ActiveWin FC were looking forward to an upcoming company trip to Fuerteventura as they lined up against regular opponents Our Boss in the JP Business League.
With two defeats on the bounce, AW were keen to turn their luck around and, having beaten OB 5-1 in their last meeting, felt confident that they could get their season back on track.
It soon became clear, however, that it wasn’t going to be a day at the beach. The match ended 4-1 in AW’s favour, but they made hard work of it, particularly in the first half.
There were some notable new faces among the starting eleven, not least Jake Gallagher up front. Gallagher had endured a long spell on the sidelines after sustaining a serious injury in a pre-season friendly, more than a year earlier.
Debuts were given to new ActiveWin recruits – midfielder Scott Graham and forward Josh Tyndall (from the bench).
First Achieve‘s James Harries resumed his rightful place between the sticks, with stand-in keeper Tom Perera returning to his more familiar defensive role at right-back, and Phil Pole on the left.
Eliot Jacob returned to the back three, alongside ever-present Captain fantastic Eddie Jordan, and midfielder turned defensive dynamo Bryn May.
Player-manager Adam Jackson marshaled the midfield, alongside Graham, and Gary ‘Goals’ Maiden, with Demon’s of Ruby Mae multi-instrumentalist Adam Rowley continuing to pull the strings up front.
AW started on the front foot with good pressure from Gallagher, and Perera making runs down the wing.
Rowley should have done better in front of goal but, instead, managed to hit the OB keeper where it really hurts!
Jordan tried to feed it through, but OB countered. Thankfully May was on hand to block the attempt.
OB GOAL! – 0-1: AW’s relief was short-lived, however, as soon after, OB scored from a corner.
Rowley was looking to make amends, pitching a ball across the box, but Gallagher couldn’t capitalise.
Calming things down at the back, Jacob played the ball back to Harries, back to Jacob and up to May.
AW were trying to get a foothold in the game. Perera won the header but the ball went out, Jacob was making good runs and Gallagher was battling to keep possession out on the left.
A Jordan throw in triggered a lovely ball from May but it was too far for Perera.
Jackson stopped OB in their tracks, and Rowley won a corner, but launched it straight into the keeper’s hands.
Still, it was a much better spell from the home side.
May and Jacob put in more good work at the back and began to bring the ball forward. Graham on the ball looking to tee up Perera.
AW started to string passes together. Rowley back to Graham, he found Maiden, who played it out to Gallagher.
Rowley linked up with Graham and Perera, whilst Maiden refused to give an inch under pressure from OB.
A mistake by Graham sent Jordan belting back, but AW dealt with the danger.
Tyndall came off the bench for Perera and linked up with fellow debutant Graham, who pitched a lovely ball up to Gallagher.
An AW throw-in came in from the corner, but no one could get enough on it to challenge the OB keeper.
An uncharacteristic error from Jordan created an opportunity for OB, but they headed over the bar.
Jackson looked comfortable on the ball, with May battling to keep possession.
Jordan delivered a good ball to Gallagher, before Jackson played in Tyndall.
Maiden was putting in a good shift, as Graham tried to feed it through to Rowley.
OB should’ve scored, but May cleared and Maiden sent the ball up to Tyndall for a throw-in.
OB tried another weak shot but Harries had it covered regardless.
GOAL! – 1-1: Momentum looked to be with OB, but they failed to capitalise on it. Gallagher took the opportunity to get off the mark, lifting the ball over the keeper to draw AW level.
Pole had been rather quiet in the opening exchanges, but started to make his presence felt. There was good link-up play between Jackson and Rowley, but Perera dragged it past the near post as AW searched for a second.
A touch of quality from May rounded off a strange first half.
A rousing half-time team talk from Jackson, which could be summed up by ‘we’ve got to do better!’ had the desired effect.
GOAL! – 1-2: Rowley had taken up a midfield role, and made up for his earlier bum note, slotting home from 25 yards out.
Tyndall passed to Pole who tried a ‘hit and hope’ effort, but it sailed over the bar.
OB weren’t lying down, but Jackson responded with a strong interception.
Tyndall tried a shot, whilst Graham remained composed under pressure.
Rowley headed at the keeper before Jackson put in another strong challenge. Graham tried to play in Tyndall.
Jacob was once again in the right place at the right time with another excellent interception to snuff out an OB attack.
At the other end, Pole did the hard work, but couldn’t get a shot off.
GOAL! – 1-3: Rowley turned provider, finding Tyndall who stuck the ball in the bottom corner – 3-1.
A Rowley interception, put Graham back on the ball.
Jackson tried to create another opportunity for Tyndall, but the latter fluffed his lines.
Jacob played Tyndall in again, but he hit it over the bar.
OB responded, forcing Jacob to block on the line, before Harries came out to collect.
Graham kept his head, and the ball, under pressure and played the ball up to Gallagher.
Another well-timed Jacob block put an end to an OB counter-attack.
Good feet from Graham, he found Rowley who was looking for Gallagher again but the ball went out.
AW had the ball in the net, but the whistle had already gone for offside.
Graham was getting stuck in, in midfield, whilst OB hit the bar.
More good defending from Jacob, with May and Maiden blocking.
Pole and Perera were trying to get it out to the attack, whilst May was expertly defending the AW goal.
Rowley sent a lovely ball up to Pole, then tracked back to help out the defence as the final minutes ticked away.
Jordan and Harries were unconcerned by OB’s attempts to redress the balance.
More brilliant play from Jacob, who briefly came forward to involve Maiden but didn’t get carried away as he has a tendency to do.
Maiden stood his man up to force him to put the ball out for an AW throw-in.
GOAL! – 1-4: Not content with setting up one debutant, Rowley played the ball off to his side, gifting a goal to Graham, who just had to stroke it home – 4-1
Harries came out to claim the ball, denying OB anything further opportunities, whilst Pole, unfortunately, cleared the bar with what turned out to be the last kick of the game. Job done.
Line up: Harries, Jordan, May, Jacob, Perera, Pole, Maiden, Jackson, Graham, Rowley, Gallagher
Man of the Match: Jake Gallagher showed AW what they’ve been missing during his long absence from injury, and should be back to his best with another game or two under his belt. Eliot Jacob showed some real class and, dare I say it? footballing intelligence. However, Scott Graham slotted straight into the team and looked right at home, earning him praise from many of his teammates. Good on the ball, he didn’t shy away from a challenge and, whilst his goal came gift-wrapped, he looks more than capable of chipping in a few to increase AW’s season tally.
Verdict: It was by no means AW’s best performance, but it was fantastic to get back to winning ways. We’ve blooded some new players and, despite only managing to field one sub on this occasion, we’re building a squad with strength in depth which should serve us well in the remainder of the campaign.