After a few competitive losses on the trot the Elite headed to Wakefield Park on a weird 8pm Wednesday fixture to take on the second on the table Tawa Christians (or something like that) who had only lost one in the second half of the season. The first blessing of the evening was for both teams however. A nice evening at Wakefield Park?! No wind, rain, hail, snow?! It was actually a nice night to play football.
As had so often been the story of the Elite this season numbers were very slim. Even despite the uni break being over and having a few lads back in Welly we only managed 6 confirmed players by monday and as usual asked a big favour of champion Dave to scramble an eleven together. As usual, Dave pulled through, we had 13 and were ready to rumble.
The Elite started a bit scrappy as was so often the case a few names in the makeshift eleven to learn. We fielded an extremely defensive lineup, with sole attacker Clem coming out of retirement just for this huge fixture. Perhaps he had renewed confidence with Le Bleu winning the World Cup, or maybe he just wanted to tell us all about it? Clem remained humble however and put in a massive shift up top and eventually we worked our way back into the football match.
Our gameplan was to park the bus and frustrate the opposition (play the devil, if you will) and it worked very well once we managed to shake off the trademark first ten minutes rust. We worked the short goal kicks well, and Dan and Damo were communicating well at the back to keep the Christians shooting from distance.
And out of nowhere we had a goal! The short goal kick worked again to our advantage. The ball was distributed to Gaz who played an excellent through ball into the French Menace up top Clem. Despite my yelling at Clem to pass it back to Gaz, Clem went for a (cross) shot instead. The ball sailed helplessly over the keeper and into the net. 1-0 Elite.
This seemed to inspire the Christians holy battle however, and a few marginal calls from a very apologetic and chivalrous referee saw the Christians manufacture a few chances. Most notable was a free kick at the edge of the box after some holy spirit tripped their attacker (it definitely wasnt one of us?) However the free kick sailed haplessly over.
The Christians were looking to suck our defenders out to the flanks and playing through balls through the middle (some could say, part the Orange Sea). Before the Elite could switch onto this game plan, they worked the move again with a vengeance. The ball ended up around the 6 yard box for a free shot. Despite CJ being a brick wall up until this point, there was nothing he could do here. 1-1.
The Elite came back out of the sheds at half time feeling confident of keeping the score 1-1 and maybe even sneaking in a goal to win. Some of our best football was played in these opening ten or fifteen. The Christians were only shooting from distance, and the Elite actually looked at times like snaking a goal, although these efforts were not fruitful (garden of eden joke).
Eventually however, the Christians made this work for them, their winger bolted down the line as the defence stood him up. His shot from outside of the box was hardly what he was intending, something of a toe poke which somehow ended up being a curler; but the important thing for the Elite was that it somehow wriggled past CJ into the bottom corner, 2-1 Tawa.
As we started to push forward the quality of football dropped, and Tawa were quite happy to let us attack, take the ball and shoot forward on the counter. In truth, from this point on, we never really looked like scoring.
A valiant effort from the lads against classy opposition with a deity on their side. In truth, we weren't the better side on the day, but a performance like that with a makeshift side and a few players back from a few weeks out should give us confidence for saturday.
2 - Rolf. Work ethic was unbelievable, did the hard yards for the team even when being forced to switch positions a few times. One of his better performances this season
2 - Clem. His aggression was unrivalled, and managed to snag an important goal which put us in a good position to take something from the match
1 - CJ. Made some excellent saves when called upon, worked the short goal kicks well, was an outlet to pass back to.
1 - Stu. As always held up the ball excellently. We didnt have much possession, but when we did, it usually went through this man.
Honourable mention: Lewis. Came to help out, ran like anything, was a communicator on the pitch and was great on the ball. Thanks for helping out mate.