Wadham 2 – 3 Worcester

By Charles Walmsley

It’s fair to say that Worcester’s season has been sporadic. Aside from Cuppers, where they have yet to concede a goal thanks largely to their Blues contingent, they have failed to establish any kind of league form. That’s not to say their performances have been bad – last week’s 3-0 defeat to St Catz aside they’ve been unlucky not to win more. By contrast their opponents have enjoyed a much better season – before this game they had lost only once.

It came as a surprise then when Worcester started the game as though they were the side nine points clear at the top. Some fast football in midfield and hopeful balls from Liam Steward-George were rewarded with a corner, from which Sam Poulson dutifully snuck a touch to put his side one – nil up after only five minutes. The early goal worked to free the game up with both sides frequently testing the other’s keeper with long range efforts.

Wadham seemed to be playing a 4-2-3-1 with Elliot Miley and Chris Wright in particular causing problems for the defence by dropping off one another, allowing them space to run into. Worcester’s defence too often relied on last ditch tackles to deny their opponents’ attackers and this nearly gifted Wadham an equaliser, only for the away side to waste a two-on-one opportunity. Minutes later Worcester played their best football of the half as Phelan came sprinting from central midfield to lay the ball back to Von Hirsch, whose cross was only half cleared by Wadham captain Shane Grosser. Worcester left back Marcus Maxwell thundered a volley back into the box which Evans took down brilliantly, turning on the edge of the box to fire a shot into the bottom corner.

Two – nil up and Worcester were beginning to look comfortable. Another Steward-George corner caused more problems for Jack Firth, nearly putting the game beyond doubt before half time. However Worcester’s inconsistences once again showed themselves as they began to lose shape at the back and in central midfield. The use of the attacking four simply confused Worcester as the Wadham attack increasingly worked themselves into the space between the midfield and defence. First a sprint down Wadham’s right wing from Miley opened up the Worcester back line, leaving the imaginatively named ‘Neal the Barman’ to pull one back.

Suddenly Worcester were rattled and Wadham found more and more time and space to create chances. A good tackle from Ben Sloman resulted in a corner just before half time, giving Wadham a chance to go into half time level. The Worcester defence failed to clear and the ball dropped to Jeremy Stothardt on the edge of the box, who blasted the ball past Green to equalise. The remainder of the half was played out in Wadham’s terms , with Worcester desperate for a respite and the chance to regroup.

Coming out for the second half Worcester were clearly more determined. Early tackles from captain Mark Isaacs and fellow centre back Nick Booth set the tone for a half they would dominate from the back. After only two minutes Steward-George was fouled about forty yards out. Worcester’s clear height advantage paid dividends as Scott-Taylor flicked the ball on to Poulson who scored at the back post.

Defensively Isaacs’ side were excellent in the second period, reducing Wadham to a handful of chances. Marcus Maxwell and Sloman in particular were solid, not allowing the wingers to exploit space as they had done at the end of the first half. Only twice did Wadham  really test Green and it was only in the 86th minute when a shot cruelly came off the post, that he was truly beaten. With two minutes remaining Wadham threw everything forward, but long balls simply allowed Isaacs and Booth to clear, and when the final whistle went Worcester were worthy winners.

PHOTO/HONGBIN XIA

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