After a quick inspection, the pitch was passed fit to play, with the overnight frost helping with a pitch that on the previous afternoon was more of a muddy bog! After a good warm up, the boys were raring to go.
The game kicked-off and early exchanges were even, with both teams looking a little out of match practice - probably expected after the Christmas break - and no real chances of note in the early part of the game.
What was good to see from the start though was the Stingrays were keeping in position, putting pressure on the opposition, leaving little or no space for our rivals in yellow to play - they were working together as a team, which made it very difficult for Rhodes to break us down. The midfield trio of George W, Christian J and Jasiu C were working hard against an opposition who had some big physical players, but our boys were holding their own.
As the half progressed, the Stingrays quality started to show, with their pass and move football beginning to kick in, causing problems for the opposition. This along with the solid defence of Oliver R and Spencer S who were winning every pass that came their way, and providing great distribution of the ball into the midfield three.
Midway through the half, substitutions were made, with George D coming into defence and Sam S leading the line. George D continued the great defensive work and Sam S was busy leading the line, and within a few minutes, these two boys had a key part in the opening goal.
George D played the ball out of defence to Christian J on the left hand side, who in turn played a great pass down the line to Sam S. Sam S carried the ball down the wing and then cut into the box to play a perfect pass back to Spencer S who dispatched a well-placed left footed shot into the far corner to open the scoring - his first goal for the Stingrays!
Half time came soon after - 1-0 to the Stingrays.
A good half time talk followed, which was all about continuing to play as we were - holding their positions, pressuring the opposition when they had the ball, and pass and move as a team when in possession.
The 2nd half kicked off, with Sam S taking up the job of goalkeeper, with Ollie W coming into centre midfield.
The boys were straight back into their stride, and within 3 minutes of the re-start, the Stingrays stretched their lead. Again, good team play, with Ollie W and Christian J playing pass and go football down the right hand side, with the latter putting a great pass into the box which Ryan E met at the front post and passed the ball into the far post from a tight angle - a fantastic finish, but only what we have come to expect from our star striker.
Three minutes later, a third was added. With Ryan E bursting through the centre of midfield, he timed perfectly his pass into the path of Ollie W who carried the ball into the box and passed the ball into the net at the far post.
Within a minute, the opposition pulled one back. For the first time in the game, Rhodes had sustained pressure in the Stingrays penalty box and after a couple of failed attempts to clear, the ball dropped kindly for a Rhodes player who slotted home.
The game continued with the Stingrays dominating most of the play, with two or three more efforts that could quite easily have added to the score.
One of note - from George D in defence, he played the pass of the game through the opposition midfield and defence to play in Ryan E for a 1-on-1, who’s effort shaved the outside of the far post from his angled shot.
With the great team defending, Rhodes had only one further effort of note, which was a long-range shot that was stopped with a combination of an Ollie R header and Sam S pushing the ball out for a corner.
The final whistle came - a well-deserved 3-1 win for the Stingrays.
Well done to all the boys. A great performance considering we had not played for over a month and not trained for three weeks. Each one of you put in a great effort to contribute to this great result.
It was also another great game between the Stingrays and our local rivals. The games have always been played in the right spirit and all the games have been competitive and close - thank you Dunmow Rhodes!
MotM was Spencer S. As well as scoring his first goal for the Stingrays with an excellent finish, he was solid in both defence and midfield.
On many occasions, Spencer S won the ball from the opposition and played the ball to his teammates to keep possession and start another attack. Great all round play - well done Spencer - well deserved!
A great start to 2018 - hopefully it is a sign of the good things to come for the Stingrays in 2018!
Thank you to Steve Rowell for refereeing and to all who helped set up.