Week Three Round-Up 18/19 What a weekend in the MDUK Premiership! 78 goals scored and lots of movement in the table. This season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet and the standard of football has never been better. Consistency and composure are arguably the fundamental foundations to a title pursuit and league leaders, West Bromwich Albion, continue to epitomize the very definition of both. Four games played this weekend, with just as many impressive wins ensures West Brom remain comfortable at the top going into the long winter break. Luke Kelly impressed, but it was Matthew Gilbert who stole the show, registering seven goals in four games. The ‘top vs bottom’ clash with Middlesbrough, although cagey to start, saw West Brom secure a routine 4-0 win and crucial three points. Building on this success, a theoretically tough matchup with Villa Rockets proved otherwise, with West Brom running riot in a 6-0 win. Despite a credible effort from Sevenoaks and Brighton, the sides were just extremely unfortunate to catch West Brom on such good form and both suffered as a result. After his impressive seven-goal haul, Matthew Gilbert shared his thoughts on West Brom’s weekend: “It was a great start to the weekend for WBA, with good wins against Middlesbrough and Villa Rockets. We won Sunday’s opening game against Sevenoaks 2-0 despite them defending well throughout. To finish off we exhibited some great football, beating Brighton & Hove Albion 1-6. These results leave us five points clear at the top of the table approaching the winter break. We’re all looking forward to the fixtures in March.” Stretching their unbeaten streak to an unprecedented 21 games in domestic competitions, Northern Thunder, clearly had the bit between their teeth as they continued to mount an impressive title challenge. A reserved 1-0 win against Nottingham in their opening game was quickly followed with a dominating performance and 6-1 victory over Sale Utd. They could take confidence from their performances on Saturday, but the team hotel must have been serving something special for breakfast, as they secured a remarkable 9-0 win over WBA Throstles on Sunday morning. What better way to prepare for, what was touted as being the ‘clash of the weekend’ with fellow title challengers Aspire that afternoon? Play was tentative from the get go, but Ed Common managed to break the deadlock and put his team ahead. Nevertheless, constant waves of Aspire pressure eventually wore the defence of Thunder down and a Jon Bolding strike five minutes from full-time levelled the tie. This means that both teams maintain their precious unbeaten records. Sam Smith commented: “Going into the weekend we knew it was vital that we performed as well as last weekend to ensure we remained in the title race. We started off with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Nottingham PFC. This gave us the momentum for a better performance in our second game on Saturday, seeing us come out as 6-1 winners. Our toughest test of the weekend came in our last game against title rivals, Aspire. An early goal from Ed gave us the lead. However, constant pressure from Aspire resulted in a goal five minutes from time, meaning the points were shared. 10 points from four games leaves us second in the table and still in the title race leading into the Christmas break.” Yet another impressive weekend for Aspire PFC who have shown they are prepared to fight to the very end to trump WBA and Thunder in securing the coveted crown. Their weekend started against a determined Sevenoaks side that did well to frustrate Aspire’s attack until half time. The quality of Jon Bolding shone through in the second half, and it was the England captain’s brace that secured their first win of the weekend and subsequent three points. Leeds Chariots were high on confidence approaching their fixture with Aspire, coming off an earlier win, but could not translate this into their performance and Aspire secured a comprehensive 4-0 victory. In the first game on Sunday, Aspire, despite being slightly more complacent in front of goal, managed to register a 2-1 victory over a struggling Sale side. Three wins from three approaching the matchup with Northern Thunder. Both putting their unbeaten records on the line, it was no shock that the game of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object resulted in a cagey 1-1 draw. As a whole, Villa Rockets had a fantastic weekend in the MDUK Premiership, cementing their place in the country’s top four. The intriguing ‘repeat or revenge’ fixture with St George’s Knights went Villa’s way in a fairly comfortable 2-0 win. Despite some early difficulties in breaking Sale Utd down in their second fixture, a classy Amir Ali brace helped secure Villa a 3-0 win. Three fixtures in one day is a challenge for any team, this was magnified for Villa as their final fixture was against league leaders, West Bromwich Albion. West Brom outclassed Villa, winning the tie 6-0. On Sunday, Villa produced two very professional, workmanlike, performances against Sevenoaks and Middlesbrough to ensure they took twelve points from a possible fifteen. Daniel Kay and Max Bode’s attacking partnership was very impressive, and troubled a lot of opposition this weekend. Amir Ali shared his comments on Villa’s weekend: “We had a good weekend, winning four and losing one of our five games. We were well organised in attack and defence and feel it was the best football we’ve played so far this season. I’m really pleased how the team got stuck into the games, trying to play attractive football and overall taking chances we may have missed or not created earlier in the season. It is a real shame there is a break now, but we will go away, continue to work hard and try to improve, ready for March.” St George’s Knights continue to equally surprise and impress in this year’s Premiership. Warren Kelsall and Jason Christer’s side have done incredibly well to surpass last season’s 19 point total, in eight fewer games. This is especially impressive considering that the side lost fifteen of their 22 fixtures last season. St George’s Knights did not allow a disappointing defeat in their opening tie to closely matched rivals, Villa Rockets, set the tone for the weekend. The side played fantastically in their following games, securing impressive victories over Nottingham and WBA Throstles. Sunday’s opening fixture saw St George’s fail to break down a defensively stubborn Sale Utd and it finished 1-1. An early Lucas Christer goal, and two Harry Somerfield goals either side of half time, in their game against Leeds Chariots, secured another three points. Ten points from a possible 15 signifies yet another brilliant weekend for the side and puts a considerable seven point gap between them and sixth place side WBA Throstles. A huge amount of credit is deserved by Sevenoaks