2019 did not start the way Elim fans would have wanted, suffering a damaging defeat to their promotion hopes. Elim hosted the first game of the year against the Saints, ending the trilogy of fixtures for the season. Opening day seen Elim run out 2-0 winners, the cup game ended in a stalemate but Saints were the winners on this occasion sending a message to the league and hoping they could climb away from bottom club ARYPT.
Hughes and Baldwin had a nightmare with selection, only having enough players for an 11. Elim’s number 1 Ryan Ireland was back in goal for the Pentecostal church after McCann had suffered a broken ankle in the Coventrians game. Titman made his first start of the season at left back, whilst Reid and Jones occupied the middle and Baldwin was swapped from left to right back. Elim kept the 5 man midfield, Smith maintaining his place on the left wing, with Zaheer making his second start of the season was thrown into the middle with Captain Moroney and Manger Hughes. Kirugi was positioned on the right wing with Elim’s leading scorer Bennett left up top in a 4-5-1 formation.
The visitors kicked off the game, showing growing confidence they wanted to add to their last win against ARYPT on September 8th. The passing play for both teams showed there was a little rust and a few too many mince pies over Christmas. Saints knocked the ball round well, trying to exploit the wings whilst Elim still seemed on their Christmas break for the first ten minutes. Despite the Saints pressure Elim almost opened the scoring when, Moroney picked out Smith on the wing. Elim’s top scorer last season, beat the full back and had a choice to shoot or square to Bennett. Smith confidently took the shot on, missing the target by inches, Elim hands were on heads. Saints punished Elim on the 25th minute for missing this chance. Bennett passed the ball back to Ireland at the back, the ball took a bobble through making it hard to control leading to a corner. Elim their own worst enemy failed to win first or second headers leading to the ball being headed into their nets and out the reach of Ireland and beyond Titman on the post. Saints searched for a second and Tom was given a late Christmas gift to head into an empty net, but somehow handled the cross with his hand wide.
Despite the setback, Ireland was the busier keeper for the remaining 20 minutes of the half making several great saves to keep the score respectful. Elim struggled for the half and the ball was often punted forward long for Bennett to pick up scraps. Elim were handed another blow, with no subs to call on, Smith took a knock in the back and had to soldier on from the 40th minute until the end. The half time whistle came and the Elim team went in knowing the ball was not held well and possession often gifted back to the opponents for wave after wave of attacks.
Teams switched ends for the second half and Saints broke Elim hearts on 60th minute. The back line stepped up, for a Saints player to have adjudged to be onside. Elim players confidently looked for the flag were as Saints looked for a second goal to secure their second away win of the season.
Elim battered and brusised were given a life line when Smith crossed in for the ball to be headed out. The ball only fell to Jones, for the Centre back to hit a fierce shot, taking a nick through to nestle into the bottom corner making it three in three for the centre back. The Centre back is known for scoring some quality goals over the years and this is definitely a contender for goal of the season. Elim heads picked up and finally started to through the kitchen sink at Saints. Baldwin picked up the ball, playing a one two with Hughes. Baldwin losing his man whipped a ball in for the centre back to take the full back out in the box after the ball went. All Elim eyes were on the ref, but the ref wasn’t convinced there was contact.
Nerves started to sink in at the back for Saints and Baldwin again nicked the ball at the back to rush towards the goal and be brought down by the defender. This time the ref was convinced there was contact and blew for a free kick 20 yards out. Frustration from both teams started to kick in and heated words exchanged. Smith was the man to take this opportunity on. Smith stepped up, striking the ball over the keepers net and gutted he couldn’t get the leveller. Saints ended the game with 10 minutes to go scoring two goals in as many minutes. Kirugi got caught flat footed for the winger to pick his pocket and pick the top right corner. Then from kick off a heavy touch from Jones led to Saints driving forward and putting the 4th and final goal in the game. Ireland did well saving well with his legs, to stop a 5th going in but Saints proved they are not in the league to make up numbers. The full time whistle was blown to end a miserable day for the greens.
Today’s result was a massive dent in the promotion hopes for Elim with Trinity and Coventrians picking up wins, leaving Elim 4th in the league. Mark Jones picked up Elim’s man of the match, congratulations Jonesy for the third game on the bounce. Bennett currently holds this record for man of the match 4 games in a row so he will be sweating on this stat. Elim are back on the training ground tomorrow, with full focus on CLM and trying to do what no one else has does beat the leaders in division 2.
Prayers are also with George from Mosaic after his accident before their game on the weekend. We pray for a speedy recovery and hopefully see you playing fit and well very soon.