At Least we had the full Eleven on the Pitch
Graham AttwoodAn eagerly awaited game to challenge the new United strategy started with Masters only able to field a starting 10. The bench awaited the friendly request from Masters to lend them a player but the request never came! The game kicked off bang on the adjusted time of 7.30 with Utd opting for a hard-nosed 5-4-1 formation to repel the anticipated midfield barrage and bolster the trenches. The first 10 minutes was an evenly fought encounter with Utd having a half chance through Rod receiving a through ball but unable to settle and dispatch. 1 or 2 spectators from the bench decided to give the Masters linesman a hard time from the get – go questioning his knowledge/interest/eyesight and parentage. All friendly you understand. Midfielder Moore was also on the move with several nudges towards the opposition penalty area but with limited support was unable to create further advances. Against the run of play, Masters saw a weakness and put a switched lofted ball over the Utd defence which left the back 5 flat-footed. A low cross was parried by JMc but fell to the feet of the Masters attacker who easier hit the net to start the scoreboard rolling : 1-0 Masters started to press their superior skills in the middle and the 9 man defence opened up like an Aldi sardine can to create way too much space 5 metres outside the box – a well hit shot was executed from a long way out which sailed into the top left corner : 2-0. Jenkins Jnr and Moore the Younger started to put some passes together in transition and Utd settled down somewhat to look for a less frantic passage of play and give some crumbs to the lone striker. Alas another Utd turnover was soon to materialise and the hard work to establish some stability was quickly undone ; fortunately the experience of Catela in the backline came to the rescue with Frank using his head (no – not to compute the tricky algorithm that Masters were using in their attack strategy but to duck out of the way of a fearsome drive); but his duck was not quick enough and his head fortunately got in the way of a goal-bound torpedo to deflect for a corner ; Utd survive – this time ! Masters continued to push the ball around the midfield with relative ease and created 2 more chances with through balls into the inside channels which found an attacker both times who both fired in goal-bound shots but the experience body and feet of JMc in goal kept the score line static. From the sideline, it looked like a change to 4-4-2 had happened but no-one quite knew how or why. Nonetheless, some unorthodox defending showed the true commitment of the Utd team when under relentless attack – a thunderbolt shot from 30 metres tested the stalwart reds but Eddie (the ballerina) put his body (head) on the line and dived/fell to the deck to get his head in the way from 2 inches off the ground with a mouth full of plastic/rubber from the turf. What a martyr! So a 2-0 deficit a half time and all to fight for. The 2nd half started with a similar flurry of attacks through midfield from Masters as had ended the 1st half. Likewise Eddie was full of energy and was keen to show that Masters were no match for an inspired midfield general. He bore down on an advancing front line in black white stripes but unfortunately mistimed his challenge and pirouetted through 720 degrees whilst scything the legs of the unfortunate Masters player, the ball being at least 5 metres away!!! Further desperate measures from Utd maintained the score line but then – disaster. An innocuous goal kick fell easily to the advancing zebras and the Utd defence were overrun completely with any one of 3 free attackers available to slide in an easy goal : 3-0 By now Masters had the game under control – JMc made another stop to keep some hope in the Utd ranks and then, somehow, the ball found its way into the Masters half, Browny played a great through ball to Ash who took one touch and pulled the trigger to create a rare Utd attempt (also the flag went up for offside so the adrenalin rush for Mr. Singh would have to wait for another day). The game resumed in the Utd half with an ominous feeling! And true to form, Utd conceded another soft goal from distance with the advancing midfield able to walk into acres of space and fire in from 30 metres with no real challenge coming from Utd : 4-0 However a glimmer of hope cracked through with a Utd corner resulting from some rare Utd advancement. A Jenkins corner and mixture of Moore and Harrison combining to try and sneak in a goal but to no avail. Shortly afterward, Frank went down like a sack of spuds after a hefty challenge. The bench were very concerned that he had damaged his busted knee on debut and the ice was carted out with a couple of able chaps to assist him to the sideline. When asked by coaching staff if he was pain – the answer was “yes – considerable – my ankle has rolled badly” the coaching response was “That’s Good Then” – hopefully it wasn’t taken the wrong way!! Very tired legs were apparent and the Utd structure seemed to disintegrate. A further goal came soon after with limited intervention and the ball was walked into the net : 5-0 Masters were queuing up by now and seeking a further goal – it nearly came with an “iffy” challenge by MJ in the penalty area. It looked a penalty for all money but the referee waved play on – Hmmmm – we’ll take whatever we can get. The next and final goal came again from distance with the Utd team opening up. No close down to be seen and a well struck attempt floating across the goal coming to rest in the onion bag. : 6-0 The last piece of action in the game was the attempted decapitation of JMc in goal which for a change did not come the opposition but was self-inflicted when big John ran into the goal net support rope. Fortunately, little damage was incurred apart from a bit of spilt claret and some dented pride. The referee, on inspection of the injury, decided to blow the final whistle – 2 minutes early. This was a soul-destroying moment as the tactics from the United bench was to switch in the last 2 minutes to a 1-9 formation and knock over one goal every 20 seconds to secure a worthy 6-6 draw. Unfortunately, the “stolen” 2 minutes prevented a valid competition point for the worthy Utd army. OR another take – back to the drawing board – the structure looked “flexible” and let’s just say the execution was a little naïve compared to how the plan was set up. Positives? There were again glimpses of forward play on occasions that give us some optimism. And the game was played in good spirits But we are leaking goals big time so it’s clear where the focus should be!! Roll on the Derby Muppet moment – Got to be Eddie for his impression of a caterpillar whilst putting his head on the line to get in the way AND/OR his double pirouette whilst taking out the Masters midfielder. Memorable Moment – Frank on 2019 debut using his head, then using his injured knee, then rolling his ankle. BMW BOP – John Moore for his 88 minutes of none stop effort, never give-in approach, running and probing in attack and tracking back to help the defensive lines.