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Match : 2nd XI v Raphoe
Date : 2001-11-10
Venue : H
Score : 3-1
Scorers : Grant, Greer, Riddell
By 2nd XI Captain
After last week I really thought it couldn't get much better. How wrong I was proved to be. Raphoe, sitting comfortably in second place in the league came to Ballysillan, I am sure expecting to take the points back to Donegal but we had a different plan.
The 2nds fielded a youthful side with nine players under 21 and a fair number under 18. Cookie regained his position in nets after hiking round Ireland, Mark McDonald made a welcome return, and Phil Irwin linked up once more with Jeff Riddell on the right side.
With David Menaul sweeping and superb talent everywhere on the pitch there wasn't even a starting place for Jamsie who waited patiently on the sidelines.
The match started as an even affair but after about ten minutes we began to find our rhythm, Jeff and Phil were once again passing the ball around for fun with Paul Grant and Stephen Nicholl surging down the left at every opportunity. We enjoyed long periods of possession and piled the pressure on but failed to make inroads into the circle.
Midway through the first half we got our first short corner, usually nothing to get too excited about, but Aaron had been practising his reverse stick stop for at least 10 mins and expectation was high. The ball came to the top of the circle and Aaron duely stopped the ball dead, Paul Reid stepped up and powered the ball towards goal, keeper saves and a charge was on to be first to the rebound, Paul Grant reacted quickly and coolly, slotting the ball into the corner of the net. Immediately Raphoe surrounded Skelty claiming the ball had not been stopped. Some players even convinced they had a better view from 70 yards away than Skelty had from ten. Miracuously no cards were shown, the goal stood, and Raphoe restarted the game. 1-0.
Raphoe came straight on the attack forcing a number of short corners, but could not convert any of these and once again we pushed forward. With 10 mins left in the first half another short corner and once again similar result. Quick ball to top of circle, ball stopped dead (honest it was??) Shot, rebound and this time it was Jeff Riddell who converted a difficult chance from a tight angle. Raphoe again were not happy and once again protested, but to no avail. It was clear to see that Skelty had forgotten his cards. 2-0 and in control.
Being 2-0 up would usually be a time to sit back but we continued to press forward and looked the more likely to score again until a break down the left from Raphoe. Quick passing through defence to midfield had left our midfield behind the game and Raphoe sprinted forward. The left wing, being "marked" by Soupy, who was in two minds whether to go with man or ball, was given the freedom of Ballysillan. Completely unmarked in the circle, but with a tight angle I wasn't too concerned but this guy hit the ball like a bullet and it slipped past Cookie to bring Raphoe back into the game before half time. 2-1.
Jamsie made a welcome appearance on left wing to add even more pace to an already lightning quick forward line. We were awarded a short corner on the stroke of half time and all players were brought into attack, all apart from Cookie (Rambo made up his own rule book on Friday night, Remind me to ask about this on Tuesday night ;-) With 10 v 5 a short option was the easiest choice but Paul Reid remembered he had not given to charity in at least 48 hours and generously gave the ball back to Raphoe. A golden opportunity went to the wayside and we could only pray it would not prove too costly. The teams went in at half time with EAHC 2-1 up.
At half time it was clear, we were up for this, we wanted to win, we knew we could win. The 2nd half got underway and again we pressed forward, using the ball intelligently and moving it down the right at every opportunity. But Raphoe were very dangerous on the break and all defence and midfield had to stay alert.
Raphoe made more changes than Soupy does and confusion temporarily reigned at the back, but with gentle encouragement from Menaul "find your f***ing man and mark him!!" It wasn't allowed to last for too long.
To be honest this match was a pleasure to watch, we have the skilled players, but these players also work hard, tackle hard, work back and support each other.
We added a third goal midway through the 2nd half. Jeff Riddell picked the ball up midway down the right side and (no other word for it) completely skinned his marker with a delightful piece of skill, drilled the ball towards the circle were Paul Grant and Jamsie were loitering with intent, Paul flashed at it, (he would say he dummied it) the ball came to Jamsie who quite simply doesn't miss these sort of chances .3-1.
The game still had another fifteen minutes to go but rarely were the defence under any sustained pressure mainly because the forwards and midfield had jostled and hassled more often than not reclaiming possession.
Jamsie made a number of superb runs to relieve pressure and was systematically assaulted any time he looked dangerous. Jeff and Phil seem to have telepathic understanding and can also play hockey brilliantly. Stephen and Aaron worked tirelessly up front. Paul Reid and Paul Grant again performed with commitment and pride. The defence Mark, David M, Gordon Gillespie and Soupy were seemingly in control for most of the game and Cookie had nothing to do all day bar pick the ball up from the back of the net on one occasion.
This was a superb team performance which once again gives positive signs for the weeks ahead. There are a number of tough games in quick succession in the forthcoming weeks and with the league being as tight as it is we must go to every match with a strong a side as possible who will give everything and want to win but also expect to win. Because we are getting to that level were we should now be expecting to win games.
I look forward to next Saturday when we can do it all again.