little more time to gel with a few new faces and combinations across the back and in midfield, and a little more composure in front of goal (not least from me!) would help. We also looked off the pace at times so fitness work from everyone is a priority over the coming weeks. Let’s use it as a wakeup call to focus the minds on the tough task ahead – starting with Aloysians this weekend.

5 November 2011 – Belgravians 3 Uffingtonians 2

We got back to winning ways on Saturday with what turned out to be a hard fought victory over Uffingtonians.

We completely dominated the first hour, despite Minesy’s injury midway through the first half (he had to play on up front as we had no subs). We went into half time with a 2-0 lead – I tapped in the first from a cracking cross to the far post from Sion, then Hanks hit a belter from the edge of the area into the top corner. I got a third early in the second half which was marginally more elegant than my usual bundles over the line. Marc then saved (another) penalty with an incredible touch round the post.

We had a few more chances including 3 cleared off the line from me and a Dan Lawrie barn storming run that really deserved a goal. However, we managed to concede with about 20 to go and then proceeded to sh!t ourselves. Their second came with about 8 to go and then it was backs against the wall. In the end we managed to hold out for a 3-2 win.

It was a much better performance in terms of effort and we played some cracking stuff at times. However, we still need to work on closing games down rather than bombing on which seems to be the natural instinct.

14 November 2011 – Economicals 4 Belgravians 3 

Despite a magnificent performance from a scratch side, we somehow lost the game on Saturday 4-3. It was genuinely gutting because I would estimate that we had maybe 14 chances for our 3 goals, compared to their 6 or 7 chances for 4 goals.

After conceding an early fortuitous goal, we proceeded to dominate the rest of the first half with new boy Andy Parrott and Ben Patton controlling things in the centre of the park. The excellent partnership of Honess and Dawson at centre back was also big positive. Alex Morgan was a menace all game and finished off a very good team goal to draw level. We could have been out of sight by half time if we had had a bit of luck. But we were still confident going into the second half and were awarded a penalty 10 minutes in when Alex was fouled. Andy Parrott stepped up and slotted home. However, the tide then turned and we were put under massive pressure for the next 20 minutes as they started to dominate possession. They scored two well taken goals as we failed to track the runners. Having stemmed the flow, we then had a hatful of chances to equalise and finally drew level through Tim Hall. With 10 minutes to go it was anyone’s game and we could genuinely have won in. But with a couple of minutes to go they got a free kick right on the edge of the area and I was beaten low to my left.

It is encouraging that even when decimated by injuries/muggings/people being away we managed to get a really decent side out. Everyone who stood in did a cracking job – apparently even Greenwood had a reasonable game in nets (!) although I can’t help thinking that it was our lack of a proper keeper that cost us in the end.

26 November 2011 – Suttonians 2 Belgravians 1

Despite the result we put in a much better performance on Saturday, certainly on the defensive side of things and we improved going forward as the game wore on. Sutton are one of the better sides in the division and games against them are always tight. We set our stall out to keep our 451 shape whenever we lost the ball and it worked well for 30 minutes, although we gave away a soft goal from a long throw which was flicked on at the near post by their striker. In open play however we were defensively much, much better than in previous weeks, playing as a much tighter unit at the back.

Admittedly we couldn’t get Al Morgan and Hallio who were on the flanks into the areas of the pitch where they could they most hurt the opposition, but having conceded again early in the second half after we disappointingly lost markers at a corner, we showed a lot of fighting spirit. Owen came on and Hallio moved up top as we went to 442. Alex went on a barnstorming (what does that actually mean?) 60 yard run down the left with Sutton’s full-back trying and failing to keep up with the Big Man before he was brought down in the box. Hanks put away the penalty nicely, meaning that he now scored as many pens as Matt Le Tissier missed in his entire career.

