CCL League Cup - Hartley 4 v AC London 0
Post by KOB - 05-10-2016, 10:28
What a first 45 minutes that was. At one point I was genuinely concerned last night that we would end the game with half the team injured, or that we wouldn't actually end the game in normal time, but having had a few hours to analyse what AC London were doing out there, I'm going to give them a huge benefit of the doubt that they are better than they showed in that half.
I'm not sure they really deserve the benefit of the doubt, after all the 'bigging up' they've heaped on themselves over recent seasons (where the hell was the tiki-taka football?), but I try to be a forgiving person! That doesn't take away from the fact that in that first 45 they caught our players with practically every attempted tackle they made; their treatment of the officials was atrocious; and they completely underestimated what they were up against. But since I heard their manager afterwards saying that the players had done everything he'd told them not to do, and he was clearly very, very frustrated, I'll put it down to them having been given a very steep learning curve by our boys last night.
As for us, I asked the question here in my preview and yes, we took it seriously alright, well done boys and management. A very professional performance, not only in our play but in our conduct in the face of a constant battering. Ross in particular took a full-bodied elbow to the face, fell and stayed down - which was just as well. The referee missed it, as did the linesmen apparently, and the AC London number 4 got off without a word - though I think Ross may have crossed him off his Christmas card list now. Towards the end of the game the 4 took Adam Everiss out by the touchline. Not sure there's a place in our game for players like that. But apart from the few isolated, malicious fouls, I believe most of the fouls were simply caused by the speed and skill of our boys and the visiting players not having played against such opposition, maybe ever before. They flew into tackles when they should have been pressing up close but not going in. Instead, they seemed to think they were playing a team in Division One, where speed of thought and movement is that little bit slower. They probably win a lot of balls there. They were/are a strong, powerful bunch and I'm sure their crunching style will take them a long way in Div 1. Last night it simply got them into a lot of trouble. We were simply too quick, too clever and too professional in our attitude to the game. We gave them a real lesson and they can learn a lot from it, if they have the sense to - we should send them a bill for 'professional services'!
The game was effectively put to bed in the first half. While AC London tried to bully us off the pitch we set about our work, first Steve Duff, then Ross Cook from a free-kick, then Adam Everiss and finally a second from Ross with a superb 25 yard low strike that tore in to the net by the keeper's near post - and that just about summed it up. We tore them apart. Dismantled them brick by brick.
Later in the half I went round to the dugouts to listen to whatever the AC London manager was telling his players, because if he had been inciting it then I'd have had a quiet word with him ;-) He wasn't in any way. In fact, you could tell he was seething, and when their tall number 3 totally lost it after mouthing off at high volume at the ref for ages and not surprisingly getting a second yellow and then a red, it was their manager who pulled him away from what could have turned into a very nasty encounter with the Ref.
I had a huge amount of sympathy for the officials last night (yes, rare for me I know). The Ref (Tom Ellsmore) let a few things go in the second half, but I think he just wanted to minimise any chance of further confrontation which might have escalated. He can't have had many tougher assignments, but at least we didn't add to his workload. And whatever blast their manager gave his players at half time, it was pretty effective - it was a much calmer second half without the feeling that our players were trying to navigate a field of landmines every time they received the ball.
We could have doubled our goals tally in the second half but in truth we dropped a couple of gears, playing like someone turning the gas up and down, but it was enough. We didn't start with the same tempo, which gave them more possession, and they actually started to play the ball around. Going forward they looked quite useful, and moved the ball through midfield nicely a few times, but Steve Laidler and Drew Matthews never let them get on top. Steve was terrific, it almost goes without saying. Drew had a very solid game in only his second outing for us, though he might have wondered what on earth he'd got himself into by the end of the half!
At the back, Shane Hollamby was absolute class. Deep in his own half, late on, he took control of the ball, dragged it one way and the other, passed two players, jinked to his right, passed another moving toward the centre and strode out of defence with the ball. I think it was then that their 7 tried to trip him, missed and so simply hacked him down from behind out of total frustration. Magnificent, whatever level of football you're watching. I'll give him my MOTM just for that, but he did so much more to snuff out any possible opportunities they may have had.
Also a shout out to Tom Walsh, starting after a long layoff and only a cameo appearance at RPV, he had a very solid game and not an easy night up against the visitors' tricky little number 9. Not even going to mention Louie Paget because I've given him so many mentions it'll start going to his head... but ok, another very calm, composed performance from 'the lad'.
I had a very strong feeling we were going to see something unusual last night, simply because of all the hype around AC London. By the end of that first half, many of us were just stood hushed, unable to quite believe what we'd just seen, while the officials were still taking a verbal battering in a strange mix of languages. One of the oddest games I've ever seen but a textbook example of how to hold your own nerve, stick to your game and take the other team apart. Well done boys.