Once again another massive game, this time Old Holts who had held Coeur's title rivals, Old Xavs, to a draw last week. In fact Old Holts were the only side who had taken points of either of the two title contenders, having come back from 2-0 down to force a draw early on in the season against Coeur. Midweek had seen Coeur suffer some setbacks with injuries to key players. The in form Degsi out indefinitely with a nerve problem in his back, the influencial Jack Riley missng with a torn hamstring, captain Rob Philliskirk missing after taking a knock in 5 a side during the week and Rob Hatton away on a stag do in Newcastle, though still carrying an abdominal issue that he picked up against Old Xavs in January. On the bright side Ian was back from his neck injury and Ste Alty returned from his knee troubles, both available for selection again.
Mully took his place between the sticks, with Mick Robbo and Ste Allison at full back. Matty and Jacko were again paired in the centre of the defence. The midfield was the same trio as last time out, with Lynchy Jack Kelly and Darren, ahead of them were Mick Taylor and Ady flanking Ste Alty up top. On the bench were Peter, Andy, Ian and Rob Phil, though he was unlikely to feature.
The match kicked off and it was nice to see both Degsi and Jack Riley on the side watching, demonstrating that keen squad spirit. The first half was a cagey affair, keenly contested but without many clearcut chances created. Old Holts took the lead as they benefitted from an error from Mully. A corner was whipped in from the right and the ball squirmed throgh Mully's hands and went directly into the net. Devastating for Coeur, but they were certainly not second best in terms of the play.
Coeur pressed forward searching for an equaliser and it came from another error. A throughball for Ste Alty was fed in, but with too much pace on it. The Holts keeper came out casually to collect, but didnt notice Mick Taylor haring in from the side. Mick got a toe to the ball just before the keeper got down to collect it and nipped past the keeper and rolled it into an empty net to level.
Coeur were still having the better of the play and despite several efforts at goal they never truly looked like forging ahead. In fact they were indebted to a great covering tackle by Mick Robertson who denied a shot on goal when Holts had escaped after a quick throw in.
Half Time Sacre Coeur 1 Old Holts 1
Coeur were confident of grabbing all three points still as they discussed the first half at the break. They strode out for the second half looking to get ahead early on and press on for the victory. What happened was almost the opposite. A series of errors cost Coeur a goal within a minute of the restart. Ste Allison twisted and attempted a back pass when the ball should have been played into touch. The back pass wasnt the greatest and wrong footed Mully, who seemed to prod a foot at the ball, missing it, and allowing the ball to roll to the Old Holts forward who gleefully tapped home.
The pattern for the remainder of the game was quickly established. Coeur pressing forward at every opportunity and Old Holts looking to break quick whenever they got the chance. Extended periods of Coeur pressure saw Darren and Mick Taylor go close, while Ste Alty's best effort found the keeper's midriff. Despite the Coeur pressure it was Old Holts who came closest to scoring as they struck the bar on one of their few counter attacks.
With 25 minutes left Andy Pflancer was introduced for Aidy. Andy had given Old Holts numerous problems in the first fixture and he was immeadiately into the game pressuring the defence and forcing a corner. Lynchy rose highest at the corner but was unable to direct his header on target. More Coeur pressure saw Jack Kelly take a speculative effort at goal but the keeper collected low at his feet.
Ian was introduced for the tiring Jack (A midweek Amsterdam trip does that to you) and Peter came on in place of Ste at full back. Coeur switched to an adventurous 3-3-4 formation in search of another goal with Jacko joining Ste Alty up top.
The continued pressure was looking more likely to pay dividends. Any Pflancer burst through, cut back inside the defender before taking a slighty heavy touch which allowed the keeper to smother the ball. Jacko and Lynchy bothwent close with half chances, before good work saw Mick freed down the left. He crossed the ball in over the keeper and the defender where Andy was flying in to meet it. Unfortunately Andy arrived a split second early and got under the ball heading over from just a couple of feet out. With a couple of minutes left on the clock, Ste Alty lifted a ball over the top, Ian raced onto it and stretched to fire in a volley which looked to have levelled things up, that being it would have had it hit the inside of the net and not the outside! Still one last chance for Coeur as Jacko fired a shot on target only to see it deflected round the post for a corner, which Coeur were about to take when the whistle blew for full time.
A body blow to Coeur's title challenge and an alien feeling suffering a defeat. The manner of the defeat was tough to take as mistakes had gifted Old Holts both their goals. Seven league games still to go, Coeur know that there are twists and turns in the title race still and with Coeur having to face Old Xavs twice, they still have the opportunity to go and win it, though any more slip ups could be fatal.
Full Time Sacre Coeur 1 Old Holts 2
Watch the highlights...ish of the game, as filmed and edited by Coeur's own Jack Riley, who was sadly injured and unavailble to play. Whilst Jack's cinematography skills have impressed Coeur's players, we would have much prefered to have had him on the pitch doing what he does best!!