Leeds Modernians Football Club News story

The Beast is Stirring

04 Sep 2020

Don’t expect this to be a normal match report. I am still a little too excited to write a ‘he passed to him and he scored’ type of report. It feels inappropriate in the circumstances, lacking the necessary ommph. Instead this will be an appraisal of a performance of giants in red, representing the greatest club in the world full of too many superlatives and silly, often unnecessary words. 

Early on in my time back here a very, very drunk goalkeeper commented ‘What a club. Imagine never playing for Mods. What a waste of a life.’ How right he was. This is a special place which stays in your heart, run by genuinely nice people that you want to do well for. Let this be the season when decent people prove that its not just the knobheads who win. See – I’ve already gone off on a tangent. I did warn you. Maybe I should drink less cider next time I write one of these?

Let’s get back on track. Pre season has been excellent so far. We’re all learning a new shape and developing a new hunger. There is a fantastic desire throughout the group – from 4ths to 1sts – that sees us hunt in packs, choke the space and we’re now always on the front foot. We are bullying opposition teams into late submission with an avalanche of high pressing which we are able to do because of our superior fitness. This attitude can only serve us all well for the season ahead. Being brave, trusting each other and being a Mod means that we support each other when things go wrong and we should all be disappointed with anything but 12 points when all 64 Mods shirts are off their hooks and on our backs. In this together. One big squad.

So on to Wednesday night for the 1st team and into the Wakefield monsoon. All the best storms get a name so I’m going to call this one ‘Storm Hippo’. It was belligerent, unstoppable and it hammered on the top of your head like a wasp in docks. It simply wouldn’t let up or leave us alone. But it was perfect for the occasion, just like our own river beast Ross Mackenley (hence the name).
We travelled through the sweeping rain on the M62 to Nostell Miners Welfare to play their reserves on the stadium pitch - you’ve got to love a night game on a great pitch under lights with a wet surface – in what was going to be a stern test. The players representing our hosts had only been told the night before that they hadn’t quite made the Northern Counties team in their squad split – they’ve been training as one group in their pre season - so I knew they would be a very strong side with a point to prove. That’s why I asked them for a game, to test us, and they really did. 

They were a youngish side (average age about 21 I think) that had lovely passing patterns and an expansive style of play. You can see that they are clearly well drilled and understand their roles and the triggers for their own movements and the probing and switching saw them use the big pitch really well. Their 4-3-3 formation with very wide wingers meant they created overloads, particularly in the first half when they streaked down our left and got into some promising crossing positions. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how much of the ball they had. Nor does it matter what they did outside our penalty box. It doesn’t matter that they had lots of very good technical players who were comfortable receiving the ball. None of that matters.

What matters is how we dealt with it and the character our entire squad showed in a performance that for me epitomises this brave new dawn. What matters is the way we refused to crumble, despite going a goal down (against the run of play as we were the better side for the first 15 minutes), the strong mentality we showed to dig in when they got on top and put us under pressure and the sheer bloody minded belligerence with which we defended our box like 11 Red Gandalfs standing on the bridge shouting “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” to the Balrog from the depths of hell. (sorry, I’ve gone again – note to self – less cider).

We had chances in the 1st half – Waz went close (took a touch too many) and Alex Pouncett, making a welcome return to the club he loves, should have done better with a 1 on 1 when he opted for a chip instead of the fish of bending it inside the far post. With every passing minute of the game Alex got better and better and you could literally see the rust falling away from previously under used legs. In the coming weeks and months as match sharpness comes back he’ll convert that chance every time. So it wasn’t one way traffic, but I’d score the first half 60 – 40 to the hosts.

Things were different after the interval. We regrouped, had a chat about what we needed to tweak and we took control, winning second half 5 – 0 with some of the best football we have played in pre-season so far.  There were changes to personnel but not to the shape and players just slotted seamlessly in and out of the roles they were given – we stayed in the same shape throughout and it felt a bit like we were playing formation chicken to see who blinked first. I want us to be brave and to make teams adapt to try and stop us rather than the other way around. We play a compact shape that leaves spaces if teams can hit the big switch, but we keep them wide and defend the important bit of the pitch together as one and when we get it right we give teams so much to worry about that it makes them change their plans, which means they are less organised and less prepared.  The pressing was off the scale in the second half (even with 2 minutes to go) and we repeatedly won back the ball in the important quarter (that’s what I am calling it now) beyond the half way line, recycling the play and setting off another forward move.

Everyone played a big part, but here were some notable mentions I want to make –

Alex Hay – 2 very good saves, great kicking, good communication and excellent concentration to read the game and sweep up in the 87th minute. That tuff matters.

Henry King – man of the match. A perfect number 4 performance and moved seamlessly into the 7 for second half.  Delicious through balls, strong screening and tough tackling. The Whole Package tonight.

Ross – The Hippo – Mackenley – held the ball up brilliantly, battled hard and excellent on the ball. The right kind of aggression saw Ross claim 2 well taken goals

Phil Daniels – rapid quick, started the high press and scored 2 great goals(2nd one was a belter) – having a great pre season.  

Reiss Silva – had to come off after 15 minutes after getting injured in a brave high press tackle. Not the start you wanted, but you’ll be a big part of this season I am certain.

Zac Brown – Marshalled the defence brilliantly and a massive presence. Learning the shape but for someone who hasn’t played at this standard for a very long time Zac showed us all how much a proper defender loves defending – everyone plays better alongside Zac.

Alex Pouncett – an unfamiliar role on the left of the 4 on a massive pitch. To say this was his first game back for the first this was a great performance and he was so committed to the win. Has the perfect mindset – a born winner.

Callum Robinson – simply put: scored a goal that the lads are referring to as a ‘Claire Thundrbastard.’ 
In summary, the attitude and commitment to each other was outstanding. A great squad full of top Mods who have everything they need to do very well.  Well played gents.

We’ve set ourselves a standard now. 
Let’s keep moving forward and win the next game. 
Celebrating with a nice bottle of White Lightning, the 2016 vintage.