More of the same? You might think that when looking at the result of Vikings 2 – Saints 4. You’d be right. However, you’d be wrong too. The score was more of the same, as were the sloppy goals conceded and the lack of communication. Nonetheless, there was much to be optimistic about in a spirted Viking’s performance. The score line flatters the opposition in what was in reality a much tighter match.
The game started at a blistering pace with Hoggy looking dangerous up front from the get go. The Vikings looked the better team during the opening exchanges with more possession and a greater sense of urgency. The Vikings were benefiting from the sprinkling of Raiders added to bolster their forces. Jimmy Q who linked well around the middle through-out his time on the pitch and Stephan who proved to be a steady influence in goals. The Vikings defence looked solid with aggressive and timely challenges from Scott and Danny Vo in particular. Not to be outdone, The Wall was taking no prisoners with a very strong defensive effort. Glenn and James (the one with a pineapple on his head) were constant outlets out wide and covering both touchlines with apparent ease. It was out wide where the deadlock was eventually broken. A long ball down the left channel found Hoggy who broke away from the Saints defence. He was then able to whip an excellent ball across the 6-yard box to find Glenn who finished neatly. One nil Vikings.
Queue the retreat. In true Viking spirit, as soon as we had successfully pillaged the opposition’s goal we almost immediately decided to retreat to our own. We began to sit deeper and invite pressure from the opposition, which resulted in a sustained period of dominance from the Saints. They had too much time on the ball around the middle and they were finding too much space behind the Viking’s back four. A misjudged cross came through the defensive line to find the Saint’s winger free at the edge of the box. He swung a boot to level the game. The Vikings then went on to concede some needless set pieces that they never looked very comfortable defending. A low scuttling corner bobbled through several bodies before being toe-poked into the Vikings net. Saints take the lead. To add insult to minor facial injury, Tippy who had put in an industrious opening twenty minutes, clashed with an opposition player that resulted in a nasty head wound and he was forced out of the game.
Frustrations began to grow and squabbles and belligerent shouting became more common place. Nobody will be surprised to hear Hoggy found himself at the heart of much of these squabbles. Before half time Hoggy was able to channel this pent up rage and direct it towards the Saint’s defence. Like a trundling ball of determination, he battered his way through several opposition players before delivering the ball assuredly off his left leg to the bottom corner. In what admittedly was against the run of play, the Vikings equalised and went in level at half time. Unfortunately, Hoggy’s boiling anger had undoubtedly contributed to a discomfort that developed in his hamstring. Therefore, he along with Jimmy Q were withdrawn at half time.
As the old saying goes, the second half was a game of two quarters. The first quarter of the second half, or the third quarter of the game if you’d prefer, proved challenging for the Vikings and fruitful for the Saints. Through much of their own sloppiness, the Vikings conceded yet another goal from a corner. What was even more disappointing was that in the resulting kick-off to resume the game instead of playing the ball back, the ball was ran into a group of bodies which the Saints capitalized on to score their fourth goal almost straight after their third. Four shagging two Saints.
I imagine at this point you’re wondering where the positives are and in what way can this performance be looked at optimistically. The main positive was the Viking’s reaction to the Saint’s fourth goal. In a show of perseverance and heart, the Vikings sought to leave everything on the pitch. The Viking’s players began to put a coordinated and energetic pressure on the Saints deep in their own half forcing them into misplaced passes and long dead clearances. The Vikings created some good chances with Ed and Eric linking well in the forward line and having great success out-muscling, out-maneuvering and out-playing the ragged Saints. The Vikings had a foothold in the Saints half for the remainder of the game and they showed an insatiable and extremely admirable thirst for work that resulted in them earning some ideally placed set pieces and corners.
Here this saga takes a dark turn. Where the Saints proved efficient in finishing their first half chances from set pieces, the Vikings spurned several glorious opportunities to add to their goal return. Two in particular were horrendous and they in themselves earned the author of this report the honour of writing this report. The first a sublime delivery from Sergio Ramos found Miah Wright who had eluded his marker with some deft feet. The effort from two yards was, simply put, embarrassing. Doing his best Edward Cascarino impression, Miah Wright headed the ball clear over the bar from point blank range. The second was much the same. Same delivery, same deliverer, same deliveree…..same destination clear over the bar from point blank range. Unsurprisingly, the vote for turkey later that evening in Hem Chill was not a tight one.
What’s next for these teams? The Vikings will look to learn from this game and they will seek to bounce back quickly with a win next week against the challenging prospect of the Fighting Cocks FC. Even though pre-season hasn’t produced the greatest results for this team, everyone is aware that there are many positives to take. We have continued to improve with each game. We have begun to look more like the team that finished last season. There is a justified positive atmosphere around the squad and there is an optimism about what this team can achieve this year. The real start to the season is Sunday and you write the Vikings off at your peril.
For the Saints? ……. Who cares!