It was a depleted and damaged ActiveWin FC who took to the field against Steel Tips in January, and, despite a valiant attempt, it was no great surprise when they fell to a 2-6 defeat.
The absence of player-manager Adam Jackson was a significant loss, whilst a host of players started the game carrying injuries or feeling under the weather. Dan Wilson made his debut, and Dave Bates continued his skint as makeshift goalkeeper. AW could only rustle up two subs, which cost them greatly as the game progressed.
Still, ActiveWin started the game fairly brightly, with Adam Rowley and Bryn May making their presence felt in the opening exchanges.
1-0 GOAL! Allan Stevenson made a run into the box, whilst Sean Banner did well to keep the ball in play. Stevenson running at the keeper was enough to put him off, giving the pacey forward just enough time and space to nip round him and score.
At the other end, Bates was confident enough to come off his line to clear.
Chris Prentice and Sam Benson weren’t quite linking up, but the former was solid in defence, whilst Captain Eddie Jordan took some pressure off Bates, with a good defensive downward header.
1-1 Steel Tips GOAL: Despite AW’s best efforts, Steel Tips found a way through and scored an equaliser.
ActiveWin were playing high up the pitch and a good passage of play for Josh Luksys-Booth and Wilson resulted in a shot from Gary Maiden, which unfortunately flew over the bar.
1-2 Steel Tips GOAL: Jordan, Wilson, Ben Skeer and Eliot Jacob found a good rhythm at the back, but AW conceded another goal too easily.
Despite already carrying an injury, Jacob put his body on the line as Steel Tips started peppering the AW goal.
1-3 Steel Tips GOAL: AW couldn’t quite hold out, and Steel Tips scored again before the half-time whistle.
1-4 Steel Tips GOAL: It was more of the same as the second half got underway, with Steel Tips lifting the ball over Bates for their fourth goal of the evening.
AW were evidently in trouble fitness-wise, with Banner, Jacob and Stevenson, in particular, obviously struggling.
With Luksys-Booth having already been forced off through injury, AW could only make one sub at a time.
Jacob and Stevenson took turns to sit out, but there was no respite for Banner.
With little choice, AW went back to basics and produced probably their best passage of play.
Jordan kept it simple at the back, whilst Stevenson tried to release Bryn May. Unfortunately, the ball was just too far for May to connect.
2-4 GOAL! Benson had grown into the game, and was rewarded when he got on the end of a well-executed ball over the top from Rowley to stroke home ActiveWin’s second.
2-5 Steel Tips GOAL: AW’s joy was short-lived, as Steel Tips rolled the past Bates again.
2-6 Steel Tips GOAL: A miserable night for ActiveWin was complete when Steel Tips concluded their assault with a sixth and final goal.
Man of the Match: A couple of players went above and beyond despite not being match fit, notably Jacob and Stevenson. However, Sean Banner played 90 minutes with a temperature and a virus and yet was instrumental in much of AW’s best play.
Verdict: It was always going to be a big ask for AW to get anything out of this game, and once Luksys-Booth was forced off the field, a lack of subs and a gulf in match fitness proved too big a hurdle to overcome.