Quarry Rovers v Cholsey Bluebirds
Sunday 2nd October
You will notice I haven’t given the score because, like last week, it really does not reflect the balance of the game nor how well Quarry played.
Fine early autumn sunshine created a jovial atmosphere in the stands. Coach Alex’s starting formation seemed to be an innovative 3-3-2-2 “wedgie” with a new pairing up front of Sultan and George, and a back three of Joseph, Tobi and Joe. Quarry started well and even had the temerity to have the ball in the back of the net first, courtesy of Xander’s smart finish after being put through, before the linesman’s very late flag chalked it off. The early exchanges were mainly played in Quarry’s half, but energetic defence meant Cholsey hardly had a sniff of goal. All that was to change in the space of two minutes: A cross from the right found an unmarked Cholsey player in the middle of the box to finish smartly; then a minute later, a Cholsey corner was swung in high over Ollie to nestle in at the back post – if he meant to do that, it was genius.
In spite of those setbacks, Quarry were anything but downhearted. Xander was everywhere, repeatedly bursting through from midfield, and Sultan battled for everything. However, it was a bit scrappy, with passes going astray as Cholsey didn’t allow players any time in midfield. On the half-hour though, the Cholsey No.7 reckoned the referee would appreciate “a bit of bants”; the referee disagreed and sent him for an early bath, reducing Cholsey to 10 men for the rest of the game. The advantage seemed to give Quarry some much-needed confidence, they started to find space, string passes together, find time to dwell on the ball and for the final 15 minutes it was unrelenting Quarry pressure. Unfortunately that pressure did not translate into goals: A succession of corners yielded nothing, with the best effort a wonderful curling shot from the edge of the area which was tipped over. Somehow Quarry went in to half time 0-2 down.
The start of the second half was a fairly quiet affair, Cholsey having reorganised their shape and content to keep the ball. Quarry huffed and puffed but the man advantage seemed to have evaporated. Out of the blue, ten minutes in a poor defensive clearance fell to Cholsey’s big strong man who ran straight towards goal, breaking two challenges to blast in to the net. Jacob was introduced up front for his first run out since pre-season injury, and this seemed to give Quarry more options and they started to pile on the pressure again. Haider shot wide after a lovely move, and Quarry won a couple of free kicks in useful areas, George shot wide while Azlan forced the keeper into a save. However Cholsey were still dangerous on the break and it took a magnificent Flying Ollie save to turn a rasping shot on to the post, which even drew appreciative noises from the away end.
By half way through the second half, Quarry’s lads were starting to tire, having spent an hour chasing the ball and incessantly tracking back, frankly they were looking knackered and with a small squad there were no fresh legs on the bench. For the second match in a row, a soft penalty was conceded as a Cholsey player had his heels clipped heading away from goal, which was professionally drilled in to the bottom corner.
Player numbers were evened up ten minutes before the end when George received a straight red after letting his frustrations get the better of him. This allowed a fitter Cholsey team to start to run the already-tired Quarry ragged. Another cross from the right caught Ollie in two minds and the header was looped over him. Shortly after a pacey run by the left wing stretched the defence, he cut infield and finished neatly.
In spite of that Quarry continued to press forward seeking a consolation goal, which nearly arrived courtesy of Xander’s audacious lob from fully 40 yards out which had the Cholsey keeper backpedalling furiously and grateful to see it just clear the crossbar.
So the match finished with a 0-6 scoreline, but yet again the result doesn’t reflect the balance of play. One thing that has struck me in the first two A League games is how ruthlessly efficient other teams are in front of goal: Pretty much every chance Cholsey had, they stuck away, and Ollie didn’t have that much to do other than pick the ball out of the net; Quarry on the other hand don’t seem able to turn pressure and half-chances in to goals at the moment. Another thing was how Quarry tired again in the last 15 minutes, but hardly surprising in this match as they worked their socks off for the first hour and it was bound to tell. In the end, the lads had nothing left in the tank against a team reckoned to be in the running for the title. Cholsey were good, particularly using their pace down the wings, but Quarry certainly weren’t outplayed or outfought, and deserved more than this result.