Valence 3rds whilst sitting in 3rd behind K-Sports 2nds, arriving with a number of key players missing, notably no recognised forwards, were understandably cautious about what the match might bring, especially given K-Sports seemed to have what looked like enough players to field two sides. Coupled with
this, they were warming up like they were about to play a National League game! Luckily some of these players disappeared leaving a more sensible 3 subs, albeit 3 more than Valence had! On a positive, Valence had a very strong 11, which including Tom Morgan, returning from a 10 year hiatus. The years clearly hadn't been good to him, but whilst he could barely move, he did vaguely remember how to use a stick!
It was a tough start to the game from Valence, with KS having most of the attack, but with a strong defence and midfield Valence were able to hold or block almost everything that came through, and whatever did get through, Henry ably saved. As the half went on, Valence started to get more of the ball, through the midfield and especially out wide. Here Tom Cavell and Adrian Gander were winning most balls against their men, and Marius Dreyer and Tom Morgan were creating a lot of space and opportunities upfront, but they missed the cutting edge. Later on in the first half, with one of KS's weakest attacks, Valence conceded a sloppy goal, which sent them in 1-0 down at half time.
Half time talk was positive, with Sutton Valence buoyed by the fact that we were well in this game, and they'd clearly spotted some weaknesses in their defence which they were keen to exploit. A tactical masterpiece by ‘captain extraordinaire’ (actually it was Chris J's suggestion!), switch ‘Morgo’ into a ‘Pirlo’ role, and moving Chris Jackson up top. This very quickly swung the game into a much more even contest, and arguably Valence were the better side. Unfortunately, they conceded another sloppy goal (some say their striker shouldn't have been on the pitch anyway!), but this only galvanised Valence further, to push on and get back into this game. Phil Morris, moved from defence to a more attacking winger role, and between he and Tom Cavell were soon getting great space down the right. Despite this, KS were attacking exceptionally well, and Henry made some great last ditch saves to keep Valence in the game, as KS would rightly have felt they could/should have had more goals.
With 10mins to go, a side-line ball from Valence was fired by ‘captain extraordinaire’ in to Phil Morris, who was dealing with a nose bleed, having found himself on the edge of the attacking D. He slotted it to Reuben Collingwood, who found Chris Jackson, who fired home for 1-2. KS were now on the ropes and Valence continued to mount pressure on their goal, with the whole midfield pushing high. Tom Morgan was rolling back the years and distributing the ball around very well, including firing a number of balls from deep into the D; on another day and with a bit more luck we could have scored 2 or 3 more goals. Finally, with seconds to go, Valence won a short-corner. The final whistle went, and every Valence player was around the D. ‘Morgo’ placed the ball, sent an inch perfect ball into Rob Harrison, who had stepped up from defence. Rob took one touch and fired low and hard, only for it to be stopped on the line by the KS goalie; either wonderful keeping or the luckiest guy on the pitch!
Fabulous game to watch (according to a couple of spectators!) and a great game to play in, which on another day could have seen a high scoring draw or victory to either side. Valence need to take this performance into their home game with Maidstone 5's next week, and cement 3rd place. The game was played in very good spirit (except KS 162's tantrum!!) and both sides went off recognising this was arguably one of the best games of the season.
Special thanks to KS for supplying both umpires.
DOTD: Rob Cockayne - for not being there.
Scorers: Chris Jackson
Team: Henry Robinson (GK), Rob Harrison, Nick Hall (C), Phil Morris, Chris Jackson, Duncan Field, Reuben Collingwood, Adrian Gander, Tom Cavell, Marius Dreyer, Tom Morgan
Umpires: KS supplied both
Match Report by Nick Hall.
Next week the 3rd Xl are at home to Maidstone 5th Xl currently just behind Valence in 4th slot.