Match Report
Repton School 3rd XI vs  Ockbrook School Boys-U18A
On: Tuesday, 24 Sep 2019
Venue: at Home

Mair
Scutt?
Lewis
Thompson-Dykes

If Thursday’s game against Twycross was nothing less than bizarre, today’s affair was rather more predictable, in a number of ways.

To put in in some sort of historical context, it probably has more significance than the Pyrrhic victory of Viscount Dundee against the Hannoverian forces of Hugh Mackay in the gorge of Killiecrankie on July 27th, 1689, but certainly less than the Declaration of Arbroath that preceded it by 349 years.

One can only hope that it proves less ill-fated than the Darien Scheme of 1698.

A scratch 3rds/4ths team, who had never played together previously, and with players rotating throughout the game, did enough to remain in firm control of this match, and, if anything, were good value for the 4-0 scoreline. In the end, our fitness and street-smarts, and the natural ability and leadership of key individuals moved the tide inexorably in our favour, and a couple of early goals settled nerves and ensured that an upset was never likely to happen. At the same time, the same warning signs that had flashed so clearly in our previous fixture were perhaps put into even more stark relief by the quality of our opposition.

In the sort of conditions more normally associated with the away terrace at Stair Park, Stranraer, we elected to kick up the hill in the first half, and, in contrast to Thursday’s game, spent most that period camped in Ockbrook’s half. We dominated possession, and our goals were very much with the run of play, as Ockbrook asked few questions of us. At the back, Gleb Tverdokhlebov – and how lucky are we to have at our disposal two GENUINELY WORLD CLASS ‘keepers, in him and Owen Randall? – marshalled his back four imperiously, pulling the strings like a footballing, latter-day Fagin. In front of him, Tom Dunn, a god descended among mortals, directed our defence and allowing those around visibly to grow several inches during the course of the game. Unequivocally our most unrecognisably improved player since last season. We never looked vulnerable at the back.

That said, for all our dominance, we were allowing some sloppiness into our game, hanging on to the ball for too long in the centre of midfield, and not moving it out quickly enough to the flanks, where Nikita Nefedov, an out-and-out paceman, was waiting to terrorise Ockbrook’s right-back.

I suppose that it is metaphysically not impossible that there may come an afternoon when James Murphy, Alex Mair and Oli Scutt do not give unalloyedly – nay, paradigmatically - committed and circumspect performances for the 3rds.
Should I detect such an anomaly occurring, I shall give the signal, which will be to HAVE ME SECTIONED UNDER THE MENTAL HEALTH ACT (1983).

James, Oli and Alex were, once again, superb this afternoon, but elsewhere on the pitch we lacked urgency, not recycling the ball with the tempo needed both to retain it and to stretch Ockbrook, instead getting bogged down in heavy traffic in the middle of the park. At other times, we simply did not press ball-carriers enough, forcing the spills that we could have exploited – we did not seem to have learnt from Thursday. In truth, it was not easy to raise our game above the conditions and the tests we faced on the pitch, but too often this game had the tinge of a House League match. If we repeat these mistakes against stronger opponents in the near and not-so-near future, they are unlikely to be so forgiving.

As the game progressed, it was good to see players new to the side, such as Sam Turner, Toby Brown, Joe Jacques and Alec Bramall, grow in confidence, and we developed some more fluency, with Josh Thompson-Dykes distinguishing himself with a powerful shot from the edge of the area, and Toby unlucky not to score himself, as he bravely chased a ball into the box.

This is the makings of a strong side – if we can get the basics right, and maximise our strengths, we will be able to compete in every match. If we become careless of thought or execution, we will live to regret it.

Will we, like Charles Edward Louis Casimir Maria Stuart on the beach at Eriskay, be able to say proudly, “I am come home”?