After two years of watching us finish bottom of our qualifying group without a point, I had been determined for us to be well prepared for this tournament, especially with it being held at Arbour Park on Sunday.
With competition for all 11 positions, selecting a team was difficult but it's a good problem to have and allows us to cope with injuries and player availability without changing our shape and style of play.
Our opening game was against Reading Deaf, the current English Deaf League Champions and holders of FA People's Cup. We lost 0-2, conceding a goal immediately from kick off and another speculative 35-yard effort late in the game. We played well and took heart from our performance having created chances against a hugely successful and experienced team. I was delighted so see how disappointed the lads were that we hadn't managed a draw, having created reasonable chances ourselves.
A Dwayne Shaw stunning strike was enough to beat Ruislip Rangers in the next match, in which we were fully in control throughout, and Dan Greene was unlucky to see his fine effort on the turn at the edge of the box just sail over the bar. We played at a higher tempo and displayed more urgency in the attacking third.
Bournemouth now needed to beat us in a game we totally dominated but despite Dwayne Shaw being through 3 times with just the keeper to beat, we couldn't score in what ended up as a feisty encounter. Darrell Barltrop was perhaps lucky to only receive a yellow following a late challenge, as some of our players reacted to some cynical play from the opposition. Marshalled superbly by skipper Nathan Richardson, Bournemouth were not allowed to settle and rarely got anywhere near threatening our goal, resulting in a scoreless draw.
Finally, we started brightly and comfortably went into a 3-0 lead against Aylesbury, with goals from Shawn Harding, Mohammed Farah and an own goal following a corner, before the visitors scored a late consolation direct from a debatable free kick, given for handball on the edge of our penalty area.
Reading and Slough Town now advance to one of the two Quarter-Finals that will be held in North London and Sussex during February.
It's important now that we refocus on the BOBi League this weekend, where we're on a nice run at the moment.
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