Sunday 9th April 2006
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Manics Stumble On The Winning Formula

There is an old Native American phrase: Beware the Wounded Bear.

Advice that Rides Dynamoes should have heeded in Sunday's fixture against the Manics. For the boys in blue were wounded far greater than ever before in Manic history. Sidelined were South African duo Jason Graaff and Brent Marais, last years Player of the Year Simon Blay, midfield legend Aaron Goddard, left-back Ryan Warman and new Swiss signing Marcel Hollenstein. Amongst the walking wounded were Gareth Jones and Mark Robertson, who played despite injuries. But the wounds on this grizzly Manic bear were not only physical. After last weeks cruel trapping by Wokingham United, the Manics carried mental scars they were determined to put right.

With manager Nikos Patsalides, Simon Graves and James Kirwan-Williams in the starting XI, the Manics fielded three players who had only played 3 whole games between them all season. In fact it was Patsalides first start for the Manics in 4 years. So he, like most of his teammates, must have been pleased to see the game was being played on one of the smallest pitches in the Premier League, Rides Community Centre.

The Manics, adopting an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation, began brightly, matching the conditions overhead. Glenn Evans was particularly influential in the middle of the park as he continually broke up the neat passing game that Rides tried to implement. And it was Evans that had the games first real chance, but his weak effort was lapped up by the grateful keeper after he was cleverly put through by Gary Sarney. Angry at this miss, Glenn Evans didn't have to wait long before he got to make amends. The ball sprang out to him at the corner of the box and he fired an accruate right foot strike into the bottom corner to put the Manics 1-0 up. And it was a lead the boys richly deserved.

The game turned slightly after Evans, constantly in the thick of the action, rolled his ankle after an innocuous challenge with Rides' number 3. He could continue no more, leaving the Manics down to 10 men for the remainder of the half - 30 minutes. The extra player began to influence possession as Rides held onto the ball for large periods at a time. However, they failed to carve out any clear chances - evidence of the quality defending by the Manics. The nearest Rides came was a thunderous effort against the bar. Although, the home side did have a better chance to level matters just before the break after Baker made a rare error and let in Rides no 14, who somehow sliced his effort high and wide of James Robinson's left hand post. Relief at half time that the Manics had weathered the storm, and could now call upon the unpunctual Barry O'Connell to make up the numbers.

And Barry O'Connell made an almost immediate impact. This reporter, me Simon Oakbutter, missed the goal as he was emptying his bladder, but by all accounts it was a sweet strike 10 minutes after the break that put the Manics 2 up. Rides continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession, but looked very iffy at the back, making the counter attack a useful weapon for the Manics. And it was a swift counter that made the lead 3-0. Gareth Jones, who adapted his game according to injury superbly, lobbed the keeper with deadly accruacy from 25 yards. Gleeful faces were everywhere.

However, as the Manics midfield tired - they had worked tirelessly throughout - Rides began to exert a little more pressure on the outstanding defensive trio of Gates, Baker and Kirwan-Williams. With about 12 minutes remaining an offside looking forward steered the ball past Robinson to reduce the arrears. As there was no linesman, the Manics had to guard against attackers creeping behind them. Lessons were not learned as Rides repeated their previous move just 2 minutes later. Manics faced a nervy ending as they clung onto their hard-earned lead. But hold on they did, as the potent claws of the hard-working wounded Manic bear held on for a welcome and hard-fought 3 points. With the Easter break ahead, and time for players to return from injury, the Manics can look forward to ending the season on a high.

Simon Oakbutter

Scorers: Gl. Evans (1) Jones (1) O'Connell (1).
Assists: Jones (1) Sarney (1) Robertson (1).

The Manics Man of the Match went to James Robinson and the Referee's player of the match went to Mark Gates.

Thanks to the fans who came to watch.

 Final Result: Rides Utd 2 Bracknell Manics 3

 Man of the Match
   "Go on you Manics!"
James Robinson  

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