FC played their 3rd friendly in 5 days and it was a bridge too far in some senses as a depleted squad surrendered a lead then conceded a flurry of late goals.
Reno’s Reds travelled to the heart of Merseyside for the last of the away friendlies, just two days after the intensity of the bank holiday fixture against Clitheroe and it showed, with a number of injuries meaning that Reno had to rely on his players playing more than 45 minutes, as well as several trialists and some Academy players.
The game started off at a fairly frantic pace where both sides struggled to get hold of the ball, FC had the best of the early exchanges with Fowler leading the line in a typically robust fashion, forcing the first real chance of the game after he charged the goalkeeper down, the ball squirming away to Fin whose first time shot from the wing was good, and forced the Marine #1 into a save as he scrambled to his left and put it out for the corner. The corner came in and reached Fowler who turned but couldn’t get his shot past a lunging challenge from a committed Marine defender - as is the case some times the block wasn’t seen by the referee and the GK was given. FC continued to assert themselves in the first quarter of an hour, stretching the play as the ball was played from wing to wing with Sinclair-Smith and Linney hugging the touchline, the home side playing an ’away game’ - sitting deep then bursting forward.
On 17 mins a free kick after an unneccesary FC challenge gave the home side a free kick in a great position, it was taken direct and was almost a superb effort, it beat Martin in the FC goal but was an inch too far to the right and smacked off the inside of the post and across the goal, still with some momentum as the FC contingent held their breath as it went straight across and then cleared.
FC shook themselves down and returned to their previous tempo, forcing another save from the Marine goalie who had an impressive game, quickly out whenever needed to smother the ball on the outskirts of his area. The game settled into an entertaining phase of both sides taking turns to attack then defend, the ball being played forward quickly on the transitions, FC shading the chances in terms of volume but Marine’s looking perhaps the more potent. Martin was called into action on the half hour as he had to sprint out of his box to clear a ball from no-mans-land otherwise he’d have been facing a one on one, great anticipation.
As the game approached half time the FC trialist playing centre half took a knock and Liv had to run on, that stoppage pretty much concluded the first half other than a late challenge from Griffiths on a Marine player which ordinarily would have seen a card from the ref, it wasn’t malicious and looked more like the challenge of a player suffering a little fatigue.
The second half saw the first of the FC changes as David Chadwick came on to set another record, playing in the most different seasons and also the oldest player to represent FC in a game at a spritely 43. Another of the half time subs was FC Academy product Sandro Da Costa who found himself on the wing in space and directed a defence splitting cross onto the edge of the 6 yard area where Sinclair Smith athletically out-leapt the two central defenders to flick the ball over the stranded goalkeeper into the far side netting, giving FC a lead that didn’t flatter them.
FC then looked good for a second as the Marine defence seemed to develop some uncertainty and the fresh legs of FC up front kept up the impetus, but it they failed to capitalise and the Marine players got back into it, Martin was called to make a point blank save on the edge of his area on 67 mins but after that FC’s back line started to unravel, first he was played a weak pass which he could only partly smother before the Marine #11 swept home the equaliser on 70. This roused FC who then had two great chances in a few minutes, the best of which was a fierce shot from the impressive Sinclair Smith which was just touched onto the bar by the equally impressive Marine shot-stopper.
FC seemed likely to get back into the lead but a tired back pass gave the Marine #11 another easy chance and he had a straightforward finish with Martin completely exposed. That goal seemed to sap more energy out of the FC side who were by now facing a substitute trialist who had plenty of energy and was willing to run into dangerous areas at any opportunity, one such foray led to a corner and the FC defence just didn’t organise itself so the Marine #6 had a relatively straighforward header to take the game beyond FC, though the Reds did rouse themselve for a late charge, which Chadwick rattling the crossbar with a thunderous header after the home goalie managed to divert it off it’s goalbound trajectory
If the scoreline flattered the home side at that point, salt was rubbed into the wounds after a couple of FC forays forward when another dash forward set up another chance for the Trialist sub for Marine who launched a rocket past Martin who didn’t deserve to concede four, but at times found himself completely exposed.
The game was never a 4-1 game, but Marine took advantage of an FC side that had played 3 games in 5 days and lost quite a few players to knocks on the dawn of the season, Reno right to rest the likes of Doyle and Jonesas we look forward to the 19th, but before that, two big challenges back at Broadhurst.
Report by Tim Browning
Man of the match: Finlay Sinclair Smith. Once again an energetic performance, put the defence on the back foot whenever he got the ball and converted possibly the hardest chance of the game to give FC the lead.