Never has the saying a game of two halves ever been so true. From the best to the worst, this was a rollercoaster of a fixture…
Dacorum away was the first fixture for Wokingham after the Christmas break. The bobble hats and gloves were on show on the touch lines as the boys prepared for this bitterly cold affair. Wokingham warmed up strongly, looking sharp and raring to go before the whistle was blown to signal the start of the match.
And what a start to the match it was! Wokingham certainly had the upper hand in the opening few minutes; pressing high, keeping great shape and all-in-all knocking the ball about confidently, showcasing some fantastic passing manoeuvres. Ballard was at the heart of many of the attacks, flashing two shots narrowly wide in as many minutes.
Wokingham continued to look strong with Dacorum’s quick, early passes down the channels snuffed out by Collier, Coleman and Sunley, to name a few. But it was Wokingham who continued to press and the only way Ballard could be stopped was if Dacorum brought him down and conceded a free-kick. That’s exactly what happened and the Wokingham side were able to capitalise. A brilliant looping free-kick by Ballard found Mott at the back post. With a side-footed volley to put Wokingham 1-0 up, the striker accepted the invite and finished in cool fashion.
The boys in navy continued to pile on the pressure, however with the Dacorum keeper having a blinding game, he was accompanied by the post as Ballard’s shot cannoned back off the woodwork. Soon after came Dacorum’s only real chance of the half as they won a corner. Not much to shout about though as great body shape and calm heads enabled Wokingham to clear.
Next on the attack for Wokingham was Collier with a defence-splitting run past 4 players, getting a clean shot away which went under the keeper’s near side. Unfortunately, he joined Ballard on the list of players who were denied by the frame of the goal. Collier, without doubt, an early contender for man of the match.
The early high tempo start by Wokingham continued into the dying moments of the first half. A teasing cross came in from the left; but a lack of communication in the middle by Domingos and Mott meant that the boys were unable to extend their one goal lead. They entered half time with a lot of confidence and coaches Bevan, Scurr and Smith were extremely happy having just witnessed undoubtedly the best first half performance of the season to date. However, the game wasn’t over there.
The second half seemed like two completely different sides had turned up. Dacorum looked alert, energetic a possessed a desire to want to win every ball, Wokingham the complete opposite – very flat footed and a huge lack of shape. Dacorum were finally playing the way it was expected they would; fast tempo and quick movement. The side got in down the right flank and Lewens strong save was thumped home on the rebound. 1-1 – a very sleepy start by Wokingham.
Dacorum continued to pile on the pressure and Wokingham were unable to get the ball down and play the kind of football which was on display in the first half. Even with fresh legs on the pitch, the Berkshire-based team looked tired. Dacorum were starting to enjoy their football and were able to push their full backs high up the pitch. A great run resulted in Wokingham being unable to clear their lines and Dacorum were clinical with their finishing: 2-1 to the home side.
“MOVE” and “UP” were the famous shouts from the Wokingham touchline as the defensive communication and urgency continued to lack in the second half. The line was too high, and once again Dacorum were in: 3-1 the score line, after another rebounded shot was smashed home.
By this time, it was evident that the Wokingham boys were beginning to show signs of frustration. Individuals were over running the ball, midfielders lacked urgency to get back to support the defence and the inevitable was about to happen. Lewens could only do his best which unfortunately wasn’t enough. 4-1 and Dacorum were soaring high by now.
Caught by the offside trap and unable to create any clear-cut chances, it didn’t seem like it was going to be Wokingham’s day. With a lack of support, Mott hit a low driving shot into the hands of the Dacorum keeper. The team from Hertfordshire stormed up the other end of the pitch, hit the post but slotted in the rebound once more: 5-1 Dacorum.
With Edmonds back on and Mott still full of running, Wokingham were hoping to gain a few goals back. Dacorum were looking very strong indeed, however Ballard showed his first half brilliance once more, winning a free-kick on the edge of the opposition’s box. After the ref had a word with both sides for pushing and shoving in the 6 yard box, the free-kick flashed over the top of the cross bar. A disappointed Wokingham retreated.
Wokingham started to put a few moves together in the dying moments of the game, although this only opened up gaps in the middle of the park making it easier for Dacorum to slice through the defence. A sweeping passing move resulted in the seventh and final goal of the match: the game ended 6-1 to Dacorum. The sun was out but there was only one team smiling.
A massive wake-up call for Wokingham; the coaches and parents are hoping that this will be a lesson learned and that they will bounce back stronger and more focused that ever.