A gruelling six-pointer see Brits come out on top after nail-biting encounter
AC Frio (1) 1
Británicos (1) 2
Parque Ebro 12/01/20 19:15
Beattie, Ferns, Rooney, Shaw, Martin, De Vicente, Morris, Gilman, Wolfenden, Borque, Wells
The Exiles had gathered the night before. An opportunity to catch up with each other after the Christmas break, to fasten the ties of team that bind, to stress test commitment to dry January. Sure enough, January was drenched in alcohol and some inexplicable photos of some quite extraordinary high jinks fed the feedback loop of energetic enthusiasm for the next match.
The season had been a frustration up to now. After a bright opening fixture, the team had been on the reverse of some closely fought contests and a rare fallow period in front of goal had kept the club in the doldrums of the lower league places. Perhaps the fragile state of many of the squad post-drinking could not be considered the best preparation for the match, but there was an attitude of relaxed confidence as the opposition were in free fall at the foot of the league.
The opening ten minutes put paid to such foolish optimism. AC Frio came out of the traps like a possessed rabid dog. Almost immediately, the idea that this was a team in trouble and easy meat was dispelled, suddenly a hungover British outfit was in for a gruelling dog fight. The opposition were attacking with three up front. Each of them with pace and energy. They were able to bypass and turn the Brits, slow on the uptake, and surged forward relentlessly. Ferns and Rooney at the back were constantly outnumbered and thanks to the wasteful use of possession, poor decision making or wayward passes combined with the defensive interceptions, miraculously, Beatie had no saves to make.
The Brits seemed uneasy on the ball. Shaw had a torrid spell being given unhelpful passes, playing him into trouble. De Vicente and Martin seemed slow to join the game and Morris unable to get involved as the ball was not making its way forward.
It was only a matter of time before the goal came. Frustratingly, it came off the back of an outstanding save from Beattie. stretching low to his right to push a rasping shot away only for an approaching attacker to get to the rebound first. Beattie was unlucky not to get the follow attempt clear and AC Frio celebrated their lead with gusto.
The defending pair of Ferns and Rooney both started to bring the ball forward, dribbling into the middle of the park and beyond bringing fear and uncertainty into the opposition but also opening up danger in their wake as spaces were left behind them.
The Brits shuffled their pack, cycling fresh legs into the midfield. Gilman coming in for Shaw on the left wing immediately brought a new dimension to the team. Bite, aggression, determination and full throated desire. His introduction alongside a newly reinvigorated Borque in the centre of the park saw the balance of power start to realign. The Brits started to carve out opportunities and work the ball forward. De Vicente started to find space and opportunity down the right, Borque started to pose all kinds of risks to the opposition defence in the final third and the Frio back line came under persistent pressure.
De Vicente had an increasing level of success on the right, posing questions and finding gaps and it was a De Vicente ball threaded through into the box that Morris jabbed pas the keeper at close range to draw the game level. He collected the ball and ran back to restart. It was a straight forward finish and nowhere near as spectacular as some of his rifled efforts earlier in the half, but it was none the less, a goal.
The opposition found a renewed vigour and the game started to stretch end to end at a frighteningly early stage. AC Frio continued to cause problems and over run the defence but seemed to lack the final ball or decision to make their numerical and speed superiority pay. Wolfenden and Wells were rotated in for De Vicente and Rooney to bring fresh legs into the equation. Both teams pressed to regain the lead prior to the break, Gilman possibly had the best chance of the half to take the lead with a header at the back post that he could not angle on target.
AC Frio finished the half on top, finding success in their moves forward, crowding the Brit defence. Martin made key interceptions supporting at the back as the defensive pair had to increasingly shadow one of the marauding runners requiring the midfield to come deeper to cover the zones. Wells had to head a cross back into danger to avoid the pass reaching the far post but despite all their energy and press, the opposition could not get a shot on the Brit goal.
It had been a torrid and unedifying half of football and the game was finely poised at the break. The half time consensus was for the Brits to be more vocal and to keep the pressure up. Some positive play could bring a valuable three points but if timidity or uncertainty could be allowed to creep in disaster could befall them.
The second half saw a doubling down of the speed and stakes. Clearly, the opposition could see the chance to take three points and rotated their players to bring fresh legs on for their three pronged attacking line. AC Frio approached the Brit defensive line with agility, numbers and drive. Wells and Ferns making desperate interceptions. Shots still came in high and wide and there were uncomfortable moments amongst the Brits as the second half seemed to be shaping up as a siege. It was therefore somewhat of a joyous relief that the Brits took the lead. An impressive throw from Wolfenden squirmed loose in the box and Borque was first to the mark to convert the chance. As the game restarted, the AC Frio pushed harder to recapture parity and the Brits knew that an insurance policy of a third goal would help to calm the nerves.
The game fell into a rather curious phase. As both teams became more desperate to either hold on or equalize the play became ragged and acerbic. Rooney, in particular, became a focus of the attacking line, falling to the floor and gesticulating wildly as they crashed upon his looming form like anaemic waves on a windswept esplanade. Tensions escalated as the Brits felt the referee's decisions were becoming more erratic and difficult to understand. The Brit back line played a dangerous offside trap to counter the numerous attacking players and Beattie made some exceptional saves, more so as a sweeper-keeper at times, reminiscent of Columbian madness, ghosting past onrushing attackers, juggling the ball over their heads and leaving the opposition frustrated and the defence in moments of pure panic. The pace of the attackers would clearly outshine the Brit legs but on the two occasions where they found a break, both Ferns and Wells made match-saving interceptions look routine.
As the opposition pursued more attacking measures, space opened up behind them, their poor passing continued to be their undoing and on more than one occasion opened up potential counter attacks for the Brits.
The Brits stood firm and resisted. Bone crunching tackles and strength continued to deny the opposition time and space and they increasingly became infuriated as they wasted snatches of half chances. Their players continued to spend substantive time on the floor and the Brits watched the clock tick by. As the team felt that time must surely be up the referee alarmed the exhausted players by announcing five minutes remained.
The bench reacted and rotated players once again. Ferns returned in for Wells at the back and Gilman switched out Shaw on the line. Moments later Gilman had a chance to put the game to bed but mistimed his header. A rising sense of panic gripped the team as they felt so near to claiming three points but at the point of losing it all on a moment of madness. The ball pinballed about as the opposition lashed at it for goal, the Brits bunched tighter to their area and weathered the storm. Three points greeted like a wind of change.
Sadly results elsewhere meant these points did not lift the Brits any further up the table, but it lifted the hearts of the weary warriors. Witchcraft indeed. The bards will sing songs to their memory, if anything, to quietly forget how unattractive this gouged out win really was!
Many thanks to Ana Sofia Aznar González for her excellent reportage photographs that feature in this report
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