Fleet Town 1 Ware 1
Two points lost or was it one point gained?
The photo shows Ware's team lining up before the start of our first ever match in the Southern League. The players involved were: Jack Smith, Paul Cooper, Alaa Oujdi, Danny Charles (Joshua Oyibo 53 mins.), Ben Crilley, Jack Fowler, Murat Karagul (Victor Osobu 66 mins.), Nana Asamoah, Kieran Bishop, Anthony Thomas and Rod Young. Unused subs were Marco Tuzzeo, James Manlove and Charlie Yexley.
It was a new league and new surroundings so maybe that is why it took the team a few minutes to settle in this game. During this time Fleet showed their intentions with some good, direct football and although the visitors started to play their normal game there was a sense that they were not quite up to the task.
Kieran Bishop and new signing Rod Young were both powering and jinking their way towards the home goal but they don't yet seem to have gelled as an attacking pair so that individual runs didn't get all the support they deserved. As a result attacks petered out against a defence that was well marshalled by Dan Rousell. There was no messing by this man and attacks were quickly dealt with and the ball sent back deep into Ware territory.
Ware still had their chances with Anthony Thomas, looking as though he has spent the close season working on his fitness, prompting well from midfield. In one move his precise pass was met on the run by Paul Cooper who in turn fed Young in the area but the chance was well covered. Minutes later Young was again in possession in the area but unable to find an opening.
Fleet continued to do the simple things well and got their reward after 38 minutes when a cross was headed against the bar. The ball ricocheted almost vertically and when it came down Simba Mlambo was on hand to head home.
It was all a lot different in the second half and Ware were level within three minutes, a clever back heel from Bishop releasing Murat Karagul whose cross was flicked in by Nana Asamoah. For the next thirty minutes it looked as though there could only be one winner as Ware continued to press.
Chances came and went begging. Cooper fed Asamoah on the six yard line after 52 minutes but this time the midfielder's shot was still rising even as it cleared the bar by a good margin. Three minutes later the same player fired just wide after good work from Bishop and substitute Joshua Oyibo. Then it was Bishop whose shot was narrowly wide of the post and into the side netting before Cooper had the ball in the net only to be ruled offside.
In an effort to shake things up Victor Osobu was brought on for Karagul and was soon in action, flicking the ball just over the bar from a corner before Asamoah fired across the six yard area with Bishop just inches from connecting in front of an open goal.
Things changed for Ware with about fifteen minutes to go when Oyibo's reckless lunge into a tackle saw the referee producing a red card almost before the players hit the ground. Fleet then sensed their chance against ten men and might well have taken the three points as they began to press.
One double (or was it triple?) save in particular from Jack Smith was needed to keep the point safe but even then Ware had a goal bound shot at the other end blocked by their own man Young. In fact the forward was in an off-side position leading to a discussion on the new interpretation of the rule. Had he been able to get out of the way of the shot might the goal have been disallowed anyway even though the keeper was already well beaten?
As the season unfolds we may get a clearer view on that and similar issues.