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Hong Kong Blue

Guest
This was my first game for 6 months, and although I've been carefully following proceedings its not quite the same as seeing the team in the flesh.

Personnel wise we were pretty much the same as 6 months ago. The only changes were in central defence where I got my first glimpse of Adam Barrett in a Southend shirt (the only previous sighting of him I can recall was him scoring - obviously - on his league debut against us) and the return of Spinner. Interestingly this means that most of Tilly's summer buys (ie Nicolau and Grey) have lost their places in the side.

I thought we started slowly, the midfield seemed to be on their heels and comments about Bentley taking time to pick up the pace of the game rang true. However as Bentley started to see more of the ball we started to pick up our game.

I felt we were slightly fortuitous to take the lead: neither side had carved out much of an opening and Kiddie had shaded territory. However a good block in midfield saw the ball break to Dudfield in the inside right channel, he played it to Gower who took (as ever) a few touches before slamming it home.

The goal seemed to give extra confidence to us (Gower in particular), and seconds later an excellent Bentley ball follwowing good work from Bramble saw Dudfield put through the inside left. Lawrie however opted to shoot (tamely into the side netting) when the square ball to Tes looked the better option.

Gower then followed up with a run from his own half beating a handful of defenders before eventually being dispossed. His goal seemed to give him the confidence that he had apparently been lacking so far this season.

The other critical moment came minutes before half time when the large Kidderminster defender Abdou Sall aimed a petulant kick at Lawrie Dudfield. Although the softest of dismissals, it was off the ball and the ref had no alternative but to dismiss Sall, one of the few decisions the hapless Grant Hegley got right all afternoon. Lawrie Dudfield was IMHO however fortunate to escape the ref's attention for needlessly shouldering Sall in retaliation.

Second half was then a different story as Blues run amok. In Sall's absence Tes Bramble was the star of the show, although why we only played the ball into his feet after the 6 feet 4 defender was sent off I don't know. Tes displayed an assured touch, escaping the attentions of the derfenders even when they doubled up on him, his passing was as incisive as I've ever seen it and he clearly knew he had the beating of the defenders at will.

Bentley was also a towering presence. He seems to me to have a heavy first touch, but there is never any doubt that an opposition player is going to get to the ball before him. He dominates midfield physically in a way that Maher for example never/rarely is able to do so. I think he is going to be a massive player for us this season.

With these two along with the overlapping Duncan Jupp to the fore and with the rest of the team playing good passing football we stretched Kidderminster's 10 men. My only worry was that despite all the possession and seemingly carving open the Kiddie defence at will, we were unable to add to the score sheet. OK we may have won, but a quality team would have won this game a lot easier and we should really have substantially improved our goal difference.

With a few legs seeming to tire, Tilly bought on Goal-scoring sensation Wayne Gray and goal scoring sensation Drewe Broughton for the influential pair of Dudfield and Gower. Drewe actually won a few headers against a demoralised Kiddie team, but as we started to look to the more direct approach, rather than our incisive passing football of the previous 35 minutes, the ball started to return a lot quicker and our control of the game seemed to start to slip a little. I think we'd have been better off playing keep-ball but fortunately against a poor Kidderminster team we were able to hold on for all 3 points.

Kiddie were one of my tips to struggle and they didn't disappoint (I hope they don't go down Aggbrough does the best food in the division). Its therefore difficult to read too much into this win. My instinct however is that we will still finish mid-table. Whilst we can play some impressive football we lack the killer touch. Our only goal (despite playing against ten men) came from a lucky ricochet rather than incisive passing, and against better teams we will need to score the killer second goal, although hopefully with the confidence of a few wins under our belt I hope we start to develop that killer touch.

The midfield appears well balanced, I look Dudfield and Bramble up front (but play to their feet!) and its only the defence and keeper (Griminek to return) I would be seeking to tinker with.

Ratings

Flahavan 6 - a quiet day (literally - it would be nice to hear his calls) but he was rooted to his line on two occasions for crosses inside the 6 yard box. We escaped, but I feel our reserve keeper Bentley would have more of a presence in such situations!
Jupp 8.5 overlapped very effectively, causing numerous problems although final ball could be better
Prior 6 looks a little shaky although his experience seems to add something to the backline
Barrett 7.5 did everything asked of him and even looked an occasional threat in attack
Wilson 7 solid, even ventured forward a few times (probably got a nose bleed Napster) and had a couple of long range cracks. Would like to have seen the more attacking Nicolau given a go second half
Bentley 8.5 immense
Maher 8 solid game always passes intelligently against 10 men
Gower 8 goal did him the world of good
Petterfer 7.5 solid enough
Dudfield 8 ditto
Bramble 8.5 only a goal lacking
 
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