No more Mr. Nice Guy.
Player power was booted up the arse and consigned to the dust bin as I shoved all the fat lads into my favourite, defensive 4-5-1 system.
Plan was to defend deep, draw the opponents in and then get them on the break. Helps when you have Pattison up front, who fired in all four goals in a belated appearance at Gateshead.
The days of players being played in positions they preferred was gone, which was easy considering the disastrous and insipid last two games in this League, which consigned us to the bottom half of the table.
So, we had pace in attack, but, equally, at the other end, we were solid and didn’t concede, which was a bit hit and miss before the game. Fatty Wardle was adamant he wanted to be full back instead of centre half. However I told him that we leave the fat lads at centre half and the fast ones at full back, so I put the Whelam brothers on the sides. Jamesy bottled centre half and went full back, while Gourlay wanted to be at left back, but I told him centre mid, with Mac and John Harper. We had the excitable Tyson in the sticks and everyone wanted him outfield. Callum and Nelly were on the wings.
The game was actually a friendly, but for Sassco.co.uk, we’ve been playing friendlies since 2010, so every game is an important one for us. Instructions were: defend deep, attack players in danger areas, play it long and fast, don’t give away corners and don’t pass to Mac.
Immediately, we caught them out. Pattison had a couple of chances before putting us 1-0 ahead. Then the ugliness of offside nearly caught us out, but with Tyson in goal, sprinting out and gathering any stray ball meant the long balls didn’t affect us too much. We were 1-0 up for the entire half, had a number of chances as well as a few minor scares, and more frightening was that I was losing my voice bollocking the team from the Technical Area.
Overall, Tyson barely had a shot to save for the entire game, which, as mentioned, was down to coming out quick. He’s managed to add an extra few seconds to his sprint since having the snip. Plus my favourite of mass defending in numbers, which didn’t happen in the last two games meant that the chances they had were spurned wide, or crowded out while avoiding the offside trap. The very moment that an opponent player came in to the danger zone, they were hit and we won it back easily, which was a good thing as my voice was nearly gone by now.
Callum was now bombing down the wing and putting in constant pressure on his opponents, while Nelly toiled with an injury for 45 minutes, as he knew I was the only sub. But by the time I got on, late in the second, Pattison had fired in three further goals, and almost all came from strong breaks where he turned their one or two defenders inside and out, which is far better than being faced with four or five players like we have been in the last couple of games.
And at the other end, everyone played well. Fatty did really well at centre half. Sometimes his shirt jumped higher than him, but he won almost every header. “Fast Lads up front; Fat Lads at the back.” I know your place, Fatty
And, I have to pat myself on the back, especially for the second half, as the team played exactly the way I wanted them to, but most also realised it was working as well, because if you don’t shout offside once, have a clinical striker and barely see the goalkeeper having to make a save, then it’s hard to complaint about anything.
I think we’ve only played to near perfection only three times since 2010 when playing against similar or stronger opponents. The other two times were in 2017 during 7-2 win at the Stadium of Light and a summer friendly, the year before that, where we defeated a University Cadet team 6-1.