CROWS SCORE THREE IN SUCCESSIVE MATCHES.
By Malcolm Boyes
Blair put to the sword on a blustery day.
Clean sheet a deserved added bonus.
In the end the Crows coped better with the pitch and the blustery wind, which blew across the pitch for the whole game, to come away from the Star Meadow Sports Ground and bring all three points back with them to the Community Stadium.
Upon arriving at the ground both teams knew that it would be a difficult pitch to play on, as it slopes from one goal to the other and on the diagonal from one corner flag to the other. It didn't help that the wind was also blowing from the high corner flag towards the lower corner flag, so any pass or ball hit that way just sailed off the pitch and in to the unknown.
The home side won the toss and decided to kick down hill and with the wind assisting them the Crow players knew they were in for a tough 45 minutes, their backs being against the proverbial wall and the need to defend deep and as a whole team from back to front, a necessity.
The bounce of the ball was catching both sets of players out, of course Blair are more used to the surface, therefore, if they were finding it difficult, it's not surprising the Crows were either. Because of the pitch and weather conditions, the first half, for 44 minutes at least, was pretty non-eventful in all honesty, the ball mainly being fought for in the midfield area or spending a large amount of time flying through the air.
Neither goalkeeper was troubled to make a save of any note during the 44 minutes and neither was the referee it seemed unfortunately, as he allowed some dodgy fouls and pushes, from both sides, to go unpunished and when a free kick was awarded the cards remained firmly locked away, never to see the light of day during this first period.
Parchmont out on the left wing came in for some robust tackles on more than one occasion and didn't receive much protection as the full back and two centre halves took in turns to try and clear the ball from behind him, he thus ending up laying on the grass whilst play carried on around him.
As the half entered added on time the Crows were having their best spell of the half, putting the home defence under some concerted pressure and good play involving Leppard, Parchmont and Onyenze led to the latter putting the ball in to the area and despite Blair having a couple of chances to clear, it fell to Leppard some 22 yards out and he rifled a shot in to the bottom corner of the net for 1-0 Crows.
With barely enough time to restart, the final whistle of the half blew and it was the Crows who looked forward to their half time beverage far more than the home side were going to I'm sure. There's no doubt the home side had the greater amount of possession during the half but they never really threatened that much although they perhaps would have thought they were slightly unfortunate to go in 1-0 down.
The talk at the break revolved around would the Crows make better use of the slope and the wind in the second half, better anyway than Blair when they had the chance. Also, will the referee be able to keep his cards firmly under wraps and be just as tolerant this period as he was in the first.
Whilst the answer to the first point remained to be seen, within four minutes we had our answer regarding the second, no he won't be able to, as Leppard saw a yellow card for a foul or dissent, we're not quite sure but a yellow card was brandished.
Only a further two minutes later and another yellow card was issued, this time to Carbune, again for dissent apparently, as he questioned the assistant referee as to why he gave a corner when he was quite clearly pushed in the back whilst shielding the ball out of play. The assistant referee drawing this apparent misdemeanour to the referee's attention.
The second period was more even than the first, although the Blair did come out of the dressing room fired up and had the better of the Crows for the first ten minutes or so. Gradually the Crows got in to the half and looked the more likely team to score again and comfortable in defence.
In the 63rd minute Parchmont went off to be replaced by new signing Scantlebury and I'm sure the substitution was made to save Parchmont from suffering a bad injury following a tackle.
The Crows thought they had increased their lead in the 67th minute when following a good move the ball came over in to the Blair six yard area and Bankole beat the goalie to head it in to the net. However, it seems he handled the ball in to the net and it was disallowed, incurring Bankole a yellow card, a third one for the Crows on the day.
At the same time Blair made their first change, Whittaker departing the pitch, Garlinge replacing him as the home side looked to get an equaliser and give themselves a chance to may be win the game. However, that hoped was dashed in the 75th minute when a surging run by Bankole in to the Blair area was abruptly halted by a rash tackle by the left back, Bearman-Dyce, which earned him a yellow card and the Crows a penalty. As on Tuesday against Bearsted, the penalty taking duties fell to Funnell and the same technique was deployed, the ball flashing past Warford before he had barely a chance to move, 2-0 Crows.
Not long after the second goal Onyenze had a great chance to make it 3-0 when he was set free and managed to round the keeper but his effort from an acute angle hit the side netting rather than the back of the net.
The referee then found his yellow card again in the 82nd minute as Dampier, the Blair captain, eventually saw yellow for another foul, therefore, becoming the second Blair booking.
With time running out, Edwards was replaced by Jackson for the home side, whilst the hardworking Onyenze, who had a superb game, was replaced by another new signing, Masikini. This proved to be an inspired substitution by the Crows management as Masikini put a great through ball for Funnell to shoot inside the area, but whilst the shot was saved it fell kindly to Scantlebury who gleefully put the ball in to the net for 3-0 Crows and the points were safe.
In added on time Leppard was given the ovation he deserved from the supporters of the Crows as he departed to be replaced by Welsh in the 91st minute. In the end a great 3-0 win, a clean sheet which is an added bonus and six points out of six from successive league games.
The whole back line played well, Leppard worked hard throughout, covering every blade of grass and Onyenze always looked dangerous when he had the ball and worked tirelessly throughout. However, with the backline of Killick, Jules, Carbune and Penfold playing so well and looking solid throughout, the player of the match award went to Max Carbune for his outstanding performance over the whole game.