Little by Little
Oasis Reds 3 – 1 Northgate
A return to league action for the first time in seven weeks saw the third meeting between these two new sides since August, following friendly and Charity Cup defeats for Northgate. Travelling to Warrington for the first time the message was ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, as Clark was hopeful that they could put those previous results behind them and add to their points tally in the league. Davenport was back in goal, Broomhall returned to the squad to start at right back alongside regulars Hilsden and Clark in the middle with Scott moving over to left full back. Debuts were in store for midfielders Chris Potter and Joe Charlton; Potter starting on the right and Charlton in the centre ahead of Slade and Elkington, whilst Heathcote on the left completed the middle five. Top scorer Alex Owen was back up front looking to add to his league tally.
Following on from recent results Clark needed his men to ‘Listen Up’ and his instructions were to keep it tight and give themselves the opportunity to win the game off the back of too many goals conceded. The opening stages of the game looked positive and confidence was high. Charlton’s dominating physicality was causing many problems in the centre of the pitch and Oasis were becoming frustrated. It was Northgate who would feel the most frustration though as Oasis made the breakthrough after around 15 mins. A neat turn from a midfielder after a throw in opened some space, and with another runner losing his marker and some flat-footed defending it took two simple passes to round everyone and the striker was left to ‘Roll It Over’ the line from close range.
‘The Masterplan’ might not have worked early in the game, but Northgate had to ‘Roll With It’ and take their time. It wasn’t long before the visitors began dominating proceedings and Owen had a couple of great chances when he was through with the keeper only to see them ‘Slide Away’ into his hands or past the post. Oasis looked to attack on the break with long balls to their tricky winger who was the real ‘Shakermaker’ of their team, but they failed to create anything of substance. A continued focus on being physical was paying off for Clark’s men, winning the majority of 50/50 battles and being awarded several free-kicks after getting to the ball first. Frustration grew and the playmaker for Oasis did not know when to ‘Acquiesce’ and saw yellow for dissent, earning himself a suspension in the process. Eventually, the equaliser came as the head back across goal following a corner dropped low towards the goalkeeper. With the ball there to be won, Slade threw his foot towards the ball before he could catch it and it looped back over to the other side of the goal to the grateful Chris Potter who, despite the free header, had a very tight angle to negotiate to nod over the line. Protests ensued from the home team, claiming a foul on the goalkeeper had been made, but the referee was happy it was a fair challenge and the goal rightfully stood.
A short break in play with the goalkeeper nursing his ‘Mucky Fingers’ and players still complaining allowed a little encouraging team talk as Northgate returned to their own half, buoyed by their reward for a strong period, and so it continued. Charlton was quickly making a name for himself with seemingly never-ending runs whilst shrugging off two or three players at a time and despite getting into good positions, never managed to find the target with his efforts. Scott and Heathcote were working well on the left with both advancing down the flank but again with no threat to the end product. With 10 minutes to play in the first half, goal scorer Potter, not long after being kicked in the stomach with one late challenge, had to be removed due to a knee injury that is likely to see him out of action until 2018; a real blow after such a promising start to his career in orange. Theo Thomas came on as a straight replacement and looked lively from the off and was in a great position to deliver a cross after overlapping Slade with his run, only for a huge bobble to spit the ball upwards and allow the defender to make an interception. Unfortunately though, Oasis then regained the lead with a goal that ‘Some Might Say’ was a ‘Force of Nature’. A long, hopeful cross from the right came in and the ball ‘Hung In A Bad Place’, appearing to be floating wide of the post only for it to bounce, turn off the bobbly surface and angle itself upwards and into the top corner leaving Davenport and his defence utterly bemused.
Half-time came and whilst it was ‘(Probably) All In The Mind’, Oasis just seemed to have a hold over Northgate for this the third time. Clark, frustrated with the manner of the goals conceded, was full of praise for a dominant first half performance that didn’t get what it deserved. With a like for like full back swap of Broomhall for Crank, they set out to pressurise some more and the feeling was that the next goal would probably decide the way this game would go.
With early goals conceded after the break in recent games, staying in the game was key and Northgate did what was needed. It was, however, an extremely scrappy first 15 minutes to the half and neither side were really able to get control of the game on a difficult passing surface. An improved performance in dealing with set-pieces was pleasing, until the second phase of defending a corner caught several players out of position and having not tracked their man. A delayed second cross came deep into the box, and there were three men in red all ‘Part Of The Queue’ to head home unmarked. After this, the main frustration of the second half was that the ball spent too much time ‘Up In The Sky’, and despite several calls from Clark for his men to ‘Bring It On Down’ and play along the floor, Northgate just couldn’t find their rhythm and looked like they might just ‘Fade Away’ without much of a fight even with 20 minutes still to play.
As proved on each recent defeat though, the Gaters are made of stronger stuff than to just lie down and those results were to ‘Cast No Shadow’ on the character that is instilled in the squad. Josh Slade was imperious in the midfield, battling all over the pitch, winning last ditch tackles and willing his teammates to keep pushing on. Chances began to come but nothing really troubled the Oasis keeper. Thomas floated a lovely ball in from the right but nobody could get on the end of it, Elkington hit a wild effort he’d sooner rather forget, Charlton rued the ball falling to his weaker right foot as he hit the side netting, and Owen hesitated with a couple of shots allowing defenders to get a foot in before the venom could really be released. Broomhall returned to the action as Scott took a breather before being reintroduced to replace Thomas on the ring wing. The last 10 minutes were end to end, and Oasis nearly put some icing on the cake as they hit the bar but there was nothing else to trouble to Davenport. A couple of half chances came with a flurry of late long-throw ins and corners, the best of which saw Clark hit a left-footed volley into the ground only to be headed off the line as it looked set to bounce into the top corner, but the hosts remained resolute at the back and the final whistle blew at 3-1.
The ‘Morning Glory’ belonged to Oasis, and the ‘Nature Of Reality’ is that Northgate must ‘Solider On’ if they want ‘To Be Where There’s Life’ further up the league table. Next week in the first of three home games in as many weeks, City Church come to visit in a bid to further their 100% winning start to the season, giving Clark’s men another tall task. It may be taking time to gel and build on the positives of each performance but the post-match press conference by man-of-the-match Josh Slade sums it up nicely: “We are very nearly a really good team”. The work continues, but ‘Little By Little’, ‘It’s Getting’ Better (Man!!)’.
1. Ben Davenport (GK)
2. Mark Broomhall (RB)
3. Steve Scott (LB)
4. Matt Hilsden (CB)
5. Jonny Clark (CB)
6. Rob Elkington (CDM)
7. Josh Slade (CDM)
8. Joe Charlton (CAM)
9. Chris Potter (RM)
10. Alex Owen (ST)
11. Mike Heathcote (LM)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Josh Slade