Set piece hell for Cooper
15 August 2006
Lambs boss Mark Cooper made four changes to the side that lost their opening day fixture against Weymouth on Saturday. Kyle Storer, Gary Birch, Tom Kemp all found themselves on the bench at the expense of Jon Stevenson, Matt Williams and Graeme Law while Alan Neilson came in for Emmet Friars- away on international duty with Ireland. The Lambs had never won at The Fleet in three attempts over consecutive seasons – going down 2-0 at each attempt and were looking to break the duck at the fourth attempt.
Stevenson showed willing as early as the first minute with a jinking cross and run down the right and a lofted shot onto the top of Lance Cronin’s bar.
A long ball from Neilson on 3 found Stevenson, but Graham Ward couldn’t keep his shot down and cleared the stand from 15 yards.
On 7 minutes though, Stevenson conceded a free kick on the left wing. Jon Keeling launched the ball into the near post and Charlie MacDonald turned and shot across Sean Bowles. The ball stuck the far upright and rebounded into the goal to make it 1-0 to the home side leaving The Lambs once again on the back foot early on.
On 15 minutes Tamworth equalized in superb style. McGrath launched an inch perfect ball from the left wing to the right of the area and Stevenson hit it first time to send it curling in at the far post – 1-1 and it was almost 2-1 seconds later as Cronin misjudged a ball back to him and had to stop it almost on his own line before clearing.
Just passed the half hour mark Tamworth continued to try and exploit the vulnerability of the home keeper – this time the influential McGrath struck a freekick directly at Cronin and it was he could do to catch the ball at the second attempt.
But it was 2-1 to the home side on 35 minutes thanks to a perfectly struck 35 yard free kick from Mark Debolla to the right of Bowles who got his fingers but nothing more to the strike as it went in low at his post.
Fleet’s Luke Moore then found the ball at his feet but shot well wide when well placed in the right hand side of the penalty area while The Lambs Lee Moore was inches away from an equalizer on 38 but scooped his half volley wide of the mark.
Luke Moore capitalised on a gap in the Lambs defence on 40, and attempted to lob Bowles but with Adie Smith following in the ball bounced a few feet wide of the upright.
MacDonald managed a grass cutting header in first half stoppage time, but his effort lacked any power to trouble Bowles who saved easily from close range and Adie Smith blocked a goal bound shot from Luke Moore but it wouldn’t have counted as the referee had already blown his whistle.
Tamworth made an enforced substitution on 51 with Dave Bampton twisting his knee (TBC) and being replaced by Kyle Storer.
The home side then celebrated a third goal on 53 minutes via a second Debolla free kick which flew unstoppably past the Lambs defence from fully 30 yards and almost took the net with it. (1-3)
Cooper then switched the formation with just three at the back, four in midfield and Williams sitting behind the front two.
And it was 4-1 to the Fleet on 67 minutes when Alan Neilson uncharacteristically miss-hit a simple clearance into the path of MacDonald, who put the chance away easily.
With the game won, Fleet did not let up the pace and continued to come at Tamworth but The Lambs defended strongly as they had all game – it was just the poorly worked set pieces and a catastrophic error that had let them down.
McGrath, Neilson, Ward, Stevenson
Bampton (Storer 51), Redmile, Smith A, Law
Subs: Dormand, Cooper, Birch, Kemp
Yellow Cards: Ward 13, Stevenson 80
Gravesend and Northfleet
MacDonald (Roberts 90), Moore (McKenna 85)
Keeling, Quinn, Debolla, Slatter (Purcell 71), Ricketts
McCarthy, Smith R, Smith J
Subs: Mott, Akinde
Yellow Cards: MacDonald 37