With a vastly depleted pool of squad members to select from, the 1st Team managed to scramble to their second victory of the league campaign against a Portuguese side that were near on full strength following their own shortage of numbers over the summer holiday period.
Youngster Dan Birrell retained his place in goal and put in a vastly improved performance. Sam Habin, Stratford, McKenna and Lucas Parker formed a decent rear guard with Jorge Marques, Matt Dixon and newest signing Andy Esson in a midfield three. Returning from injury, Marco Da Assuncao provided an effective outlet on the left, Kamen Nafkha, embracing his new found responsibility with the armband, offered his typical energy on the right, with Harrison Moon leading the line.
In what was a reasonably uneventful, evenly fought first half, the main talking point was the sending off of Matt Dixon for violent conduct after half an hour. As players from both sides grappled with each other prior to delivery of an attacking free kick into the Portuguese penalty area, there appeared to be an initial kick out aimed towards the Wanderers’ tallest threat and, after consultation with his linesman, referee Rob Timm produced a red card which was difficult to dispute.
After the break, with the rain now becoming heavier, the slicker surface suited Wanderers better and, with superior fitness levels beginning in evidence, they looked the more likely of the two to take the lead. With ten minutes on the clock of the second half, Moon did really well to steer a headed effort on goal into the Portuguese net, only to be ruled offside.
The first change saw the introduction of Tommy Buchanan to his usual left back position, Esson being withdrawn, and Lucas Parker taking up a more central role. It wasn’t long before Parker’s experience started to shine through with some controlled build up play and good utilisation of possession, particularly on the left with the pace of Da Assuncao.
The goal eventually came after a wonderful individual run by Nafkha who, after leaving a number of the opposition in his wake, delivered an inviting ball for Moon to add the touch to divert past the oncoming goal keeper and into the Portuguese net for the second time.
Portuguese made a change of their own, but in a bizarre turn of events, their substitute lasted all of 20 seconds before his two footed tackle was met with a red card and that young man’s afternoon was over prematurely.
As Portuguese sought an equaliser it was still Wanderers that looked the more likely to add to the score. On the break, it was again Nafkha who carried the ball forward down the right hand side. With a number of options at his disposal, he drove with the ball further into the Portuguese box drawing a rash lunge from the defender. Nafkha was duly grounded, the referee pointed to the spot and Moon confidently struck home the penalty into the roof of the net.
All in all, a workman like performance that was enough to take the points. Particular praise should go to those that came in who didn’t let anyone down and to Harrison Moon who, game by game, is showing positive signs and continuing to score those all important goals.