For the first time since, December 8th, Willand’s under 18s were able to play a competitive match. That is 84 days. I don’t want to go on too much about it, but the 3 month gap showed. Even then it took an early morning pitch inspection and some sand to get the pitch ready but by 2pm, everything was ready. The Magelake pitch looked green and lush. Although there were several soft areas, none affected the game.

The home side would be without Ash Matthews who was injured and ReeceKingdom. Willand had won an excellent game in the previous fixture, 3-1, at the Archery Club. The outcome was expected to be a bit closer this time. It wasn’t………….

Once underway, both sides looked lively. Brixington’s goalkeeper’s long kicks reached the home back four and this caused early problems as the opposition worked well for the second-ball. But on 7′, a goal-kick was flicked on in midfield and after a missed interception, a Blues player was through. Alex Wright, raced back and on the edge of the area, put in a great tackle from the side. He won the ball which raced away for a throw but the referee saw it differently. It was an outstanding piece of football skill rewarded with a booking. It was decisive and text-book and exactly what we coach players to do. If the referee had consulted his linesman (a qualified referee) then his error would have been confirmed. If it was a foul, then it should probably have been a red card.

But the flaws in the home defence (mainly communication) had been exposed already, and the away team would be 2 goals to the good when a perfectly executed lob from 12 yards beat Jez Cross.

The worry was that Willand might have folded completely, but they didn’t. Where the Blues relied on the long ball to restart their attacks, the home side varied theirs and were more successful playing out from the back. Having worked 3 or four openings without a shot, Willand found they could enjoy some possession in the Brixington box. After a freekick came back to him on the edge of the area, Dan Hayfield fired in a low ground shot that completely beat the keeper but came back off the post. Cas Aplin reacted quickest and nudged it to Jordan Armstrong who nudged it home.

But then Brixington scored on their next attack. Just over the halfway line, their left back was not closed down and from 30 yards he unleashed an excellent shot that arrowed straight past Cross. 1-3.

It was 4-1 at halftime when another failure to clear a ball led to a soft goal.

In the second half, the harder Willand tried the more they were punished. The home side worked several good openings but their keeper saved them and when he dropped the ball, there was a defender on hand to clear. At the other end, missed clearances and tackles and a ball that hit a divot right in front of Cross as he bent to collect the ball only to see it fly over his shoulder, were all that Brixington needed.

Nick Merriam did score a consolation – reward for all the good build up play Willand had shown. Armstrong came close as did Oli Crimmins, and a Hayfield free kick tested the keeper too.

In reflection, Brixington, probably a year older throughout the team, showed they are a good side. The score flattered them and although it would be good to play them again, they definitely deserved the points today.

Taking positives from the match, Willand played their football right to the end. Their heads never went down to the point they gave up. I am sure they will recover as they regain their match sharpness, but any hopes of winning this league have probably gone now.

Thanks to all the parents and supporters who took the trouble today, and to Sam Warren, who looks even quicker!