Mike came to our rescue with an excellent save high to his right with 15 to go. Then Alex went on another run and was obstructed in the box but the ref waved on. With 5 to go Matharu put Tom Greenwood in down the left, Hallio narrowly missed Matharu’s ball in to the far post, Owen retrieved it from the right and curled one against the crossbar. Sutts desperately cleared off the line and shouts went up for a handball but to no avail.

A shame about the result but there was a lot to be positive about in terms of our performance and we are also buoyed by the fact that several players are returning from injury shortly.

7 January 2012 – Enfield 3 Belgravians 1

We lost 3-1 on Saturday away to Enfield in a game which we dominated for the first 20 minutes before succumbing to a penalty following a harsh handball decision (Matharu again sorry).

We then equalised from the other penalty spot after their centre-half attacked the ball in their area, completely missed it and nutted JT on one of his prominent cheekbones instead. Hanks coolly slotting away high to the keeper’s left (though hero would later turn villain…). They struggled to handle the pace we had up top with Alex and Hallio and out wide with Justin.

Yet again we conceded from a set-piece early in the second half and then it all started going wrong – we panicked far too early although admittedly the change to 4-3-3 encourages us to go even more direct than we normally do. Not playing direct for us means still playing fairly directly but playing to our strengths into Morgan and Hallio early; agreeing to play direct tends to result in a lot of non-percentage, hopeful and predictable balls played into the sky in the hope that TG will reach for the heavens and bring it under.

They killed us off from another corner where we again lost our markers. Alex was then brought down in the area but the keeper made a decent save from Hanks and then saved the rebound.

Near the end we were reduced to ten men when Sam Hill turned a particularly violent shade of ginger and got two bookables in 5 minutes.

14 January 2012 – Ignatians 1 Belgravians 1 

In a close fought game we showed a lot of character to recover from going behind after 65 minutes to equalise ten minutes later and claim a very valuable point against promotion chasing Ignatians in Enfield on Saturday. Ben Adams played Hallio in down the right, he rounded the advancing keeper and slid the ball across to Alex Morgan who slotted in under pressure from the centre halves, instantly exacting revenge on the Ignatians back four who had kicked him, elbowed him and stamped on him throughout the game.

We started slowly but then imposed ourselves, getting some joy particularly down the right flank through Ben, JT and Sion. Both sides had good chances throughout the game and Mike made two or three very good saves including one at the death high at his near post from only 5 yards out. It was certainly an improvement on previous weeks, we had a much more solid base defensively and Gareth in particular covered a lot of ground on a very draining mushy pitch. We also worked a lot harder to regain possession.

This Saturday we have Ignatians again at home and need to test their keeper’s flappability particularly from crosses on our small pitch.

28 January 2012 – Wood Green 5 Belgravians 3

We went down 5-3 in a mad game up in Tottenham against one of our bogey teams. Having beaten Wood Green 7-1 earlier in the season we then succumbed to their combination of big man up front and energetic runners from midfield and did not handle it well enough.

We went 2-0 down – the first when their striker kicked the ball out of Mike’s hands, rounded him and in the ensuing goal line scramble did enough to force the ball over the line. We then conceded a harsh penalty when Dan handballed just inside the box though it was difficult to see how much movement there was of arm to ball. We were admittedly defending very poorly at this stage with an inability to clear lines although at the other end Hanks went very close with a volley at the far post from a corner. We began to build a bit of momentum as the half drew to the close. On the stroke of half-time Joe played a ball over the top on the inside left channel, Matharu got in behind and clawed one back off my swinger.

We went level five minutes after half-time with a fine 20 yard strike from Alex which caught the keeper off guard and really we should have kicked on from there, or at the very least consolidated. Individual defensive errors again hurt us but equally we must have had five or six gilt-edged chances to score during the game and either put them wide or straight into their keeper’s hands, whereas they converted pretty much every chance they had. We applied considerable pressure in the last 15 minutes but at that point we were chasing the game. Alex scored at the second attempt near the end but too little too late.

