Fine Second Half Performance Fails to Avoid Cup Defeat
By Kim Miles
Formby’s Lancashire Cup experience lasted just one match, but National Conference North Preston were made to work very hard to progress.
Formby had most of their regular midfield and defence available, but for various reasons were missing 2 of their regular front players (Felipe Davis-Guzman and Sean Friday). This did, however, give a chance for some stars of the future to get some 1st XI experience, so Toby Gladwin
made his debut and Matthew Williams
had his second competitive appearance.
The game started a little ominously as Tom Hickson
was caught in possession (possible still digesting his festive fare), but Preston’s final pass let them down. Harry Williams
then thought he’d try passing to an opponent, but the eventual shot was deflected wide right of his goal.
It took Formby some time to string more than two passes together, but on 10 minutes, Will Miles
and Giles Hampson
exchanged passes and the latter set Josh Birtles towards the Preston circle, but he ran into a firm tackle at the top of their circle. Two minutes later the Formby defence parted down the middle in biblical fashion (think Red Sea) and despite a fine initial tackle by Harry Williams
, his effort was in vain, as a shortage of defenders permitted Preston to keep the ball in the Formby circle and a cross from the right baseline was turned in neatly to give Preston the lead.
Almost from the restart, Miles found Ste Wright
on the right of the Preston circle, but he failed get his stick on the ball. Birtles then made a great defensive tackle as Preston threatened to break down the right, and Formby worked the ball up that side to Ste Wright
who got into the circle but the failed to spot Matthew Williams
unmarked near the penalty spot and essayed a shot from a very tight angle that only struck the outside of the right sideboard.
Hickson then took a blow to the face which seemed to wake him up, as his next contribution was a good chase and tackle. He passed to Sam Mackarell
who was taken out from behind but the umpire was lenient and merely issue a warning. Miles then made a trademark run on the right, taking a couple of opponents out of the game before releasing Ste Wright
who mad further ground in to the right corner before firing in a dangerous-looking cross that was sadly unmolested by either a colleague’s stick or an opponent’s foot.
Formby continued to find some penetration on the right side, and Miles, Hickson and Wright again combined to deliver the ball to Birtles, but he shot straight at the home ‘keeper.
Preston were being contained pretty well now and on a rare occasion when they got through they were reduced to an attempted shot from a position virtually on the left baseline, which Sam Birtles
dealt with nonchalantly. From the long corner, Harry Williams
attempted a tackle whilst losing his balance and inevitably conceded a penalty corner when he struck stick rather than ball. Preston went for the direct flick but miss the goal to the left.
Connnel Capper found Birtles on the right and he found the overlapping Rob Tinker
, whose ball into the circle was deflected up just outside. From the free hit, Capper found Mackarell who moved it on to Birtles, who delivered the ball to Hickson, but with his back to goal he couldn’t wriggle round to get a shot in. Then, as the half was about to end, a Tinker diagonal aerial found Birtles on the left, and he attacked the circle, but his pull-back passed agonisingly just behind the advancing Matthew Williams
Formby started the second half on the front foot and Miles found Birtles in the first minute whose cross from the left found Ste Wright
at the far post, but he couldn’t steady himself in time and deftly played the ball onto his own foot. He and Miles then executed a neat combination but the move petered out.
Birtles and Tinker got together to reach the right of the Preston Circle but the latter’s cross eluded Ste Wright
in front of goal. A Birtles pass to Mike Davis was deflected dangerously and Davis took the free hit and set Matthew Williams
on the front foot into the home circle. His first effort rebounded off a defender;s stick but he got to the rebound first and planted it on a defender’s foot for Formby’s first short corner.
Birtles’s first flick was easily blocked by the ‘keeper, and a scramble for the rebound resulted in a second award. This time Formby made a mess of stopping the injection and Preston cleared their lines.Davis and Hampson put Birtles through but the ball arrived at roughly the same time as the Preston ‘keeper, who managed to interpose his boot to clear.
After dominating the half so far, Formby were guilty of some poor defending as they first allowed a Preston move down their right rather easy access to the circle, then, when Sam Birtles
blocked the shot, everyone appeared to stand back and watch as another Preston man picked up the loose ball and had more time than he needed to fire a reverse-stick effort just inside the near post.
This was totally against the run of play, but Formby came straight back as Hampson picked up a misdirected through ball, broke clear in the centre of the pitch and in spite of being fouled, picked out Birtles, who carried the ball to the left edge of the circle before sliding it to Gladwin in the circle. His shot was deflected up dangerously and Formby had another short corner.
With Capper available, Formby went for the direct flick, which was blocked by the ‘keeper, but a desperate attempted clearance hit a Preston foot and Formby had another chance. This time Capper faked a shot before giving the ball to Tinker, who beat the ‘keeper from 7 metres, but was mortified to see his shot com down off the underside of the crossbar. It was close to crossing the line (apparently) and in their haste to get rid of it Preston fired it perilously close to Hampson’s head to give Formby a third attempt. By now Capper had stopped messing about and flicked it hard and just to the right of the ‘keeper, the pace taking the ball into the backboard to make the score 1-2, and bring him first strike of the season.
The remainder of the game took place almost exclusively in the Preston half, as wave after wave of Formby attacks failed to penetrate their defence. Miles had a reverse-stick effort deflect off the ‘keeper to Harry Pike
, whose shot was blocked then cleared. Even Harry Williams
made a rare excursion into the circle and fed Hickson, whose cross was deflected to Birtles at the far post, but the deflection caught him off-balance and he couldn’t get stick on ball.
Pike and Matthew Williams
then managed between them to ambush a Preston man just outside his 22, and push the ball forward to Birtles (followed by an exchange of high fives between themselves), but a defender just managed to get his stick on the ball as Birtles shot, and the ball deflected high over the bar. Miles and Birtles then combined well to create another shooting chance for the Formby skipper, but this was also deflected away to the left of goal.
Formby were still pressing as the final whistle saw a relieved home side hang on to advance to the semi-final. It was disappointing to lose a game they had probably had the better of, certainly in terms of possession, but there were plenty of positives for Formby to take from the narrow defeat.