The game kicked off and the Stingrays were soon into their stride. Great passing, moving and working as a team - with the defensive duo of George D and Oliver R linking up with the midfield trio of Ollie W, Jasiu C and Christian J, all following the pre-match instructions, and all working together to get the ball into Ryan E who was leading the line, who in turn was looking to return the favour to his advancing midfield teammates.
The team probably passed more to each other in the first 5 minutes than they did all last week - it was great to see.
Early exchanges between both teams were tight with no real chances of note to speak of - both teams eager not to let first blood go to the opposition.
Instructions from the side lines was for the defense to stay close to the midfield as the team moved up the field, which Oliver R and George D followed fantastically. This was effective in putting pressure on the Longmead forwards as soon as they received the ball, allowing the midfield to get back and help in winning the ball. On the odd occasion the Longmead team did break through, the pace of the defenders and midfield was apparent to get back and cover.
It took until the 14th minute for the deadlock to be broken. With good work from Ollie W, carrying the ball forward into the Longmead half, a precision pass put through to Ryan E on the edge of the box who turned and clinically placed the ball into the far corner giving the Keeper no chance. 1-0 Stingrays.
Longmead stepped up their game and began to put pressure on the Stingrays, who seemed to become a little nervous after taking the lead, with the team dropping deep.
Soon, Longmead equalised, then a couple of minutes later, took the lead.
Exchanges were going from end to end, and with half time approaching, the Stingrays equalised. The impressive Oliver R, working hard to win the ball back in the Longmead half, fed the ball to Sam S who picked his spot and coolly finished from the edge of the box into the far corner - Sam’s first goal for the Stingrays!!
Unfortunately, right on half time Longmead took the lead with a sloppy goal that really could have been avoided - putting ourselves under pressure from our own goal kick - certainly something to work on in training next week.
Half time - Longmead ahead with a slender 3-2 scoreline.
The half time talk was asking for much of the same. The team were playing as we asked them to and it was great to watch.
Refuelled with Jaffa Cakes, the 2nd half kicked off, with Ollie W replacing Freddie G between the sticks.
The game continued as an even affair, with Christian J taking up the centre midfield role, and Spencer S stepping back into defence and continuing his tough tackling and high work rate to help his team mates.
Longmead had more possession and were creating chances in and around our box, with Ollie W stopping all that was being thrown at him. On a couple of occasions we again put ourselves under pressure with poor distribution from the back, allowing Longmead to come straight back at us - reinforcing the need to work on this in training.
The Stingrays were counter attacking when in possession, breaking through the Longmead last line of defence on a number of occasions, three of which provided clear one-on-one chances only for the ball to be overran into the keeper’s arms at the crucial moment.
Unfortunately Longmead extended their lead 8 minutes into the half with a cross-come-shot from the right hand side that looped over the keeper and into the far corner of the goal - probably a bit more luck than judgement.
No further goals were added and the final whistle came, with Longmead taking the honour’s 4-2 in a game that could have gone either way - very much like the encounter earlier in the season that had the reverse score-line.
Handshakes all round at the final whistle of a game that had been great to watch and played in the right spirit by both teams. To show their appeciation, the home team shared donuts with our boys as part of the post-match warm-down - thank you Longmead - the boys loved them!
Unfortunately, the result was not what we wanted, but the performance was much better this week.
MotM was Ollie W, for his great first half performance in centre midfield, in particular for his excellent distribution of the ball, a great 2nd half between the sticks and for staying on the pitch until the final whistle!
Well played all and thanks to the usual great travelling support!!
Next game: Away to Hedingham United. Details TBC.