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Gutsy Ealing go down fighting on Cairns’ management return

07 Nov 2018


League match – 6 Nov 2018

Ealing Independent College 2-4 Ashbourne College

Team: Abdullah; James, Fraser, Sanj; Nimr, Abubakar (Brent), Selyan (Aqeel); Ronaldo

Goals: Ronaldo, Brent

A much changed Ealing got back into action at Burlington Danes last night, with Allan Cairns back on the touchline to guide the side, and a group of new players making their debuts or returns to the starting line up. An encouraging training session on Friday made it clear that Ealing were better than the atrocious opening to the season they had been going through, and only the unwell Sabaoon was unavailable for the match from the chosen squad. On the way to the game, the mood in the bus was positive and optimistic and, taking to the pitch in their black change kit, the team got on to the front foot from the beginning.

Ashbourne, a side who won the league last season, are well-versed in winning, and it was nothing short of a miraculous transformation to see the men in black giving as good as they got in the opening exchanges. Ashbourne were, however, slowly getting on top and pinning Ealing back. Some dangerous long shots rained in on Abdullah’s goal, one speculative effort hitting a post, and another was deflected over. From the resulting corner, the marking was slack and a good delivery was capitalised on, with an onrushing Ashbourne attacker controlling a half-volley beyond Abdullah.

The Ealing response was good, with striker Ronaldo looking dangerous whenever he got into the action. Ealing struggled to consistently get him the ball though, and were always open to the counter. A mistake by James was seized upon by the Ashbourne number 6, who collected a long ball and smashed home a second beyond the despairing dive of Abdullah. At this point, Ealing again threatened to get themselves back in the match. Ronaldo was taken down by a late challenge which went unpunished, before an excellent free kick by the young Antiguan forced the Ashbourne ‘keeper into a smart stop to his left.

Just before half-time, an Ashbourne midfielder again found enough room to despatch an accurate shot and it nestled in the bottom right corner. A 3-0 lead at the interval was far from a fair reflection on the proceedings, and coach Allan Cairns made this clear in his half-time team talk. He implored his side to get the next goal in order to get the momentum of the match back in their favour, and moved Selyan and Abubakar, who had been playing wider, into a more central midfield position to support Nimr. The new defence of James, Fraser and Sanj, who were beginning to gain an understanding amongst themselves, had to be trusted to pick up the opposing threat, while Ealing got on the front foot themselves.

The pace of the game went up a notch in the early stages of the second half, and along with it, the aggression rose too. Captain Nimr let the Ashbourne midfield know he was around with some meaty challenges which clearly riled the men in blue. He set up an excellent chance for Ronaldo by driving past two Ashbourne defenders before squaring to the young striker. An excellent chance was passed up though when he hesitated after committing the goalie. Cairns brought on Aqeel and the returning star of last season Brent, giving some forward momentum, and in turn opening up some space. A moment of Ronaldo magic then got Ealing back into the game. Skipping past three challenges, he drove 20 yards down the right before flashing a pinpoint drive beyond the onrushing Ashbourne stopper. Immediately this gave the men in black a huge lift. They seemed to gain a yard of speed and Ashbourne were wobbled. Aqeel was inches away from striking a second, before being denied by an illegal sliding challenge. The resulting free kick came to nothing.

The game had now become very competitive, and threatened to boil over when the two captains clashed in the middle of the pitch. After the situation was calmed, Nimr put in one too many loose tackles and had to be removed from the game. Ealing missed his bite in midfield, and Ashbourne took back control of the game when the impressive Ashbourne number 6 managed to wriggle free of a challenge to guide an excellent shot into the bottom corner to restore their three goal advantage. One felt sympathy for Abdullah in goal, whose performance, particularly in the second half, certainly did not deserve another concession. Ealing were not done though. A questionable long throw by Abu found it’s way beyond Aqeel, and the Ashbourne defence, to Brent who powered a low drive into the bottom corner. It was too little, too late to get them back into the match, but made the scoreline a far more accurate representation of the contest.

A high scoring defeat for Ealing, but some extremely positive signs moving forward. If they can cut out individual mistakes, they will certainly be competitive in their remaining four games before Christmas.

Man of the match – Sanj - a tenacious display from the left-sided defender. In a match with lots of needle, Sanj went about his business quietly, making some excellent tackles, headers and blocks to clear his lines. An encouraging performance for the debutant.

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