Sunday Morning Blues

Steve Brown

Round 6 saw Doncaster United looking to bounce back from last week’s poor second half performance on a dank and dreary Sunday morning against an Ashburton team with a few additions from Bayside/Regent/Sandringham in their fold. One main noticeable absentee though was the referee who was nowhere to be seen.

So United took the field with the formation of McCulloch, Machin, Attwood, Gough, Coard, Kearney, Shaw, McLoughlin, Gulec, Hassan, Jenkins (M) and a bench of Dykes, Singh & Whan with Brown taking on the first half refereeing duties.

The match started as a very pedestrian affair and this could possibly be put down to Royal Wedding viewing fatigue, lack of inspiration from an extremely dull FA Cup final or just the fact that it was a bunch of old blokes not enthused with the prospect of a game on a miserable Sunday morning.

Regardless, the game kicked off and within the first minute we witnessed the end of the contest for Jenkins (M) who pulled up with a suspect hamstring to be replaced by Singh.  As earlier stated there was no real zip from either team early on and United clearly struggled to adapt to the very unpredictable grass surface with close control a problem and many passes falling short of the desired target as the surface played so much slower than the smooth Doncaster pitch. Fortunately the videographer was also a no show this morning which probably has saved a few blushes from the United players.

The first team to show some attacking intent were Ashburton who adapted to the conditions that little bit faster and a couple of forward breaks were broken up by Machin and Gough and on one occasion sent Coard off on a run on the left but he was unfortunately closed down before being able to release his forwards. The central midfield pairing played their normal games with Shaw steady and assured in the holding role and McLoughlin looking to harass and hospitalise any midfield opponent who got in his way. However this was failing to create any real forward opportunities for Hassan & Singh who were unable to exert any pressure on the AshRegSanSide defence.

Despite the difficult conditions, the game flowed smoothly, no doubt due to the excellent handling by the referee who was content to ignore the bleatings of several players when he made the occasional wrong call, but it must be stressed that both teams played the game with impeccable spirit. There was also a sublime moment which defied the conditions when Gulec pulled of a Whan-like move twisting and pirouetting between two opponents and then setting the forwards off.

It looked as though the first half was going to remain goalless when out of the blue an outrageously bad cross from Ashburton’s #8 caught a gust of wind and flew high over McCulloch into the net for a freak goal. This sparked the game into life and from the kick off Attwood sent Kearney free down the right and he found Singh who held the ball nicely to set up Hassan but the defence were able to clear and then set off on the counter-attack. A couple of slick passes later saw Ashburton enter the box and a second goal looked inevitable until McCulloch got down and tipped the ball round the post for a corner. The resultant cross saw McCulloch once again clear the danger with a punch to safety and that kept the score to 0-1 at half-time.

The half –time talk from Attwood emphasised the positive aspects of the game so far (it was quite short) and the second half saw Dykes enter the fray for Kearney in right midfield. Immediately it was clear that United were more switched on and eager to chase an equaliser but a lack of composure on the ball and being undone by the conditions continually thwarted their forward momentum.

At the same time Ashburton’s #8 was causing mayhem continually running at the Legends defence and creating chances that saw McCulloch save with hands, feet and various other parts of his anatomy. In an attempt to rescue the match Whan came on for Coard and Brown (relieved of his refereeing duties) for Singh. Initially this seemed to show some promise as the Ashburton keeper was forced into his first action racing out to the edge of his box with Brown closing in and his clearance bouncing off Brown’s outstretched leg and going out for a goal kick.

The game was there for the taking for United and they continued to try and claw their way back but another mesmerising display form the Ashburton #8 saw him break into the box only to miscue his shot which unfortunately totally wrongfooted McCulloch to make it 2-0. Ashburton then had the chance to close the game out when their #8 yet again wove his way through the defence only to be denied by the outstretched foot of McCulloch.

Despite pushing both Attwood and Gough forward, United were finding it difficult to penetrate the Ashburton defence and it was only a matter of time until they exposed the resultant gaps at the back and a third goal duly came when a cross into the box was met unchallenged with a dreadful header that somehow defied the laws of physics and ended up in the net.

This resulted in a final score of 3-0 to Ashburton which on the basis of goalmouth action was probably a fair reflection of the game.

MMM Memorable Moment – Ismail Gulec’s effort in showing Eddie how to twist and turn
MMM Muppet Moment – Michael Jenkins gallant showing of less than 1 minute on the field of play takes it. I’m sure the Gaffer will have something to say about warming up properly at the next training session!!
BMW BoP John McCulloch – Although it was a 3-0 defeat none of the goals could be attributed to the keeper and in fact John pulled off some tremendous saves to keep us in the game longer than we deserved.

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