With the spectre of the top of the table clash with Old Xavs looming on the horizon, Coeur could have been forgiven for being slightly distracted this week against Civserv. The changing room was suprisingly subdued before kick off, though Mike Robertson chirped up that it was down to quiet confidence. The message was given out nonetheless that this game is every bit as big as next weeks match. 3 points is 3 points irrespective of who you earn them against. Lynchy was once again prevented from joining his beloved teammates by his work commitments, Peter Riley was absent due to an engagement of an unspecified nature (though some suggested he may have already started queuing for tickets for he forthcoming Hobbit film) Degsi was also missing as he was attending the wedding of someone he didnt really know (his better half's mate, or work colleague, beautician, or something like that) and Darren was kept out through injury. Josh Corkin, who had been in line for bench warming duties was drafted in by the first team for a start.
Si again made changes to his starting eleven, with Ian Jones, Mick Taylor and El Capitano all returning to the starting line up. Aidy and Andy both figured in the starting line up after their goalscoring exploits last week. They were joined by Matty and Rob Hatton, Jack Riley and Ste Alty. Mike Robertson and Jack Kelly were unlucky to miss out this week, and were joined on the bench by the returning Jacko, who had been missing due to a series of social engagements.
Coeur have been quick out of the block in recent weeks, having been a goal up inside 5 minutes in four of the previous five games. More of the same was the message, but nagging doubt's had crept into Si's mind as the warm up appeared a touch sloppier than usual and the pitch was both heavy and slippy in parts.
Coeur had easily disposed of Civserv in a pre-season friendly, winning 7-2, but this appeared to be a stronger Civserv side, boosted by the inclusion of a couple of former Coeur players, John and Wes Grego, and also a big unit up top called Col.
The game started slowly with both sides wasteful in possesion early on. The tricky conditions saw Coeur struggling to get their passing game going. Civserv managed to by pass this problem by taking the airbourne route towards Col and Wes up front. 15 minutes into the game the deadlock was broken and for once it wasn't by Coeur. A long thrown in was hurled into the box, over all the defenders and Civserv attackers. A slip in goal saw the ball go directly into the net. The ref insisted that a slight touch on the keeper's gloves had occured and awarded the goal, despite Coeur's protests.
Coeur responded, driving forward with more endeavour in their play. Civserv retreat, somewhat suprisingly, and looked as if they were hanging on. Andy Pflancer was the first to create problems for Civserv as his muscled his way past the defender and leathered the ball right-footed, just inches over the top. A fine effort, but ultimately just not fine enough. Coeur continued to apply the pressure with a series of corners. Mick Taylor swung one in viciously from the left and it smashed against the face of the crossbar with the keeper well beaten. Minutes later an even better corner was whipped in by Mick. This time it was a touch lower and was destined for the top corner of the net before a brilliant defensive header saved Civserv from surrendering their lead.
It was all Coeur at this stage and just before the break Aidy escaped down the right and lofted an equisite cross the back post, taking the keeper and all of his defenders out of the play. Back post a yard out, poised ready to nod the ball home was Ste Alty, the perfect candidate for the job.
Or so you would think! Now many of us remember Ronnie Rosenthal against Villa, or even Ryan Giggs against Arsenal in the cup semi. Or what about the man with the dodgiest passport in football, Kanu, for West Brom against Middlesborough. Well all of them can sleep a little easier tonight as Ste leant forward in an attempt at a lazy diving header and somehow managed to skew the ball off his bonce, wide of the goal from no more than a yard out. So with one of the all time greatest sitters missed, Coeur went into the break a goal down
Half Time Civserv 1 Sacre Coeur 0
The half time team talk was frank. "Listen lads, we can't play as bad as we did in that half again, so let's forget that and go out, play like we can and win this game" Coeur were also encouraged to pile te pressure on the Civserv backline as they had been backs to the wall since they had scored.
Whether the message was heeded or not, Coeur came out for the second half keen to turn the game around. Si was plotting on the bench as to how he could change things, as this was the first time Coeur had been behind all season. Five minutes into the half, Andy Pflancer showed brilliant composure and quick feet to skip past the keeper and turn the ball home, levelling things up. Jacko was elated as this quickly put pay to Si's kamikaze 3-4-3 plan.
Civserv looked deflated by the concession and it wasn't long before Coeur found themselves in front. An inocuous scuffed shot by Aidy managed to make it's way the five yards to the goal, where the keeper bent down to pick it up, somehow though he managed to let it slip through his hands and it trundled into the net. Im sure Aidy will claim it was the deliberate spin he put on the ball, much like he claimed Ste Alty's shot last week hadn't crossed the line!!
Coeur had settled down into their game now and were looking far more comfortable. Civserv to their credit responded forcing a couple of corners interspersed with a long throw or two. It was from one of these set pieces that a headed clearance dropped to John Grego who managed to squeeze off a left footed shot which was brilliantly palmed around the post, especially as the ball had popped up in the last couple of feet.
The save proved to be a crucial point in the game as minutes later Coeur made it three. Aidy floated a fantastic ball out to Mick Taylor on the left wing. Mick took one touch, killed it dead and then drilled a fantastic left-footed shot into the far corner. The strike was so sweet that the mitre sign on the ball remained unmoved as the ball flew into the far corner of the net.
The strike effectively killed the game off as a contest. Jacko came on at centre half, Jack Kelly in centre midfield and Mike Robertson on the right. Aidy and Andy both took a rest after their goals had put Coeur in front. Ian was also withdrawn as he had been on the end of a bone crunching tackle..... from Rob Hatton! Rob was then moved up front to remove the possibiliy of him crocking anymore Coeur players.
Coeur were looking to stretch their lead and Ste Alty saw a thunderous drive zip just past the woodwork. Jack Kelly also continued his one man 'lob the keeper' campaign as he lofted a shot high towards goal. The keeper looked at ease , then in a pants-browning moment, realised how close it was to going in, scampered back and was relieved to see it miss the upright by a matter of a foot.
The game was wrapped up 8 minutes from time when Jack played Rob Hatton in. Rob calmly bounced the last defender out of the way and slotted it home with consumate ease.
The ref commented that 'Fellaini' in our midfield was a cracking player, referring to Jack Riley (must be because of the height) and that Rob Hatton was a beast of a man, to which Aidy replied, "He's not a man he is a horse" (must be referring to his physical stature and not the contents of his undercrackers).
So another game out the way and another victory. Not the greatest first half of football, but Coeur responded well to trailing for the first time this year and showed that they have the cojones for this title fight