Two huge games follow now with league leaders Aloysians this weekend and then an absolute six pointer against Sinjuns who were thrashed 12-0 by Sutton at the weekend. We really need as many players as possible to be available for those two games. Saturday was a prime example of us being handy in several areas of the pitch but not being at full strength – Dan helping us out when Owen couldn’t make it because of work – we really need to be good all over the pitch and with options off the bench – so I know its skiing season but if you’re coming back on Saturday please make every effort to be available.

25 February 2012 – Belgravians 2 Hale End 1

Despite being down to 10 men at 11.30am on match day we put in a very committed performance to beat Hale End 2-1 at home as Fortress Turney Road continues to serve us well.

Playing a 4-5-1 with Greenwood in the Crouchy role, we dominated midfield with Hankin playing deep and moving the ball around nicely and JT and Neil Williams covering a helluva lot of ground. We were first to most second balls and generally harried Hale End out of their rhythm. Early opportunities for Hallio (20 yard volley from the edge of the box after a corner) and Greenwood (diverting Hallio’s cross / shot narrowly wide of his bonce from six yards) and another Greenwood effort from the edge of the box set the tone. At the back we had one or two hairy moments but generally did well to contain their pace threat. In all other departments we were on top.

Early into the second half Greenwood flicked on Hallio’s long throw at the near post and Hanks finished from point blank range. Greenwood, carrying in his own words “a bit of extra timber” following his self-imposed exile in South America these last few months and having finally apologised to management for warming up when he was told to stay on the bench, was immense – winning everything in the air and every flick-on found an OBs shirt. When 15 minutes into the second half he turned infield on the inside right channel, cut across two markers and curled a beauty into the top corner from 25 yards off his left peg you knew it was going to be our day. They couldn’t handle our front 3 of Hall, Greenwood and Marlon, making a good debut on the right.

Of course we nearly hit the self-destruct button when in no danger at all we played ourselves into trouble 25 yards from our own goal and their striker clipped the ball over Mike and slotted home from 5 yards. But it was probably down to the fact that we had a lot more possession than we normally do and simply tried to play in the wrong areas. A huge 3 points.

3 March 2012 – Belgravians 2 Suttonians 4

We went down 4-2 to Suttonians at home on Saturday despite taking a 1-0 and 2-1 lead. We started the game well with the same level of intensity as we had during the previous’ week’s win over Hale End, with Alex Morgan’s speculative / brilliant (delete depending on your point of view) volley from a narrow angle from 25 yards across the keeper finding the far corner after 10 minutes. We then conceded a cheap goal with a free header from a long thrown in (our usual tactic) before a lovely breakaway move led to Marlon firing an excellent ball into the area from wide where Ash volleyed sweetly into the bottom right hand corner after an excellent run in from the left flank. Poor collective defending 10 minutes later allowed Sutton to squeeze one back after Highamy’s last ditch challenge left Mike unsighted and the ball rolled into the far corner. Still it was pretty even stevens at half-time and we more than matched the league leaders. We should have had a penalty when their defender raised his arms in the six yard box trying to block a shot.

In the second half we lost our way a bit and resorted to playing to Alex Morgan directly a lot, although he was causing them a lot of problems and the ref wouldn’t protect him sufficiently as Sutts’ back four in turn tried to kick lumps out of him. The Turney Rd pitches had hardened significantly from the previous week which made first touches uncertain but Sutts broke quite brilliantly on the counter-attack from our corner and their right winger put into a top class delivery to the far post where their very good target man got in between Matharu and Highamy as Matharu was ball-watching and planted a superb header in off the near post from 12 yards out. Their fourth, a very dubious penalty, flattered them a little but it was a deserved win for them.

10 March 2012 – Belgravians 2 Sinjuns 1 

We showed real strength of character having conceded within 30 seconds of the game to come back and win 2-1 with a free-kick from JT and a near post finish from Hanks at the start of the second half (Marlon long throw, TG flick on, Hanks near post, the element of surprise) in what was undoubtedly the most important game of the season.

