LSBUFC recover from a first half deficit to obliterate Essex thirds and reach the quarter finals
Facing the prospect of a team with exactly the same record as them this season, only in a higher league. LSBU once again faced the daunting prospect of a team a division above them. On what was on paper, their toughest game of the season in reality was a mismatch with the supposed lower division team putting a shoddy and largely toothless opposition to the sword.
It was an insult to the scoreboard as much as a shock to the system that South Bank walked in at half time one-nil down, Essex having pounced on a rare defensive mistake to take a shock and undeserved lead. But in what can only be described as a right old rollicking at half time had the effect of producing two goals in two minutes on two occasions within the first ten minutes of the second half. If the game was being played in a large stadium, fans returning late after their half time pie and pint could have easily not known the score had gone from 0-1 to 4-1 in a matter of moments.
The first half was an equivalent to a boxing match where one boxer lands blow after blow without getting the knockout whilst the other retreats to the corner, keeps his arms up and yet still manages to flatten his opponent once during the half. The initial onslaught started quickly, when James Leyton exchanged an excellent one-two with Kaylem Weadock on the edge of the box, working the ball to a tight angle, the shot was easily parried by the Essex keeper but still, it was an early warning shot.
A dangerous free kick from Amin Martinez was swung into the box. Rising above his marker was Connor Burrows whose header seemed goal bound until it was hooked clear, both of the goal and the onrushing Harry Thompson who was lurking at the back post. Burrows was finding little luck from excellent jumping, the resulting corner was beautifully floated in by Mo Gani. Burrows rose again, his header destined to find the net but for a good goal line clearance that left the South Bank players with their heads in their hands.
Piling forward and with Essex yet to settle at all and constantly losing possession in the final third of their own half, South Bank carved out yet another opportunity. A rather tame shot from the edge of the box from Ishmail was spilled by the keeper. However, Leyton who has already poached a couple of goals this season wasn’t quite able to clip the ball home, the Essex keeper making amends with a smart save. The ball was cleared for a matter of seconds before an excellent ball from Thompson found Martinez who dangerous cross just evaded Leyton. Falling unmarked at the back post, an onrushing Weadock attempted to volley home and was disappointed when the ball sailed over the bar and South Bank’s best chance so far had gone begging.
The next couple of chances denied to LSBU were the result, first of bad luck, then brilliant defending. Far out next to the sidelines. Left back Clive Sarireni lofted the ball into the box, surely what was meant as cross completely missed all of his teammates but the swirling ball dropped painfully onto the top of the crossbar bringing a sigh of relief for the floundering Essex keeper.
Only minutes later, after more brilliant play down the left from Weadock, he surged into the box having evaded an attempted tackle, cutting the ball back from the byline found Leyton. Believing he faced an open goal, he opened up his body and calmly slotted the ball towards goal. Having done everything right, the pain when the Essex defender brilliantly threw himself in front of the ball caused disbelief that South Bank were still level although, huge credit should be given to the Essex defender for a magnificent block.
Bad enough was it that South Bank had spurned so many chances. What came next was a cruel and unlucky blow. After a tackle on Darnell Depadrine in midfield that could easily have been given as a foul, the ball was played in behind Sarireni at full back, with minimum pressure behind him, his backpass to South Bank keeper Joe Cook was too light allowing the Essex frontman to take the ball around Cook and slot into an empty net to give Essex a lucky, unfortunate and underserved lead.
While it could have been that South Bank became deflated after such a sucker punch, as has been proved repeatedly throughout the season, their resilience rallied them and they continued to push forward, now in the search of an equaliser. Good work on the right by full back Bradley Baterip released Gani again. His deep cross was met by Weadock who skewed his volley into the path of Leyton. With his back to goal, he tried a speculative left-footed bicycle kick that just cleared the bar.
Leyton as always continued to be involved in most of South Bank’s attacking forays. He was unlucky, having latched onto a brilliant Ishmail pass to be flagged offside after applying a tidy finish. His long pass out to the right found the ever dangerous Gani who tricked his way around the full back with ease, his cross rebounded to Martinez lurking on the edge of the box but like Leyton before found his shot on goal changed down by the Essex defence.
As half time approached, South Bank launched one final attack. Burrows hoofed a huge volley downfield. The ball, swerving all over the place wasn’t cleared by the Essex centre back, eventually controlled by Leyton who rushed through on goal only to be met with an out coming goalkeeper who managed to kick the ball away from Leyton just outside the box where it rebounded kindly for the keeper to clear safely.
Upon the whistle for half time. The question “how on earth are we one-nil down” was asked with a lot more force and with choicer language than can be written. A half which had seen South Bank produce a level of dominance that could only be compared to the first half mauling of Middlesex where they scored four times without reply. In all honesty, if they had walked in at half time two-nil up, the team talk would likely have been pretty much the same. I.E – why are we not out of sight?
