West Wratting A 1-5 Foxton Reserves

Foxton Reserves side has undergone a bit of a transformation in the close season with some valuable players moving on to play at other clubs, but there has also been a large influx of new players with some serious quality and there has been a positive atmosphere around the squad throughout pre-season.

Foxton travelled to West Wratting for their season opener against the local “A” side, a side who had finished above Foxton for the past two seasons.

Foxton took a strong squad including no fewer than eight new players in a 15 man match-day squad, but there was an early set-back in the fact that squad didn’t include a recognised ‘keeper. The reserves now have several on the books, but circumstance meant none available on the day. It was a Foxton veteran who “took one for the team”, with James Peel taking on the gloves for the day.

Foxton shaped up in an attacking 4-3-3 with a number of players making their league debut for the side: Brad Gypps and Ashden Lawrence flanked Chris Wilkin and Joe Stack at centre half; Iain “Tokes” Tokely (C), Craig Badhams and Tom “TC” Care made up the midfield trio; Jon Brittan and Matt “Gravey” Graver played wide of Kev Pettengell in the front line.

Foxton started brightly and the opening exchanges were a good indicator for the flow of the game. Wratting mostly attempting to play long balls to chase, ably cut out by the Foxton defence, contrasted with Foxton getting the ball down and playing a passing game which showed a few wrinkles as the team still beds in, but bodes well for the rest of the season, as the red and black shirts played some nice football almost all on the deck.

Wratting probed in the very early play with a couple of long balls down the flanks, trying to capitalise as the back four of Foxton looked to settle, but these were dealt with comfortably. The first real opening of the game came with a ball played out to Jon Brittan on the right who had plenty of time to get the ball under control and get his head up to see Kev Pettengell slightly offside, the Wratting defence were so slow to close the ball that Kev put himself back onside, Jon delivered the ball in behind the defence and Kev controlled neatly and finished into the bottom corner, Foxton celebrated, West Wratting got themselves into position to kick off without so much as a mumble of discontent with the goal, but the Wratting linesman stood with his flag aloft. Despite the clear delay in the delivery of the ball to allow Kev to get himself onside and the fact not a single Wratting player actually protested the goal at all, the ref went with the linesman and chalked off what should have been Foxton’s opener.

Foxton didn’t have to wait long to get their first goal of the season though, Gravey playing Kev in behind the defense to the left of goal, as the ‘keeper closed his angle he rolled the ball square for Jon to knock in, unmarked, from 6 yards.

Minutes later Foxton doubled their lead, Gravey playing a ball across goal and Kev with a neat finish between the ‘keepers legs for 2-0. Foxton, with their control of the ball on the floor looked like they could run away with it.

It was mid-way through the first half that provided what proved to be Wratting’s consolation, a hopeful long ball allowing a Wratting striker to make a good run between the centre halves and finish calmly past the otherwise fantastic James Peel. Foxton did a great job throughout the day of restricting Wratting’s chances, but James needs to take his share of credit for limiting the home side to only the one goal, pulling off some good stops throughout as the new defence settled.

Shortly after the Wratting goal Foxton were forced into two changes for minor injuries to both full backs, Dan Braybrook replacing Ashden Lawrence and Andy Campbell replacing Brad Gypps who had picked up a knock to the ankle.

Despite their goal Wratting never really looked like coming back into the game or even having the belief that they could. Foxton continued to play some composed football and rounded out the first half with another Pettengell goal, once again provided by Matt Graver from the left flank, a little pull-back from the byline allowing Kev to finish, assuredly, at the near-post.

Foxton finished the half with a 3-1 lead and looking composed, but also like a side that could find at least one more gear yet this season.

Foxton started the second half with the side that finished the first, though they were made to wait by a home side who could have knocked off to the local pub for lunch in the time they took in the dressing room.

The second half started a lot more ragged than the first ended. Wratting’s manager, you can only assume, had laid into them at half time and they came out with a lot more determination than they had showed in the first half, their tempo was higher and for a short while it was enough to put Foxton out of their stride and the game became very scrappy with Wratting managing to scrape out a couple of half-chances.

Eventually their energy lulled and Foxton managed to get a foot back on the ball, knocking it around again and creating some good chances, seeing several shots flash just wide of the post, being tipped out for corners or even coming back off the post a couple of times to be hacked away. Despite not yet getting a goal in the second half, the fact the chances were coming again seemed to take a lot of the remaining steam out of Wratting’s performance and they started to look more content to simply keep the scoreline down.

Having settled once again in the second half and having control of the game, Jon Brittan made way for James Day to make his Foxton league debut in a straight swap out to the right wing, with Adam Peel returning to Foxton action in place of Joe Stack who had put in a fantastic performance throughout.

Late in the game another strange refereeing decision once again robbed Kev of a third goal in the game. Foxton having won a free kick near the edge of the box started to find their positions, Kev asked the ref if he could take the kick immediately and the ref indicated that he could. Kev took his kick and immediately the referees whistle went once again, with James (D) having been pulled down in the opposition box as the ball flew into the top corner of the net beyond the Wratting ‘keepers reach. The goal should have stood, but the referee had already blown his whistle, penalty given.

Kev stood aside for the penalty and offered it to his captain, Tokes, who had been immense in midfield throughout the day, helping Foxton to control the game throughout, as had his fellow midfielders TC and Craig. Tokes stroked the ball left of centre and underneath the diving goalkeeper to bring Foxton 4-1 ahead and give them the goal their second half performance had deserved.

There was a late scare for Foxton and one incident their defence will need to reflect upon when a long, speculative ball out of the Wratting defence was played beyond the Foxton back line, where their number 9 was stood off-side. Foxton stopped awaiting the offside decision, but the number 9 was neither near the ball nor did he attempt to play it and there was sufficient time for two Wratting players to make the run from midfield beyond the back line before Foxton could react. Chris and Adam, once they realised that the ball was still in play, did enough to put the Wratting players under pressure and the resultant shot was, thankfully, straight at James Peel in the Foxton goal, gathered gratefully.

The result was tied up nicely in the closing stages of the game when TC sprung the offside trap and found himself one-on-one with the Wratting goalkeeper with no defenders even attempting to make the ground to him. After trying to force the ‘keeper into committing to a decision, which he wouldn’t, TC stroked the ball tight inside the near post to leave Foxton 5-1 up and as comfortable as their performance throughout had deserved.

There’s a full season yet to come and no doubt there will be a lot harder games to play, but after a summer that started with the outward transfers of both Staley brothers, Ash Hovells, Emile Bani and Will Heslam there was a lot to be very positive about. Foxton Reserves look a stronger, more settled, comfortable and happy side who controlled the game throughout and still have more players to introduce to the fold. There’s work yet to be done, some hard games to be played, but there is every reason to be optimistic and look forward to the games as they come.

A 5-1 opening to the season in a strong performance, with no player letting themselves down and some note-worthy performances. Joe Stack was very solid at the back, Tokes was instrumental in the centre of the pitch and helped Foxton control both the game and their shape throughout, but man of the match against West Wratting “A” on this day was Matt Graver who gave his opposite number on the left flank a torrid day throughout the game and provided three assists in doing so.

Well done boys, look forward to the season as a whole now!