St Bernadette's Rise to Third!

By Joe Perkins

Bernie's up to third; Youths and 'dene still undefeated; night of woe for Abbey but of joy for Gunter.

The curtain came down on the autumn part of the season with three fantastic games at the Mapledene Arena on Tuesday night and a further three at Yardley.

But we start at the Arena, from where Mr Collett reported:

First up the hosts took on Gunter and maybe the home side were expecting to win against a team who, despite only playing two games, were languishing near the bottom of the table, and an early goal for the home striker may have given some false belief as Gunter raised themselves and the travelling support with a superb display of grit, determination and talent. After the home goal it was Gunter who made all the running and, while clear cut opportunities were kept to a minimum thanks to an imperious display at the back by the home defence, a long-range effort was bundled in on the line and a 1-1 draw was no less than Gunter deserved. Superb battling all over the pitch and a willingness to do the hard work was a pleasure to see in a fledgling side.

Gunter then faced Abbey in another ding-dong battle. Excellent hold up play and strength from the Gunter striker brought about good scoring opportunities and despite trailing twice to very well-taken Abbey goals, Gunter rallied each time and kept up a relentless press and progressive style. They took the lead in the second half to make it 3-2 and never looked back. While sometimes leaving themselves open at the back with only one defender(!), the commitment to stop Abbey scoring was remarkable. They even pinched another with an exquisite strike: "The best goal I've seen at this level," remarked the Mapledene assistant coach. 4-2 to Gunter in the end and a 4-point haul to take back to Pype Hayes.

Onto the final match with Abbey hurting from a spirited game against Gunter, this one could have gone either way. Abbey continued to play football the right way and always looked threatening with a talented striker working the ball and the angles well. Some grit in the 'Dene's defence kept Abbey out though, and as they pressed for something to take back to Erdington, gaps started to appear and a goal buoyed the home side. Looking for more, a free kick on halfway was hit on target and proved too strong a test for the Abbey keeper meaning it was 2-0 - time was running out. More Abbey pressure was soaked up and there was time for another quick break as a home striker latched on to a long clearance, rounded the ‘keeper but saw his effort hit the post; had it gone in it would have flattered the home side; 2-0 the final score.

Meanwhile, along the Coventry Road, unbeaten Yardley were hosting unbeaten St Bernadette’s along with an inexperienced Harper Bell who were keen to put last week’s 13-0 defeat behind them.
And it was a clash of the two ‘yet to feel defeat’ sides which kicked off proceedings. Reporting, Mr Walmsley: The Youths were slow to start and struggled to get going with St Bernadettes having the better opportunities. In the second half Yardley hit back and they themselves began to create chances but couldn't find the net. Bernie’s ‘keeper made a great stop at the death to deny the Youths a winner. All in all a fair result the draw but very frustrating from a Yardley point of view.

Reporting, Mr Mansell:

Harper Bell began their evening against St Bernadette’s and a brisk start saw both teams having a sight of goal. Bernie’s had more of the ball but Harper Bell were determined to put that poor pre-vious result behind them. And it was the Bellians who took the lead midway through the first half with a lovely, long-range strike from a young midfielder. The game then opened up when Bernie’s capitalised on Mr Mansell’s orders for his GK to play out from the back - take nothing away from the finish that nestled into the bottom corner though; HT 1-1. More of the same in the second pe-riod before Bernie’s took a 2-1 lead with a long range effort going through the hand of the Bell ‘keeper too
easily. Bernie’s dominated from then on and netted twice more from consecutive corners; FT 4-1.

Reporting, Mr Mansell and Mr Walmsley:

Harper Bell Had to brush themselves down and go again. And they certainly came out fighting mak-ing it difficult for Yardley who, though huffing and puffing still had more of the ball and created a couple of decent chances. The Bell brick wall stood firm and though they rode their luck on a few occasions, they went in level at the break.
Yardley finally made the breakthrough though with just five minutes remaining. As Bell began to run out of steam, and a Youths tactical change saw left and right wingers swap sides and it made a difference. A subsequent mazey run down the right flank was
followed with a cross that was perfectly headed back across goal and inti the top corner.
Yardley pushed for a second and they managed to do so when their centre forward got what he deserved after he managed to poke the ball home through the smallest of gaps between three defenders and the goalkeeper.
Despite the score-lines for Harper Bell, Mr Mansell was happy with the performance and the 110% effort shown by his inexperienced squad.
Both Bernie’s and Yardley will be more satisfied though with the four points they both gained as they head into the winter sojourn - both have still yet to taste defeat.

So as La Liga breaks for the winter, Paget lead the way still on 15 points from their six games played and they sit two points ahead of Short Heath who do though have a game in hand. The night’s big movers were St Bernadette’s who, after their half-dozen matches, are just a point further back in third. Whilst Abbey will be disappointed that they went pointless tonight, they are still in the mix on nine points along with Mapledene. Yardley are three points further back but have played two games less and Gunter will look forward to the spring after their excellent results at the Arena.

Where next?

STM Back on Track! Tommy More's go second; Timbers hit 7; Forest down 'stone.
SSP&P Back on Perch! Black'n'whites top of pile; Corpus rise to second; Erd Hall take max points; wins for Fev and Forest.

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