A rather chilly Winter’s day and an interesting pitch greeted the Rovers players and fan club for a match against a Shinfield side who should have been promoted the previous season. Early season form meant that they were sitting comfortably in the upper echelons of the League and this was definitely going to be a tricky fixture.
Talking of the pitch, this writer had to aid the groundsman in locating what looked like dog and fox droppings for removal prior to kick-off. Oh the glamorous life we Rovers fans lead. This was though tempered once again by the fabulous sausage rolls of George’s grandmother. Thank you Pam – absolute life saver.
Back to the match. The whistle blows and we have some great interplay through midfield and some excellent play down the right wing from George and Bunny through the middle. A positive start. However, within two minutes a long throw drops into the space behind Jake Mac and a Shinfield winger beats Ollie and then Sam T to the ball before finishing under the advancing Luke and into the bottom left corner. Not pretty but effective in what would become a common play from Shinfield throughout the match. Rovers come straight back though with a cross-field ball (on the ground) from right to left which Bunny dummies and the ball goes into the feet of the advancing Leo. Keeper is off his line but the ball is lifted just over the cross-bar.
We are then treated to a few minutes of great composure from the Finch midfield. James playing into Jake Mo and some good craft from the likes of Sam F and Adam but Shinfield manage to just cut out a final through ball. Then a crunching challenge by Sam T – this is better boys. Great movement from George and Lucas S plays a cross to him but George can only scuff the shot wide. An injury to Adam sees Lucas C come on and the midfield battle continues.
We are 15 minutes in and Finch appear to be back into the game. However, the Finch defence then have what can only be described as a crazy couple of minutes. A long throw in again catches the boys out and a good finish, 2-0 down. The communication between the boys suddenly stops. Straight from kick-off the ball is played down the right and Finch have completely switched off. Another long throw finds their striker alone in the box and unchallenged and with a swift turn the ball is dispatched once again into the bottom left corner. 3-0. Fabulous finish but the defending simply wasn’t up to our usual standards.
However, the boys would continue to try to play football and following a great corner from Sam F, a looping header from Jake Mo is palmed away. A long ball over the top then finds a Shinfield player who again expertly finishes past Luke to make the half-time score 4-0.
What would the coaches say? One can only imagine but a more focussed and vocal Rovers side would provide us with something to smile about in the 2nd half. It was clear that offensively we just weren’t quite able to break the lines. We were in particular lacking the bull-dozing play of Ajay, the relaxed and enigmatic composure of Kam and the pure speed and singlemindedness of top goal scorer Nathaniel who were unavailable for the fixture. A change had to be made and this came by moving Jake Mo to a central striker role and packing the midfield with 5. This was to prove highly effective, although not before yet another long ball was played up to the Shinfield striker who lifted the ball over Luke. 5-0 after 1 minute of the 2nd half!
Alfie then played a couple of neat passes and following a corner Lucas C unleashed a pile driver from outside the area which smashed off the left post and was cleared. Some excellent pace shown by Jake Mo to get down the right and cross with George and Bunny having shots cleared by the defenders. An Adam through ball finds Jake Mo on the left of the box and he expertly finds the bottom right corner to make it 5-1.
Another great shot from Adam from outside the area is pushed away. Jake Mo gets away again but his finish is just past the left post. He’s away and in on goal again but a defender runs in between him and the ball and the defender gets a free-kick. Unfortunate. A moment later and Lucas C plays a well- timed through ball and Jake Mo is in and expertly chips the keeper 5-2. At least 20 minutes remain and the Rovers are at it. There are further opportunities for Rovers and although Shinfield still look a threat, Josh has arrived at half-time to bolster the defence. The talking is back and the defence is suddenly back on their game with the usually solid combination of Sam T and Oliie back on their game.
Bunny then gets a half-chance after some dithering by the Shinfield defence but the keeper smothers. Jake Mo then misses with a rather shanked shot as the constant effort of making sprint after sprint starts to catch up with him. An excellent cross from Leo just evades some on-running attackers and some wonderful corners from Sam F sees a couple of further half-chances. Sadly an excellent goal from Shinfield on the counter a few minutes from the end makes the score 6-2. A fantastic save and dribble out of his box from our very own “Grobelaar” keeper Luke manages to scare and amuse both his team mates and fans alike. A fitting way to end an entertaining, if difficult match.
In a final analysis you’d have to say the better team won. Finch made things hard for themselves although the defence will no doubt come back stronger next week and in truth have helped the team win plenty of matches so far this season. A 2nd half performance which was both defiant and full of genuine character from all of the boys should be applauded. In the words of coach Simon “ a tough day at the office but we go again”. Next week we have Eversley which is always a tough and exciting game….
Fianl score Shinfield 6 - Finch Rovers 2