The roughly 70 mile journey round the M25 and up the M3 proved very easy, such that most of the team arrived early, in time for a little light refreshment. However, it is unlikely that the relaxed condition of the team resulting from this was the main reason for their rather poor showing in the first half of this game. Rather it was the clinical performance of the Lions, led by an impressive centre-half who pretty much controlled the game. Valence found themselves under intense pressure from the start, with no time given when in possession leading to misdirected and intercepted passing. Rookie keeper, Julian Mills, had no chance in stopping Red Lions’ first two goals from open play within 10 minutes of the start. There could quickly have been more but he and the defence team got stuck in more positively to head off some of the incursions.
Valence’s midfield diamond of Nigel Bardsley, Bob Bartlett, Clive Baxter and Stuart Bates battled hard to break out and threaten the home-side’s D, either themselves or through the forwards, but Lions’ defence stayed strong. This was where the first half was won and lost, as the ball kept being reclaimed by the home side and accurately distributed by the centre-half back to their attacking forwards. Another goal gained by Red Lions and then, as Valence began to string a few more promising attacks together, the first of a couple of won short corners produced a clean strike from Rupert Humphrey that left the keeper stranded.
At half-time the need to restrict the opposition’s centre-half’s freedom was highlighted and a subtle change of formation agreed. This was immediately effective, and acted as a dampener on the previous free flow from their mid-field to their forwards. It didn’t cut out their attacks but limited them and the Valence defence, with Hamish Dow at the forefront, were more effective in cutting out most. The changed formation was more defensive, meaning fewer clear attacking attempts by Valence, but this was seen as a damage limitation exercise. It was clearly effective, as there was no further scoring by the Lions until a lapse in literally the last minute of the game allowed them to get one last conversion.
Goal scorer: Rupert Humphrey
Man of the Match: Julian Mills
Team: Julian Mills; Bob Sagrott; Mike Nettle; Hamish Dow; Bob Bartlett; Nigel Bardsley; Clive Baxter; Stuart Bates; Rupert Humphrey (Capt); Charles Worsfold; Paul Linaker.
Umpire: Provided by Red Lions
Next week the Vets play Ashford (Middx) at home, but actually on Astro 2 at Marden, at 13.00, due to restrictions on astro use at Sutton Valence School due to an Open Morning.