St John Fishers 6 – 4 Elim PFC (4th January 2020)

2020 brought a tasty fixture pitting the top two in division 2 against one another. Michael’s Fishers come into this fixture without losing in the league or cup this season, whilst Hughes Elim had won three league games on the bounce. Before kick-off these sides had scored 35 goals between them which there was no doubt which fixture would be shown first on match of the day later that night. St John’s fixtures ran out 4-0 winners on September 7th but the game was tainted at the end with a nasty injury to a Fishers player.

Elim not playing in 4 weeks, since the 8-2 loss to Hope lined up with the usual 4-4-2 formation. Betancourt maintained his position as Elim’s number 1, with the back four from left to right Kirugi, Reid, Watts and Matewe. The midfield J .Smith, Hughes, Jones and Baldwin and up top Dirna and C .Smith. St John’s Fishers kicked the game off at the Dunlop Sports Ground with the man in the middle Mariusz.

After a bad November and December with rain, dry January had started (sorry bad pun). St John Fishers pressed high up on the pitch and looked the fresher of the two teams early on. The reds had only conceded 3 goals all season and the lads at the back looked comfortable and confident on the ball. It would be the wingers that would combine for Elim to create the first chance, Baldwin whipped a high ball to just inside the box for Elim’s top scorer J .Smith to connect first time with a volley straight down the keepers throat. Dirna shortly after would be brought down 25 yards from goal on the left wing. Baldwin stepped over the ball, whipped it back post for the bearded captain Jones to have too much time to think and headed over.

Elim would rue these chances when St John Fishers received their first corner, ball whipped in from the right, a bullet header for an unmarked man to connect and head the home side ahead. Elim must of felt they were watching Groundhog day as they went 2-0 in the exact same situation, corner back post, unmarked man goal. Tension in the box, brought back bad memories of set pieces in previous years. Lessons have not been learnt and all men were commanded back for the next set piece. St John would score the first goal from open play when the left winger would get the better of Kirugi controlling the ball and slotting to the edge of the box for the ball to be rifled into the right of the goal.

On the 30 minute mark Elim would finally wake up and started battling higher up the pitch, tackles flying in and Reid would rattle the bar with a header which led the ball to bounce around finally finding Dirna to shoot low and hard into the bottom corner to get Elim back into the game. The captain Jones had a spirited run through the middle hitting a fierce shot to again rattle the bar and the full back clearing Fisher’s lines. From the resulting throwing a long throw from C .Smith found Reid to header onto Matewe for the left back to head home his first Elim goal (in the right net) you will never live your first real goal down Welly!! Game on 3-2 and now Elim had Fishers insight.
Despite dragging themselves from the dead, on a number of occasions the ball was giving away too easy. Watts brought down the attacker on the edge of the box for Betancourt to pull off a fantastic save in the top corner and knock the ball out for a corner from the resulting free kick. The ball was moved from one box to the next very quickly and Betancourt got a fine touch on the ball to keep Elim in the game and knock a shot onto the post. Dirna pushed on using trickery foot work to get into the box and find Hughes for the manager to hit over. There was one last goal and it would go to Fishers to lead 4-2 at the break, free kick whipped in despite a smart low save from the keeper the ball was tapped in on the rebound.

Half time came and this was a tale of one team that had utilised set pieces and another that had failed too. Both sides made no changes, but coming out Elim had a lot of fight second half. The First 10 minutes, Jones and J .Smith worked well together to get down the right. Baldwin was keeping busy on the left selling the full back a dummy cutting in to find Hughes, the gaffer hitting a low shot just wide of the post. Elim were piling on the pressure when a sickening counter would result to Fisher’s 5th. Elim made a double change with Hassan and Mangan coming on for Watts and C .Smith. There was a little shuffle to the team but Elim responded well getting a life line and Dirna and Hassan linking up well with a quick one two, which was slotted home by Dirna. Home was the final sub coming on for Kirugi with Elim again shuffling the pack.

Elim were made to pay when a throwing was lost in their own half for Fishers to clinically twist the knife and seal Elim’s fate. Betancourt had played outstanding and was let down by the players in front of him, with the keeper making 5 or 6 brilliant saves in this game. Great work from Mangan set up a nervy finish in this fixture, with the winger stealing possession, and setting Hassan off. The striker used his pace to set up team mate and buddy Dirna for the striker’s second hat trick of the season.

85 minutes on the clock and we had seen 10 goals, the on-looking team mates Sam, Paul, Benni and Jackson the dog didn’t see any more of a comeback with the ref stopping the game at 6-4. St John Fishers now have an 8 point lead at the top and 4 wins should see them crowned worthy champions. Dirna was voted the Elim man of the match but praise must also be given to Elim’s shot stopper today. Elim can be proud of scoring more goals past Fishers in one game than they have conceded all season in the league but a loss still hurts and defensively the team will put this right against HERC on 18th January. Sadly not the result we came for but an excellent game with two teams playing the game in the right spirit.

Happy new year all!!