Match Report: Pembroke Wanderers 2 - 1 Wicklow on 12th Apr 2013

As we reached the final league game of the 2013 season with the league title secured Wicklow, were playing to complete a 100% season. The game starting at 8:30 on a Friday there was a tough evening ahead for the team along with much controversy.

A squad of 13 assembled at Serpertine Avenue ready for a hard battle and looking forward to playing on the excellent water based pitch. The team that lined up consisted of Collie in goals, Maccer left back, Trevor and Forbes in the centre and Pete on the right. Stephen Adams captained the side in his usual left mid birth, with Nick Harris centre and Ritchie out right. Up front Ruairi, Nick and Eoin.  Dave Curran graciously taking on whistle duties for the first half, Andy being the impact sub.

The visitors tipped off the game and started brightly with some good fluid passing driving straight at the heart of Pembroke's defence, a last minute tackle breaking the move down and setting up a counter attack. Thus began a very open game with both teams switching from defence to attack in a blink of the eye, Wicklow making some good moves down their right with an excellent tackle going in to prevent Eoin entering the circle. Pembroke playing with 4 across the midfield, worked effectively in crowding the midfield making it difficult to find a path through. Their right side proving most profitable for them with their right wing putting Maccer under pressure before a timely tackle by Forbes brought the move to a halt.

A good move up the left through Steve saw Nick latch onto a ball at the top of the circle and win the first penalty corner of the game following a mistimed tackle. Unable to stop the ball quick enough, the Pembroke defence broke down the corner and stormed up the Wicklow right with Pete cutting the ball out over the side line. With Pembroke pushing just two forwards up the pitch, Trevor found himself in a relatively free role and pushed up into midfield to help make up numbers and saw a good amount of play as Wicklow pressed the home side back into their half however it was proving difficult to break down the opposition defence, Wicklow struggling to find the same cutting edge seen in earlier games. A number of unforced errors ultimately handing possession back to Pembroke on a number of occasions.

With ten minutes to go in the first half Pembroke opened the scoring through their second short corner, whilst not known at the time the difference between the two sides (as is the case in the modern game) would be in this department. Pembroke executed a well drilled routine the defence runners unable to get enough pressure on the top of the circle and slipped a pass for the wide left attacker to latch onto before Trevor could get to the ball and finished in style past Collie. The second time in two games Wicklow went behind first and despite upping the effort that is the way the score stayed until half time.

The half time break gave Wicklow the opportunity to assess the situation and the stark reality was much more effort was needed in supporting the player on the ball enabling further options. Players tended to get isolated with no obvious pass on to maintain possession, something which had been present for the past couple of games. If Wicklow were to get something out of this game then it was essential the team got back to basics, up the work rate, look for the simple pass and stretch the play.

After a rousing team talk the team came out ready to up their game for the second half and set about their task with gusto. An enforced change through injury meant Woody taking up the right wing birth with Ruairi moving into right mid Dave Curran and Andy fitting in at the back as Pete Thompson resumed as Ref. Nick Harris  started to see more of the ball and looked to switch play quickly spreading the ball out right searching for Ruairi or Eoin. Eoin started to get the better of his marker made a scorching run inside and across the top of the circle until his control let him down and Pembroke broke again until Trevor blocked the advancing right wing leading to some interesting words from the Pembroke player who was clearing beginning to lose his cool.

For me the highlight of the game in terms of skill was when Nick playing centre forward seized onto a ball left of centre midway between the halfway and 25, swiftly turned and went on a mazey run leaving player after player in his wake as he burst into the circle narrowly missing the target. The move deserving of a goal gave Wicklow heart and they began to dominate possession which brought forth the equaliser shortly after. Eoin receiving the ball wide right cut inside and drove into the circle drawing the keeper to that side, he slipped a ball across for Woody to finish off much to the relief of the team. The score now 1-1 and game on.

This was Wicklow's best period of the game and saw two golden opportunites to take the lead spurned.  Some great play by Ritchie and a follow up pass to Nick in circle ended up with a mistimed shot sliced wide of the goal. Then perhaps the chance of the game, with the Pembroke keeper stranded on his near post the ball broke to Eoin near the centre of the goal  as he attempted to sweep the ball into the goal a bobble took the ball over his stick and slide out harmlessly over the end line.

Into the final quarter of the match the game finely poised at 1-1, as Pembroke regrouped and coming back into the game things descended into chaos. As their right wing advanced centrally towards the Wicklow 25, Trevor tackled him and won the ball, not giving up the Pembroke player attempted to win the ball backas Trevor pushed the ball beyond him, the Pembroke player unceremoniously pushed out of the way. As Trevor retrieved the ball to take the free Neil Bandari lashed his stick out, narrowly missing the back of the centre backs head. Various players got involved as tension bubbled over leading to the Pembroke player given his marching orders and Stephen Adams a green card both teams down to ten.

Following the resumption of normal time the game became more and more fragmented, an injury to a Pembroke player in his circle resulting in several minutes of attention. Both teams fighting to the end to win the game, it was ultimately two refereeing decisions that decided the game. In the final minute a Wicklow move broke down, Pembroke moved the ball into the centre of the pitch their player knocking the ball off their foot which in should have been seen by the home ref which was in clear view on his side of the pitch. The ball subsequently fed into the left side of Wicklow's circle and as Trevor moved in for the tackle the ball was played off his foot for the last short corner of the game. The final whistle blew leaving Pembroke with the last chance to win the game.

As the ball was pushed out initially Wicklow did well to get their runners to the top of the circle, blocking the first time shot however the ball was slipped to the left and a mistimed slap hit beat Forbes on the right hand post and fell to the advancing Pembroke player who blatently slapped it home with the reverse side of the stick. Unsurprisingly this lead to uproar amongst the defending players, the home referee doing the right thing and discussing the incident with his opposite number. With neither ref in clear sight of the offense the goal was awarded leading to celebrations amongst the Pembroke contigent and while understandable, some unsporting scenes from the Wicklow team. Several "hand bag" moments ensued until things calmed down and the Wicklow team left the pitch suffering their first league defeat of the season.

In hindsight while a very disappointing result in truth a draw would have been a fair result for both sides. Pembroke played the better passing game with some nice triangular movements on occasion and the better penalty corner routine. While Wicklow had struggled with their passing game, missed some golden chances to take the lead and suffered from indiscipline which negated the man advantage the team could have enjoyed.

In reflection though this has been a tremendous season for a squad that came together (with several new faces) way back in September and cruised through the league. This result should not take away from the achievements of the team who deserved promotion and achieved it. With the Walters cup semi final against YMCA on Sunday the 15th of April and the Minor Cup final on the 20th in Kildare, there are still further opportunities for silverware to complete a fantastic season.