First home game – five star win

At last, Willand Rovers’ under 18s first home game of the current season and what a game, writes Nick Miles.

The predicted rain held off until the teams and spectators had gathered for their hotdogs in the clubhouse, but the previous night’s precipitation made the going quite soft.
Willand went into the game knowing that a win would put them top of the table but they would not be taking the visit of Crediton United lightly as this team has scored a fair few goals.

Brian Holmes took charge as the game got underway with Willand attacking the Bar End. Ashley Matthews had injured his medial ligaments and this caused the team to change formation to 4-3-3, with Nick Merriam returning to lead the attack.
From the start, Willand got into their game and were passing through the opposition and having gone close twice already, they took the lead. A Jordan Armstrong corner for the left was half cleared and when Dan Hayfield fired the ball back ino the 6 yard area, JJ Vittles took a touch and stabbed the ball home from 6 yards.
The hosts attacking was relentless but while the approach play was very encouraging, it was the finishing that let them down (helped by some good goalkeeping). Then, in the 20th minute, Merriam fed Armstrong on from the right and his clinical strike across the ‘keeper bulged the far side-netting – 2-0.
Then the Willand momentum slowed and suddenly the visitors began to show. After 30′, a good run into the area was challenged and although the striker recovered to get in a good strike on goal, the fact he didn’t score meant that Mr Holmes decided there was no advantage and the ensuing penalty was duly despatched.
After 38’, it was 2-2 – a free header from a corner put Crediton right back in the game and although Armstrong had a blistering shot on the run tipped over by the ‘keeper, that’s how the first half ended. Willand had flattered a host of goals early on but ultimately struggled to maintain their tempo and shape – perhaps it was down to the formation but that shouldn’t stop players trying their best.
So, following on from a dressing room heart-to-heart, the White Eagles took to the pitch to put their shortcomings right. Crediton, though, had belief and would continue to make it very difficult.
Willand started brightly again and were rewarded with 2 goals in 3 minutes, after 52’. Following good work at the back by Alex Wright, Hayfield’s inch-perfect pass put Armstrong through on the right. His pace and excellent touches put him into the area and his low shot across the ‘keeper found the back of the net for 3-2 and a couple of minutes later, an almost identical move saw him get his hat-trick.
The game was still open though and after 64′, Crediton pulled a goal back when 2 Willand players lost their footing trying to block a strikers run. His goal was very well taken.
Chances came and went at both ends, although mainly around Crediton’s goal. Hayfield stretched the keeper who saved brilliantly from a free-kick, and Macauley Broom and Armstrong both fired wide when clean through.
The final goal arrived after 85’ when a great Broom run ended with him chipping a ball back from the right where Merriam (who had tried so hard to score all game) headed the opening home. 5-3.
It was a good enthralling game at times and competitive throughout, while Mr Holmes had to keep passions under control from time-to-time. Crediton had made it very difficult for Willand by just not giving up and that is an important aspect of sport to be remembered by the players.
Reece Kingdom was excellent for Willand, with Anthony Ansell and also special mention to Alex Wright who played with a bad stomach ache all game.