So another season begins. After a one week delay due to the torrential rain of last week, Coeur's season kicked off against Ercanil O.B. who had been promoted from Division 3. Coeur had played Ercanil in a friendly before the start of last season and had drawn 1 - 1 so they knew that this would be a decent encounter at the start of the campaign.
For the whole of Thursday and Friday, manager Si Furlong was faced with trimming his available squad of 22 players down to the permitted 14. A few calls had been made informing the unfortunate lads that they couldnt be accomodated in the squad of 14, and by Saturday morning just a further 3 were to be dealt the bad news. However with the Liverpool vs Man Utd game on the box at 12:45, a sudden downturn in player availability was to become evident. As the 2:30pm kick off approached, Rob Philiskirk (twisted ankle on Tuesday) and Neil Shelley (No competitive action since a knee op 18 months ago) both received a call to tell them to bring their boots as well as they could appear on the bench if required. Predictably come kick off the pair of them lined up as Coeur's only available substitutes. So with the season kicking off Coeur had the basic 11 and 2 crocks on the bench. Excellent !!
Coeur had been dealt another blow pre-season when new keeper Phil O'Connor was ruled out for an extended period with a shoulder injury. This meant only one thing. The Fat Cat was Back!! An instant impact was made by Si as within 3 or 4 minutes he had conceded a penalty which handed Ercanil an early lead. He came out to meet the forward and as he went to block a header with his hand, he inadvertantly poked the lad in the eye. The lad went to ground like the preverbial sack of s*!t. The ref pointed to the spot claimng Si had punched the lad in the head. Wanting to adhere to the new Respect campaign, Si politely told the ref that he hadn't punched him at all and that he had merely poked him in the eye. The ref still deemed this a heinous enough crime to warrant a penalty. The Ercanil lad stepped up, and despatched the penalty into the corner of the net, despite Si going the right way (though he does go down in stages).
Coeur struggled for the next 15 minutes to get a grip of the game and Ercanil relied on a lot of long balls and their physical presence up front to keep Couer on their toes at the back. With 25 minutes gone Coeur had started to develop a stranglehold on the game and it came as no suprise when Baxi fired them level. A ball into the box was flicked on by Wes Grego and Baxi was there to fire the ball home from 6 yards out and bring Coeur level. Coeur visibly grew in confidence and it was Degsy who struck a deserved second for Coeur. A corner from the right had cleared everyone and Baxi recovered it and floated a delightful cross to the far post where Degsy stole in to slot it home for a 2 - 1 lead. More was to follow from Coeur. At this point it was one way traffic and Degsy saw a free kick smartly saved by the keeper, who followed it up with 3 or 4 rolls and a smile and pose for the non existant cameras. The third came just before half time as an Ercanil defender was unable to deal with a dangerous ball into the box and he diverted it past the keeper into his own net.
Ercanil 1 - 3 Sacre Coeur
With a postive team talk about keeping the focus and concentrating on our football and not their moaning, Coeur strode out to kill the game off. Ercanil had other ideas as they pulled one back within 6 or 7 minutes of the restart. Ercanil have a fairly strong physical presence in their side and looked to utilise it at every opportunity by hurling long high balls into the box via punts, corners and indeed long throws. One of the long balls from the left was flicked on and it found an attacker in space at the far post, He took a touch before slamming it home. Ercanil then spent the next 10 minutes bombing the Coeur box with everything that they had, Coeur however were equal to it and defended brilliantly with Gibbo, Mike Smith and John Grego denying the opposition any time or space at all. Ercanil came close to equalising when a deflected shot struck the bar, before being cleared by Coeur. With 20 minutes to go Baxi was sent clean through but the keeper did well to get a hand to his lob and divert it for a corner. With 20 minutes to go disaster struck for Coeur and Mike Smith in particular. Mike and a forward were in a tussle for the ball when the both overbalanced and went down. An innocuous challenge but unfortunately for Mike he stretched as he fell and has damaged his medial ligament. Mike obviously couldn't continue and Neil Shelley was beckoned from the bench for his 1st outing for 18 months. Baxi dropped into centre half and Shelley was told to patrol the front line. Chances came and went for Coeur but it was Ercanil who had the last chance of the game when a driven shot from 12 yards was tipped over the bar by Si.
A tough start to the season against a physical side, but Coeur managed to overcome them despite having half of their 26 man squad unavailable for this game. Great football played in the first half and excellent defending in the second meant that Coeur start this season with all 3 points.
Ercanil O.B. 2 - 3 Sacre Coeur