Second North-Eastern Odyssey on Short Rations
By Kim Miles
For the second time this season, a Formby side short of players returned from the North-East (Durham this time) with a very creditable draw.
Rob Tinker’s shoulder was still giving him gip, and his late withdrawal meant that Formby travelled with only 12 players, including the wounded Connel Capper
, whose playing time would have to be quite restricted. This was partly so as to minimise damage to the 2nd XI’s promotion push.
It was a particularly pleasant afternoon, but he start was delayed by 15 minutes owing to a broken kneecap in the preceding Women’s match on the main pitch, which had easily the best-appointed dugouts the team has experienced so far this season!
Formby would have to conserve their energy as average pitch-time would need to be around 65 minutes per player. Capper started as the lone substitute, resisting the temptation of having a lie-down on the spacious benches, as Durham opened with some energy, but not much accuracy. The first penalty corner of the match fell to Formby as Ste Wright
and Josh Birtles got in along the right baseline and a defender couldn’t remove his foot from the line of the ball in time.
With Capper still in his coaching position, Birtles took the flick, but dragged it wide right of goal. Bothe side then exchanged turnovers for a couple of minutes until Will Miles
and Tom Hickson
combined well to no ultimate effect on the right side of the Durham circle.
Durham’s first real chance came when a long-range aerial was missed by everyone and picked up after landing by a home forward man who managed to tun and attack the circle, but James Long
put in a ball-winning tackle. With Capper having his first run-out of the game, an aerial of his straight down the middle was miscontrolled by a defender, who played the ball straight to Birtles, who pushed forward before passing to Felipe Davis-Guzman
, and he fed Ste Wright
in the circle, but the Durham defence managed to suppress his ambitions through sheer weight of numbers.
Miles found Davis-Guzman with a nice through-ball and he got in a shot that was blocked by the ‘keeper, and Ste Wright
nearly found himself on the end of the rebound, but a defender just got there first to clear. A right-wing break by Durham then foundered when Harry Williams
declined to buy and dummy and cleanly took the ball off the man in possession.
After 15 minutes Formby took the lead from their second penalty corner, after they retrieved a failed transfer round the back between Birtles and Williams. Hickson regained possession, promptly lost it, then recovered and found Harry Pike
attacking the Durham circle, and he found a defender’s foot.
This time Capper was present, and, following a ball-swap by the hosts, decided he liked the replacement so much , he scored with it, firing a low drag-flick past the ‘keeper’s right foot into the backboard.
Durham pressed for a few minutes to try to retrieve their position, but a particularly solid tackle from Giles Hampson
frustrated them. Unfortunaltely his team-mates couldn’t retain possession, and the ball was played across the Formby circle to a spare man at the far post, who steered it towards the goal. He must have though he had scored, but at the last second, the flying form of Sam Birtles
appeared from nowhere, turning the ball away at fulkl stretch to his left.
A diagonal Durham aerial caught James Long
a little out of position and his efforts to compensate resulted in him playing stick rather than ball in the 22 and Durham had a penalty corner. An attempted drag-flick was blocked by the Formby runners’ sticks, and Sam Birtles
was quickly onto the bouncing ball to boot the ball high to safety.
Capper and Long then got the ball into the Durham circle, but it was deflected away for a long corner. Not for the first time this season, Formby managed to concede possession, and were caught on the break, but Hampson made a strong, fair challenge in his own circle to first get possession, then draw a foul.
Another Durham attack appeared to have been broken up when Miles intercepted a difficult ball in his own circle. He was then caught in possession trying to carry the ball out over his 22, causing something of a melee in the Formby circle, but Long was there to clear.
Inside the last 5 minutes of the half, some less than effective defending saw Formby concede another short corner, as Williams’ foot was actually the least bad outcome. Durham failed to stop the ball properly (not always something Formby have always taken advantage of!), but Long picked up the loose ball and managed to dribble clear into the left corner. He lost the ball into touch eventually, but when it was played back in, Davis-Guzman’s sure control and clearance allowed his side to end the half at 1-0.
Long and Birtles had an amusing misunderstanding 5 minutes into the second half, managing to run into each other at the top of their own circle, and in the process kicking the ball. From the free hit, Durham played the ball towards goal, but the other Birtles kicked it clear with relative ease (he had the advantage of not being challenged by on of his own players).
It was inevitable that Durham would enjoy more possession as Formby inevitably tired, and Hickson turned the ball over and was doubtless much relieved when the resulting Durham pass avoided its open target and went straight into touch.
Some calm defending by Long saw him, finding Pike down the right and he beat a couple of defender on his way into their 22, where he found Miles, who moved it on to Birtles, who found Andy Wright in the circle, but he was crowded out without being able to get a shot away. Durham were then reduced to 10 men for 2 minutes following an agricultural attempt to deprive Hampson of the ball.
Durham were enjoying too much possession for Formby’s liking, but their passing frequently let them down and a couple of speculative long-range efforts flew harmlessly past the goal. Eventually they were gifted a penalty corner by some weak defending, allowing them into the right side of the Formby circle far too easily, and putting in a badly-timed tackle when they got there. This resulted in them thinking they had equalised, but the ball had clearly been kicked first by the “scorer” and although eh presiding umpire hadn’t picked it up, his colleague had, and the goal decision was immediately reversed.
The Durham pressure was beginning to tell on the tiring Formby defence, and Hampson was forced into conceding another penalty corner when he found himself somewhat isolated on the right side of his circle. Birtles produced one for the cameras. Diving to his right to turn the ball round the post.
Hickson then made a fine tackle, and played the ball left to Capper before making excellent ground down the right. Unfortunately he couldn’t quite catch up with Capper’s return ball, but he was there again a couple of minutes later, this time getting Miles moving forward on the left and passing forward to Birtles, but his cross was intercepted with the Wright Brothers waiting. Long then unsuccessfully chased a Capper aerial, and had to make a lung-bursting recovery run to prevent any Durham progress in midfield.
It looked as if Formby might just hold on, though there were distinct signs of fatigue, but with under 8 minutes left, they cracked down the middle, as some miscommunication allowed a Durham break and tired legs couldn’t close down the advancing player in time to prevent the forward pass to a man free in the circle, who managed to squeeze it past the advancing Birtles.
Formby didn’t just think of trying to defend for the final few minutes, and a great break down the left by Birtles saw him round the back of the Durham defence, where his cross to Ste Wright
looked to have set up a goal, but a last-minute tackle took the ball away and saved the day for the home side.
There was just time for Formby to conceded a final penalty corner, but Sam Birtles
wasn’t about to let the ball past after his side’s efforts to this point, and turned the ball away to safety. A couple of minutes later the final whistle signalled another well-deserved draw against the odds.