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Old Meads Lose Chance To Add To Unbeaten Record

AFA Senior Cup Semi-Final Old Meadonians 1 Polytechnic 3 (aet)

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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

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