Gaters Become Street Food
Kay Street United 4 – 1 Northgate
Saturday 23rd September was the date that stood out amongst the fixtures when they first came out for Manager Clark and assistant Elkington – the day they would travel back to the SLS Stadium to face their former club. With both teams coming into the game off the back of wins confidence was high in both camps, although Kay Street could boast top spot after playing an extra game the week previous.
With Northgate travelling for their first ever away game, there was an air of excitement around the dressing room even after the longest journey of the season. The addition of two debutants to the matchday squad added to the anticipation of this early top of the table clash. Clark was feeling confident with Elkington returning for the first time since his testimonial to take his place alongside Slade and Morgan in the middle of the park, and upon establishing their bright orange kit was definitely not going to clash with the yellow of the home side, the sides took their place on the synthetic surface.
It was Kay Street who started the brighter, with Northgate seeming to be lacking speed of thought against a pressing, physical team that were keen to get the ball forward at every opportunity. It didn’t take long before former Streeters manager John Kell had his first sight of goal, poking just wide of the post after latching onto a through ball. Soon after he found himself in acres of space outside the box and lashed one against the top of the crossbar to send a strong warning to Northgate. Clark’s men slowly found their feet and finally began to string some passes together and get into some promising positions of their own. However, Kay Street broke the deadlock around 20mins in after a break down the left saw a cross come in and a mis-hit shot from one forward fell straight to the feet of Kell who gratefully knocked it in from close range.
The visitors continued to grow into the game and had a couple of weak shots saved by goalkeeper Hughes, but then the second wave of an attack for the Streeters saw the Northgate keeper off his line, and as the ball fell to forward Wayne Archer he drilled it with great pace towards the goal and right into the bottom corner past the despairing Clark who thought he had the goal covered. At 2-0, Northgate heads were in danger of going down as this was the first time they’d not been the first goalscorers in a game. They hit back quickly though in the form of a weapon Kay Street knew about, prepared for, but could not stop. Clark picked the ball up on the wing and despite former teammate Joel Brown stood right in front him, delivered a trademark long throw into the box. Captain Morgan met the ball with his head and flicked it on, Scott pulled it back into a crowded area and then it was debutant Ali Kapasi who was first to react to the goalmouth scramble and made it 2-1 with minutes to go before half time.
Now with a foothold back in the game Clark’s team talk focused on doing the basics right: keeping the ball on the floor and moving into space to unsettle the well organised defensive unit. They came out and followed the instructions perfectly and had an excellent start to the half, enjoying possession and looking like they were going to take the game right to the hosts. This positivity was quickly quashed though, as a break down the right this time resulted in a low, drilled cross along the six yard line right into the path of Archer who smashed home for his second of the game. Going back to two goals behind was then paralleled by going back to a panicky style of play from Northgate, the next period of play defined by misplaced passes, loss of shape and lack of communication. Experience, fitness and confidence all began to tell as Kay Street turned the screw and Archer got his hat-trick after a misplaced pass on the break from Clark allowed a couple of passes and a neat finish.
With 20 minutes left, Northgate continued to push to get back into the contest and despite the three goal difference it never really felt as though the game was definitely out of reach. Slade began to take control of the midfield and encouraged a better period of passing play, and a few more chances were created. Elkington, Slade and Morgan all saw decent efforts from range saved as the opposition defence held firm even against the ever-present threat of a throw-in induced scramble. Eventually, Northgate ran out of steam and couldn’t find a way through and it finished 4-1 to the hosts.
Handshakes and hugs all round at the final whistle for two teams that will continue to share a close relationship in the SMCCFL, but there was to be no fairytale return for Clark and Elkington. The game was played in an excellent spirit, and United seem to be a team with real strength, ambition and promise this season now with three wins from three. For Northgate, lessons to be learnt and one to put down to experience. Next week they travel to Poynton in what promises to be a close encounter.
- James Sharrock (GK)
- Steve Scott (RB)
- Wade Crank (LB)
- Matt Hilsden (CB)
- Jonny Clark (CB)
- Josh Slade (CDM)
- Ali Kapasi (RM)
- Russ Morgan (CM)
- Mark Roberts (ST)
- Rob Elkington (CM)
- Mike Heathcote (LM)
Man of the Match – Ali Kapasi