Berks & Bucks FA 4 – 0 Devon FA
Slough Town FC, Arbour Park, Stoke Road, Slough - 25.11.18
Devon were unfortunate to lose this game and by such a heavy margin. The commitment from both teams was first class but sometimes you need to make your own luck and in this game all the breaks fell the way of the Berks and Bucks team who, it must be said, just about deserved to take the points, Devon having hit the woodwork on three occasions.
Following a long journey up from Devon and two minutes silence in memory of two stalwarts of the competition who passed away last week – Live vice-president Ron Reeve and Wiltshire CFA’s Gerry Welch – Devon kicked off on the front foot and were immediately pressing the Berks and Bucks defence. However, a misplaced cross-field pass fell to the feet of Berks and Bucks’ Jake Richardson (Ascot United) who hit a 30 yard screamer towards the top corner which Bart Zarzycki (Elburton Villa U18) did well to push over the bar. The resulting corner saw Malachi Caesar head wide when well placed.
Following this frantic opening both teams settled into their passing game on the excellent 3rd generation artificial surface at Arbour Park with Devon playing a high line.
Berks and Bucks drew first blood in the 10th minute, when a slide-rule pass down the right resulted in a whipped cross that hit Eddie Lee (Binfield FC) on the side of the head, fortuitously directing the ball onto the left foot of Richardson who smashed an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box over Zarzycki to give his side the lead.
There ensued a 15-minute spell as both teams tried to take control of the midfield until the 27th minute when Zarzycki, hemmed in by defenders and attackers alike, was unable to deal effectively with a near post corner. His attempt to punch clear only serving to push the ball out to the edge of the six-yard box where it rebounded into the net off the shin of Lewis Pegg (Maidenhead United).
Despite finding themselves somewhat unluckily two goals down Devon regrouped and started to pass the ball through the midfield, with Sam Brooke (Feniton Youth) and Morgan Cullen (Newtown) linking up well in the 29th minute, only for Cullen to see his right foot shot from 15 yards well saved by the Berks and Bucks custodian Sonny Wheeler (JMA Reading). Two minutes later Cullen was in again, this time shooting powerfully from just inside the box – again Wheeler saved diving to his right.
Devon were pushing forward but with Brad Farren (Maidenhead) and Lee keeping the Devon centre backs, Dan Cullen (Newtown) and Harry Walford (Exeter College), honest there was little opportunity for them to support the Devon attack. In the 33rd minute Lee had the best chance to put the game out of Devon’s reach when he broke through on the left side only to see his shot well saved by Zarzycki.
If the Devon lads were lucky then Lady Luck seemed to desert them for the rest of the half when first, in the 36th minute, Morgan Cullen beats Wheeler with a shot from the left edge of the penalty area only to see it hit the post and bounce back into play. Five minutes later Matt Salter curls a beautiful free kick from 22 yards over the Berks and Bucks wall and past Wheelers despairing dive only to see it hit the top of the bar and go over. A minute into stoppage time another shot from the left, this time from Oscar Walsh (Feniton Youth), beats Wheeler and again he is rescued by the post.
So, Devon went in at half time two goals down when they felt they should at least have been on level terms.
At the start of the second half Devon made a tactical change, replacing Brooke with the strength and pace of Phil Corvisieri (Roselands), dropping Walsh into a deeper role wide on the right. Within 3 minutes the tactic almost brought a result as Walsh slung in a cross from the right which Matt Wood (Alphington) headed just over. A minute later Corbisieri, chasing a long ball down the left was caught by a defender as he got his cross away.
Whilst he was being treated Berks and Bucks broke away down the right, Dominic Reid (Maidenhead United) finding Lee with a pinpoint cross which he gleefully heads home from close range. Corbisieri could not continue and was replaced by Charlie Miller (Totnes & Dartington Youth).
Devon were now chasing the game and Berks and Bucks were able to use the repeat substitution system to make 4 changes to strengthen their defence and shore up their midfield somewhat surprisingly leaving their two powerful strikers Lee and Farren on. Farren was having more and more influence on the game with his ability to hold the ball and bring his team mates into play.
In the 65th minute he got the chance he was searching for as he received the ball just outside the box, turned, and fired a sublime shot past Zarzycki into the far corner of the net. Four nil down now and Devon were still attacking. Both keepers being kept busy now as first Zarzycki had to deny Ferrens twice in the next two minutes and then at the other end Wheeler saved well from Plymouth Parkway’s Jack Rhead, who had been beavering away in midfield.
With 20 mins left Devon’s management team sent on Beckham Pyatt (Exmouth Town Youth) in place of Josh Gresham (Clyst Valley) who was clearly tiring. Devon still kept pressing and should have got on score sheet 10 mins from the end through Morgan Cullen who snatched at his shot when put through one on one with Wheeler and fired over the bar. In added time Walsh brought a good save out of Wheeler with a sharp free kick just after which the referee blew the full-time whistle to bring an entertaining game to an end.
Both teams had been fully committed throughout the game and will look forward to the return encounter with some anticipation.
Player of the Match – Brad Farren (Berks and Bucks)