“IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER, NO MATTER HOW WE TRIED,
AND WE WERE LYING AND DREAMING, AS PAWNS IN OUR OWN DECLINE
WHAT WE GOT ARE BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS,
THEY’RE CAUGHT IN A FLEETING TIME.”
(‘Miles Apart’ by Shack, c1992).
Hi Readers, well, 3 wins on the spin – actually 4 wins in 5 (ignoring our defeat in the West Riding Cup – I know that’s cheating, but let me off this once). Yesterday we defeated Govan Athletic 2-1, to take us to a completely unexpected 4thin Division 1 of the Manchester League. It is always hard to write these reports: I don’t really want to report the match as such, because I want to report on what Uppermill did well, and maybe less well, as the case might be. Equally, I know other teams do read these reports/drivel [delete as you see fit] so it’s hard to give a fair, impartial view of the game, when I am purposely looking through the UFC lens. So, apologies in advance to other teams who read the reports and don’t quite understand the perspective from which they are written. Anyway, excuses over.
Our win yesterday was very hard fought: not pretty, and maybe not deserved. Certainly, if I’m a Govan coach, I think I will feel pretty down at not taking something from the game. But, from a UFC view, the performance was as dogged and gritty as we have ever given – characteristics shown that we haven’t always displayed. Had this game come 6-12 months ago, it could have ended in a defeat.
Whilst the first half ended 0-0, it was Govan who created the better chances – bringing the best out of our keeper Conor Berry. It’s not that we didn’t create, it’s just that our shots were more of a threat to the birds in the trees behind the Govan goal, if you see what I mean. The first half showed Govan to be a more than competent team on their own pitch. They know the dimensions and the pace of their 4G pitch very well indeed. It is fair to say that Uppermill – both players and definitely coaches – were a bit clueless to combat Govan’s approach to the game. Govan, to their credit, play from the back on their own pitch – and do it very well. In the first half, we simply did not adapt: we neither pressed, nor sat back, and consequently got picked off with relative ease. We made it to half time but change was needed.
Half time we made two key changes: we asked the players to sit deep and let Govan have the ball in their defensive third: do not chase, do not press. The second, key, change was that we instructed striker Tom Simpson (who is getting better with every game, as he matures and absorbs our guidance) to effectively man mark the Govan centre back (no 4) who was the architect of everything good that Govan did. We reckoned that he was both the brains and the talent: let the other Govan defenders and midfield players have the ball, but not him.
It seemed to work, as we found ourselves in a much better shape, and found ourselves 2-0 up after 55 minutes. An exquisite finish from distance from young striker Aiden Stevenson (another player who is beginning to blossom after 2 years of hard work and, often, frustration) and a goal from Tom Simpson. Govan, to their credit scored almost immediately to make it 2-1. The rest of the game – as best I can recall – was nip and tuck with both teams having good possession and good opportunities. Full time: Govan 1 – Uppermill 2.
Not the prettiest win, and a narrow win, but a win. As coaches, we did not adapt well in the first half – and for that we cannot blame the players. We adapted well at half time, and the credit in the second half must go entirely to the players. They produced a hard working, gritty, disciplined display punctuated with plenty of individual skill and creativity. Uppermill teams have been known for their brittle mentality, but this team seems to be developing a mental strength and durability that will serve them well as they go forward as footballers. No team wins with style every week. There is no disgrace in having to tough it out to win a match.
Several young players are really beginning to blossom after long periods of frustration and, often, failure: Tom, Aiden, Sam Bagshaw to name but 3. Several young players (our youngest players) have built upon the development they have achieved in an often painful and defeat ridden two years (Ben Ford, James Gregory, Tom Gallagher, Flynn Bradley, Josh Barlow). I promised that the defeats, the patience, the experimenting, the failure would be worth it. We are slowly getting there. We are nowhere near where I expect us to be by the end of this season, start of next. But, we are way ahead of where we were 2 years ago, 1 year ago, even 6 months ago.
As a Club, we seem to be doing pretty well. We can still raise 4 senior teams, and all 4 teams won yesterday. But (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming) let’s not deceive ourselves, we are almost being successful in spite of ourselves. We (try to) train twice a week, but across 4 teams, we can often only raise 10 players to train. Last week, we had 9 players training on Tuesday and had to scrap Thursday because we didn’t have enough players for a proper session. Granted, we have a huge list of injured players: about 6 first team ‘regulars’ are currently injured. But, imagine what we might be able to start achieving if we can run 2 well attended training sessions a week? Train well, play well. It’s not rocket science. It’s an idea, but it would be good if more people shared that idea/aspiration/belief. The current run of wins across the 4 teams are merely masking the issue, in my opinion.