University of Bristol Men's 2nd XI vs Swindon Home
In spite of Scott Darroch’s best efforts to inflict injury on each member of the 2s squad in the previous night’s training , the team entered the Fortress with a unusual degree of expectation. A tireless performance against UWE the previous week, an emphatic dismantling of Swansea , and the magnificent news that George Sleath was absent, instilled a rare sense of hope.
It was with little surprise, however, that within minutes the 2s had fallen behind. Archie Stirling’s decision to let the ball run through to a Swindon forward at the back post was as questionable as the defence’s decision, later in the game, to let this exceptionally slow man run first man at short corners. Though Archie cannot be blamed for the concession of each corner in the match, his inability to reach the penalty spot by the time the ball had been struck from the top, exposed the physical limitations of this often ridiculed individual.
A wave of shock swept the Dingle minutes later, as a 2s short corner was actually converted. More scandalous still, Stirling himself was the man responsible. Admittedly, he did top the ball to the point he almost missed an open goal, and yes, the umpires did have to deliberate extensively as to whether they should award a goal to such a peculiar figure, but award it they did, and 2s had drawn level.
In a season where half -time team talks have often ignited a deluge of goals for the opposing team, it proved an eerie spectacle that Oliver’s lecture today preceded a genuine physical deluge. Eerier still, and completely unlike Oliver’s lectures, the monsoon worked to the 2s’advantage. Swindon’s slick passing slowed to sedate, bobbling interchanges, of which the 2s have proven themselves masters, and as the ball was bundled into the opposition’s area, Josh Phillips swept home from close distance.
Although Sleath’s return shall be met comprehensive sorrow, and I, in no way, wish to advocate it, the 2s began to lack energy, which George can occasionally provide. Tired, cold, and exceptionally wet*, Bristol struggled to match Swindon’s movement, and poor marking allowed Swindon to draw level, and then take the lead with ten minutes remaining.
A decision not to award a short corner in the closing seconds of the game ignited uproar throughout the Dingle complex; nevertheless, Bristol should take heart from a game in which they could easily have been humiliated. Credit must go to Callum for denying a series of short corners, and earned his third man-of-the-match award in as many games. It seems the way forward is clear: More Heath, less Sleath.
* Ambiguity alert. Yes, we were all physically wet, but far less so than Richard Elston, who after being tapped on the head at Friday’s training, reacted like a soppy fanny.
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