Much is credited to half time team talks. Whether it is justified as to if it does actually make a difference is up for debate. Today however, it wasn’t in doubt that South Bank heeded the warnings, both of what is expected of them and what was at stake for them. It took a matter of seconds to turn scoreline worry into scoreline delight. Stooping to direct a header from a long Essex pass into the pass of Martinez. His one touch laid it off to Ishmail who allowed it to run before unloading an unstoppable 25-yard rocket into the left corner. Coming straight from the Essex kick off after half time, they found themselves kicking off for the second time in 60 seconds. But they didn’t learn their lesson.
Losing possession in his own half to Depadrine, he looked up and attempted to play in Ishamil behind the centre back. What should have been a routine clearance skipped over his boot and Ishmail was able to walk the ball out to the right-hand side. Depadrine had stayed over and received the ball, looked up once again and picked out Weadock unmarked at the back post with a pinpoint cross leaving Weadock to head home well and within two minutes, South Bank went from one down to two one up.
After an entire half of pounded the Essex dam, LSBU ensured that when it burst, a flood would follow. A long clearance from Cook was excellent controlled by Leyton. Suddenly along with Ishmail to his left and the freshly introduced Callum Bedward to his right, South Bank found themselves with a three on one. Leyton chose left to Ishamil who almost effortlessly lifted the ball over the sole Essex defender to the marauding Bedward who with his first touch nodded the bouncing ball over the onrushing Essex keeper finishing a sublime move. From Cook’s kick to Leyton’s touch and pass, Ishmail’s sublime lobbed pass and Bedward’s deft and brave header. This was one of South Bank’s goals of the season purely because at no point did they allow the Essex defence to get close to them.
LSBU’s tackling this season as a whole has been both excellent and dangerous to opponents who have been caught napping and suddenly have to find themselves defending. Another recent substitute Pol Basso Pinol but in what is fast become a trademark challenge on the halfway line, robbing the ball, powering forward and finding Ishmail to his left with a precise pass. Allowing the ball to roll past him onto his left foot, he calmly slotted the ball past the keeper and gave South Bank an assured three goal lead.
South Bank were blessed this day to have top quality reserves on the bench, Bedward and Basso Pinol had already made their mark. Now the returning Matt Clarke was also introduced, his heaving run forward set up South Bank’s next chance, his pass to Leyton produced a snap shot that was blocked, another substitute Jack Haywood got to the loose ball first passing to Bedward on the left. He took aim and his looping shot was heading were it not for a good save from the Essex keeper who pushed it over the bar.
Seemingly content with 4-1 lead. South Bank stepped off the gas, whilst not an uncommon feature among cruising teams, it doesn’t seem to suit LSBU who started to get a little sloppy. Essex were unlucky when a great run into the box on the right saw a shot cannon of the left post. At that stage in the game with almost half an hour remaining, it could have been a dangerous end to the game. Another sloppy mistake followed. Thompson receiving a pass from Weadock attempted to pass first time, however it was charged down by the Essex striker who manoeuvred forward to goal, going clean through his shot was excellently saved by Cook. South Bank could only half clear before Essex found themselves one on one again but this time the weak shot was saved by Cook and the rebound which was perhaps an even easier chance was put wide. South Bank had survived a period of play that should have seen the scoreline narrow.
Essex did keep pushing and after having a goal ruled out for offside they got the goal they had been threatening. A long ball down the right was met by the Essex winger. He lobbed the ball over Cook who had come off his line in an attempt to meet the ball. The ball bobbled across the goal, Thompson attempted to clear but couldn’t quite hook it clear leaving a tap in at the far post. It was too little too late, but still an irritant to South Bank who had played and defended so well throughout the game.
However. Typical of South Bank all season, they responded with renewed attacking intent. The ball broke to Basso Pinol on the edge of the box, having weaved into the penalty area he set to shoot before the ball was knocked away from him, but only into the path of Ishmail who had a golden chance to seal his hat-trick, but his powerful shot cleared the bar.
As the game wound down, a handball by the Essex defender on the edge of the box gave South Bank a free kick that was perfectly set up for a left-footed strike. Naturally of course, up stepped Weadock. Whilst it certainly didn’t match his sublime free kick against Suffolk on the first day of the season, the skill to get a ball up and over a wall and on target is not an easy one to replicate. And yet again, the ball sailed over the ball and nestled into the bottom corner. The Essex keeper looked a little suspect in his attempt to save and the muted but happy celebrations seemed more a reflection that the day was a job well done.
The full-time whistle brought the game to an end on a thoroughly efficient days’ work. The nature of the goals conceded from two bits of sloppy play were annoying but not issues South Bank should be concerned about going forward for they were confident on the ball, and brilliant at winning back possession from an Essex team that will be disappointed in the nature of their defeat to a team a division below them. But as South Bank have proved three times already in the cup this season and will have to prove again against Chichester in February, facing higher league opposition means nothing because they will believe, rightly so, that they can beat anyone.