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FA Trophy: Slimbridge v Hartley Wintney

Post by KOB - 08-10-2017, 09:14

A performance full of commitment and determination for the full 90 plus minutes... and that was just the supporters!

Many of the Hartley faithful made the journey to Gloucestershire to see us play in our first ever tie in the FA Trophy, and a difficult afternoon immediately appeared a lot harder on hearing how many players were out injured or unavailable. While a capable player, I'm sure Millers wouldn't have normally put himself on the bench, but it was a sign of how many were missing, and when Steve Noakes failed a late fitness test - and with Adam New still out injured - it was the new captain, Dean Stow, who found himself in the unfamiliar position of centre-back alongside Liam Eagle. The two settled into a central defensive partnership, with Struds in excellent form behind them, that the hosts found impossible to breach.

It was a team performance to make us all proud. We started a little unsure but soon settled once Josh Webb and Jack French in centre midfield, and Jake Baxter and Paul Hodges up front, began to mount pressure on the home defence. The tempo and intensity of our play was first class, and Paul was superb, his goal sublime, and his only disappointment will be knowing he created enough chances for himself and was a whisker away on several occasions from what should have been at least a hat-trick.

Slimbridge 'keeper, Ollie Hall, pulled off a great save to deny Josh Webb, and it was soon after that, in the 42nd minute , that good work out wide on the left involving Adam Everiss (it was another big performance from Evo) and Josh Webb resulted in Paul Hodges collecting a pass a yard or two from the left corner of the box. A trademark run across the edge of the box opened up the space for a shot and it powered high and to the left of Hall's outstretched arm, a memorable finish worthy of winning our first ever FA Trophy game.

Hall saved well early in the second half, with shots from Steve Duff and Paul Hodges close to giving us breathing space, but it was Paul Hodges who later came closest to securing the tie when a well worked solo effort cannoned off the bottom of the right hand post.

It was a tremendous team effort. Liam's stature in the middle at the back is something we almost take for granted, but I have to single out Dean Stow for particular praise, forced into playing an unfamiliar role but looking as if he's always played there. Brilliant mate.

Also want to give a big thumbs up to the 'new boys', Josh Webb and Jake Baxter, both had terrific games in none too easy circumstances. One thing I was delighted to see was Jake's workrate and pressing when we didn't have the ball - I've always felt it's so important to press high up the field, denying defenders time on the ball, and of course it was something Sammy did tirelessly (and ok, now I've mentioned him, well done Arg, two goals on your 'stoke re-debut). It remains to be seen if Jake can emulate the goal-scoring record of the previous keeper of the number 9 shirt, but got to say he matched Sam for effort and workrate out there yesterday and that's already praise indeed. Paul and Jake looked a constant threat out there and that was so good to see. Good to see Jayden come on and cause them a few problems too - another exciting young player.

That was a huge win yesterday for so many reasons, in adversity with so many players out, and the perfect response to some 'in that other place' (to use a term more commonly associated with government) who have ignorantly predicted our impending demise. We were all massively boosted by that performance yesterday, and proud of you.

Finally, a big thanks to the hosts, who made us feel very welcome indeed - lovely club. No report from David today as he was unable to make it to the game, so hopefully Vinty will fill in the bits I've skirted over :-)

Hartley: Paul Strudley, Callum Eagle, Louie Paget, Josh Webb, Liam Eagle, Dean Stow (capt), Steve Duff, Jack French, Jake Baxter, Paul Hodges, Adam Everiss. Subs: Jayden Englefield (on for Steve Duff), Michael Buck (on for Adam Everiss), Anthony Millerick, Charlie Bath
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