A scorching evening saw ActiveWin FC get their season firmly back on track, with a 5-3 win over Network Rail.
It was the penultimate game of the Summer Cup group stage, and a must win for AW who had forfeited their last league match, then suffered a 4-1 defeat to Steel’s Tips in the Cup.
Player-manager Adam Jackson was back in action, although he and forward Adam Rowley came straight from a work trip to Nottingham.
Eliot Jacob reunited with Captain Eddie Jordan at the heart of AW’s defence, and winger George Ridley returned from injury. AW new boy Tom Perera made his debut at the back, from the bench, whilst midfielder Bryn May took on a more forward role, behind Rowley.
Network Rail started the game with just 10 men, but went full steam ahead from the word go.
However, they lacked penetration, barely testing James Harries in the AW goal.
Meanwhile, AW were passing the ball around well, trying to make their extra man count.
Sam Benson went on a surging run forward, before Rowley got his head on the end of a Jordan Rudge free-kick, unfortunately, the Adam NR keeper had it covered.
NR had a half chance, but Harries got a hand to it then gathered the ball to his chest.
At the other end, Rudge brought the ball down, bringing in Benson who played a nice one-two with Adam Jackson, before taking it down the wing and running at the keeper to win a corner.
Gary Maiden headed down and put the ball back in the box, unfortunately, there was noone on the end of it.
Sean Banner did well to get something on Benson’s cross as May tried to force a way through.
1-0 GOAL! – Lovely link-up play between Maiden and Jackson lead to a stunning accident, which saw Benson’s cross come shot soar into the back of the net.
NR started to push for an equaliser, but their corner went out for a goal kick.
Alight with confidence Benson was making the NR keeper nervous, with back-up from May.
Maiden played a one-two with Jacob whilst Banner battled to retain possession.
May headed on to start an AW attack, Rowley took a throw-in and Banner, Rowley and Jackson linked up as they looked to double their tally.
Rudge was unlucky not to find Rowley before a timeout was called to allow both sets of players to have a drink and regroup.
Back on the pitch and a reinforced NR were on attack, which was stopped in its tracks when Benson headed the ball out of play.
Maiden and Jackson linked up, but the latter’s long ball got nowhere near Rowley.
NR mounted an attack but it was simple for Harries to deal with.
Good feet from Maiden, passing to May on to Jacob and then Rudge, a great passage of play for AW with the second goal looking closer.
Jacob brought the ball forward to Benson, before Rudge tried a shot which whistled just past the post.
Maiden tried to find Rowley, whilst Jacob did a good job blocking an NR attack.
2-0 GOAL! – Rudge casually lifted the ball it into the net.
AW were living dangerously, with signal failures causing gaps at the back.
Jacob headed out and NR missed the target from the resulting throw in. A let off for AW.
Jacob made another good clearance, before Rowley swung the ball into the box, possibly looking for May. NR had changed their keeper by this time, and the new model was an upgrade.
3-0 GOAL! – A strong Jackson challenge brought protests from NR, but Rowley played to the whistle and guided the ball round the keeper to make it three.
NR hadn’t run out of steam though and Harries was called upon to intercept low, Jacob saw the ball out.
Tom Perera came off the bench, and looked comfortable on the ball, delivering a neat knock on for Rowley, who tried to feed in May.
Shortly after, Rudge was brought down in the area, and, after some discussion, Rowley stepped up to take the penalty.
Unhelpful cat-calling from Rowley’s Sunday teammates distracted him and he missed from the spot.
At the other end, Harries made a cracking save and sent the ball out through Banner for a counter attack.
May produced a good ball to Rowley, but the keeper was on it.
May was finding his feet, delivering a good tap down to Banner.
At the other end, Perera blocked and Jordan cleared.
NR were applying more and pressure, forcing Jacob into two good clearances in quick succession.
Perera was harrying the NR players, whilst Banner raced to keep the ball in.
3-1 NR GOAL! – Good work from Ben Skeer to run the ball out initially, but the reprieve was short-lived and with Harries off his line, NR slipped through the gap and found the net.
4-1 GOAL! – Jacob, stretching to get his foot on the ball, injured himself but still managed to prod the ball home.
5-1 GOAL! – Gary ‘Goal’ Maiden bagged his annual goal with a strong header!
5-2 NR GOAL! – A good ball in, but there was noone marking and it was too easy for NR to slide it into the net.
The NR keeper was well out, Rudge tried to get around him, but he had it covered.
NR kept coming as they tried to restore the deficit. Jackson cleared with a header.
NR’s lovely free-kick hit the post.
Benson got himself in the box but Perera couldn’t get his foot on it in front of goal.
Rowley’s lazy swing at the ball went high and wide.
5-3 NR GOAL! – It was NR who scored again. They had three bites of the cherry but eventually found the net.
NR were firmly in the ascendency but AW weren’t going to be railroaded in the final exchanges.
Perera brought it down to Maiden who pushed forward through Rudge, before Banner’s long-range effort bounced past the goal.
Jordan did his best to keep it tight at the back, as NR mounted a final attack.
Line up: Harries, Jordan, Jacob, Skeer, Banner, Jackson, Maiden, Rudge, Benson, May, Rowley,
Subs: Ridley, Perera
Man of the Match: There were more than a couple of standout performances, and no passengers in this side. Tom Perera made an impressive debut, Sam Benson’s goal wasn’t deliberate, but his intent throughout the game was. Eliot Jacob was both strong at the back and fluid going forward, but Gary Maiden hit another gear, putting in by far his best performance in an AW shirt to date.
Verdict: An emphatic win will not only boost team morale but bring AW closer to the Summer Cup semi-finals, with only Our Boss standing in their way. AW’s form has been patchy at best of late, and we’re still missing key personnel including joint top scorer Allan Stevenson. However, with an abundance of creative players in midfield, and a solid record against Our Boss we should arrive in the next phase of the competition.