AFC Unity were eliminated from the Krukowski Cup by Sheffield Wednesday’s Division Two development side at the beautiful Hallam Sports Park, losing 5-2 in what provided positive signs for manager Jay Baker.
“We already made a statement early in the season, so six subsequent league and cup games without a win is fine, and we know the reasons why it happened, and this game began the process of fixing it,” said Baker. “It’s nice to see goals going in again after a three-game drought.”
This isn’t a coincidence, since Baker promised to change the team to its earlier attacking style, unafraid to risk conceding goals in order to score them.
“If you look at the games in the past, we’ve let a lot of goals in, but scored a heck of a lot as well, and that’s how we won. It’s exciting to watch, and it also gets results. But we tightened things up, so teams were getting one, two, or maybe three goals against us rather than seven, and it came at a price.”
Sheffield Wednesday Development are joint top of Division Two, and scored four goals within twenty minutes to go into half time 4-0 up. But AFC Unity essentially won the second half, better marginalising their opponents, who scored only one goal to Unity’s two, with a third controversially disallowed. So what went wrong, and why were these positive signs?
“I found out literally five minutes before kick-off that a key player wasn’t available for the diamond midfield I’d prepped the team for,” explained Baker. “These things happen, and we still saw a much better performance by playing people out of their comfort zones a bit more, into a formation that is much more attacking, and this was the right game to experiment in, at the cost of letting their strong defence push out into a midfield where we were weak in shape.”
With next weekend off, AFC Unity now focus on training before returning home to Hillsborough College on December 14th, where they play Greasborough, who knocked New Bohemians out of the Krukowski Cup, 2-1.
“You can’t underestimate anyone in this division,” added Baker. “Including us.”
AFC Unity’s goals were both scored by Lucy Strutt.