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Garforth Town 3 – 0 Silsden

Northern Counties East League Premier Division

18/01/2020

A positive all-round performance from Garforth Town saw Paul Marshall’s men end a torrid winless run in spectacular style.

With both sides coming into Saturday’s game on a poor run of form, you would be forgiven for thinking today’s game might have been a rather soulless affair. Before Saturday Garforth were without a win in five games, and for their part Silsden had lost their last two. Yet on the day Garforth put in what may have easily been their best performance since their last win when they thrashed Thackley 6-1 at home.

From the first whistle, though, the fast pace of both teams suggested that the game would be anything but a soulless affair. The first chance of the day went to Silsden, whose No. 9 scuffed his attempt on goal having done well to break through Garforth’s back line. Unfortunately for Silsden, it was wasted opportunities such as this that ended up characterising their visit to Cedar Ridge on Saturday.

Otherwise, Garforth began the game promisingly, and despite top-scorer Sean Hunter’s absence were unafraid to attack and commit men forward. Charlie Marshall continued his excellent run of form with several probing runs at the Silsden defence, and an early chance fell to him after Garforth’s No. 11 lobbed a ball into the danger area from the right. Unmarked, Marshall’s good positioning in the Silsden box was unlucky not to be rewarded as his free header deflected off the crossbar and out.

Garforth’s No. 5 was forced off with an injury at around 20 minutes, and was replaced by No. 15, Alex Lowe. At first it appeared the break in play had disrupted Garforth’s momentum, but Town soon responded with a good spell of pressure on their already-beleaguered opponents, helped by one or two long throws into the opposition box.

Yet the first goal of the day was a culmination of several Garforth counter attacks. As Town poured men forward the Silsden defence left striker Sam Barker with too much space outside the box, who belted a screamer into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0.

This sudden turn of events seemed to galvanise Danny Forest’s Silsden, who responded by pushing forward themselves. Their efforts came to nothing, however, as Silsden’s attackers were constantly frustrated by the solidity of the Garforth defence. Their No. 9’s attempts to find a way through were stifled as he was crowded out by a resolute back four, who right until the final whistle showed little sign of giving way. It is testament to Garforth’s defenders that Town emerged from the game with a clean sheet, despite conceding seventeen goals in the past five games.

Granted, Garforth did suffer from some defensive lapses before half time. Silsden were rewarded with a corner after one of their few spells of attacking play, and surrounded in his box Town ‘keeper Toby Wells did well to catch a high ball in. Yet he came close to spilling his quarry moments later, saved only by a slow reaction from Silsden’s forwards. Despite this Garforth became more assured after the first goal as they began to pass the ball around ever-more confidently.

Garforth’s second and third goals of the afternoon came just before the 45-minute mark. After a long throw into the Silsden box, Charlie Marshall got himself on the scoresheet for the second time in two games as he fired a close-range shot home make the score 2-0.

After their second Garforth showed little sign of holding back, as they continued to pressure the Silsden defence. The next goal came courtesy of a venomous shot from Garforth No. 3 Sam Leach, which saw Town end the half 3-0 up. For today’s game Marshall had switched Leach from his traditional full-back role to midfield, and with such an inspired effort on goal from outside the box Leach demonstrated that he has just as much to offer in both positions. 

At half time Silsden brought on midfielder Devon Ridley in an attempt to claw their way back into the game, and though Garforth started the second half less carefully in possession, they continued to create chances going forward. Appeals for a booking were waved away by the referee after No. 9 Sam Barker was wiped off his feet by a badly-mistimed tackle from Silsden’s Josh Kane.  

All afternoon the only standout player for Silsden was their goalkeeper, who made some superb saves in the second half to keep the score at 3-0. The Silsden No. 1 deflected a curled attempt on goal with a fantastic diving save, and after a Garforth corner only minutes later the ‘keeper’s fingertips tipped away strong headed effort by Town centre-back Sam Denton.

Garforth were forced to dig in after 60 minutes as Silsden began to look more threatening on the counter, but true to form their back four held firm. Yet for their part Town continued to cause trouble for Silsden on the break, and if not for a lapse in concentration on two occasions might have added to their goal tally. Several sorely misplaced passes saw Garforth’s attackers squander these opportunities, but for a side that created so much all afternoon this was hardly a setback.

With roughly 15 minutes left to play Charlie Marshall was replaced by fellow winger Helmo Silva. However, though confident going forward, Marshall’s replacement found it difficult to fill his predecessor’s shoes as he struggled to hold his own against a physical Silsden marker.

The dying embers of the game were witness to not only some impressive Garforth counterattacking, but some bizarre incidents aswell. Town captain James Beaston appeared to foul his way past his marker before firing forward from the halfway line. But for the Silsden crossbar this lobbed ball might well have made it 4-0, as the opposition ‘keeper was nowhere to be seen.

Fan-favourite Curtly Martin-Wyatt was brought on after 85 minutes, which marked the striker’s 100th appearance for Garforth Town.

Otherwise, Garforth’s No. 11 make some fantastic runs deep into the opposition final third. A sprint almost the full length of the pitch that involved skipping past two Silsden defenders on the way made for Town’s last chance of the day, which rounded off what certainly was a much more interesting contest than anyone anticipated.

Throughout the afternoon Garforth showed the moments of quality that they have lacked in the past five games, a winless run which saw Paul Marshall’s side pick up no more than a single point out of an available fifteen. Yet on Saturday the team came together to produce a thoroughly convincing performance that was creative, clinical, and offered the opposition little chance to play. The key to being successful in any league is consistency, and if Garforth can replicate this kind of a performance on a regular basis they surely will do very well indeed.

Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea

FA Cup, Final

05/08/2020

Aubameyang helped Arsenal to a record 14th FA Cup triumph as a spirited Chelsea performance petered out at Wembley.

This season’s FA Cup final got off to a quick start, as a smart finish from Christian Pulisic put Chelsea in front within 5 minutes. It appeared that Chelsea’s attackers had fumbled their chance, but thanks to an Olivier Giroud pass inside the box Pulisic was able to bring the Blues their reward. Perhaps on a high after his clean finish, shortly afterwards the American forward showed some more quick footwork to fire another shot away.

Chelsea’s early goal appeared to spur the Gunners into action, and in the 25th minute Nicolas Pépé smashed home what looked to be a fantastic goal in reply. But the attempt was – rightly – ruled out for offside. Only minutes later, Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang paced into the opposition penalty area and was brought down by César Azpilicueta. The Chelsea defender had reached in vain for the ball, and though Azpilicueta’s foul was not cynical he was punished with a yellow card.

The resulting penalty-kick was coolly taken by Aubameyang, who powered the ball into the bottom-right corner, sending Wilfredo Caballero the wrong way. Going into the second half the score was 1-1, with both sides having had four shots on target. Yet though there was everything to play for, Chelsea suffered some injuries both sides of the break. Azpilicueta was brought off with a pulled hamstring on the 33rd minute, and goalscorer Pulisic was replaced by forward Pedro on the 49th.

The second half began as brightly as the first, but by the 60-minute mark Chelsea were allowing the game to drift away. At times Frank Lampard’s side held a much deeper line, and Arsenal bagged their second goal not long after. A fantastic Hector Bellerin run from the halfway line gave Aubameyang his chance. The Gabon international was able to skip into the danger area and outfox the Chelsea defence before slotting home, well above Caballero’s reach.

Roughly halfway through the second ’45, Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovačić was sent off for a clash with Granit Xhaka. The Croatian midfielder reached for the ball but instead ended up on Xhaka’s foot, a challenge hardly worthy of a second yellow card. Referee Anthony Taylor had been right to award a yellow for Kovačić’s earlier foul, but in this case Xhaka perhaps made enough out of the incident to persuade the sending-off. The dismissal caused tempers to flare on the touchline, with Xhaka looking especially irate. Chelsea’s morale began to waver.

Hoping to reinvigorate his stuttering side, on the 77th minute Lampard sent on three England internationals in Ross Barkley, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham. It proved a controversial decision not to award Chelsea a penalty when – right on his boundary – Arsenal ‘keeper Emiliano Martinez caught a loose ball. But otherwise, by the 85th minute Chelsea were devoid of ideas.

Into what became a lengthy stoppage period, Martinez produced some solid goalkeeping to neutralise Chelsea’s attacks, catching two corner balls in quick succession. However, five minutes into injury time Chelsea came close to equalising. But the Blues dilly-dallied, and though Pedro looked dangerous running into the Arsenal box, Martinez was able to steal the ball away. In the final minute of play, another name was added to Chelsea’s injury list as Pedro was stretchered off.

Though an interesting enough game for the neutral, Frank Lampard will be disappointed that his side were unable to press their one-goal advantage. With the help of his teammates, it was the skill of Arsenal’s Aubameyang that won the day for the Gunners. Manager Mikel Arteta will be delighted to have added another FA Cup win to Arsenal’s already-impressive tally.

Brentford 0 – 1 Leicester City

FA Cup, Fourth Round

25/01/2020

Leicester City held on to earn a narrow victory over battling Championship promotion-chasers Brentford.

It was a 4th minute goal that kicked off Saturday’s game at Griffin Park. James Justin picked up a superb Leicester through ball from the back, and his cross found Kelechi Iheanacho, who duly tapped home to score.

Thereafter Leicester began to press Brentford, pinning the Bees into their own half for most of the opening fifteen minutes. Thomas Frank’s side was largely bullied out of play, and any attempts to attack were quickly stifled by the Leicester defence.

Yet for all Leicester’s pressure, Brentford edged their way into the game after 15 minutes. By the 30-minute mark both sides were throwing men forward, wingers carrying the ball some way along both flanks. Leicester’s Mark Albrighton found himself in space on the wing several times after making some good runs, only to be ignored by his teammates.

But despite Leicester’s bright start, it was Brentford who were ramping up the pressure by the 40th minute, and they began the second half much stronger than before. Yet on several occasions, Brentford’s probing forward balls found nothing but empty space, and most of their corners were poorly taken. One corner ball sailed over everyone’s heads to bounce out of play on the far side of the pitch.

But perhaps this lack of attacking quality was to be expected. Brentford’s usual attacking trio of Ollie Watkins, Byran Mbeumo and Said Benrahama – who have proved so crucial to the side’s league successes – were absent for Saturday’s cup tie. Whilst Brentford looked threatening going forward, they never really looked like scoring.

Yet the spirited Bees kept pressing for an equaliser. What looked to be a cross from Emiliano Marcondes passed everyone in the final third but ricocheted off Leicester’s right post. Some minutes later, only a fingertip save from Foxes goalkeeper Danny Ward kept out a well-struck Luka Racic volley. But in the last ten minutes Leicester fought their way back into the game, though ultimately they failed to add to their narrow advantage.

Well-fought as this FA Cup tie was, now both managers will be looking forward to next week’s crucial fixtures. Brentford face playoff rivals Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, and Leicester play Aston Villa in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final on the same day. Both are fixtures crucial to each side’s campaign, and with each first XI now fully rested must surely be viewed as must-win games for both Brentford and Leicester.

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