Old Meads Lose Chance To Add To Unbeaten Record
AFA Senior Cup Semi-Final Old Meadonians 1 Polytechnic
Old Meadonians’ chances of adding to their unbeaten record of four Amateur
Football Alliance Senior Cup Final wins went west when they hit the buffers,
supplied by near neighbours from across the A316, a very powerful Polytechnic,
in their semi-final at Riverside Lands on Saturday.
On paper this tie was set to be a close run thing with Poly three points
above Alleyn O.B. atop the senior section of the vaunted Southern Amateur
League with a healthy goal difference of twenty three, having lost one
and drawn two.
Meads are similarly placed nine points clear at the pinnacle
of the Premier Division of the Amateur Football Combination, with thirty
six points from thirteen games having lost one, with a goal difference
of twenty seven.
The water-logging of Actonians’ pitch necessitating a change of venue
gave the Meads' camp the hope that their wide pitch might have their visitors,
used to their narrow home pitch, at a disadvantage. However, there was
no such luck as super-fit Poly lapped up any additional space available
and even managed to carry the absence of their long throw expert, leaving
the hosts to go down the blind alley of too much reliance on Aidan Chapman’s
throws. This benefitted them little and may even have cut back on the
efficacy of their main goal scorers, strikers Craig Jones and Nick Wilson
and mid-fielder Ryan Bright who much prefer the ball at their feet.
An analogy for the reason why Poly looked the more commanding and better
prepared can even be found in one of the more interesting series of shoot
outs of the ancient world, the civil wars in the Roman Empire which were
fought to decide which general would rule for the foreseeable future:
the eventual victor usually had command of an army in the west of the
Empire where the task of subduing dissident elements was much more difficult
simply because, for instance, both the Gallic tribes and the Huns were
far fiercer opponents than could be found elsewhere and the weather was
less than clement, thus breeding tougher soldiery. Compared with that,
army life in the east of the Empire, in the warmer climes of Asia Minor,
was soft and lush. Thus, in one of the more important of these clashes,
Julius Caesar who raised and trained his army in the west was able to
defeat Pompey whose army from the area of Greece was easily vanquished.
Hence the clue to ultimate dominance in Saturday’s shoot-out was in the
competition each team had met in their league programme. Meads, having
played few league games which fully tested them, are nine points ahead
of the second placed team, whilst, on the contrary, it does appear that
Poly have had to fight harder for points, thus enabling them to hone their
squad into a battle-scarred, hardened and complete fighting unit. Unfortunately,
this may also have introduced delusions of invincibility into Meads’ attitude
to this clash.
Saturday’s game, which was not always pretty to watch but had all the
thrills, spills and endeavours of a genuine cup tie and did go to extra
time, enhancing the impression that this was indeed an even competition.
During the first half hour, although Poly flexed their muscles to good
effect it was Meads who went closest to opening their account when centre
back Aidan Chapman put a far post header from a corner just over and shortly
afterwards Bright and Craig Jones brought double reflex saves from the
Poly keeper. However, even after Meads took the lead on the half hour,
when Bright burst through on the right and after his first shot was brilliantly
blocked by the Poly goalie, he rounded him to slot home the loose ball,
this did not seem to shake Poly’s resolve or genuine self-confidence.
As the match went on, while both keepers were throughout forced to excel
themselves, making miraculous and sometimes multiple saves backed up by
goal-line clearances by vigilant defenders, it was Simon Greening, standing
in for injured Gary Robinson in Meads’ net, who was increasingly being
called on to dig deep. It took Poly a good half an hour to begin to impose
their will but their equaliser could not have come at a more opportune
time, just two minutes from the interval. It was typical that this goal
should come from a set piece when a corner was whipped across and dipped
onto the far post. From there it bounced out to the penalty spot from
where it was put into the corner.
At the restart Poly began to exhibit a distinct air of inevitability but
they still had to wait till the second half of extra time to take the
lead when another corner was headed into the roof of the net. The icing
was applied to the cake in the dying seconds when Greening was beaten
to a high through ball which was popped over him.
This defeat was a body blow but it can hardly be said that Meads are having
a bad season when they have already got to this semi-final, they have
reached the semi-finals of the London Old Boys Senior Cup and are on course
to add a seventh Amateur Football Combination Premiership title to their
bag. This set back will undoubtedly make them stronger by taking to heart
the lessons they learn from it.
Squad: Greening, Costello, Chapman, Britner, Cain, Shea, Bright, Gowers,
Richards, Harrison, C. Jones, N. Wilson, N. Jones, Richardson.
March 9, 2017