The Exiles continue to grow in strength as they hold their own against impressive youngsters
Británicos (1) 1
Ascuas Zone (1) 1
Parque Ebro 26/01/20 18:15
Beattie, Wells, Rooney, Pernas, De Vicente, Wolfenden, Morris, Gilman, Clapson, Wolfenden
The Brits had pushed the league leaders to the wire in the previous week and so headed into this game with no reason to be concerned. Their opponents were second placed Acuas Zone, a team that has set an impressive standard in their pursuance of the top spot. With a game in hand on first place, and two on third place they seemed the form team in the league. That being said, in their previous tie they had stumbled to a draw against the bottom placed team. The Brits were once more without Keane, Peribañez and Martin but the absentee list also included Borque and for the first time this season, Shaw was unable to take to the field. The opposition were young and fresh, a squad of 17 and 18 year olds with a team of dedicated coaches and an impressive following of enthusiastic mums, dads and older brothers on the sideline to cheer them on (and maybe take them home afterwards)
The game got off to a blistering start. Ascuas Zone were technically impressive. Impressive close control skills and dizzying pace saw them immediately place the Brit defence under intense pressure. Considering the lowly position the Brits occupy in the league their defensive record is actually inspirationally solid. The Brits actually have the second best defensive record in the league. Once more, another team enjoyed possession and opportunity against the Exiles who proceeded to crash upon the defensive fortifications of the Brits.
The youthful opposition had some outstanding close control and were very nimble on the ball but the Brits had discipline, shape and a significant physical advantage over their opposition. In fact it became clear that the youngsters were not accustomed to the strength that the Brits were able to exert but without question, Ascuas Zone were able to out pace the older Brits. It was a fascinating contest. The Brits were relatively happy to allow the opposition to run out some of their energy stores as they took a significant amount of possession attempting to work their way through the Brit defensive lines. When the Brits pressed effectively, Ascuas Zone lacked the same level of skill when required to put together devastating passing. As is a regular pattern of play for the Brits, an opposition team was restricted to speculative long distance efforts and not hitting the target. There were moments of concern as the ball was worked through or round the defensive pairing of Rooney and Wells but Beattie was up to the task of cleaning up behind them. Pernas came deeper to screen the defensive line and the wingers further bolstered the defensive structure. This started to restrict attacking options for the Brits and they resorted to a long ball. Unfortunately, this tactic found two issues reducing effectiveness. The referee interpreted the offside rule differently to previous officials and called Morris up for transgression frequently. Secondly, Beattie found his kicking distance a little difficult to measure, with many of his kicks travelling the distance of the pitch. These factors combined in giving Ascuas Zone the opportunity to launch at the Brit back line with frequency.
As the opposition continued to probe the Brit defence it became clear that the Exiles would need to hold on to the ball and enjoy some possession and slow down the match a little. With some purposeful attacks the opposition might have to bring their players back a little to be a bit more cautious and as the Brits started to launch some attacks with purpose they found the opposition defence were uneasy in defence and the keeper struggled to hold on to the ball.
As the first half approached the half way mark Ascuas Zone finally made a break through . The Brit defensive line had started to defend a little higher up the park and this was squeezing the space available for the opposition to exploit. Despite this successful adaptation, the Ascuas Zone took a distance pot shot and while it did not seem to be travelling at enough pace to beat the impressive Brit keeper, it was placed right inside the far post and despite all the hard work the Brits were one down.
Ferns rotated into defence for Wells and Gilman made an appearance on the wing for Wolfenden. Ferns in defence more prepared to hold on to the ball at first played himself into trouble down in the corner more than the once. Although this was an area of concern the irony was that it actually changed the dynamic in the middle of the park. The opposition started to press much higher and this started to give Pernas and the wingers some more space to exploit.
Suddenly as Ferns released the ball down the lines, Gilman and De Vicente had space to run into and Ascuas had to resort to fouls to prevent the movement. The territorial map of the game started to creep back toward the opposition third and Pernas started to shine in the centre of the park. This resulted in the equalizer. Pernas carving through the defensive and playing a tight passing return with Morris before smashing past the keeper.
This seemed to put some doubt and hesitancy in the minds of the previously exuberant youthful opposition. Rooney ploughed through the centre of the park with another of his characteristic mazy runs, like a giraffe negotiating his way through a crowd of wilderbeast calves he found himself with a chance to shoot. His screamer curled beautifully back toward goal only to shudder of the join of the bar and the upright. It was a moment of quiet disbelief as the shot looked destined for glory. The game had reached half time in a fascinating balance.
The Brits were full of words and energy at half time. Working on holding a higher defensive line in order to allow Pernas to assist in defence and then quickly recycle into attack and the second half got underway with a potential victory on the cards.
The second half was a hard fought affair. The youngsters played with a degree more caution, suddenly aware that as the Brits played into the game they had to consider the threat of the counter attack with more care. The Brits played with rigid determination. The action in the second half was breathtaking. The game seemed to speed up and became a near end to end affair. Clapson started the half up front as Morris took a breather and as Beattie found the length of his clearances Clapson was unable to capitalise on the half chances that came his way. The most significant moment in the early stages of the half was Gilman charging through not one, not two but three opposition challenges to break out on the left side of the box. He was forgiven for taking his shot at goal but should have probably played the ball to Clapson across the box to convert into an empty net.
The break saw the opposition get more sturdy in the challenge and more cautious in committing to attack and Gilman became a focus for some hefty tackles. One left him winded and Wells made a brief cameo on the left wing in his place. The switch nearly paid off as Wells almost found a Morris throw at the back post and then ran on to a ball into space from Morris once more, the ageing veteran beat two defenders to the ball and connected first time with power, only for the keeper to block the effort. Wolfenden swapped back onto the left wing and demonstrated pace to spare along with big heart, breaking up play and offering an option on the wing that proved a thorn in the opposition left flank.
Rooney and Ferns were authoritative at the back, Beattie, fair to say, when called upon, simply outstanding. A particular highlight among several astonishing saves saw him stretch full length to get down and with a strong hand push a fizzing strike up and off the post. Pernas was frequently shadowed by three opposition players as he weaved around the centre of the park and Morris harried with strength and purpose. As the clock ticked away there was a clear sense that Ascuas Zone started to tire. They had played with diligence and patience but they were now getting ragged. Attacking with less success and starting to be beaten to second balls as the Brits sensed a chance to snatch victory. In the closing stages it was the Brits who looked the strongest. Morris forcing the defence into a mix up that almost produced a spectacular own goal, the resulting corner pin balled around the box miraculously not finding the net and then Morris almost converted with a volley at the very death.
The whistle was welcomed by the youngsters, visibly exhausted and relieved to have held on to the point. The Brits, whilst proud of their performance were a little frustrated not have taken all three points. They had silenced the soccer moms on the side line and demonstrated that big heart and organised tactical awareness could be a match for virtuoso technical skill and speed. If the Brits continue to play with such determination, spirit and shape, there is no team they should fear in the second half of the season.
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