A terrific 2nd half performance saw Puke inflict the only defeat this season on a team topping the division. We decided a change of tactics were needed today if we were going to trouble the division leaders. In earlier top of the table clashes we had started slowly and ended playing catch up for much of the game, but today we decided to bolster the midfield, change the defence a little to incorporate a bit of pace, which unfortunately left Andy Davy alone up front to run his heart out.
As expected Western Springs came out and started to play good football from the off and within minutes could have gone 1 up when their striker rounded our Keeper Marty (no pun intended) only to try to side foot the ball into the net, but Marty Mercer making a start at right back today was expertly placed to clear it off the line.
There was not much in it for the first twenty minutes or so, Springs probably had a little more possession but failing to do much with it, we created a few chances ourselves as some good quick thinking in the midfield from Davy and Russell and some good early passes setting up Andy Davey to go close and Graham to make some good attacking runs.
Then with about half- hour gone a Springs attacker was put through and an amazing sliding challenge from Nick Rowe, managed to rescue the situation. If it hadnt of been timed to perfection without doubt the referee would have been pointing to the spot, fantastic Nick.
After about 25 minutes Robbie Leonard appeared after finding the ground via the scenic route of Seddon Fields. Could have been easily explainable if you didnt drive for a living and carry 10 maps in the car!! We did laugh after the game when Andy Davey had a missed call from Robbie 10 minutes after wed kicked off. Not sure if he thought Andy would have had his phone on him playing centre forward.
Maybe Robbie was trying to make up for something when he came on but between him, Andy Davey and Pete Clark, the game started to change. Springs werent allowed so much space at the back and this was the first call in being able to stop them knocking the ball around like they were used to.
The new combination of Mark Harvey and Nick Rowe in the centre of defence was working a treat, Mark organised the defensive lines admirably and Nick Rowe was giving a startling performance at the heart of it. there was also great defencing from Mark Edwards out on the left flank.
Then Pukes best chance of the half to take the lead with the unlikeliest of candidates John Mclaughlan found himself with a shooting option just inside the 18 yard box and forced the springs keeper into a superb save.
The refs whistle blew for half-time and with the score at 0 0, we knew we were in with a chance. The team talk was to keep going, we werent playing the pettiest football, but fitness, commitment and effort was second to none. We know if we level going into the closing stages fitness would shine through and 3 points would be a possibility.
Back into it and we were looking good, tremendous commitment and effort , then a great through ball found Robbie Leonard and he neatly rounded the keeper and slotted home, 1 0 Puke.
The next 10 minutes or so Springs hit back but our defence coped marvellously with anything they had to throw at us. Looked at one stage, we were maybe going to try to sit on a 1 0 lead but this was giving them too much possession.
We strengthened the midfield again and were sort of playing a 4 5 1 formation, but it was working. After some more Puke pressure, the ball was swiftly cleared out of the Springs Box and upstep John Mclaughlan with a little bit of space and the net was moving before the keeper actually dived, smashed an absolute pearler from 25 yards into the bottom corner. Great goal John, dont think the keeper actually saw it, it was that good a strike.
That gave us the breathing space we needed and the next 20 minutes we were on top, there were some excellently timed challenges from Marty Mercer at right back, I think they were a little bit taken by surprise at the speed towards the end of the game and thats how it finished.
Everyone gave there all and it was needed, Marty Round has a fantastic game in goal keeping his first clean sheet of the season. Mileage from Russ and Davey in midfield was staggering again and the chasing up front from Robbie and Andy was tremendous. All in all its now a 13 man game and everyone played there part. The commitment, fitness and never say die attitude carried us past the winning post and now top we need to kick on and prove its no fluke.
Player of the day this week was between, Nick Rowe, Mark Harvey and Robbie Leonard but goes to Nick Rowe; Andy Evans always said centre- half was your best position, I thought he was joking, but that was the best performance Ive seen you put out in a maroon jersey in the last 8 years of playing alongside you, absolutely brilliant, now youve removed those spelks from sitting on the bench. Well done mate!
POD: Nick Rowe
Goals: Robbie Leonard, John Mclaughlan
Goal Scorers to date: J Waller 5, Andy Davey 3, Robbie Leonard 3, Pete Clark 2, Graham Spinks 1 and John Mclaughlan 1
Training 6.30 Wednesday and next week we are home to take on Metro, 1.00 pm kick off