Tonked In The Head
Welsh Division Two side Honkey Tonks FC delivered Grilled their third straight loss of the week, as the Birds' experiment in sorting out their defence with 3-5-2 didn't go as well as they might have liked. Trainee striker Leong Wan Kang
was something of a revelation in this match, but it was his 22 year-old counterpart Hugh Griffin who made the biggest impression, chipping in with the winner in the 70th minute.
The reserves were up for it, having won their previous few outings, but soon realised that Honkey's weathered defensive partnership of Cas Pater and Manuel Chávarri had seen it all. Despite that, Leong was supercharged on this day, and managed to pass Chávarri after several failed attempts in the eleventh minute, but put it marginally over.
While partially at fault for that, right winger Jon Saunders came good in the 24th minute when he made full use of Shiya Shaahee
being otherwise occupied, and made Colby Awyong
back off with his expressive dribbling. Having earned time for the calvary to arrive, Saunders then raked it in nearly parallel to the goal, and Hovaness Noubaryan
would rue waiting for it to arrive as Griffin threw himself in at the near post to convert.
made a good go of corralling Griffin and Nuno Bollo, but Grilled's other defenders were not as proactive, and basically invited Portuguese leftback Rui Alexandre Sousal to carry the ball into their faces and lob Noubaryan. Only the crossbar saved the Birds that time, as whatever rot had infected the senior team looked to have filtered down.
There was at least some urgency, and Shaahee's mazy footwork bought the Birds a free-kick some distance outside the penalty area in the 33rd minute. Djan Bacelar
made to shoot, but then tapped it on for Ross to scoop to Mohd Safri bin Mohd Kassim
, who however was sluggish in meeting it as he used to do.
Mohd Safri did put that episode behind him soon, being alert when Tian Yonghang
blindly headed a corner kick backwards. There was plenty of contortion involved, but Mohd Safri somehow got his foot to a ball that fell behind him, and whipped it beyond a bemused Ahmed Haq.
Grilled probably didn't deserve to go into half-time level, but there it was. The second half saw Ling Fuquan
come in and the Birds perk up, but it would up to be Saunders who would rise to the fore. While still raw, he had the measure of Awyong, and breezed past on the right side all too easily to restore Honkey's lead in the 51st minute.
Leong had waited far too long, not having found the net since the 2-0 win against allsports, and he celebrated a belated 20th birthday by impressively giving Chávarri the run-around yet again. He had learnt his lesson, and held his shot until Haq was forced to come out, at which he bent it around the keeper.
This came as a relief to the spectators, and despite the match being a friendly, it was clear that both sides would very much have liked to take it. Grilled momentarily appeared to have the upper hand, as good understanding between the trio in midfield cut off several Honkey attacks before they got going, but it was Griffin who outflanked them all to notch what would be the winning goal.
and Gleb Dorogan
came on as the Birds tried to avoid losing once more, but it was to no avail as they lacked that cutting edge.