Great sunny morning for a hike up the M1 to the metropolis of Dunstable. AFC have got off to a great start in the EJA with a good reputation and clearly this was going to be a tough encounter.
The gaffer went with a 4-2-3-1formation …the key being the central defensive midfield pairing and three attacking players behind the lone striker…and so it turned out with both those positions proving key, along with some superbly organised and at times last ditch defending.
But Hill prevailed 3-2 against a very strong side. While some observers may say a draw was fair…I think Hill just edged it for their determination to hold one….a marked difference to last week.
From the off Hill looked a much livelier, focused and determined team than last week and an early warning in the first two minutes where Hill allowed them down the right but the shot struck the post, Hill got stuck in. On 4 minutes, Procter had a well struck shot saved which fell to Brookes whose lively dribble resulted in a free kick that just went over. On 10 minutes, a good exchange between Redhead and Procter created the opening for a cross / shot that just drifted over the bar.
13 mintes and H. Barrett stepped out of defence for a superb tackle which really turned the AFC defence and allowed the effervescent Brookes, playing in the no. 10 role to break free and hit a sighter, just over. 1 minute later however and his earlier shot practice paid off. The ball is played forward by Hill in the air. Redhead rises well and plays on a nice flicked header which finds BROOKES 20 yards out. He collects, flicks the ball up and volleys straight into the bottom corner with the keeper rooted to the spot. No chance. Hill 1-0.
On 18 minutes the lead is doubled and Hill looking good value. Redhead gets the ball in a seemingly impossible position down near the corner flag, manages to get outside and round the full-back and lifts a cross into PROCTER who heads home well from 6 yards. 2-0.
It’s at this stage that AFC have subbed their main threat as the organisation and strength of Jessop and Jethva are proving to strong for him. Hill well on top and looking good. Some superb one touch football down the left and into the middle leaves the AFC defenders flat footed, but the final pass just breaks down. Then on 22 minutes G. Johnson takes a nice free kick into the far side of the box. REDHEAD collects and drills home low into the far corner. Half time leaves Hill in a good 3-0 lead. However with the slope in their favour and some strong words in their ear we fully expect AFC to start the second half brighter and so it proves.
Foe the first few minutes AFC really put on the pressure and are looking to get back into the game. Then on 10 minutes Brookes collects in the middle and goes on a superb run beating two or three players and sliding in a sublime ball for Swann who strikes a lovely shot across goal and only just denied by the outstretched keepers leg. That would certainly have put the game out of sight, but still leaves AFC hope.
S. Barratt was going to have to make some saves in the second half and the first of them came on 14 minutes with a well struck 25 yard effort tipped brilliantly over the bar. However on 19 minutes AFC get a deserved breakthrough. Hill defence is under some sustained pressure and three chances to clear are not taken. This leaves the AFC 17 who is proving a real handful since coming back on, with a cross shot opportunity that finds the far corner. 3-1.
3 minutes later and Hill are really up against it as a lovely 25 yard shot proves just too powerful 3-2.
From that point on it’s backs to the wall stuff. AFC pushing pushing, Hill resisting well. Some great saves from S. Barrett, some superb defending from the combination of King, Jessup, Jethva and Harrison see Hill through to what should have been full time. The ref announces 5 mins to go. Hill slow the play down, try to break the rhythm and hold on, which, despite the ref playing more like 7 or 8 minutes added time they do. Great win and much needed. Now back to he London cup next Friday.
Big thank you and well done to the AFC players, fans and officials all of whom take a hard fought defeat with great sportsmanship and spirit and who are superb hosts.