South East United wrapped up the pre-season Summer Cup program with a much-improved team performance, which was ultimately let down by four minutes of inexplicable chaos at the end of the first half.
With 41 minutes on the clock, the highly-fancied University only led by a solitary goal – a scrambled effort from a corner after just five minutes. After digging in doggedly to keep ourselves in the game, we had begun to look dangerous ourselves and a mistake in the Uni backline suddenly presented us with a gilt-edged opportunity for an equaliser. Unfortunately, we were unable to take it and, barely ten seconds later, we were picking the ball out of our own net following a lightening Uni break.
As disappointing as it was to find ourselves two down when we should have been level, the goal turned out to be the first of four in as many catastrophic minutes, as all our hard work was undone by a catalogue of unforced errors. While Uni took their opportunities with aplomb (including a couple of screamers), they must have been rubbing their eyes at a scoreline which had suddenly ballooned to 5-0.
One might have been forgiven for thinking the writing was on the wall even before kick off, as a combination of injuries, unavailabilities and FFT rules - which prevented us from naming any of our social players in the senior competition - meant that coach Glen Roland was only able to name the bare eleven, including five teenagers and no substitutes.
Even so, the half-time team talk Glen was preparing with five minutes of the half remaining would have a had a vastly different vibe to the rocket which was ultimately served.
With the game already gone and the heat of the sun starting to play a part, South East came out for the second half with the aim of preserving energy and regaining the organisation and composure which had kept us in the match for so much of the first half.
South East worked to cut out the basic errors which had littered our pre-season program and provided so many gifts to our opposition, while Uni, for their part, were high on confidence and hungry for more goals, which they must have thought were theirs for the taking.
In the end, Uni did manage to score another three – a penalty, an absolutely superb team goal, and a header from another corner – but, in the context of the game and the heat, the South East players deserve credit for making them work hard for their goals where, in other games, we would have folded and given up plenty more.
While the Summer Cup results have not been kind, it is worth remembering this was only ever a friendly tournament which we entered to start cutting our teeth at the higher level, and learning about our opposition. We haven’t come close to being able to field our full-strength side in any of the games, and we must be mindful of just how many teenagers we have had playing in these matches.
The improvements may not have been reflected on the scoreboards, but those who have been watching will understand while we are still looking forward to the new season with a high degree of optimism that we will prove that we can compete at the higher level.
Next Saturday will see a full intraclub match for all senior players, with the first round of the Southern Championships taking place the following week, when we make the familiar trip to North Chigwell to take on Metro.
Go South East!