AFC Unity’s red and black attack back on track with 8-0 win

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AFC Unity manager Jay Baker saw his players deliver on his vow that the “red stars” would be better than ever, as they defeated Greasbrough in their long-awaited home win, one they provided in style with a staggering 8-0 result.

“I think everyone will agree that was worth the wait,” said Baker. “As I said last time, the best was yet to come, and I have thanked my players personally for making sure that claim was realised, because they stuck to this attacking plan, kept their positions, and did me proud.”

Coach Jonny Hodgson said: “AFC Unity have gone from being a team with a variety of abilities and achievements, to a united squad with one aim, and it’s such a major transformation across only a few months – this game really proved this, as they played with complete confidence and didn’t once drop their guard.”

Baker agreed. With AFC Unity 3-0 up at half time, it was important the team didn’t become complacent.

“The formation was workmanlike, and so were the players,” he said. “Everything was clinical, deliberate, but with a solid tempo, and we’re starting to see the effects of the training from coaches Jonny Hodgson and Olivia Murray as players put it all into action.”

“It was an amazing day and a fantastic team performance,” said Murray, before joking “At times it was like watching Brazil; I’m really proud of everyone.”

“‘Proud’ is an understatement,” said Hodgson.

Baker had special praise for Greasbrough, though.

“It just so happened that they played us on a day I’d decided it was time to throw everything but the kitchen sink at our opponents,” he said. “But they’re a great team, with a good ethos, and played some good football with a smile on their faces, and are only going to keep improving with that approach, so next time it could all be completely different.”

Greasbrough had no substitutes, and due to injuries, at times played with only ten.

“It was a similar story when we beat New Bohemians 7-2,” Baker pointed out, “and look at what they went and did after that: took us to the limit, and left us lucky to escape with a 3-3 draw the next time, so you never know.”

AFC Unity’s Nathalie Silver played her last game for the club, as she prepares to move to the Midlands, and coach Jonny Hodgson made special mention: “What a star,” he exclaimed. “She will be greatly missed by the whole team – she brought outstanding energy and enthusiasm.”

“Best wishes to her,” he added.

She enjoyed scoring in her last game, as AFC Unity’s goals came from Jane Watkinson (4), Lucy Strutt (2), Shanie Griffith, and Nathalie Silver.

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“The Best is Yet to Come”

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With their first Sunday without a game since they started the season, the “red stars” of AFC Unity have been focusing on training with coach Jonny Hodgson – additional coach Olivia Murray recovering from a knee operation after a re-aggravated injury as a player, sustained in pre-season.

Manager Jay Baker has seen this as an opportune time to regroup. Several social activities have provided bonding experiences for the team, too, and the manager, who is heavy on community management experience but light on sporting competitiveness, admits that helps.

“When Jane Watkinson and I founded this club, we promised it would be different – that players would encourage and support each other and stick together; that the ethics of the club are reflected by beautiful football, the passing style of play, and in the players’ attitudes and selflessness,” Baker said. “But that is enhanced by this opportunity to focus on training as well as socialise, have a laugh, and become friends, not just team-mates.”

But ultimately, after going four league games without a win, the manager again took responsibility for some recent results not going their way, and began making changes, the start of which were already apparent in AFC Unity’s 5-2 cup loss to the Division Two development side of Sheffield Wednesday just over a week ago.

“Those two draws and two defeats were part of an experiment where we focused on individual development and morale, rather than collective morale, and the Sheffield Wednesday game proved that if we all pull together for the greater good, we can get goals even against good opponents,” the manager added.

And he vows to keep his promise of continued improvement with the upcoming league games.

“Oh, the best is yet to come, I’ve no doubt about that,” he said.

“I’ve never really cared much for what players other teams have, or how other teams play; it’s up to us to set the pace, set the standard, and stick to our principles, and that means that the players are going to be played in the right positions, in the right formation, with the right passing football, that will, without a doubt, show that we are deserving of our current position that we aim to hold on to and build on.”

After surprisingly knocking the New Bohemians from the Krukowski Cup, AFC Unity’s next league opponents, Greasbrough, are also seeking to end a run of four winless league games.

“As I said before, you can’t underestimate anyone,” said Baker. “There are so many different circumstances at this level that affect games – training turn-out, unavailable players, key plays, conditions on the day, officials, determination and team morale – so anything can happen in most of the matches.”

The league has seen several surprise results, and AFC Unity won at New Bohemians 7-2, only to be held to a 3-3 draw at home in a game that the New Bohemians could very much have won. Yet Greasbrough then eliminated the New Bohemians from the cup last week.

“This will be an exciting game to watch because both they (Greasbrough) and us are underdogs, hungry for the victory, with good sporting attitudes, and whoever wins will have definitely earned it,” said Baker.

AFC Unity play their last game of 2014 at home, Hillsborough College, on Sunday, December 14th, against Greasbrough. Kick-off is 2pm.

Photo credit: Kellie See

AFC Unity end goal drought at Sheffield Wednesday Development

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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.