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First team report  

Sat 20th Aug 2016
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Sponsored by Ralph Griffiths
TAFC First team 3-2 Leighton Town

TAFC goals: Ryan Sturges, David O'Connor, Christopher Vardy

A mere 11 miles separates us from Leighton Town but despite our close proximity this was, we believe, the first ever competitive encounter between us . With just over half an hour played our guests must have been enjoying their first taste of the Grass Roots Stadium, having scored two goals without reply to put them in a dominant position and well on their way to their first win of the season.

But our visitors were in for a shock following a 20 minute spell either side of half time after we mounted a terrific fight back to turn the deficit into a 3-2 lead and take control of the game. We should have then wrapped it up because we spurned some very good chances, but we still had enough in the tank to resist a late charge from Leighton and secure a very good victory.

We made two changes from the previous week's starting line up with Jack Seaton coming in at right back for the absent Tommy Twelves and Jack can feel highly satisfied with his performance after playing a big part in our first two goals. With Chris Stapleton away we were forced into another change bringing in new signing George Brinkman who settled superbly into midfield and will be an asset to the team.

After our encouraging performance the previous Saturday against league leaders London Colney it was disappointing to see us start off rather sloppily and within 52 seconds we presented Leighton skipper Reece Williams with a shooting chance which fortunately he put wide of the far post.

After spending 24 years playing at Isthmian/Southern League level the visitors have had a tentative start to their new life in the South Midlands but they were sharp from the kick off and were the better side during the early stages. They created another opportunity in the 8th minute when Mitchell Hamilton got his head to a fine free kick but it went straight into the hands of Jack Hopwood.

We were finding it hard to get into our rhythm but in the 10th minute Luke Dunstan, who has had a great start to the season, instigated a move that led to Ryan Sturges feeding Chris Vardy who uncharacteristically shot wide of the far post. A few minutes later Vardy whipped over a super cross that looked destined to pick out Dave O'Connor until a defender managed to make a fine intervention.

Leighton looked dangerous going forward and they were rewarded for their positive start with the opening goal in the 16th minute. They broke quickly from our corner down the left through their speedy winger Victor Osuba who pulled the ball intelligently for Jordan Davis to convert with a cool finish. Score 0-1. A few minutes later the visitors should have doubled their lead following a cross from the right but somehow we managed to clear the danger.

Ryan Sturges had the chance to reduce the deficit when he latched onto an intelligent through ball from Sam Joliffe but his lob over the advancing keeper Jack Shilitoe drifted wide of the empty net. Leighton centre forward Matt Bateman forced a good save out of Jack Hopwood but our keeper could do nothing to prevent the same player firing a shot past him in the 28th minute, after we gave the ball away in a critical area which left our defence exposed. Score 0-2.

We were struggling to find our form but in the 37th minute we produced a move of some quality to give ourselves a life line. George Brinkman started it with a fine pass out to Jack Seaton on the right. Jack produced a lovely lay off to Ryan Sturges who used his chest to control the ball before skillfully striking a superb volley from outside the box past the keeper. Score 1-2.

It was just the confidence booster we needed and with our tails up we grabbed the equaliser 4 minutes before half time. Again it was a super goal and again Jack Seaton was involved, picking the ball up on the right he went past the defender and whipped over a dangerous cross to find Dave O'Connor. DOC has spent nearly all of his time at the club in defence but he produced a turn that any forward would be proud of to create the space before smashing the ball past Jack Shilitoe. It was a terrific finish and brought us right back in the game. Score 2-2.

There was one last moment of concern before the Referee blew for the interval when Matt Bateman took aim but he shot narrowly wide and after a poor start we had come back strongly to go in at the break on level terms. HT Score 2-2.

Sam Joliffe found himself involved at both ends at the start of the second half, firing a good effort at goal after a fine dribble then clearing a free kick that bounced down dangerously in our area.

We were looking much sharper now and our revival was confirmed 10 minutes into the second half when we took the lead for the first time in the match through the reliable left boot of Chris Vardy. Ryan Sturges did very well to keep the ball alive on the right wing before laying it across to George Brinkman. The resulting shot fell kindly to Vardy who doesn't miss from that distance. Score 3-2.

Thus within less than 20 minutes the game had turned on its head and we were now bossing things and looking the likely winners. Seven minutes after taking the lead Dave O'Connor produced a sumptuous cross but somehow from close range Ryan Sturges will wonder how he didn't score. But that miss should not detract from the fine, influential performance put in by Ryan, scoring a peach and being involved in what turned out to be the winner.

Midway through the half we went very close again following a lovely pass from George Brinkman and an exquisite flick from Chris Vardy to set up Sam Joliffe, but his shot was superbly tipped away by Jack Shilitoe. Not much had been seen of the Leighton attack after the break but midway through the half Jordan Davis screwed a shot wide to remind us that despite being in charge our lead was slim.

Luke Dunstan did well to work himself into a shooting position and although his effort was safely caught by the keeper it demonstrated his importance and influence in our midfield and that he is still a teenager.

With time running out Leighton made some changes to shake things up a bit and their most impressive player Jordan Davis advanced through our midfield and forced Jack Hopwood into a flying save with a good shot.

Dave O'Connor forced Jack Shilitoe into another good save to tip his header round the post then the former Aylesbury United custodian pushed out a cross from Chris Vardy that just evaded the on rushing Dave O'Connor and Ryan Sturges. The move was started by some terrific play by Paul Jeffrey after coming on to replace Chris Mason who had another fine match.

With the game finely balanced with just one goal still in it, the visitors stepped up their efforts and were pressing for an equaliser. Jack Hopwood was forced to tip good shots from Davis and Gardner away and we had to withstand some anxious moments as the visitors won some late corners.

Fortunately we were able to withstand this late pressure and claim the win which based on our second half performance was fully deserved. FT Score 3-2.

After a poor start we showed tremendous character to come from behind to claim all three points which pushes us up to 6th in the table. Leighton have had a tough start to the season with just one draw so far and are second from bottom from London Tigers due to a slightly better goal difference. But they showed enough quality in this game to suggest that they will climb up the table and be a force to be reckoned with.

We have another tough league match next Saturday when we face highly fancied Welwyn Garden City at the Grass Roots Stadium.


TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Jack Seaton 3 Chris Mason (12 Paul Jeffrey 69) 4 Luke Dunstan 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 Lessa Boka 7 Ryan Sturges (16 Joe Naylor 86) 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 David O'Connor 11 George Brinkman (15 Kane Axton 76). Subs not used: 14 Lanrewajh Ladipo 17 Stuart Stedman.

LT: 1 Jack Sillitoe 2 Tom Roberts 3 Louis Norton 4 Craig Maisiri 5 Jack Elliot 6 Reece Williams (Capt) (14 Kai Gardner 87) 7 Matt Hewitt (12 Omololu Onabolu 72) 8 Mitchell Hamilton (15 James Towell 76) 9 Matt Bateman 10 Victor Osobu 11 Jordan Davis. Subs not used: 16 Craig McKay GK Brad Kirkwood.


TA: Ryan Sturges (37) Dave O'Connor (41), Chris Vardy (55)

LT: Jordan Davis (16), Matt Bateman (28),

Crowd: 77


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