PFC, who despite three defeats, put in some very astute performances across the whole weekend. The side will take confidence from the defensive organisation and concentration they exhibited in games against a number of the country’s leading sides. Sevenoaks defended well throughout their first fixture with Aspire PFC on Saturday morning but failed to score in a 2-0 defeat. The second game, against a similarly matched Brighton side provided their best chance to registering points across the weekend, which the side fully capitalised on. Kyle Alexander secured the only goal of the game, giving Sevenoaks a massive three points. Sevenoaks didn’t shy away from West Brom in their first fixture on Sunday and kept the side at bay until half time, a feat only Aspire have managed so far this season. An unfortunate own goal gave West Brom a way in, and a second from Marcus Harrison a minute later finished the game off. Another 2-0 defeat to Villa Rockets in their final matchup meant Sevenoaks take three points from the weekend. Despite three defeats, Sevenoaks leap-frog Sale Utd, and sit ninth in the standings. Considering the difficulty of their fixture list this weekend, Sale Utd PFC should be happy with the single point they secured in a 1-1 draw with St George’s side. Despite defeats, the side performed credibly in games against Aspire and Villa Rockets. A disappointing loss to Villa Rockets in their opening game was followed with back to back fixtures against the only two remaining unbeaten sides within the Premiership, Aspire and Northern Thunder. Despite losing 2-1 and 6-1 respectively to these sides, Sale played well and took confidence into their feisty final matchup with St George’s Knights. Jake Hudson mentioned in the preview that he was keen to avenge their closely fought loss in week one of competition, and although they were unable to win the game, Sale Utd played extremely well within the tie and will be disappointed with just the single point from a 1-1 draw. Nottingham PFC will feel they could have achieved more from the weekend’s action. Three defeats in a row to Brighton, Northern Thunder and St George’s Knights was not what the side would have hoped for coming into weekend three. The side rallied together for Sunday’s opening fixture, and a Sahil Zaffer goal either side of half time helped secure three crucial points against Leeds Chariots. A poor first half dictated the tempo of the game with WBA Throstles on Sunday, and what was described as a fairly equally matched prior to kick off, ended up being a fairly one sided 4-0 win for the Throstles. A difficult weekend for Nottingham. Looking ahead, the next round of fixtures in March present a massive opportunity for the side to register further points and climb the table with winnable games throughout. It was a weekend to forget for West Bromwich Albion Throstles who lost ground in their pursuit of a top four finish. In a cracking opening match against Leeds Chariots, the Throstles were perhaps guilty of overlooking Leeds Chariots ability and succumbed to a shock 3-2 defeat. This was the beginning of a downward spiral: a goalless draw with bottom side Middlesbrough will be seen as two points dropped, and a difficult 3-1 defeat to a very good St George’s Knights side was not how the side would have wanted to end the first day. An unfortunate schedule saw the Throstles face Northern Thunder in their opening fixture Sunday. Thunder capitalised on the Throstles section crisis to produce, statistically, the most one sided game so far this season in a 9-0 win. The side did incredibly well to erase the earlier result from memory and used their frustration positively to produce a classy 4-0 win over Nottingham in their last league game of 2018. Team-captain Dave Lewis voiced his frustration: “Going into weekend three the Throstles had high expectations of pressing for a top 4 position, however Saturday’s games didn’t go our way which affected our confidence across the weekend. Our games were riddled with a balance of individual errors and not taking our chances, but credit to Leeds, who raised their game against us and took their opportunities. They play the game in the right way. The win against Nottingham in our last match was huge and restored some confidence to the team. We are disappointed to have slipped away from the top 4, but we will continue to work hard and maintain a top half position at a minimum. Our attention now turns to our WFA Cup match away to Brighton next weekend where we are hoping to get our season back on track.” A great start to the weekend saw Leeds Chariots register their third win on the bounce in an entertaining 3-2 triumph over WBA Throstles. Fantastic goals from Dan Rigby and Kizzy Wade helped to secure just their second win in the clubs Premiership history. Unfortunately their weekend peaked at this victory, and the following game, probably as expected, was a fairly one-sided defeat to Aspire. They will feel frustrated with their defeats to Nottingham and St George’s. Despite results, Leeds were organised and well-drilled throughout all fixtures and they will be happy taking three points from the weekend’s action. A tough week four looms for Leeds, who will want to refresh over this winter break in preparation to give everything they’ve got to survive the dreaded drop. Like a number of sides, Middlesbrough were extremely unlucky to catch West Bromwich Albion in subsequent fixtures this weekend. The Baggies seemed to walk through all opposition this weekend. 7-2 the last time these sides met, this time Boro failed to score in a 4-0 defeat. Taking a very credible point from their fixture with WBA Throstles gave Middlesbrough their first point since their first game in September. Buoyed by the increased confidence, the side fought fantastically in a matchup with Brighton & Hove Albion securing yet another point in their pursuit for safety. In a weekend that could have proved fruitless, Middlesbrough will be delighted with their performances and with some tight, winnable, games in week four, Boro should now have the motivation to work hard in the break and come back fully prepared to fight for their survival. A mixed weekend from Brighton & Hove Albion who got the ball rolling with a tactically-astute 1-0 triumph over mid-table Nottingham on Saturday morning to get them off the mark. Their South-East matchup with Sevenoaks next-up, was always going to be decided by the smallest of margins, and that it was. A first half Sevenoaks goal sealed a close 1-0 defeat. Brighton will see the 0-0 Middlesbrough result as two points dropped and the side were unfortunate to meet West Bromwich Albion in their final game, suffering the full wraith of the Baggies attack in a 6-1 thumping. Despite only gaining four points from their four games, the Seagulls leapfrog Sale Utd in the Premiership standings to eighth place.