Saturday 24th November Rovers took on Eversley and California Rangers
Coming off the back on a 4-0 win at Westwood last week, there was an air of confidence at the Memorial Ground on Saturday, though this was tempered by the prospect of meeting local rivals Eversley and California Rangers, sitting some 5 places above Finch Rovers in the league table.
It was back to a more familiar formation in the middle of the park with the return of midfield general Lucas C allowing Jake M to switch back to central defence. Likewise, Gemma returned to sausage roll duties following an, it has to be said, impressive first cameo from her Mum last week. But on the pitch, it was clear from the start that the flanks would be equally important in this match, with wing backs Lucas S and James pushing up and linking well with Luke L and George on the left and right respectively.
Eversley's attacks tended to be more direct with fast, penetrating runs through central areas, but on the occasions they did break through, Jake M was able to use his pace and strength to lever the attackers off the ball and allay the danger. Oliver was also as strong as ever, delivering some crunching tackles to stop the Eversley runners in their tracks.
At the other end, the final product was still eluding Finch in the face of a resolute defence, the first chance coming from an impressive left foot curler from the right-footed George, neatly palmed over by the Eversley keeper.
With Finch determined to maintain an aggressive, high line, inevitably Eversley would get an opportunity of their own, and when a diagonal ball into the Finch box clipped off the heel of a retreating defender, the capacity home crowd could only hold their collective breath as an Eversley striker ran onto the loose ball at full pace, only for the viciously spinning ball to conspire to elude his boot.
Over on the left wing Lucas S continued to make ground using his pace, but it was over on the right that George, after yet another foray down the wing, spotted the keeper advancing towards his near post and stroked a perfectly weighted shot over the top and into the far corner, much to the delight of the already impressed home crowd - murmurs of 'goal of the season!' could clearly be heard. It was a well deserved reward for the Finch boys who, as a team, had shown ambition and enterprise right from the whistle.
However they say a team is never as vulnerable as in the minutes succeeding a goal, and so it was, as Eversley's powerful number 11 somehow ran straight through the Finch defence and slotted the ball low into the corner. A blow as it was to concede so soon after scoring, Finch needed to settle quickly and maintain calm. Lucas C was a significant contributor in this respect, looking assured in midfield, collecting loose balls and releasing those around him into space with sharp passing.
Sam T and Jake Mac replaced James and Luke L on the wings late in the first half to provide some fresh legs. Sam T has been a rock in defence all season and today was no different, whilst Jake Mac was like a terrier on the left wing, winning a number of important battles with the Eversley attackers (a rather apt analogy as at one point in the game there was an actual dog running across the pitch!). Nathaniel also grew in confidence as the game progressed, and by half time he and Leo were regularly intimidating the opposing defence with their pace and purpose.
Harrison had looked dangerous throughout the first half, Eversley's defence struggling to come to terms with agility, and when he almost beat the advancing Eversley keeper to a cross-field ball from Lucas C it was another reminder of the potency the Finch team harboured.
The half time break seemed to interrupt Finch's dominance, and the second half began as a rather scrappy affair. However that wouldn't last long and, as the game settled again, the Finch Galacticos began to show their class, with a sublime back heel down the line from Lucas S completely outfoxing his opposite number, and Ajay turning a defender not once but twice as he collected a loose ball following his own free kick from the right.
However the first real chance of a goal for Finch in the second half fell to Leo, running onto a through ball which had split the Eversley defence, but a promising first touch led to a close call as his powerful curling shot fizzed past the right hand post.
Eversley still posed a real danger however, and when a diagonal ball found their striker on the edge of the area, Finch keeper Luke did superbly to punch his rocket of shot over the bar and keep Finch in the game.
George came back on and combined determinedly with Leo to stop the Eversley attack at source, refusing to let the opposition out of their own half at times. Having regained possession, Sam T slotted a supremely weighted ball deep into Eversley's half, read well by George who took it away from the right back. His first cross into the box was deflected straight back out, but his second found Ajay who laid the ball off to Jake Mac for a shot, but it still wasn't quite enough to beat the Eversley keeper.
Play then switched straight up other end where Finch keeper Luke had to rush out early and hit the deck to block a dangerous ball, almost certainly saving another goal.
A sublime one-two between Sam F and George, with the former flicking a ball deftly over the onrushing Eversley defence for the marauding George, but even his own team was struggling to keep up as no-one could quite get onto the end of his fine cross. However the attack wasn't over - James collected the ball on the opposite side of the pitch, and slotted the ball along the goal line to Harrison, thus taking the Eversley right back out of the equation. Harrison found Nathaniel with a neat pass, and he slotted the ball into the corner of the goal giving the keeper no chance, to the delight of the home crowd!
Finch kept attacking, with Alfie and Sam F in particular demonstrating great enterprise in the opposition's half, and home team had the chance to go two up as a cross found James in space in the penalty area but, although well struck, his drive cleared the cross bar - hands on heads all round!
The last 10 minutes was a nervous period for the Finch faithful, desperate to see their team pull off a second straight win, but the defence stood firm, and yet another great save from Luke C assured Finch of the victory they surely deserved. The consensus on the touchline was that this was Finch's best win to date, come as it did against an opposition with undeniable quality and pace, not least because they resolutely stuck to the footballing principles instilled in them by the coaching team. A genuine squad performance, with every single player contributing and giving it their all right to the whistle, this match may well be looked back on as the springboard which launched this emerging team on to new heights.