Sinjuns beat us 6-1 on the first day of the season but are in freefall and despite having genuine pace throughout their side once we had got back into the game and then gone ahead we controlled a lot of the play. Well done to everyone involved for winning the most important battle of the season.

Thanks to Tristan and the younger, quicker and less curvy Hankin for helping us out in the dying stages.

17 March 2012 – Belgravians 1 Economicals 0

Another gritty and disciplined display on Saturday in a tight game against LSE Old Boys saw us emerge victorious. We scored on 70 minutes on the counter-attack, the ball fell to me in a bit of space in our half and faced with a percentage 10 yard pass to a screaming Greenwood down the left or a speculative 30 yard punt to Hallio down the right, there was only ever going to be one winner.

Hallio got round the back of their sedate right-back and put the ball across into the corridor of uncertainty where their keeper fumbled under pressure from Morgan. Big Al, who celebrated his recent return from secondment at McDonalds with 2 back to back employee of the month gold stars, scored at the near post and in the process hit double figures for the second campaign running, capping a remarkable season for him both at, and away from, the deep fat fryer.

A big mention to Mike who having emerged from the loo ten minutes into the game to join in the proceedings pulled off a superb save when their striker tried to bend one into the top corner with 10 mins to go.

Thanks also to JT for missing out on watching the Welsh Grand Slam with the old bhoys from the Flint Male Choir down at the London Welsh Society – a cruel blow to lose him after 20 minutes to ankle-ouch. Remarkably he was only the second grumpiest Welshman in attendance after the referee, who was almost suicidal before, during and after the game.

Thanks also to Hallio and Kov for the indecent proposal which led to their better halves agreeing to spend the afternoon with each other and baby Hall, therefore allowing them to play. Much needed and we are very grateful.

The possibility of having a Belgravians’ Saturday afternoon WAG and crèche facility was subsequently discussed in the changing room afterwards, with Grovesy, who knows a lot about formulas these days but not a lot about football, marking him out as an ideal host.

With Sinjuns losing again we are safe. We are currently in fifth and it would be lovely to leapfrog Economicals who are in fourth on goal difference. Just two games left chaps, so make hay on the football field while you can.

26 March 2012 – Belgravians 1 Enfield 5

Our good run of results came to an end on Saturday with a defeat at the hands of Enfield Old Grammarians. The 5-1 scoreline probably flattered them, but their finishing was clinical and we were fairly well beaten across the park. However, we had a cobbled together side and there were some impressive debuts from some of the new boys. Another positive was our biggest crowd of the season. I counted about 9 adults and 3 children – in fact that could be our biggest attendance ever!

They had plenty of pace going forward and a central target man who tended to get on the end of everything. This culminated in two carbon copy goals within 15 minutes as they got to the by-line and their striker bundled it in from close range on both occasions. We then started to impose ourselves on the match with Will Needham hitting the underside of the cross bar. And we finally pulled one back through a rare Matharu right foot shot from the edge of the area – albeit with a smidgeon of a deflection. Playing up the hill, 2-1 at half time would have been a fairly decent return, but we gave the ball away cheaply just outside our own penalty area and there followed a rocket into the top corner. Then we conceded a sloppy headed goal at the near post from a corner just before half time.

Even at 4-1, we had chances to get back into the match – not least a lovely through ball from Paul Needham which I somehow managed to hit the pavilion with rather than delicately caressing it over the oncoming keeper. From that point on we started to run out of steam and never really looked like getting back into it. The rest of the match had a touch of the “we’re already safe, there’s no way we are coming back from 4-1 down, and who’s buying the first pint” about it. In fact I can’t even remember their final goal.

A disappointing result, but we have one more game to sink our teeth into against top of the table Aloysians on 14th April. It would be great if we could get a decent side out for this one. Hopefully the thought of no more footie until September will tempt some of you out for one final hurrah.

 

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