We faced our local rivals in what was a crucial fixture in our bid for Capital Premier survival. We needed to start turning our promising performances into points. Our resources were being severely tested. We were missing several players and were even forced to bring injured captain Joe Cruden onto the bench to make up the numbers.
Island Bay started the stronger, enjoying the majority of possession and territory. They had us camped in our own half during the opening ten minutes. Despite Island Bay’s pressure, goalkeeper Sam Martin was having none of it as he produced some wonderful saves throughout the first half. He made one world class double save and another save with his feet where the Island Bay player was a clear favourite to score.
Island Bay were awarded a penalty in the 24th minute after Matt Balmforth was adjudged to have gone through the back of the Island Bay striker. Balmforth pleaded his innocence with an eloquent and calm request for the referee to change his mind. The referee remained unmoved as he pointed to the spot. The Island Bay striker stepped up and drove an emphatic penalty into the top corner. 1-0 Island Bay.
The lads had soaked up pressure well and heads didn’t drop, in fact we applied pressure on the Island Bay goal, with immediate reward. A slick move involving Scott Macandrew, Andy Cochrane and Elliot Riley found Paul Clune in the box, with his shot blocked and partially cleared the ball broke at the feet of Tom Graham who slammed home his first goal for the 1st team. What a great time to register your 1st goal. The reward could not be more deserving to a young player who has worked so hard on his game throughout the season. This was his moment, and he certainly enjoyed it.
Graham’s goal spurred the boys on and we found ourselves in front, with another special, high quality goal. We again caught Island Bay on the break, with speed and precision through midfield, the ball was played in behind Island Bay’s defence. The goalkeeper was drawn off his line and outside the area. Elliot Riley had made a fantastic run and as he beat the onrushing goalkeeper to the ball, he acrobatically headed the ball over the keeper and into an empty net. This was Riley’s first goal of the campaign and again the celebration didn’t disappoint. 2-1 Brooklyn.
You could see the confidence grow with every pass. We were soaking up Island Bay’s pressure and punishing them on the break. Nick Grice was having yet another fine performance at centre back, making several crucial interventions, Terry O’Donnell and Andy Cochrane were dominating midfield, Scott Macandrew and George Frost were dangerous in wide areas. We were again creating opportunities for the attacking unit, this week we were proving to be much sharper in front of goal.
We should have had a third minutes later, via another promising Macandrew break, the ball found Clune at the far post, who smashed the ball from the edge of the area, only for his shot to canon back off the upright.
It wasn’t all Brooklyn, Island Bay had several chances, only to be thwarted time and time again by the impressive Martin. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, he is the best goalkeeper in this league and today was another demonstration of his undoubted ability. The defensive trio of Grice, Balmforth and Harry Tod-Smith all made valuable contributions with several crucial interceptions, blocks and well timed tackles. They were all fine examples of the fight the entire team was showing.
As the half drew to a close Island Bay finally made one of their chances count after a shot smashed the underside of the crossbar and the Island Bay striker had followed to bundle the ball over the line. 2-2 after what had been a most entertaining first half.
We re-confirmed a couple of technical aspects at the break, but we were largely happy with how the game plan was being executed. We felt we would get more chances, it was up to us to force the result.
Island Bay started the second half just as they did the first, only this time they got instant reward. We had prevented their danger man Ian Paterson from having too many clear opportunities during the first half, only for him to skip inside two Brooklyn players and produce a nice finish with the outside of his right foot into the bottom corner. 3-2 Island Bay and we had work to do.
We again set out about responding to the challenge. O’Donnell and Cochrane were immense in the middle of the park, complimenting each other’s styles well. Macandrew continued to wreak havoc on the left hand side and Clune was starting to come into his own. It was that man Clune who drew us level in the 64th minute after a Frost corner was partially cleared, Frost again delivered the ball into the area, Island Bay’s keeper came to collect, only to drop the ball under pressure from Grice and Clune was on hand for a tap in. 3-3 and momentum was with us.
We immediately introduced attacking players Hamish Parker and Angus Rooney into the game in search of a winning goal. Rooney was full of running, despite having already played 90 minutes for the reserves earlier that afternoon and Parker’s passing range and energy were proving beneficial against a tiring Island Bay side.
With time running out, both sides had chances, Graham had a chance well saved by the Island Bay keeper and Macandrew drew another decent save minutes later.
We weren’t to be denied, today would be our day. Hamish Parker found himself with a clear shooting opportunity on the edge of the area in the 86th minute. His side footed shot made it’s way through a crowded penalty area, only for Clune to flick the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net. 4-3 Brooklyn. One bench ecstatic, the other dejected.
We endured the remainder of the 90 minutes, making one final substitution with Joe Cruden coming on for the superb Clune, plus four agonising minutes of added time before hearing the sound of the final whistle. We had secured our first victory over Island Bay’s 1st team since 2005, and more importantly, secured three very valuable points.
It’s days like this that make it all worthwhile. The performance levels from every player were absolutely superb. Scott Macandrew was brilliant at left back, Terry O’Donnell and Andy Cochrane dominated midfield and were the focal points of so many promising attacks. Nick Grice and Elliot Riley both had season best performances and man of the match Sam Martin was the best player on the pitch.
We enjoyed the result and celebrated accordingly. It wouldn’t be a Brooklyn victory without us belting out Sweet Moly Malone and indulging in a few too many beers.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to University next weekend. We have given ourselves a chance to kick on and get out of the danger positions. It’s up to us to maintain the intensity and desire that was on show last night. If we can do that, anything is possible.
Special thanks to those who braved the cold to support us last night, in particular Phil Clayton who is such a wonderful supporter of our football club. Thanks for your continued support Phil. It is genuinely appreciated. The lads' girlfriends who support us week in, week out deserve a special mention. Their vocal support was rewarded with last night’s entertaining performance.
Bring on University!