Defensive Frailties Resurface
By Kim Miles
Formby drew a match they ought to have won comfortably as they managed to combine some poor finishing with some even poorer defending.
The match srarted well as in the first minute a Connel Capper aerial to Josh Birtles was controlled well and a defender within 5 metres tried to tackle, conceding a free hit in his 22. Birtles took it quickly, and slipped it forward into the circle, where it was met by Sean Friday around the penalty spot, and he neatly deflected it wide of the ‘keeper for what was easily his longest-range goal of the season.
Capper and Harry Williams then combined well to deliver the ball to Tom Gooding, who took it into the circle and shot against the ‘keeper’s pads. The ball rebounded to Birtles, but he slid it narrowly past the post when he doubtless felt he should have increased his season’s tally. Capper’s aerials were causing a degree of panic in the Lindum defence, and one to Birtles on the right was completely missed by a defender, allowing Birtles a chance to advance inside the circle, though at a tight angle. He decided to shoot when he had a pass available to Gooding for what would have been a tap-in, but the angle was in favour of the ‘keeper, who blocked fairly comfortably.
Rob Tinker then worked himself a shooting chance and also found the ‘keeper blocking his shot. The ball rebounded to Birtles, but his reverse-stick shot was well over the bar and wide right into the bargain. His side paid the penalty a minute later as a penalty corner was softly conceded when the visitors were allowed to crash the ball into the circle from long range (a tactic Formby should have remembered from their earlier encounter), and a foot intervened at the cost of a penalty corner. The drag-flick seemed to be far from perfectly struck, and possibly that’s why Sam Birtles inexplicably missed it with his right glove in the region of his right hip. That levelled the scores.
Formby resumed hostilities at the other end and soon had their first penalty corner as Will Miles and James Long got Birtles in at the top of the circle where a poor tackle brought the award. Capper’s drag-flick lacked placement and was beaten away by the ‘keeper, but in the ensuing scramble a defender lifted the ball dangerously and a second corner was awarded. Capper continued his game of rebounding the ball off the ‘keeper, but this time the ball fell to Tom Hickson, who managed to miss those same pads to restore Formby’s lead.
An ill-advised attempt by Harry Williams to dribble out of his own circle resulted in him losing possession, though Formby were fortunate that the resulting pass into their circle forced the shot to be taken from a tight angle and Birtles was able to pressure the shot, which went wide left. Sadly, Formby didn’t learn their lesson and a misplaced pass by Mike Davis a minute later meant that Sam Birtles had to be quick to go full length in order to just beat a Lindum man to the ball. He got there, but the loose ball ran to a visiting player, and with Birtles on the ground, the ball was quickly planted in the Formby goal to level the scores for the second time.
The rest of the half saw the visiting defence miss another Capper aerial, which Ste Wright didn’t manage to bring under control, and a pair of green cards For Davis and a Lindum player, who left the field together, with the Lindum man asking Davis why he’d been carded as he thought he won the ball fairly, and Davis asking the same question, and finding his opponent didn’t know the answer!
The second half started relatively quietly, but 5 minutes in, Miles found a nice pass to Birtles, allowing him to get into a shooting position, but his reverse-stick effort was bobbled off the back of his stick, and spotted by the officials (though its complete lack of venom hadn’t caused the visiting ‘keeper any visible anxiety).
A robust defensive tackle from Hampson was deemed over-robust and he got a 2-minute breather for his trouble, but his absence didn’t cause his team-mates to look to be defensive. On the contrary, Miles made a good run on the right, before getting Tinker into the circle with the ball. Unfortunately, his pull-back wasn’t up to scratch and was deflected for a long corner. This was cleared by the Lindum defence, but only as far as Williams, who planted a long ball from around half-way straight back into the Lindum circle, where a defender deflected it past his own ‘keeper to concede another long corner.
Miles played the ball wide to Long, who found Birtles, and he in turn played the ball into the circle to Wright. A fine move concluded as he passed to Miles, whose instant pass to Birtles left him with a tap-in for his ninth league goal of the season, but his first in 6 games!
A Birtles advance on the left saw him cross towards Wright, but his deflection at the near post got to much on the ball and passed the wrong side of the post.
Formby were looking to increase their lead, but a rare foray into their 22 by the visitors appeared to have been broken up, but possession was softly conceded and the ball fired back into the circle. It found its way past Sam Birtles and ended up in the goal, but all the Formby players appeared to think it had been struck from outside the circle (the line wasn’t really visible from half-way as the low sun was a problem, but the striker did seem a long way from goal). The umpire, however, signalled a goal, leading those watching to believe a visiting played must have touched it in the circle on its way to goal, but this later proved not to be the case. An appeal to the other official was never going to change the decision as he was similarly handicapped by the sun, so the goal stood.
It took Formby several minutes to recover their poise, and they very nearly scored as Tinker managed to break up another Lindum attack resulting from poor defensive ball-retention from Formby, with a well-timed tackle. He brought the ball forward and his defence-splitting pass to Felipe Davis-Guzman saw him square the ball from the right side of the Lindum circle to Miles, who tried to sweep the ball in at the far post, but hit the ‘keeper, diving full-length. Miles only needed to get the ball off the ground to score, but arguably made too good contact. A couple of minutes later Miles and Hickson combined to win another penalty corner as the latter’s advance on the right baseline was halted by a defender’s foot.
Formby made a bit of as mess of their stop and nothing resulted, but a minute later they produced another multi-pass move involving, Miles, Birtles, Hampson and Hickson who found Hampson at the far post with a cross from the right, but with the goal beckoning, Hampson eschewed the opportunity to emphasise his calm elder-statesman position in the team by spooning the ball uncharacteristically over the bar.
Formby were caught by the quickly-taken 22 and Sam Birtles had to deflect a shot away for Williams to pick up the loose ball and complete the clearance.
The visitors were then awarded a penalty corner after a spate of pinball broke out in the Formby circle. This was blocked by the first runner and broke to Capper, who wasted no time in bringing the ball to his 22 and finding his forward line with a long forward pass. The ball was crossed into the circle from the right and Miles seemed to be on the end of it but appeared to be pushed and couldn’t apply his intended reverse-stick finish. Neither official detected anything wrong with the challenge, even though Miles was left in a heap on the penalty spot.
Formby then conceded another needless penalty corner when Hickson encroached too quickly after a free hit just outside his circle. Lindum fired this harmlessly past Birtles’s right post. Formby continued to press for the winner and nearly overdid it as they lost possession and a Lindum advance on their right had superior numbers on attack over the defenders, but the final pass was woefully misplaced and Formby survived.
With time running out, Birtles won the ball on the Lindum 22. He carried it forward to the left with no defenders in close attendance, waited for the ball to run into the circle, and connected well with a reverse-stick effort that beat the ‘keeper and rebounded off the top edge of the backboard. Few of the defenders present made any sort of protest and Birtles thought he’s scored the winner, until the umpire indicated that the shot had been from outside the circle, much to the delight of the visitors. Now, admittedly most of the spectators were of the home persuasion, but everyone reckoned Birtles had shot from inside the circle (he is, after all, pretty experienced at finishing such chances, and would be unlikely to shoot from outside the circle when under no great pressure from defenders.
The “goal” didn’t stand this time – officials do make mistakes, though they try hard not to! Formby should have had the game sewn up by this point anyway and need to improve their finishing and defending if they want to win more games this season. It is however, hard to accept, when two very similar incidents are both adjudged in favour of the opponents. Perhaps luck will change in games yet to come, but in most sports, good teams tend to make their own luck.