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First team report
Sat 22nd Apr 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Sponsored by Simon Mann TAFC First team 2-1 Crawley Green TAFC goals: Christopher Vardy, Ryan Sturges
WE EYE UP A TOP 5 FINISH
If we win our last league game of the season on Saturday we will finish at least 5th and possibly 4th (if Wembley lose at home to Biggleswade United) in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division. That would be our best finish since 2010/11 when we were runners up to Chalfont St Peter.
That would be a major improvement over last season when we ended up 12th and the credit must go to Managers Ian Richardson and Colin Phillips and coaches Stuart Stedman and Gary Looker who have moulded their young side into a resilient, hard working team that is a match for anyone. They have had to contend with key players being picked off by clubs with deeper pockets and a recent injury crisis that has seen their squad denuded of key players, although it was great to see Seb Smith and Dave O'Connor back in the squad.
The up side of the growing injury list was the need to promote our young players with Max Hercules being a particular major success. The youngster (who only turned 17 on 13 March) opened his First Team account with a smartly taken goal at Holmer Green on Tuesday night and when he came off the bench just past the hour mark against Crawley Green he made an immediate impact adding much needed zest and setting up the winning goal.
For the first hour we had been lethargic, which considering this was our 64th match of the season and 6th in 2 weeks was hardly surprising. This is a schedule no Premiership player would contemplate.
Despite the evident tiredness we started okay with Chris Vardy striking a well hit 25 yarder that keeper Dean Bull tipped round the post. From the corner James Butler got a header on target but the keeper was equal to it. Later Jack Read also hit the target with a shot but the keeper caught it with comfort. Not much had been seen of the opposition attacks during those early stages apart from when our self inflicted errors presented them with opportunities which fortunately they spurned.
Gradually the visitors grew into the game and only a timely intervention from Stuart Stedman prevented Green's leading scorer Charlie Clayton from exploiting an opening after some enterprising link up play with a colleague. Green were starting to look more dangerous and Clayton's pass gave Dean Dummett a run on goal but he stood on the ball and the opportunity was wasted.
Our passing lack its usual accuracy and we struggled to get our game going although Jack Read did test the keeper with a free kick which he punched way. A weak tackle presented Clayton with a clear sight of goal but he sent his shot wide. Soon afterwards Sean Couglan had a similarly good shooting opportunity but his effort was so way off target it ended up as a throw.
Green were now firmly in the driving seat and dominating possession and Jack Hopwood made two great saves to deny Dean Dummett but could do nothing about Clayton's shot that struck the crossbar.
After a difficult patch we recovered our composure and with 4 minutes of the first half left veteran Stuart Stedman hit the inside of the post with a cross that had the keeper clearly beaten (Beamer did have the decency to admit afterwards its wasn't a shot!). Clearly feeling confident he tried another shot almost immediately afterwards thus using up his quota of efforts on goal in a match!
Two minutes later Chris Vardy did supremely well to seize on a back pass, then cleverly evade some challenges and find some space before slotting home his 18th goal of the season. There was still time for Jack Read to see his shot cleared but another goal would have been harsh on the visitors who didn't deserve to be behind at half time. HT Score 1-0.
There were half chances at both ends during the early part of the second half with Dummett just failing to connect properly at the near post with a fine cross from Couglan and Chris Vardy latched onto a super lobbed pass from Ollie Butler to force a good save from the keeper. Later Jack Hopwood had to stretch to tip away a dangerous cross from sub Sodiq Thompson and Jack Read and Chris Vardy's potential run on goal following a quick break was spoilt by a slack pass.
After this exchange of opportunities it was the visitors who struck when we were exposed at the back by a quick counter attack allowing Clayton to poke the ball past Jack Hopwood for a deserved equaliser. Score 1-1.
Green started to press for a winner and after a poor clearance Dummett tried his luck with a shot on target but Hoppy was able to catch it without any trouble. James Butler also got in on the act but his header from a free kick was well wide.
We had already brought on Seb Smith at half time and 4 minutes past the hour mark we also released Max Hercules from the subs bench and he made an immediate impact with his sharp running and quick feet and was soon involved in the signature moment of the second half.
Jack Read started the move in the 74th minute with the ball being moved on to Ryan Sturges, Chris Vardy and then wide to Max Hercules who showed great composure to play a lovely diagonal pass into the area for Ryan Sturges to tap home from close range. It was the best move of the match and put us back in front. Score 2-1.
The visitors pressed forward looking for a second equaliser but we seemed more energized now and came the closest to scoring when Chris Vardy hit the bar and later forced the keeper to punch away a firm shot. FT Score 2-1.
A harsh result on Crawley Green who deserved at least a point if not three for an enterprising performance but we will be delighted to have got another game out of the way as our ridiculously hectic ending to the season draws to a close. We now have a one week break before we play our last league game of the season at Colney Heath on Saturday and hopefully we may have some players back.
We also have a St Marys Cup semi-final to contest away at Leverstock Green on Tuesday 2 May and if we win through to the final we will play Kings Langley. Whatever the outcome of the final few games Ian and his team have done a superb job with a creditable high finish in what has been a fiercely contested league, a wonderful run in the FA Vase and being denied the Herts Charity Shield only by two late goals.
There was further good news for the Club on Saturday with Ian Butler's A Team claiming the runners up spot in the West Herts Premier Division with three games still to go and the B Team winning the Sir Stanley Rous Cup by beating Potten End 5-1, having already claimed the West Herts Div 2 title. Well done to both teams.
TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Stuart Stedman 3 Chris Mason (14 Seb Smith HT) 4 Ollie Butler 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 James Butler 7 Ryan Sturges 8 George Carbery (12 Max Hercules 64) 9 Chris Vardy 10 Jack Read (15 Dave O'Connor 77) 11 Luke Dunstan.
CG; 1 Dean Bull 2 Luke Fonseca 3 Aarron Browne 4 Sam Pemberton (Capt) 5 Mark Smith 6 Francis Harkin (12 Sodiq Thompson 51) 7 Ashton Grant 8 Dean Dummett 9 Charlie Clayton 10 Sean Coughlan (14 Robert Newman 68) 11 Josh Murray (15 Henry Mungwira 58). Sub not used: 16 Cameron Veazey.