UEA 0-1 Easton FC
UEA’s footballers were frustrated by a strong Easton FC at Colney Lane in their fourth fixture of the season in the local Anglian Combination Division 1.
The visitors, one of the league’s early pace-setters, were looking for a reaction after a 6-1 League Cup defeat the previous week while UEA, who won 2-0 at Blofield to progress to the next round, had been averaging over two goals scored per game.
After a minute’s silence observed in honour of Anglian Combination referee Steve Boddy who passed away last week, the first half was an even affair. UEA looked lively down both flanks, using their pacy widemen to fashion attacks from the back, although there were few gilt-edged chances created for UEA’s forwards. UEA’s Luke Young was a constant threat with several marauding runs.
Their defence managed to play the offside trap well against the Easton College-based visitors, with UEA’s high defensive line restricting them mostly to shots from range.
The visiting goalkeeper picked up an injury, and after half an hour had to be substituted. In a quirk of local football, owing to the lack of available away players, he was replaced by his manager Chris Brownbridge, who also happened to be the previous No1 before taking the hotseat and guiding his side to Division 2 promotion last term.
UEA then failed to pounce on a parried free-kick which bounced dangerously but was smothered by Brownbridge.
Both sides had a whiff of goal, with a pair of Easton free-kicks amounting to nothing and the impressive Mohammed Hassan trying to lob Brownbridge but only finding the roof of the net.
Soon after, UEA had the ball in the net through Young, but it was ruled out for an earlier infringement and the teams went into the break goalless.
As the second half progressed, the Easton team were getting increasingly frustrated with some of the refereeing decisions.
UEA goalkeeper Tom Smith made a stunning double save to keep the scores level, batting away a deflected shot off-balance with his trailing hand and holding on to the second effort. He was then equal to another dangerous strike from range.
However, he was unable to keep out a header from George Crowe to put Easton ahead, directing a fierce cross just inside the far post and beyond the hapless UEA stopper.
UEA kept pushing for the final half hour, but a pair of corners came and went – UEA hitting the side netting with one – and several free-kicks in promising positions sailed over as the home team were continually frustrated and prevented from getting any clear chances despite a period of good possession.
As they held on, Easton’s defence were outstanding, snuffing out any hint of UEA danger. Lewis Wardell was immense, using his physicality and intercepting a number of UEA through balls.
Despite their relatively young average age, Easton are a team full of experienced local footballers, and they started to get under UEA’s skins. Any hope of a comeback was effectively extinguished when the hosts had a man sent off for an altercation with an Easton player – a silly and completely avoidable loss of discipline which saw a headbutt and push.
In local football, a young, skilful team like UEA can’t be affected by the gamesmanship and niggles from stronger, more physical and experienced players. On this occasion they were, giving newly-appointed Head of Football Paul Neary food for thought.
The team travel to Manchester this week to train with coaches from United and play against the Carrington scholars. Neary is still working on putting his mark on the squad and is keen on introducing more strength and conditioning training to get the most out of his young charges. He said: “the more professional an environment you can make it, the better it’s going to be for the lads.”
Neary told Concrete: “Today wasn’t acceptable and it won’t happen again. They know that.”
After the match, continued Neary, the team discussed “Negotiables and non-negotiables. Expectation, mindset, teamwork.
“We need to talk about in-game management, how we move the ball about in possession, what we do in transition. We need to not get involved in any mind activities from the opposition side and concentrate on what we’re doing, not get distracted.”
“If you go 1-0 down, it’s always going to happen in football, it’s about how you react to that, you look for positive reactions. That was a game where you need your leaders to stand forward. You find out who your leaders are.
“It’s a work ethic you need to have. Play with intensity and quality, and you’ve got to have work-rate. If the work rate’s not there you’re going to struggle.
“We had a couple of free-kicks that we could have tested the goalkeeper with, especially as a reserve goalkeeper when he came on – I don’t think we tested him at all.
“Whatever we’ve learnt up in Manchester, I want to emulate that here. The ethos, the values, the never giving up attitude. Hopefully [soon] you’ll see a more fluid team play, a more attacking, creative side, fearless of making a mistake.”
Meanwhile, the reserves took their first step towards a prestigious Carrow Road final with a 9-1 win away at Bohemians in their first Norfolk Junior Cup match of the season, with Jody Scowcroft netting four goals in Great Yarmouth.