After our disappointing display against Kingstanding 'B' where we lost 5-3, we lost the services of Forbes - who decided he wanted to play for the A team. This was fair enough as he had his friends in that side and he was more than good enough to star for them so it made no sense to hold him back. One thing I cannot tolerate is managing unhappy players who are not genuinely committed to the cause.
We had Grady back for this fixture as well as Jamie. We also had Badris and Emad available for the full game. Quite frankly, it was our strongest squad to date even withstanding the absence of Forbes. We also had two new players join us, Callum and Lamar - both of whom would give us the electric pace we needed after the loss of Forbes.
Before the game I made sure we were all alert with regards to set piece positioning both defensively and offensively. We made the decision that for every attacking corner we would commit the centre backs forward and gamble on smaller players staying back - usually 3, with solid recovery pace. We also went zonal, focusing on the areas where the ball is likely to land.
In terms of selection, I went with Kurt and Badris up top as a 4-4-2. We went with Bash and Mohsin on the wings, with a midfield of Jakob and Emad. In defence we had Elliot, Jamie, Ryan and Grady who offered to play at left back in the absence of Faraaz. In goal we had Holder.
Probably the best half of football I have seen us produce as a side considering the strength of the opponent. Hopwood had a well polished build up phase but our players harried and harassed in a desire to win the ball back early. At times we were too lightweight in the challenge and they skipped away but the opposition knew they were in for a battle and the press helped set the tone.
Elliot struggled against their left winger but it was understandable as the winger had a perfect blend of pace, power, skill and intelligence. It was not a good match up but Elliot dutifully tried his best and by the end of the half was actually looking comfortable. Jamie and Ryan looked rock solid in the centre and it helped that Grady was there to sweep up any loose ends if need be.
Kurt was looking quiet and it was concerning me that the game seemed to pass him by. It reminded me of Harry Kane where the lack of dynamism gets exposed against a better quality of team but there was signs in the last 10 minutes of him finally beginning to show what he's made of. Badris on the other hand looked at home and was a constant thorn in their side. He dribbled past a few and played in Bash who smashed it into the top corner from just outside the box. 1-0.
Half-Time Score 1-0
Was impressed by the first half display and just wanted to ensure we kept it up. I decided to switch Elliot with Grady to see if Grady could keep their most dangerous player quiet. I also subbed out our wingers, because I had planned to give Callum and Lamar 45 minutes.
The decision to swap the fullbacks proved to be a disaster. The opposition simply switched up the position of their winger and had brought other fast forwards on... Elliot and Ryan were caught out down our left flank and they shot from a narrow angle past Holder. 1-1 and a disastrous start to the half.
The full backs decided to switch back - which was probably wise, and within moments... Lamar had won us a penalty by driving into the box. Kurt stepped up to take the penalty and I was nervous after his miss against the A team. Thankfully he kept his cool to slot it away and our lead was restored 2-1.
The goal gave Kurt some much needed confidence and he soon began to run rings around them in the midfield area whenever he dropped deep. Nevertheless as you would expect from a side from a higher division they soon began to go for the jugular and Ryan had to be bailed out a few times by the exceptional recovery pace and anticipatory skills of Grady.
I then wanted a side that could hurt them on the counter while we tighten up at the back, so I took Kurt off... brought Bash back on to the right, and played Badris and Lamar up front. Both of them worked very hard on and off the ball, whilst Callum kept getting in on the counter. We were unlucky not to grab a third or fourth, but ultimately we saw out the game and secured a very creditable victory.
Full Time Score: KHR 'B' 2-1 Hopwood Swifts
Really proud of the lads. We needed to brush up in certain areas such as build up play - Hopwood looked much more accomplished in this regard, but we defended well and always looked a threat - so business endwise, we looked solid.
Key lessons learned
Be wary of switching up positions where nothing has gone totally wrong yet. Trying to anticipate an error happening midgame, can confuse players especially when in their mind they might be thinking they have got a grip of the situation.