Fisher 0-2 Phoenix Sports
Tuesday 31st January 2023
SCEFL Premier Division
Fisher’s recent resurgence was halted by a well drilled Phoenix Sports side in a scrappy game at St Paul’s as the visitors claimed the three points to keep up their push for second spot and the promotion play-off.
Fisher were dealt a blow on the morning of the match when both Lewis Duberry and Billy Brown withdrew with illness, which saw a rare start for Julio da Mata in midfield and Jacob Katonia starting upfront despite still being troubled by a foot injury. Temi Oladejo started at right back in place of the unavailable Malaki Coker.
Katonia looked the brightest spark in the Fisher front line and tested veteran keeper Andy Walker in the visitor’s goal with a low curling effort, after skipping past several challenges, but the shot was well smothered. Several in-swinging corners from Temi Oladejo also caused some alarm in the Phoenix area but no Fisher head could get sufficient contact on any of the deliveries to force the ball home. Cedric Nganga also found some space outside the area to shoot, but his well struck effort just failed to curl inside the post with Walker looking beaten.
As the half went on the balance of play moved towards the visitors and they themselves had several corners that saw good clearing punches from Sam Amedu in the Fisher goal. Just past the half hour mark the deadlock was broken. Having won a free kick near the left corner flag, a low delivery was only partially cleared and the recycled ball was fired across the box with Francis Babalola on hand to slam home from very close range, in what looked a very close encounter with the offside line.
Neither side was finding much fluency in their play and the rest of the half was played out with few chances. Fisher were struggling to bring either winger into the game, where they have been so dangerous in recent games and the main danger was to the foxes in the surrounding woods as several balls were hammered out the ground by both sides.
The second half had a little more quality as both sides got the ball down to better effect. Phoenix started strongly and Amedu was required to come and claim several dangerous crosses and corners. There was a slight alarm when a lobbed through pass saw Amedu initially beaten to the ball, but he reclaimed at the third attempt after a round of pinball in the box.
Fisher should have got back on level terms on the hour. Good pressing as Phoenix tried to play out saw a loose pass from Walker who had ventured wide of his penalty area. The ball fell to the feet of Eni Amgbaduba but the big forward took a touch too may in deciding whether to shoot or square giving Walker time to scramble back into his goal and having finally squared the ball to Katonia, his effort was superbly blocked by the retreating keeper to spare his blushes.
Phoenix then pushed hard for a second goal to seal the game, with the pacy Babalola always looking a threat with both he and King seeing efforts blocked by defenders. From the resulting corner from the second of these blocks Matt Bourne lost his marker and swept home the low delivery to give Phoenix a two goal cushion.
Fisher battled hard in the remaining twenty minutes to find a way back into the game. Cedric Nganga saw a shot on the turn saved. However, too often Fisher’s attacking players wanted an extra touch which allowed the Phoenix defenders to get in tackle, with Isaac Thompson and Michael Sarpong both held up after good runs skipping through several tackles. Luke With and Inesh Sumithran added fresh legs when coming on for Oladejo and Amgbaduba as Fisher tried to find the combination to get a goal back. A quick counter saw Fisher break two on two, but Thompson’s through ball was just behind Katonia and the chance was gone. It was to be Thompson last contribution as he made way for German Petrov as Fisher threw players forward. Katonia burst through the massed Phoenix defence, but Walker was quickly out to block. Conor Darwish wriggled through several tackles and with a little good fortune from rebounds found himself with a shooting chance but fired wide and Luke With got in behind the back line only to see Walker block well when he looked set to convert. Late into stoppage time Douglas cleared off the line after Katonia had again beaten Walker to the ball and lobbed the keeper but without getting sufficient power to beat the retreating defender.
On a different day Fisher may well have forced a draw given the number of late chances they created but Phoenix’s more clinical finishing earlier in the game had given them a cushion to see the game out and take the points.
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