ActiveWin FC’s unbeaten run came to an end, on a wet and windy Tuesday evening in February, with a 3-1 defeat to Steel’s Tips.
It was a top-of-the-table clash, as AW sought to finally overcome their bogey team, and title rivals.
However, it just wasn’t to be, and last year’s 2-2 draw remains AW’s best score against ST.
A few familiar faces returned to the fold, in the shape of former ActiveWin employee Liam Tyler, plus midfield trio Greg Jacobs, Gary Maiden and Jordan Rudge. Player-manager Adam Jackson joined them in the centre.
The consistent back three of Eliot Jacob, Bryn May, and Captain Fantastic Eddie Jordan was unchanged, with Josh Booth at left-back. Sam Benson and Adam Rowley also continued in their respective positions.
Regular goalkeeper James Harries had work commitments, so defender Tom Perera took his place between the sticks.
Harris’ First Achieve colleague Allan Stevenson was also unavailable to play, so Jack Van-Gelder continued up front. Unfortunately, the ‘new Allan’ took the role slightly too seriously and sustained an ankle injury, leaving him unable to see out the game.
He wasn’t the only AW player who picked up more than a knock, with Bryn May succumbing to a hamstring injury midway through the second half.
The heavy rain began well before kick-off and only grew in intensity as the game wore on, creating a slick surface and poor visibility.
ActiveWin actually started the stronger of the two sides and quickly went on the attack through Tyler.
Jackson controlled the ball in the centre, and went on a run, but when Rowley tried a shot it was off target.
Benson displayed good technique on the ball, whilst at the other end, ST put an effort wide of the far post.
Good play from Jacobs and Tyler.
AW were moving the ball around well, Rowley headed on to Jacobs, Jackson tackling, out to Rudge, but the resulting shot cleared the bar.
ST GOAL! – 0-1: Jordan gave away a foul close to the area, ST curled round the wall and in close to the far post.
AW tried to go back to basics and started to string passes together nicely – Benson to Jacobs to Tyler to Rudge.
Rudge played a nice little one-two with Maiden, back to Rudge, to Maiden and out to Tyler.
Maiden on the ball again, this time playing it to Rowley but AW couldn’t make this good spell of possession count.
ST GOAL! – 0-2: Perera came out, fully committed but ST went around him and Jordan couldn’t keep it out despite a valiant effort.
AW on the ropes but trying to find their rhythm.
ST tried a weak shot, but Perera dealt with it.
Starting from the back, Jordan found Booth who passed to Maiden, the ball came back through ST but Jordan cleared.
Rowley played it out to the wing, whilst May stayed strong at the back.
Jacob headed clear, Rowley dug it out of his feet but put it out for a goal-kick then had to run off a knock.
Perera palmed away an ST corner, May kept his feet, and his head, but the ball went out for a throw-in, taken by Jordan.
Jacob showed composure and kept the ball safe at the back.
Rowley won the ball in the middle, then dropped back to help Jordan as ST started to apply pressure.
Tyler delivered lovely shot but ST managed to clear it off the line, it was impressive, but it seemed to signal once again that this wasn’t going to be ActiveWin’s night.
Undeterred, Benson tried a shot, but hit it at the ST keeper
ST fired back, but were off target. May won the ball with a defensive header before ST’s long-range effort went wide.
With 45 minutes still to go, AW felt like they could still get back into the game, and started the second half brightly.
Rudge tried hard to fashion an opportunity but it was ST who managed the next effort, thankfully it was struck straight at Perera. Jackson performed a great defensive header away from goal to clear the lingering danger.
AW were showing a much better shape and discipline, trying to get a foothold in the game and apply pressure of their own.
Tyler was still trying to find a way through, but couldn’t get the best of the ST defenders.
Van-Gelder tried a shot but should have switched to his left and ultimately wasted the opportunity.
Van-Gelder returned, steaming forward but ST won a free kick.
Rudge’s long shot didnt trouble the keeper, and Van-Gelder was forced off with an ankle injury.
A strong AW attempt cut through the pouring rain, as visibility became even poorer, but went just wide.
At the other end, an ST corner came to nothing. ST went for goal again, with Perera making the initial save, and the AW defense rallying to keep it out.
Another ST corner came to nought, before Rowley on the ball up to Rudge.
GOAL! – 1-2: Benson looked around and realising he had time, composed himself and fired home in close to the post.
Now playing with their tails up, AW were determined to get an equaliser and ST were most definitely on the back foot, for a spell.
ST GOAL! – 1-3: Unfortunately, it was ST found the goal once again.
Line up: Perera, Jordan, May, Jacob, Booth, Tyler, Jackson, Jacobs, Rudge, Rowley, Benson,
Subs: Maiden, Van-Gelder
Man of the Match: Eliot Jacob made some crucial clearances, Jordan Rudge tried to inject some creativity and Greg Jacobs was a force to be reckoned with in midfield. However, Gary Maiden ran his socks off and was instrumental in much of AW’s best passages of play. Due to the aforementioned poor visibility, I asked the team to name their MOTM and they chose Maiden – congratulations Gary!
Verdict: It certainly wasn’t an embarrassment, but AW perhaps gave Steel’s Tips too much respect and didn’t do enough to disrupt what is a very well drilled side and will be disappointed to have not snatched a point. Next up it’s PH Media Group, another team who have proved strong opposition to AW in the past. I’m on holiday so there#ll be no match report, but fingers crossed AW can get back to winning ways in their second game in a month.