County Youth League

Wednesday, April 8th 2015

Apollo 3 Willand Rovers 2 (HT 2-1) Bastin, Johnson

Preparations for an earlier than usual 6:30 kick-off were far from ideal as traffic limited the warm-up to a mere 10 minutes. Apollo had kindly switched the venue to Dawlish United’s Sandy Lane pitch but problems with two of the central floodlights meant these couldn’t be relied upon so an earlier than usual start would be needed.

Earlier in the season, the two teams had met at Silver Street and Willand ran out 2-1 and 5-0 victors. But Apollo are a strong proud team and tonight they showed lots of the latter quality.

The visitors kicked off down the slope but Apollo used it to their advantage with canny long balls that tested the Willand rearguard until after 6 minutes, a tame back pass was collected by an Apollo forward who rounded Jez Cross and passed the ball into the empty net. 0-1.

Apollo came close mainly through their excellent forward but gradually Willand got good possession on the flanks and probed. Apollo didn’t like the ball being run at them and on 20′, that’s precisely what Jordan Bastin did from near the right goal-line. He collected the ball and drifted past 4 players before slotting a low cshot beyond the keeper on the angle. 1-1.

But the lead was lost again when another long ball was not contested on first bounce and Apollo’s excellent forward then found he simply had to lob the advancing ‘keeper. 1-2 on 24’.

The game ebbed and flowed but as the clock neared halftime, Willand stepped up the pressure. A Bastin free-kick cannoned off the crossbar and in the melee, the home keeper knew nothing about the shot that cannoned off his right knee to safety.

At the other end, Cross made a quite brilliant save from Apollo’s excellent forward, when he went full length to tip a low shot around his right hand post.

Into the second half, Jack Rawlings (hamstring pull) was replaced by Reece Browning at left back. Willand upped the pace and found the new tempo to their liking. They came close and had a good shout for a handball denied. Apollo were dangerous on the break but captain Ash Matthews, Alex Wright and Jordan Major learned from the first half how to deal with the quick long ball threat.

That is, until the 80th minute. Willand had pushed up in search of the equaliser and suddenly, Apollo found themselves 2v1. Although the first shot was blocked, the second found its way to the back of the net. 1-3.

The response was terrific but why do Willand always leave it so late. Browning’s long throws were causing havoc on the left but it was direct running from the right that reduced the deficit to just one-goal when Sam Johnson got into the 6 yard area and scored with a low drive on 86 minutes. Still time to get an equaliser.

Willand poured forward in search of the 3rd all-important goal. A browning long throw and a Jones flick on but it wasn’t read and the opportunity was missed.

With large parts of the pitch in darkness, the referee called time and Apollo were worthy winners.

Frankly, with better preparation and 2 more players, the outcome might have been different but credit to Apollo for a spirited performance, especially in the first half.

Thanks very much to Rob Mitchell for coming to the game with his camera, and for all the support that made the trip.

The last league game is at home to Clyst Valley in a weeks time under lights. Let’s hope for a performance that can do justice to such a good season in the league.