After last weeks disappointing display I was keen to be as clinical as possible this week and leave no stone unturned in the quest to secure three points. Red Lions were touted as one of the weakest sides in the division and anything but a good win would be very concerning as to the true strength of the squad. I was also keen to ensure there would be no weak links or untested players on the bench. The good news is that we had several star players return...
Elliot was not available for this game but Mo, our diminutive aggressive ball playing right back was - which would definitely aid us in possession. Jakob one of the star midfielders from preseason had finally returned after a month backpacking around Europe and Badris - arguably our biggest attacking threat was back too. Bash and Thomas - two of our brightest attacking talents had also returned.
One of the rules I had made prematch was that we all needed to be in our kit by 1:50pm, giving us sufficient time to carry out a 40 minute warm up. Anyone unchanged by that cut off period would be deemed late and benched. Lamarr and Callum fell foul of this rule and were benched. Their friend Kieran who had just signed but was on the bench in any case, also came late. To set an example for the side, I decided I would restrict their game time as subs.
As we had most of the squad on time, we were able to do a proper warm up. We started off with rondos, before progressing to 3 v 2's and then set piece positioning. We then finished out with a stretching session and then went through the tactics and the mindset with which to approach the game. It felt really nice to be able to carry out the warm up in good time with no tension pre match.
As a result of Thomas and Bash starting on the wings. Badris played behind Mikey and in midfield we had a new combination of Jakob and Raurie - our recently discovered CDM gem. In defence we had Isaac, Ryan flanked by Mo and Daniel. We set up in our customary 4-2-3-1 formation.
We started off like a house on fire and Badris reacted to a rebounded shot inside the penalty area to put us 1-0 up. With our confidence up, we produced a plethora of chances, with Bash and Thomas hitting the post from just inside the box. Despite this, we were not getting through and Lion's resistance was impressive considering their reputation for leaking goals.
We then won a penalty which Badris put away. We then expected the floodgates to open but Lions showed some heart and got stuck in. They had a shot cleared off the line by Mo, who put his body on the line. They then had some shots off target but fortunately we got ourselves in at half time with a 2-0 lead.
Half-Time Score 2-0
The key message during the second half was to not be complacent and to let the lead slip. We needed to be hungrier for more goals. From a tactical aspect, I was unhappy with Mikey pinning himself against their centre backs when his hold up play is not his strong suit. I told him to take a more side on stance, position himself off the shoulder of the last defender and prepare to run on to through balls.
Red Lions really came at us at the start of the second half and we were under the cosh for the first 10 minutes. We were struggling to get out of our defensive third. Ryan and Isaac did well to hold firm during this period and we did not really give away any clear-cut opportunities. Eventually Rauri and Jakob managed to establish control over the game again and we were back on the attack, with Thomas missing a good 1 v 1 opportunity with his weaker foot.
Bash then fed in Mikey who had taken the advice on board and started drifting into half spaces, He took a nice touch inside the box and put it away to make it 3-0. It was now time to bring on some changes. Mohsin who had not featured for a while was brought in to replace Badris at CAM, Lamar was brought in to replace Thomas, Callum came on Bash and finally Keiran took the place of Rauri in midfield.
The subs were all fired up as they had been benched for coming late and they made an instant impact. Lamar scored instantly but then he started over-elaborating with the ball as if to prove a point as to why he should be starting. It has the opposite effect as it invited a lot of challenges and frustrated his own team mates.
Keiran then went into the back of one of their players and a melee was on the verge of breaking out. Once calmness was restored, we managed to score another with Mikey grabbing his second. Mikey then got yellow carded for taking his shirt off but it was hilarious truth be told and he promised to pay the fine.
Full Time Score: KHR 'B' 5-0 RED LIONS UNITED
A clinical display but I was not happy with the attitude of the substitutes. There is a fine line between passion and recklessness and I felt they came on out of control - too focused on trying to prove a point to me. It led to some rash decision making on the ball and also in terms of making tackles on the pitch. I emphasised the fact that the guys who had turned up on time had got us into a comfortable lead and it was disappointing to see their hard work potentially have been undone by an unnecessary red card.
Key lessons learned
Warm Up Routine was excellent. Arriving early does help relieve players of tension and warm up calmly.
Even the so-called weakest side in the division can have periods of sustained pressure - important to hold your nerve and battle out of it