Match Report - 20 Sep 2008, Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI drew with Old Haileyburians
Woks come back strong to earn a point in free scoring thriller...
Old Wykehamists picked the hottest day of the year to kick off their Arthurian League 08-09 campaign in deepest darkest North London but with plenty of fresh faces thrown into the mix together with a core of seasoned pros, there was plenty of enthusiasm for the challenge to come.
Skipper Ed Neale had put together a solid looking squad and it wasn't long before the famous blue and white of Winchester was bossing it on the pitch. Woks started well, Kiley and White looking dangerous up top and Hanson rolling back the years to distribute from the centre of the park. Indeed, within ten minutes, Woks went one to the good, White finishing with impressive sang-froid, side footing the loose ball into the corner from inside the box after a long range effort had been blocked by the Haileybury defence.
Sadly, it couldn't last. Haileybury got themselves together and started to throw some pretty impressive shapes in the middle of the park, using their 3-5-2 formation and their fat but talented midfielders to control the play. They equalised with what was, in fairness, a good curling finish from the edge of box. Woks will feel they may have dealt with the danger earlier but it would be churlish to deny that Haileybury were dominating and were good value for their equaliser.
Woks needed to get back on it and things got worse after Kiley was forced to retire with a dodgy hamstring. Merriott replaced him, taking station in centre-mid and pushing Hanson forward into the Bergkamp role. Out of nothing, Woks were back in the lead, Stevens pouncing upon a bouncing ball on the edge of the box to drill (read 'loop') it into the top left after good work down the Woks right flank from Skinner.
Again, Haileybury hit back in what was quickly beginning to resemble a Spurs game from the Ardiles era, a fact not lost on Haileybury, who counted the great man's son among their number. A quick short corner caught Woks off guard and a drilled centre left any one of three Haileybury players to tap in from barely three yards out. The pre-match mantra to back each-other and enjoy it was being strained and a further test of character arrived minutes later, Haileybury winning a penalty as Spalton, seemingly impervious to the screams of 'don't dive in!' dived in and took legs not ball. The pen was scuffed home as Neale turned the air blue in frustration and Woks found themselves heading in to half time 3-2 down.
Rob England came on for James Hogan in the second half, both players giving their all for the cause in the centre of the park. Woks found their stride soon after the interval as England and Merriott started to dominate the tiring Haileybury midfield and Skinner started flying down the right. In what was a stunning debut performance, the whippet-like Skinner ran his full back ragged and provided Woks with a consistent out ball.
At the same time the back four slipped through the gears, Toone foraging effectively down the right in support of Skinner and Morton and Wakiwaka toughing it out impressively in the centre. Chances came and went, White slamming an effort off the post, but the final word was Spalton's. Rampaging into the box like a rabid bull, the nominal left back flung himself at White's cross to send a diving header into the roof of the net and cap a fine move.
Woks continued to press and as the final whistle went you sensed that another 5 minutes might have been enough for them to snatch it. A strong showing indeed in the second half but it would have been difficult to argue with 3-3 in this proverbial game of two halves, particularly as Neale made several impressive stops between the sticks.
With the 2s getting off to a flyer and competition for places rife, this promises to be a fruitful season for the Woks. Bring on Saturday...
Old Haileyburians 3 - 3 Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI ()