Leeds Modernians Football Club News story

Catch and Release

10 Sep 2020

Last Night the Mods 1st team lined up against Horbury Town’s well drilled young reserve side in the last of their pre-season games before the league season starts in Huddersfield on the 19th.

Despite an unexpected night shift from Jack Sewell’s and a few absentees due to holidays (Pouncett), injuries (Waz and Reiss) and a bought of Deli belly - aka the Pen y Ghent shits - (Clax), Mods fielded a very strong side once again. Buoyed by a great victory last week on the Nostell Floodplains, the group headed into this game in good spirits and full of confidence.

Getting changed on the pitch and not having much time to warm up are unfortunate consequences of a September night game in a global pandemic, but standing around taking pot shots at Kluska’s car (with the occasional one on target) is all a bit under 10’s and needs to be banished like the Balrog. The senior players need to make sure this just isn’t happening in future and to get hold of a warm-up that sees short, sharp passing movements which gets us in the mood instead. This need to become automatic to help us start games in the right frame of mind. It might seem like a minor gripe, but it is important and needs to be said – and Kluska asked me to tell you to stop it too.

Colin Luigi Collina called in the two captains for the coin toss and winning (good start) Captain Briggs elected to play up the slope and into the sun in the first half and, after a couple of early corners for the visitors (maybe we weren’t quite ready for some reason?), we set a decent tempo and created a number of overloads, particularly on the right, with Mikey, Stu Flint and Ross linking up really well to cause them all sorts of problems. We occasionally made the wrong decision and crossed the ball from deep positions, but on the whole the first half was pleasing. We didn’t let them out easily, pressed with good intensity and Henry, Callum and Nathan patrolled the recycle zone picking up second balls and setting us going again. We were dominant and created 5 or 6 very presentable chances that last week we were finishing off – Ross had a couple, Adam put strange backspin on a chip giving the keeper a chance to keep it out and Zac scuffed one wide from 3 yards when the ball landed at his feet from a well worked corner. We were on top and with better finishing we could easily have found ourselves 3-0 up at the break. It wouldn’t have flattered us. However, we let them off the hook and ‘fell’ to a sucker punch just before half time came. The shape we are adopting is causing sides to hit us with long balls as they struggle to pass their way through our press, and one speculative clearance ‘fell’ perfectly to Tom Daley as he ran free from their right wing (the run should have been tracked). He took the ball down first time and seeing he was inside the box and Alex Hay was sending him wide he hurled himself into the air like a salmon leaping up a waterfall on its way to spawn trying to avoid a waiting Bear. Everyone close enough called ‘Dive’ but the ref, who wasn’t close enough said penalty. If you think I am exaggerating when we say this was a dive you only have to look at the Horbury Twitter feed which said “Tom Daley is ‘brought down’ to win a penalty.” Even they used air horns to describe what had happened here. Travesty and the grin on cheating Tom’s face said it all. They rolled the penalty in and took a first half lead they definitely didn’t deserve. We were defending really well and their only other chance was a crunching 50/50 tackle 40 yards out that dropped out of the sun and crashed onto our crossbar. 5 minutes later the half time whistle went and slightly bemused, we regrouped.

For the second half Phil Daniels joined the fray up top, Ross dropped into the 8 position and Nathan slotted in on the right. Just like last week, for all our intelligent passing football and chances created the preceding free flowing passing football it was a route one goal that brought us parity. Alex Hay has a foot like a bloody traction engine – mainly because he has calf muscles similar to Piere Domell but on a normal sized man – and he thundered a kick towards the Horbury Keeper, who misjudged the bounce and left a prowling Adam Hamilton with a tap in to an empty goal to get off the mark in preseason. It felt like a key moment in the game and not long after we had a second in similar circumstances. This time Zac swung in a free kick, someone jumped (I think it was Ross) with the keeper who fumbled it under pressure and again Adam was on hand, this time crashing it into the net before defenders had time to react. 2-1 and it felt like we would go on to win comfortably now. We have a strong mindset now which can see us go behind and not crumble, and for the second week in a row we’d gone behind against the run of play and come back to take the lead. Obviously, we don’t want to go behind in the first place, but being able to deal with it when we do is a strong trait to have.

We could have done better at 2-1 up and with more patient, less frantic approach play we would have. Game management was lacking at this point and whilst we were still pressing hard(ish) and picking up second balls, we were too desperate to score the third and didn’t take enough care in and around their box. We had moments and half chances, but didn’t really create enough of those high percentage chances that we want once we’d taken the lead.

It didn’t help that Ross was now practically blind in the half light of the Cookridge dusk and he just focussed on getting in the right place to stop them playing out. He was in their way more often than not, so he stayed on. Phil and Adam were busy, Nathan was getting into dangerous spaces, Callum was driving forward and the combination of Zac, Alex and Griggys looked comfortable at the back. Because we were going so quickly our full backs were less involved in our forward play the second half than we would have liked.

At 2-1 up we really should have reeled them in and put them in the landing net, but we let them off the hook and another long ball out from their defence over the top into our right back channel caused us a rare half problem. Mikey was probably dealing with the problem being goal side of the winger, but Alex Hay came out to sweep and didn’t get there in time, seeing the forward take a good touch past him and then squeeze in a very good finish from out on the left wing. We’re asking the keepers to be proactive and sweep up the long balls over the top so we accept that this might happen from time to time, it’s a risk we take and in the collective responsibility of the game we should have been out of sight by this time.

The goal gave them a lift and their confidence grew a little, but the game petered out in the same pattern of the half, us dominating the play and making rushed decisions in the final third. We nearly got the win when Adam wriggled through three challenges in the box like a slippery eel, but it wasn’t to be.

Football teaches us harsh lessons sometimes. Tonight we caught our fish, but we let it go. We put it back in the river and we let it swim away. That’s not what we should have done. Next time let’s smash it’s brains in with a mallet and take it home to eat.

Man of the match – Ross Mackenley (until it got dark)


P.S. If you are reading this before 3pm on September 10th 2020, please make sure you tell your boss you need to be in front of a TV at 3pm today. Cancel all meetings. ITV 3pm. Trust me. This will be absolute gold.