Having lost out to a last minute goal against Bootleians in late September, Coeur set out to avenge their defeat and hoped to build on the back of last weeks victory.
Si was looking to name a similar squad to last week, with the addition of a few others to complete the 14. Once again though, the benefit of a consistent squad was to desert Coeur. Both of last week's midfield pairing, Sean and Draper, were out injured as was makeshift centre half, Mally Harper. Allied to this, Tommy Stevo (golfing), Rob Phil (wheezing), and several others were missing. You can always tell when Coeur are struggling for a side when Si dons a shirt and wraps up in the subsuit, this week saw exactly that. With a scarcity of defenders available again, Si boldly opted for a 3-5-2 formation, with Shunter, Jay Kay and Joe Carra lining up in front of Kev. Lynchy was dropped back into midfield to fill the void left by Draper and Sean and he was joined by Gav Scott and debutant Martin Edwards. Filling the wholly unpopular wing back roles were youngsters Mick Taylor and Kev Hennerty. Up front was the in-form Richard D'Cruze and another debutant, in the shape of former Alsop stalwart, Paul Jordan. Si's compadres on the bench were the talented, yet not often available Dave Parry and the returning Ste Burke.
Five minutes into the game it was obvious what tactics Bootleians were employing, "smash into every tackle hard and see if it will put them off their game". In fairness it did. Accompanying the hard tackles were the dulcet tones of the ever crazy Bootleians right back. During an encounter last season, he had been dismissed for questioning the referee's integrity, and it became obvious that he hadn't learnt his lesson. 10 minutes in he pushed his luck abusing the ref, then a minute later found himself £10 lighter after referring to Si as a 'fucking cheating cunt, after completely indisputable (correctly awarded) throw in decision'. Charming!
Anyway back to the game. Bootleians had more of the play but neither side created any clear cut chances as the game was quite scrappy. It appeared that free kicks and corners may present Coeur with a problem as Bootleians were a much bigger side than Coeur, but the defence and Kev proved up for the challenge. It was Gav Scott who came closest to opening the scoring as he crashed the ball against the crossbar from 8 yards, fortunately for Coeur, it was his own crossbar and the ball stayed out. The interval arrived without either keeper having been seriously tested.
Old Bootleians 0 Sacre Coeur 0
Concerns were raised at half time that Coeur weren't offering much threat going forward, mainly due to the formation. Si decided to persist with the formation as defensively Coeur looked strong. The plan was to get the ball down and use the width of the pitch a bit more, rather than lumping it forward, were the two massive centre halves were heading everything back. Coeur improved after the restart and as the game progressed, Bootleians began to tire and the intensity in their play started to diminish. D'Cruze was starting to get the better of the centre halves and it was only a matter of time before some good chances were created. Dave Parry was introduced on the hour to add some drive from the midfield area and both Kev and Mick were starting to get forward down the flanks. Good work down the left saw the ball come to D'Cruze who fired a superb volley goalwards; however the keeper made an exceptional stop, especially as the ball skipped up just in front of his dive. Coeur were spurred on by this and Mick Taylor pick pocketed a player before hitting a glorious drive with his left foot, just inches past the upright. At this point all the incisive play was Coeur's. Another foray forward forced the keeper to sweep up and smash the ball away from an on running forward. The ball arrived by Dave Parry who was 5 yards in his own half, without letting the ball bounce he smashed a volley towards the empty net. Somehow the keeper just about made up the ground and dived and punched the ball clear of the goal.
With 20 minutes to go Mick Taylor curled a ball in from the right, Lynchy challenged for the ball in the air, where it flicked of the head of the defender (who didn't want to be named, but was in fact Robbie Radford) and into the far top corner of the net. Bootleians tried to respond, but the arguing had started. Balls were played up to the forwards, but Shunter, Jay and Joe were in imperious form and didn't offer up any opportunities for a clean strike at Kev's goal. Coeur were looking solid at this point and indeed still looking to break quickly at every opportunity. Kev Hennerty was becoming increasing influential and went close, as well as providing D'Cruze with another chance which was well saved. Ste Burke came on for a cameo up front and missed a glorious chance to seal it, when hitting a complete fresh air shot from 8 yards. He almost redeemed himself a minute later, when winning the ball and setting it for D'Cruze, who's shot whistled past the post. 7 minutes from time, the game was sealed when Sacre Coeur's own Matt Le Tissier (D'Cruze) dragged the ball easily past the first centre half, lollopped past him, before showing it to the second centre half, dragging it past him and then floated by him, before opening his body up to slot it into the far corner of the net. A sublime finish and one which was greeted with rapturous celebrations from Coeur. Again Bootleians tried to respond, throwing 4 lads up front, but again the defensive threesome proved too good, snuffing out even the slightest glimmer of a chance.
An excellent defensive performance coupled with an increasingly creative attacking threat as the game progressed. Great start to the calendar year, let's continue it on next week and try and move out of the bottom two.
Old Bootleians 0 Sacre Coeur 2