With playoff qualification already secure, the context of the third BWPL weekend was somewhat different from its predecessors. Poly would take on bottom side Manchester Hawks, who are yet to win a match this season and Welsh Wanderers, an enigmatic team with a wide performance range. This was an opportunity to experiment with a focus on driving in attack, post play during man-up and a defensive drop off the number two, whilst working a high line between three and four.
Polytechnic 9 - 8 Manchester Hawks
The Hawks have been the whipping boys of division 2 this season and the match started without surprise. Early goals from Ben Vandoren and Jeremy Johnson took Poly into an early 2-0 lead; this should have been the cue for taking the game out of sight and filling the Poly side of the scoreboard with goals. As it turns out, Poly never got out of second gear. The attack was creating chances, the new drive looked effective and the centre forwards were getting position on 2m, but there was a lack of intensity that meant goals decayed into missed chances. Poly crept into half-time at 4 apiece with 2 goals from Carlos Ardid, but little else to show for our efforts. The Hawks are a young team and played on the counter attack, but surprisingly five of their goals came from centre forward, an unusually high return against Poly whose strength has historically been defensive. Poor focus, miscommunication and a lack of certainty around which defensive system was being played meant a loose and error strewn defense. This reflected the overall lack of quality in the game as a whole and once again Poly found themselves trailing. The game was precarious, but a fourth quarter brace from Luke Jones, a good centre forwards goal from John Bright, and a cool finish from returning star Fernando Galan with only 2.7 seconds on the clock eventually clinched Poly the game.
Welsh Wanderers 13 - 10 Polytechnic
In a word this game was disappointing. It's true that with qualification secure and a match start time of 9 am, motivation would be less forthcoming, but these are the kind of games that separate a division 1 team from a division 2 team. The Welsh are a decent outfit on their day, but ultimately their game is one dimensional, electing to play off their key man, Dan Laxton whenever possible. Poly know this and it represents a significant failure that we were unable to mark him out of the game, considering the high quality defensive players at our disposal and perhaps execution of a more targeted game plan would have made the difference. If proof were needed, Laxton scored 7 goals (the majority unspectacular) making up 54% of the Welsh goal haul. That's just science. Attack suffered in the same way as the defence, with incoherence and a failure to convert chances. Chris Icely stood out once again, with 4 goals for Poly, but the overall team performance looked jaded and purposeless. Poly trailed for almost the entire game and never truly looked like winning it, always a bit too slow and a bit too loose. Credit to the Welsh, they played hard and took the victory, but Poly are capable of so much more.
Nothing happens in isolation and the failures of the team are layered. At base, it is clear that fitness will need to be taken up a level to compete in Div 1; allied to this, Poly need to start to look and play like a team, taking control of matches and dictating play, rather than being reactive. This requires greater organisation and tactical awareness. We know Poly are capable, with the players needed to play in Div 1 and play well. The final missing piece is desire, a desire to give our all and leave nothing out in the water. Come on Poly, we can do this!
- Jeremy Johnson