It wasn’t pretty but sometimes it doesn’t have to be. The Raiders team progress through to the SILF Cup Final after a little scare from a tough Hot Shots side.
In truth Raiders failed to test the Hotshots keeper half as much as they would have liked and after 2 fresh air shots from yours truly the Turkey nomination comes as no surprise. Especially considering the position in when these came!
The Coach was obviously motivated for this game, preparations started back in training with him cracking the whip and encouraging the lads to focus ahead of the game. Within 7 hours of the game players were visualizing what was to come… however its still to be decided whether Scott should be focusing on KFC and McDonalds OR Demis getting any more fluids on board after his Saturday night antics with a lady (Correction *Ladies) of the night. The pre-game chat between Demis and Clem revealed their love for water sports, feel free to ask both for more details. A little more light stretching and then the boys were ready to go.
Coach lined the team out with MOM Mirko in goal. This man just loves penalties. LOVES PENALTIES! So much so that Raiders heading to the VC are planning to concede one a game just to watch him save it and get in the heads of the opponent. The back three was Scott, Olly and Gary. Midfield Vince, Dan Betney, Mick, Niko and Clem. Up top Hogg and Dirty Demis. The bench was made up of Guido (Who managed to turn up on time), Wouter, Nayan, Craig, Pete Bloor and Danny H. Colins pre-match speech again rousing the troops – Pete is still the Ice Man, Mirko still needs to talk more, Vince still tank and Niko was to turn out that back pocket again for the battle the ‘warriors’ were about to face. A strong team and a strong turn out from those not involved, at the end of the game the coach was quick to point out that this is a special group to be a part of right now. A big thanks to all that were there in force.
As for the game. Raiders started decent and looked to be causing some trouble, early chances for Clem, Demis and Hoggy brought a succession of corners. The new routine perhaps needing a little more work before its established! Olly, Scott and Gary looked in control at the back and it was unfortunate when Gary got a yellow card which ultimately played a role in him being replaced. Those cards are harsh in tight games as Gary was looking solid, but going down to 10 men would of made a tough game more so for the lads.
In the middle Betney looked Raiders biggest threat pressing on the right. Mick and Niko tried to release him and Vince and some pressure was coming from the wings. A cut back to Clem saw him fizz a shot hard from distance but it was too central and the keeper saved. Hogg also flashed one over right before a bad 5 minutes… Demis was slotted in by Clem and a cut back to Hoggy saw the most beautiful air shot around the 6 yard box (The next training session will most certainly be shooting!). Clem followed up behind but was blocked. Two minutes later a cross driven in by Clem found Hoggy alone at the back post for a tap in.. seeing it late he swung hit right.. but the same result and air shot number two left Raiders 0-0 at half time ruing those golden chances.
Half time and a few things were said. Most lads stayed positive but the Coach called on Raiders to up their game. Demis made way for Wouter who came into the game like a man possessed. In good recent form he was pulling the Hotshots defence wider and certainly made a big difference. However the opposition were the first to draw blood, Raiders got caught flat footed at the back when they failed to clear, a ball was played across goal and a tap in came at the back post. A response was needed from Raiders, Betney came off for Danny H after picking up a booking and it was Danny H that was another player to make a difference.
A ball came forward and Wouter managed to get it out his feet and rush in on goal, a composed finish and 1-1. Nice. Raiders seemingly back in it and sure to push on. Maybe not just yet, somehow Hotshots bumbled their way across goal, the striker lifted the ball over Mirko and shot wide, but the referee pointed to the spot – Penalty. It looked weak but given Mirkos reputation Raiders were confident. Their confidence was not naïve as Mirko dived to the correct side and made arguably the most important contribution of the game.
The save spurred the lads on. Craig came into the middle for Niko and brought some steel with some big tackles. Danny H then combined well on the right and raced away on the right, beating his man to the byline he then cut back and a sweet left foot finish from Clem across the keeper saw him peel away and celebrate putting the lads ahead 2-1. Bang. Raiders then dug in. Pete Bloor replaced Vincent and Nayan Scott as both contributed to Raiders effort.
As Hotshots pushed Raiders did get a couple of breaks away but no more clear chances came. It was a battle at times and Raiders will certainly play better football. But Olly as captain continued his good form leading the team at the back and reminding to keep positive throughout. Its easy to be disappointed when we don’t roll teams over or when we don’t play as we expect, but as pointed out by several players and the coach, Hotshots are a good team, well organised and a good test. The result at the end is the important bit. Raiders are through to the final. Well played lads. Onwards we march. To the VC and the WE Sport Cup, lets hope silverware is to come!