Saturday 23rdFebruary 2019 – West Byfleet Scorpions vs Finchampstead Rovers
Going into this match, Finch knew that they would have to be on top of their game: away at the league leaders is never easy.
For what seemed like the first time this season, the temperature was in double figures and there was no chance of rain or snow. However, the pitch was very bumpy and sloped from one wing to another – not ideal for Finch’s style of playing the ball on the ground.
The first half was very open, with both teams having great early chances. West Byfleet were first to attack: their striker muscled his way through the defence before hitting the crossbar from the edge of the box. It was an early wake-up call for the Rovers who responded excellently.
For the next 10 minutes or so, most of the play was in the midfield but Finch were still able to go on promising attacks and win a few free-kicks. Sam T managed to put some great balls in the box from free-kicks; one of these resulted in Sam F taking a low, curling shot that was fumbled by the keeper and eventually rolled over the line and into the goal. However, the Finch players weren’t celebrating for long because, to the dismay of the Finch Faithful, the ref brought it back to a high foot from Harrison, giving a free kick to West Byfleet.
Finch were playing very positive football despite the top opposition (the team had been listening very carefully to the coaching staff… of course) and opted to play it out from the back rather than to hoof clear.
However, West Byfleet were pressing high up the pitch, putting Finch defenders under pressure as they tried to play the ball out. The West Byfleet no.9 picked up a loose ball just inside the Finch half and made a darting run down the left wing before putting a low cross into the area. Lucas C was quick to react and managed to get a foot on the ball to block the cross, however the West Byfleet striker was on hand to poke it home. 1 – 0 West Byfleet.
Finch took the kick-off but were dispossessed soon afterwards on the halfway line. This allowed West Byfleet to go on an attack… well, it allowed West Byfleet’s striker to go on an attack. He managed to get through the whole Finch midfield and defence before shooting from the edge of the box. Lucas C rapidly dived down to his left but could only get his fingertips on the ball to push it into the bottom corner. 2 – 0 West Byfleet.
After the second goal, Finch grew back into the game, entering the box on several occasions. However, West Byfleet had very quick forwards so were dangerous on the counter attack. On one occasion, their no.9 (who was probably one of the fastest players Finch have come up against this season) broke through and sprinted down the left wing. George was gaining on him, but not before he cut back in. However, Sam T was there with a crunching tackle to send the ball out of play for a West Byfleet throw. There were a few winces from the crowd as both Sam T and their no.9 bounced off each other!
After this escape, Finch had a long spell of possession, with Jake Mac and Lucas S linking up excellently on the left-hand side. The ball was eventually crossed into the box after play was switched to the right wing, but the stretching legs of Alfie and Nathaniel couldn’t quite get a touch on it.
Finch were still going forward though, and Nathaniel was constantly posing a danger down the middle of the pitch. On one occasion he burst into the box but was dispossessed by a great tackle from the West Byfleet defender.
Now, Kamran was on and showed his great skill and pace on many occasions, putting in some excellent low crosses. However, West Byfleet still posed a threat on the counter attack as their right winger broke through the Finch defence and cut inside. He took a shot from a tight angle, but Lucas C made himself big to block the strong shot.
Finch went into half-time 2 – 0 down but had definitely played better than the score-line suggested. Harrison was back on to put more attacking players on the pitch after Kamran went over on his ankle at the end of the first half. Ajay was also ready to come on to add some strength to the Finch attack.
The second half, like the first, started very openly. Both teams were going forward but it was West Byfleet with the first meaningful attack of the half. Lucas C threw the ball out to the defence but West Byfleet were pushing high up the pitch to quickly make a tackle and their striker was able to immediately smash a long drive into the top left corner catching Lucas C out. 3 – 0 West Byfleet.
Finch still hadn’t given up though and were pushing high up the pitch. This, however, meant West Byfleet could quickly counter. Soon after the 3rdgoal, their right winger broke through the entire defence, with Oliver close behind. When their winger tried to cut back in to cross, Oliver was quick to react with an excellent tackle and Finch were able to clear.
Now it was Finch’s turn to attack, with Nathaniel and Harrison charging down the middle. Nathaniel got his high, central shot away but the keeper was able to save and pick up the pieces, whilst under pressure from Harrison.
Harrison was also venturing out wide and put a great left-footed cross in from the right wing but Jake M’s foot narrowly missed the ball. Finch still kept their cool and didn’t allow themselves to make any rash challenges, unlike West Byfleet who were giving away a number of free-kicks on the edge of the area.
West Byfleet got through on goal a couple of times but Lucas C was quick to get to the ball and clear with his feet. Most of the time, the Finch defence stayed solid, with the centre-backs (Oliver and Sam T) linking up well with the full-backs (Lucas S and George / James).
However, during one West Byfleet attack, Sam T lent into the attacker a bit too strongly and the ref pointed to the spot. The West Byfleet player stepped up to the ball and cheekily slotted it down the middle, sending Lucas C the wrong way. But to Finch’s relief, the penalty had to be retaken due to some West Byfleet players encroaching into the area. The West Byfleet player stood up to the ball again and smashed it into the top left corner. This time it stood. 4 – 0 West Byfleet.
The Finch Faithful continued to cheer their team on and Harrison received the ball whilst running over the halfway line. The ball was just behind him but Harrison flicked it on with the outside of his foot showing excellent skill. The Finch supporters were now on the edges of their seats (well, the ones who actually had seats to sit on) as Harrison went on a great individual run. His shot was looping towards the top left corner, but it went just wide.
Jake M now collected possession just inside the West Byfleet half and played a sleek long ball up to Nathaniel who sprinted into the box and was brought down. Obviously, the Finch supporters remained respectful and didn’t shout “PENALTY!” but they seemed pretty happy when it was given. Ajay stepped up and hit a low, central drive, hoping the goalie would dive. However, the keeper stood his ground and stopped the shot.
The Finch team continued on the front foot and won a free-kick just outside the box. Ajay put an exquisite ball into the box and Jake M tried to sneak one in at the near post but the West Byfleet keeper made an excellent reflex save. Jake M went for the rebound but, under pressure from the goalie, couldn’t quite direct his shot towards goal.
Still Finch pushed forward, searching for that well-deserved goal and it was Harrison again who popped up on the right hand side of the box. This low shot fizzed across goal but just about went the wrong side of the post: agonisingly close! The Finch Faithful were sensing that this wouldn’t quite be our day.
Finch still pushed on but West Byfleet were dangerous as ever from the counter attack. On one of their final attacks of the match, their substitute left winger got through the defence and despite a mistimed tackle from James, he stayed on his feet to slot the ball into the bottom right corner. 5 – 0 West Byfleet.
Overall, it was a very resilient performance from Finch but West Byfleet just took their chances well. Finch probably deserved a goal or two: the score-line didn’t tell the whole story. Hopefully next game we can bounce back with a win next week at home to Westwood Wanderers.
Full-time: West Byfleet Scorpions 5 – 0 Finchampstead Rovers.