Sometimes to play well together a team needs to know each other, to trust each other, to understand what makes each other tick. You can’t get this bonding done during matches, not training and not even during socials. What is needed is to be trapped, five to a car, for a three hour round trip to Leadenham. And when the conversation runs its course you can share photos of each other snoozing with friends (I think James and I looked quite peaceful). So it’s fair to say the long trip helped the mighty Fours perform better – and I think even the staunchest Leadenham supporter would agree the better team won on Saturday.
It was miserable when we left Cambs but by the time we found RAF Cranwell, then the gatehouse, then the parking, then the changing room, then the pitch – the weather had gotten worse. It was cold. Tom S was keen to continually remind us that we were ‘up North’ and it was terrible weather up here. However, being a Brummie and taking a keen interest in where the North/South divide is placed, I didn’t really agree with that assessment.
Reading Father Jan’s Friday sermon we expected a tough game: Leadenham had won their last home game eleven-nil (gulp…). But from the off, we were on it. We didn’t give any of those players in black a second on the ball, doggedly harassing (within the rules of the game) and when we got the ball, we went for the jugular. Speedily Oli S, Tom S, George, JJ and Seb advanced, quickly getting the ball to the forwards to see what they could do. I honestly don’t think they got out of their half for the first ten minutes. However, the experienced home defence held firm, then in the odd foray into South’s half Leadenham found Andy C, James, and Simon K (for me, MoM) not letting up an inch. Mike might not have even touched the ball.
This lasted though only until fifteen minutes in when we hit with a double goal salvo. For the first, it started with Tom S; bursting through the right, bouncing over a couple of chopping tackles, reaching the byline and pulling it back to allow the simplest of tap ins – every forward’s dream, thank you very much. Then not two minutes later a long corner in the middle of the pitch was driven in by Oli S, half stopped by a defender but not cleared and it fell nicely to enable a reverse hit into the unguarded bottom corner – thanks again.
The third was again originated by a South, but South Snr not Jnr, Paul popping the ball into the D, where I was able to get past a defender and simply hit it as hard as I could at the goalie – straight through his legs! Three-nil, we were coasting and the score line in no way flattered us.
We did however, take our foot off the gas, allowing the hosts to get a small foothold: on the stroke of half time they won a short which was cleanly struck in - Mike stood no chance, credit where it’s due.
The second half South dominated – held Leadenham at arms length (Andy C in particular was solid in the tackle) and it was only a matter of time until #4 came - but it didn’t. We huffed and puffed mightily but couldn’t breach the defence again. But it didn’t matter, there was no way they were getting through the South back line. Chances came but were not sticking at the other end. The last ten minutes were a procession and a bit of short corner practice. Well done all. Thanks to Leadenham for being great hosts and cracking teas!