Sat 14
Under 18s
3
-
4
League
AFC Dobbies
L Robinson (10'), (30'), M Patel (61'), W Worthington (75' Sent Off)
*** WE RAN THEM CLOSE... ***

*** WE RAN THEM CLOSE... ***

By Wayne Gates
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Close rivals AFC Dobbies were the visitors to The Skool for this one...


With the rest of the sporting world on shut-down, it was great to know that The Wanderers had a game this morning - and with the hotly-anticipated clash at home to AFC Dobbies on the cards, these are the games that make you want to be part of football. The last time we left the pitch after playing these, the unsavoury scenes were exactly what is not needed in the game - so with the lads in red prepped and informed to solely focus on their football, they began arriving at The Skool in search of some points...

There was a hive of activity as our younger age groups were in action and as both teams went to warm up on the bottom half of the pitch, it was clear that a big crowd were coming down for this one. With Wanderers' Committee members and Referee officials in attendance, there was definitely a sense that this was going to be red-hot. Unfortunately Mike already knew he only had 11 players available today - with one of them having to leave at half-time to go to work - but you have to deal with things head-on in life - and football is no different. So as the lads got themselves ready, they knew they would have to pull together if they wanted to get anything out of the game. We were going with a solid 4-4-2 that saw Tomy between the sticks and a back four in front of him that consisted of Jack, Nathan, Ryan and Alex. Across the middle we had captain Frankie and Harry in the centre with Mohammed and AJ providing the width and with Lewis partnered by Wayne up top, we had enough to give their defenders things to think about. The lads was given one simple task - work hard for the full 90 minutes - and as both teams entered the pitch, the excitement was building. How would this intriguing clash end up? We'd soon see...

The early exchanges saw the ball played about in the central areas and the teams worked each other out and it was clear that when the ball was played forward, both sides had pace up front. And with 10 minutes on the clock, it was the Wanderers who struck first - using Lewis' pace to grab. A defensive mix-up between Dobbies centre-halves saw Lewis pounce on the free ball and as the keeper came out to narrow the angle, our striker lobbed the ball over him and into the back of the net. 1-0! And the large contingent of home fans were celebrating loudly...

As the game progressed, the away side started to see more of the ball and our full-backs were working hard to deny them the space to get in behind. Tomy was called upon to make some great saves and as the pressure grew, our defence stood solid. And it was definitely needed - as with the game hitting the half-hour mark, we doubled our lead- and what a goal it was. The ball was fed out to Wayne on the left and he skipped past four players on his march down the wing. He made his way into the box and with only the keeper to beat, he looked up and unselfishly squared it to the unmarked Lewis who rammed it into the empty net! 2-0! We were flying now...

But we also knew that at some point the visitors would have large patches of possession that would mean we would have to sit in and defend for our lives. So when they halved our advantage on 33 minutes, that mentality was needed more than ever. They broke at speed and with our back-line a little flat-footed, they managed to work the ball into the middle and a fierce shot zipped past Tomy and into the back of our net. 2-1 and it was game on again...

Then the numerical disadvantage came when Nathan had to leave - so the 10 men of the Wanderers could either have their backs against the wall or keep trying to forge forward to make a game of it. And as we were deciding which way to go, the game was all-square. We conceded a corner over on our right and as the ball was swung in, their No.10 jumped highest to place his header past the dive of Tomy and into the back of our net. The score was now 2-2 - and we had to keep going...

Half-time: BREIGHTMET WANDERERS AFC 2-2 AFC DOBBIES

Mike had no other choice than to praise his players and plead with them to give every sinew in order to try and get something out of this. We had worked hard - but these next 45 minutes were really going to need a mammoth effort from all of them. Try to keep the ball a little better and not just defend it by kicking it and giving it back to them. And most of all - give everything for your team-mates. The drinks were gulped and before we knew it, both teams were back out there and ready to go again...

The second half started with the Wanderers sitting a little deeper and inviting pressure - but when we could get the ball forward, we were still causing them problems. They had struggled to cope with Wayne's directness and speed all game so far and their right-back was beginning to get a little frustrated, giving away niggly free-kicks in the process. The game had been played in good spirits by two committed teams so far but it was bubbling and always just under the surface - but for now it was all about the football and it was a great game to watch...

As the hour mark came and went, once again we managed to spray the ball out to Wayne on the flank and having controlled it superbly, he set off on a mazy run that saw he skip past three striped shirts before hitting the byeline and playing a pinpoint cross towards the back post - where Mohammed was running in to rise like a salmon and plant his header into the bottom corner of the Dobbies net. His first goal of the campaign and as he wheeled away in triumph his team-mates chased after him. Despite being a man down, we had retaken the lead and it was now 3-2! The Wanderers fans were full of hope now...

The goal hurt the visitors and they came at us like a steam-train - but our defence were still standing tall and working hard to clear all the danger. Jack had played a blinder out there and with Frankie still trying to orchestrate things in the middle, we were still creating chances. But on 75 minutes came the incident that we'd wanted to avoid all game - and it resulted in the referee left with no choice but to brandish two red cards. Wayne had been a thorn in the side of the Dobbies defence all game and when he dragged the ball past their man for the umpteenth time, the challenge came in - and the melee ensued. With players from both sides getting involved, the referee managed to bring a calmness to the situation - ably assisted by our Discipline Officer Tracy - and the resulting marching-orders were given to Wayne and his Dobbies counter-part. Silly. Avoidable. But well handled by the man in black. On went the game and we still had a lead to protect here...

But going down to 9 men was hurting us and the legs could be visibly seen to be fading in the Wanderers. The lads were giving it their all still and with the home fans right behind them, they intended on shutting up shop now. But the Dobbies lads threw everything at us and on 86 minutes, they forced the ball down their left and swung it in the middle. With players from both sides trying to get to it, their midfielder popped up and slammed the ball past Tomy and into the back of the net. 3-3 and it was level again. Could we keep hold of the point now? That was the question...

Well we're sorry to say that we couldn't. The lads had given it everything but there was simply nothing left in the tank and when the Dobbies striker hammered the winner past our Tomy from about 12 yards out, the visiting fans were celebrating as though they had won the league. In truth, we probably would have as well - but it was hard to take considering how well the lads had played out there. Shortly after the referee blew his whistle for the final time and the points were going back to Whitefield...

Quite rightly the Wanderers fans applauded their heroes from the pitch as they had been proud of their efforts out there - and the fact that we played nearly an hour with a man less than them made the result even harder to swallow. But they had done well and the crowd were right to praise them. Mike was quick to give them words of encouragement as well and if we can take that attitude into all the games between now and the end of the season then we'll be fine. Mohammed was awarded the Belle Vue Man of the Match for his continued pestering of his marker and his goal was top-class as well - but we have to say that each and every one of them did us proud out there...

A huge thanks to the fans of both teams that came to watch this one as well. Despite the red cards (that could happen in any match) and the brief rumble, the game had been played in the right way by two teams that wanted to win - and was officiated by a match official that kept it in check and jumped on any shenanigans before they could escalate. And top marks to the fans of both teams as well - who acted responsibly and didn't involve themselves in anything unsavoury at all. A great game all-round really - and a shame that the points couldn't have at least been shared...

Keep posted for details of our next game and we look forward to seeing you there...

COME ON THE WANDERERS!!!

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Match details

Match date

Sat 14, Mar 2020

Kickoff

11:15

Attendance

41