Quarry Rovers 3 – Abingdon United 6
Sunday 4th December 2016
Beautiful winter sunshine bathed the Margaret Road ground as Quarry sought revenge for their 6-1 defeat in the away fixture two weeks ago. A heavy overnight frost meant the pitch was sticky and lumpy in parts but playable, and Coach Alex found he had the luxury of 3 substitutes for this game. Haider and Xander returned after a week’s absence and Jo-Dee returned after a lengthy injury; on the minus side, Quarry were without Ben, Joseph and new signing Christian.
For those that witnessed the horror of the away fixture, the start was awfully familiar: In the second minute a long cross-field ball released the Abingdon right wing through on goal, but this time Ollie came out decisively and palmed the ball out for a corner; the corner wasn’t dealt with effectively, and the same player shot home, only to be flagged offside. For a while after this, Quarry started to show some bottle and it became a midfield battle with neither side dominating and both giving away possession cheaply.
The Abingdon breakthrough came after a Quarry goal kick was headed back towards goal and a solitary striker, despite three defenders in close proximity, calmly volleyed home. Even so, Quarry were starting to show some attacking intent and copied the tactics of their opponents this season by using through balls to open up defences, on four occasions in quick succession Jacob and Xander were beaten to the ball by the advancing keeper. Unfortunately, although it was starting to look promising at one end, on 30 minutes a piece of statuesque Quarry defending allowed an Abingdon striker to strike home a ball which he really should never have had a sniff at.
Although they were behind, Quarry still pressed forward and finally a through ball found Faizaan streaking ahead of the defence and, cool as a cucumber, he waltzed round the keeper who had over-committed himself and rolled the ball into an empty net to bring the score back to 1-2. And thus it remained until half time, although only just as Quarry’s defensive frailties continued to be exposed – Jacob Pedersen (remember him?) danced through the middle but put his shot wide; then three defenders went for the same ball, none of them made it, which created an overlap on the left but again the shot went wide.
Quarry seem to have a habit of conceding goals early, and this game was no exception as, straight after half time the ball was fed through the right channel and blasted home. The goal stood in spite of vociferous protests that it was offside. That minor glitch aside, it was all Quarry for a while: Faizaan’s volley hit the bar and Xander’s follow-up found the keeper; Sultan’s volley from the right across goal just missed the left-hand post; Haider brilliantly nutmegged a defender to feed Faizaan, but his shot was saved by the keeper’s legs. Then out of nowhere, Abingdon conjured a fourth; a poor clearance from Quarry’s defence found an Abingdon midfielder in acres of space 30 yards out and he let fly with an unstoppable shot for arguably the best goal I’ve seen this season.
1-4 down, Quarry dead and buried at this point? Not a chance, this team doesn’t know when to give up. Sultan darted in to the Abingdon box, was tripped once but stayed on his feet, only to go down under a second challenge to be awarded a penalty. Aslan stepped up but the sticky ground meant his shot hit the bar. Shortly after, Xander collected a Faizaan through ball and slotted home to bring the score back to 2-4 and give Quarry hope of salvaging something from the game. At the other end, though, Quarry were riding their luck: Joe cleared a goal-bound shot after Ollie was beaten; another Abingdon goal was chalked off for offside; and Ollie tipped a fierce free kick over the bar. In the end, their luck gave out as Abingdon’s left wing was allowed to drift towards goal without being tackled and shot in to the far corner.
Still Quarry pushed forward and showed they weren’t the only team with defensive frailties: Aslan’s long-range shot was deflected and only just clawed away from goal; the resulting corner went right across the face of goal where Sultan, sliding in, put the ball agonisingly wide of the post; then Xander went on a brilliant weaving run from the right which bought him all the way to the goal and he poked it past the bewildered keeper to make it 3-5 and Abingdon were starting to look shaky. Quarry had their tails up and went in pursuit of more goals, unfortunately this left too much room at the back and a long cross-field ball found the Abingdon left wing with time and space to pick his spot at the far post to make it 3-6 at the end.
Despite the score, this was a much, much better performance from Quarry. They looked dangerous going forward and created loads of chances – on another day luck might have favoured them and they could have scored many more than the three they did. At the back, however, sloppy goals were conceded needlessly through not marking, not tackling and not clearing to safety. One day, everything will go right and we shall taste the sweet taste of victory.