Sabden 3 – 2 St. Pauls

Sabden 3 – 2 St Pauls

Sabden climbed to 4th in the league table after a deserved victory over their opponents, St. Pauls.

The early exchanges were evenly contested. St Pauls, unable to pick a way through the five man Sabden midfield tried their luck from distance without really troubling Nick Galea in the Sabden goal. In response, lone Sabden striker, David Fallon was sent scampering clear two or three times, only to be denied by robust defending or the offside flag.

With both teams cancelling each other out, it needed something special to spark the game into life. That moment arrived on 23 minutes. Sabden captain, Ryan Graves intercepted the ball just over the halfway line. Carrying the ball forward for a few yards, he unleashed a scorching low drive from 25 yards that seared into the bottom left corner beyond the despairing dive of the St Pauls keeper.

Sabden pressurise the St Pauls defence

Now with their tails up, Sabden started to play with confidence and put the St Pauls defence under increasing pressure. Zac Ashworth, who has missed over a month of action through injury, was now getting into his stride; and his skill and physical presence was starting to induce mistakes from the St Pauls midfield. More so, Zac Musker was finding that he had the beating of his man on the left and fizzed over a number of dangerous looking crosses that just failed to find their in-running targets.

Whilst St Pauls were now on the back foot, they were still posing an occasional threat of their own and Nick Galea showed shades of Gordon Banks from 1970 to claw out what looked like a certain equaliser.

Somewhat against the run of play, a defensive mix up led to an equaliser for St Pauls. A ball through the midfield was not cut out and the St Pauls centre forward got clean through and seemed certain to score. Sabden full back Sol Islam performed miracles to get back and execute what seemed a superb last ditch tackle. Unfortunately, the spinning ball veered inwards and bobbled into the net off a post to square the match.

In an effort to further take the game to St Pauls, Sabden reverted to a standard 4-4-2 for the second half, with long-throw specialist Zac Ashworth pushed up alongside Fallon.

Despite a bright start, Sabden somehow found themselves 2-1 down. Having seemingly seen off the immediate danger of a foray forward by the visitors, Jack Birkett correctly closed down the centre forward. The striker decided to take a speculative shot anyway, and a cruel deflection off Birkett left the excellent Nick Galea absolutely no chance. (If Nick needs any consolation, Banks wouldn`t have saved that either!)

As has been mentioned in previous reports, determination and composure is a prevalent attribute amongst the Sabden squad and they refused to panic and continued to play their football.

Both Will Child and Jack Birkett were putting in a stunning central defensive display to snuff out most of the St Pauls attacking movements and Ryan Graves and Adam Fuller were keeping the midfield engine room ticking over; constantly mixing play between the flanks and the middle. The St Pauls defence were coming under more and more pressure and the equaliser duly arrived after 64 minutes and once again, it was a 25 yarder from Graves.

This time, Graves demonstrated his ability from a dead-ball, sending a curling and dipping free kick just under the bar for a thrilling equaliser.

… and the ball arrowed unerringly into the net !

Given the heavy pitch, legs were starting to tire. Therefore, Sabden opted to make some changes, with James Dickinson replacing Joe Keane at right midfield and right back Ben Dewhurst, returning from broken metatarsals, on for Sol Islam. Shortly after, they were joined at left back; young Tom Connell replacing the solid Dave Kerrison.

The changes kept the energy level of Sabden higher than that of St Pauls, and soon after Connell`s introduction, Sabden struck the decisive blow. Left midfielder Zac Musker, whose play had drawn nods of approval from spectators on several occasions, played an intelligent ball to Dave Fallon, who had dropped deeper to receive. Perhaps realising that today wasn`t going to be his day in front of the net, the forward spotted Ashworth making a lung-busting run from the right wing. He swung over a peach of a cross and the onrushing Ashworth powered the ball into the net with a bullet header. Sabden then played intelligently for the remaining 12 minutes to ensure that the points deservedly stayed at Nutter Barn