After a damaging defeat by HERC Saints 5 weeks ago, Elim had their first away trip of 2019 to Bablake Playing Fields to play Christ the King. With Christ the King a new addition to the league, the only history of this fixture was a 3-1 win to Christ the king earlier this campaign. Christ the King went into this fixture optimistic being the only team in division 2 to take points from CLM (at the point of this fixture).
Hughes and Baldwin made 4 changes to the team that lost 4-1 at Memorial park. The Elim team went back to their favoured 3-5-2 formation. Ireland was back in nets hoping for a quieter fixture this time. Baldwin, Reid and Matewe were today’s back line. The 5 in the middle from left to right where Smith, Jones, Hughes, Clark and Elim were proud to announce the return of Aidan Rhodes. The top two remained the same with Bennett and Kousoulas the attacking options. Elim could only name two subs on the bench with Zaheer and Kyreke.
After a bit of drama with the Elim team finding the location and finding each other, the game kicked off on time. Elim started the brighter of the two sides, keeping the ball well with short controlled passes. The possession dominance, was not taking advantage off within the early stages of the game. Elim were getting into excellent areas, but failing to connect where it matters in the final third. Clark kept cool heads in the middle, with the Captain, Hughes and Jones looking for killer balls to get that vital assist. Kousoulas had a couple of chances mid-way through the first half, but failed to connect with the ball as well as he would have wanted.
It was on the 30 minute mark, Elim were awarded a corner and they would finally make their dominance count. Smith crossed the ball into the 6 yard zone for the keeper to claw at it to enter into a melee in the box. Before Christ the King could react, the gaffer Hughes hit a fierce unstoppable shot beyond the keeper. Elim led 1-0 and Hughes had recorded his first ever Elim goal. The goal rattled the Christ the King back line and within minutes Kousoulas and Bennett had forced an error with a back pass. Bennett doesn’t need an invite to attend the goal scoring party and the experienced attacker slotted in he’s 9th goal of the season. 2-0 Elim!!
35 minutes on the clock and Elim wanted blood, Smith crossed in for another corner for Reid to lose his man back post to fail to find the target. Smith stopped being provider to have a dig from 30 yards for the keeper to pull off a world class save and knock the ball onto the post and wide for a corner. After wave and wave of pressure, Elim had not kept a clean sheet in 8 games. Sadly Elim couldn’t keep the ball out the net this game either, making it 9 games without that clean sheet. The ball played over the Elim back line, the back line seen a flag which was over ruled by the referee. Instead of the back three playing to the whistle, they switched off and were punished in a cruel way. Even an Ireland save could not prevent the ball eventually ending in the back net. The half time whistle came and Elim took a 2-1 lead into the break.
Both teams went into the second half with a spring in their steps, knowing the 4th goal was crucial. Kousoulas had further chances to add to he’s Mosaic goal but despite finding space could not and would not find the net today. The game started to get a bit scrappy and broken up with both teams making silly fouls to stop momentum. Rhodes and Smith swapped wings alternatively, but after not playing for Elim since the semi-final summer competition. Rhodes was the first Elim player to be applauded off, the young teenager made an inspirational return running himself into the ground. Kyreke was the man to replace him and add some pace onto the right wing. Sadly the Elim sub was quickly overshadowed with a Christ the King equaliser. Desmond scoreline. The ball was crossed in beyond the backline and the winger lost Kyreke to slot beyond Ireland. Game on!!
18 minutes on the clock, both teams knew a loss would see their promotion dreams over. Hughes sacrificed himself for another teenager Zaheer keeping faith in the formation. Zaheer slotted in well and battled to break up play in the middle. Despite momentum being with the home side it was Jones who would put Elim back in front. Jones, being a massive Jordan Henderson fan decided to shoot like the Liverpool midfielder. The ball was not hit pretty but somehow found a space through the keeper and into the net. Jones ran off celebrating with the Christ the King keeper looking to the sky knowing this was not a goal of the season contender but could be a vital goal for promotion.
If that wasn’t enough torture for the keeper, Elim exploited their big man at the back tactic. Smith swung in another corner for Reid to calmly head the ball into the top corner and bring the points back home with the Pentecostal Church. Matewe, Baldwin and Reid locked down the back line for the remaining minutes with Smith, Kyreke and Zaheer all protecting Ireland.
Elim got a pretty win under their belts scoring 4 goals on their travels and a very close to perfect performance and win a vital 6 points to give a glimmer of hope for promotion. Jones was today’s player player and won the man of the match award for a 4th consecutive row the same amount of times Bennett has won the award in a row. Elim next turn their attention to CLM in back to back games in the league and cup throughout March. The next two games make or break the team’s season, but Elim don’t like doing things easy do they??