WILTON - On the back of a couple of inspiring wins, The Wilton Ancient Warriors came into the game with the wind at their backs and feeling spirited about their play. Missing a few players, (notably Captain Greg Monaco) the team was reshuffled, but was able to welcome back stalwart Slawomir Przybysz, returning from injury.
Greenwich Gunners finished 2nd place in 2011, and are a solid team, but in the first half the Warriors used their impregnable defense, hustle, quick passing, speed and composure on the ball to prevent any fluidity from the visitors. As a result goalkeeper Mark Isaacs had a very quiet first 45 minutes. Some good build up play, free kicks, corners and individual efforts produced abundant chances for the home side but no goals. Andrew Hoffmann, Andrew Stewart-Jones, Nicholas Slater and Andrew Allers all had good attempts/chances, but couldn't capitalize on the dominant possession.
The second half brought some changes. Notably Frank Surace took a well earned rest, and Greenwich managed to get a foothold in the game and started to string passes together marshalling some threatening attacks. The Ancients' defense once again proved the 'bend but don't break' theory to be true. A few more subs, fresh legs and the Warriors gainly defended.
The deserved breakthrough came at about 75 minutes in and was a result of more stalwart defending. The Gunners had pushed many players into the box for a corner. With nowhere to go, they felt the pressure and were unable to make anything of the opportunity. A quick clearance from Stewart-Jones to Hoffmann quickly became a counter-attack. A wonderful through-ball for Allers was deftly turned, he then beat a man, the keeper, crossbar and post.
The Warriors ran out fairly comfortably and in truth could have finished with more. Man Of The Match went to Allers, with Surace a close second. Honorable mention to the entire defense and subs who slotted into the game with ease and effort, yielding another win and another game without conceding any goals. The Warriors recent run will have sent a strong message to the rest of the league that their intention is no less than to be champions.
WILTON - Splitting the first two away games with a win and a loss, Wilton met and expected tough challenge, facing last year's League and Cup Champions, Rowayton FC. Having engaged in a spirited rivalry for 6 years (Rowayton's team was founded the same year as Wilton) the Warriors felt that in their last 3 meetings, they were the better team, but had not managed to win any of them. With this meeting, they were looking to reverse fortunes.
As the half started, it was clear that Rowayton was not at the strength expected, and the Warriors were clearly dominant in possession and opportunities. Attack after attack and the Ancients finally capitalized about 30 minutes in as Romuald Szostek lofted a ball in from 35-yards out into the box. Rowayton's tall defender leapt up, just missing the clearance, and the ball fell to Andrew Hoffmann, who quickly reacted by deflecting the ball into the net with his thigh. While it won't appear on any highlight reels, this was an important goal. After continued pressure, Andrew Stewart-Jones once again attakced down the right side, beat Rowayton's left back and slotted the ball across the face of the goal for Andrew Lynds to tap home for a second, taking Wilton into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
The second half brought more of the same - Rowayton had no real opportunities, as (ex-Rowayton player) Chris Tinnesz, Piort Bierezowiec, Michael Schneidman, Tom Parsons all stalwartly defended against any opposition players that were able to make it through the aggressive midfield play of Greg Monaco, Frank Surace, Nick Slater and the rest of the midfield. Honorable mention goes to Andrew Copley with two magnificant defensive plays against Rowayton forwards on the rare opportunities that they were able to find their way into the Wilton penalty area. As the game wore on, the Ancients wrapped up the performance with a 3rd goal as Robert Sztachelski slotted a ball in from the left, providing Lynds with another scoring opportunity, taking him into the lead for the Golden Boot.
Two consecutive wins, and two consecutive shut-outs and Wilton seems to have finally hit their stride. Next up is last year's 2nd place team, Greenwich Gunners at home.
NEW LONDON - The Warriors traveled for a second consecutive week one and a half hours Easward to face another Southeast team. This time the Rovers, having been relegated in 2010, they promptly won the 2nd Division in 2011 to return to the top flight. Their home field for the match was New London High School - a 120-yard long turf field, which was exactly what the doctor ordered after last week's cow pasture battle against Xara.
The Acients opened brightly, constantly pressuring the opposition goal mouth, with plenty of chances, but nearly 25 minutes in still no score. Resolved not to repeat last week's modus operandi, Ferenc Kiss found himself alone against the keeper having been played through by Andrew Hoffmann. A simple touch into the back of the net and the floodgates were opened. Shortly after an in-swinging corner by Andrew Allers was met near post by Hoffmann with a deft flick and that too ended up in the net. The first half ended 2-0 with the opposition flagging, and Wilton feeling like they were just starting to hit their stride.
Throughout the second half Wilton was constantly on the offensive and rarely on the backheel. Goalkeeper Mark Isaacs saw very little action, due both the to tough tackling of midfielders Frank Surace and Greg Monaco, and the confident central defensive work of Chris Tinnesz and Piotr Bierezowiec. The second half saw 3 more goals for the Warriors with Andrew Stewart-Jones in of his trademark forays down the right side, slotting the ball through for Andrew Lynds to blast into the net. Another corner from Allers was met far-post by Frank Surace for a 4th. Finally, Surace released Robert Sztachelski at half-field, and capping a 50-yard sprint beat the opposition keeper near-post for a 5th and final goal.
Back in scoring fashion, with a clean sheet to back it up, and the Warriors felt like the season had actually started.
MOODUS - The Ancient Warriors traveled an hour and a half to Moodus for the opening game of the 2012 season. This being the Ancient's 6th year in the league (and the 4th in Top Division), they were anxious to get off to a good start for the season. Winning the league in 2009, then finishing 5th and 3rd in 2010 and 2011 respectively, the Warriors have strengthened in the last year and a half, and have their sites on the Championship.
Arriving in Moodus, 11 of the team tumbled out of the van (comandeered by Andrew Stewart-Jones for a proper road trip) they stretched their legs, wondered up the hill to the field and found the smallest pitch they've seen since watching their boys play U8 Rec Soccer. The match started brightly with the Warriors applying continuous pressure into the Xara half. Wilton outshot the home team 4 or 5 to 1 (on target) with the opposition goalkeeper making a string of spectacular saves. Not the least of which was when Captain Greg Monaco pivoting 180 degrees to catch a ball mid-air with a volley. The ball exploded off of his foot straight toward what would surely be a goal. A fraction of a second later and everyone was dumbfounded as the Xara keeper was able to palm the ball over the cross-bar for one of the best saves the Warriors have seen. The only chance the home side had in the first half was valiantly cleared away by newest addition Chris Tinnesz. The half ended 0-0 and found Wilton shaking their heads at how that could be so.
Into the second half and the home team got someone free down the right side, and in the confusion and congestion of the small field his cross found a lone Xara player who was able to (far too easily) tap the ball into the goal to take the lead. Wilton continued to apply pressure, throwing man forward, time and time again only to be thwarted by the opposition keeper. Ultimately Xara got a direct kick at the top of the box which was expertly curled into the far side netting to take the fixture out of reach for Wilton.
At the end of the day, Wilton out-possessed, out-shot and out-hustled the other team, but came away 2-0 losers in a disappointing start to the season.