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Hards furious with City side despite victory
IF Winchester City’s players expected a pat on the back for going in 2-0 up at half-time against relegation-fighting Fawley AFC, they were sorely mistaken.
Instead, unimpressed manager Neil Hards blasted them for going against team instructions – even though goals by Chris Flood and Chris Mason were ultimately enough to secure a 2-0 victory that carried them top of the Sydenhams Premier.
Winning alone is not enough for Hards. He wants to achieve results in style with fluent, passing football.
Yet for 45 mind-numbing minutes on Saturday, he witnessed a performance that was massively at odds with what he and assistant Paul Masters preach in training.
“Our first half went against everything we’ve been trying to instil in the players for the past four weeks,” he said.
“It was like a ping-pong machine. The ball was in the air so much that my neck was hurting.
“We started hitting 60 and 70-yard worldy passes that were never going to reach their target and we were fortunate to come in two up at half-time.
“The second-half pleased me much more. The chances didn’t go in for us, but I was far happier with the way we went about it.
“The first half incensed me because we didn’t do what we do in training. We look a much better unit when we keep the ball below head height, pass it around and make it difficult for the opposition to get it back.”
Having picked up a rare point in a 2-2 draw with Verwood the previous week, Fawley had a narrow escape when City’s Liam Robinson rattled the post early on.
But the visitorsshould really have seized the lead when Matt Vining intercepted Lloyd Webber’s attempted back pass only to be thwarted one-on-one by young City ’keeper Ross Casey.
Two precision finishes in the 31st and 40th minutes proved the undoing of a hard-working Oilers side who, in Hards’ opinion, will start climbing the league if they can regularly replicate Saturday’s industrious display.
Flood got the first, firing across ex-City goalkeeper George Passingham into the far right-hand corner and Mason doubled the advantage with a sublime curled finish after Flood had played him in.
After some half-time ‘hairdryer treatment’ from Hards, City stamped their class on proceedings and, but for Passingham’s stubborn resistance, would have added to their score.
Pick of Passingham’s heroics was a smart double save from Flood and sub Darryl Phillips in stoppage time.
By then City were down to ten men having had new defensive signing Ross Bottomley sent off for a second yellow little more than half- an-hour into his debut off the bench.
With fellow strugglers Totton & Eling grabbing a surprise win at Newport IOW, defeat dropped Fawley back into the bottom two.
But visiting manager Colin Lane was impressed by the Oilers.
“I always said 7-0 was a fluke when Winchester beat us at our place and we played well today,” he said.
“We missed a glaring chance at 0-0. Put that away and it’s a different game. We’ve got Newport at home on Wednesday and, like I said to the lads afterwards, if they can’t believe in themselves after playing the way they did today, they’re never going to.”
Winchester face a tough assignment at sixth-placed AFC Portchester tonight without midfielder Liam Green, who was stretchered off with a torn thigh muscle.
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