Wildecats returned to footballing action with a well deserved 1-1 draw against quality opposition at Judgemeadow last night. A well taken goal from Rudy, followed by a fortuitous equaliser was enough to share the spoils on an evening of gutsy determination that will prove very hard to break down in the league(s) this season.
A new Wildecats matchday setup saw Tom Jones take charge of his team for the first time, with the lineup being named before the warmup. Darran took charge of the pre-match regime which proved extremely popular with the squad.
Tom Smith took the captains arm band for the first time as a Wildecat as Leicester set out 3 objectives to achieve in the first game:
1. Respect of officials. Tom reiterated his zero tolerance to remonstration towards officials
2. Communication on the pitch when challenging for the ball and receiving the ball
3. Positivity towards each other all of the time
Cats won the kick off and set up with a 4-5-1 formation that saw Steve in goal, Gino, Gary, Tom and Michael made up the back 4, James and Gerrard took up the wide berths, with Dave, Mike and Matt in the three central roles. Darran was the lone figure up front.
The quality of the opposition forced Cats to be solid as a team. Given the number of goals conceded last season, Cats had to change something, and with MOM Dave guarding the back 4 it meant the defence were being protected by a hard battling midfield 5 that snuffed out the majority of the oppositions’ attacks. Any opportunities were soon cut out by the defence who were on their game.
The first real chance of the match came with a through ball to Darran who latched onto the ball but fired well over from 18 yards. Mat also had a shot cleared off the line having beaten the isolated keeper. The visitors however had plenty of the ball, but Cats did not over commit to the tackle and instead held a firm shape to make the team hard to break down.
Tom made changes on the 30 minute mark with Gerrard, Mike and Michael being replaced with Ryan Nibs and Rudy to deploy a more 4-4-1-1 formation. Darran joined Tom at the back with Gary in the midfield, Nibs played the hole and Ryan took up left back. Rudy went to the left wing. The change took some time to settle as the opposition started to ask more questions and came close as Rhys shot from 20 yards. Tom then made a great last ditch challenge to put the ball out for a corner
Tom made changes at Half Time with Mike replacing James on the wing, and Jeremy slotting in at RB. John replaced Steve in goal and Mat was replaced by Gerrard.
The change had an impact as Gerrard and Rudy began to play a more direct style of play with Rudy shooting wide early on. However as both teams began to tire, Cats took the initiative. Rudy as wide left and had a chance to cross, however he looked up and hit a curving shot into the roof of th net to send Leicester ahead with their 3rd shot on goal. The goal shook the opposition who then conceded a corner soon after the goal. The corner was taken short and Tom picked up the loose ball, but under pressure a wayward backpass didn’t have enough speed and direction as the visitors nipped in to slot into the net against the stranded keeper for a fortuitous equaliser. That said the striker was ready to pounce and reacted in quick time.
Previously a goal like that would open the flood gates for the Cats, whose defence has been suspect over the last season. Instead, the team dug deep and weathered a last 20 minute onslaught on goal as the visitors flashed shots narrowly over and narrowly wide. One shot of note was a bullet that was smartly tipped over by Driver in the Cats’ sticks.
As the game became stretched in the last 10 minutes Cats had 2 opportunities to counter attack and get their noses in front, but the decisions in the last third to take on the man/release the pass prevented any further goal mouth action.
What a performance and what a game! It’s been a long time since the team performed so well against such good opposition. Regardless of ability that was a team performance with everyone fighting and playing for each other. Everyone came off the pitch smiling.
As for the objectives:
1. Communication was much better and player’s were actually wanting the ball and not shying away from it
2. Referee discipline – the team didn’t argue with the referee. Only one time for a throw in decision did the team become frustrated, however it didn’t affect the game
3. Positivity towards each other – Yesterday was a marked improvement and we should all be proud of the way we encouraged everyone. There was obviously one outburst but it’s something the team will move on from and not repeat.
20 Press-up forfeits:
1. Jeremy – foul throw (tbh it was pretty woeful)
2. Gerrard for being a “F*****g c**t to Rudy
3. Tom Smith for his “assist”
4. Gino for being late and repeatedly not being goal side of his marker