09:22PM, Thursday 17 December 2020
After going nearly eight weeks without playing a competitive match, Windsor boss Mark Cooper was delighted to see his side restart the season with a convincing 2-0 win away to promotion hopefuls Reading City.
The Royalists had made a disappointing start to their Hellenic Premier Division campaign, losing some tight matches to sides in the top half of the table, but this solid away win should do Cooper’s young players a world of good.
Dan Horscroft put the visitors ahead on the half-hour and Charles Samuel doubled their advantage after City were reduced to 10 men after D’Cruz was given his marching orders early in the second half.
It was a mature performance from the visitors who played out the final minutes in relative comfort to register their first clean sheet of the campaign. The result sees Windsor edge back towards the top half of the table ahead of Saturday’s trip to another of the pacesetters, fourth-placed Bishop’s Cleeve.
“It was a hard-fought victory,” said Cooper. “It was a mature performance from this young group of lads. We were delighted with the win on a difficult pitch which was not conducive to playing good football.
“We did the basics well and we did them for the full 90 minutes rather than just part of the game.
“It’s also the first time we’ve kept a clean sheet this season and that’s something we’ll have to do more of.”
Windsor’s players worked hard during lockdown when matches were suspended due to coronavirus restrictions. They took part in Zoom fitness sessions and challenged each other to get out of the house for a run, ride, or weights session. Cooper felt the break may have come at a bad time for the club, with a series of winnable fixtures having been on the horizon, but it’s also given everyone at Windsor a chance to rest and reset.
“We said before the game this was an opportunity for us to reset and start again,” he said. “They took their opportunity on Saturday and we’ve always believed we have the ability to do well this season.
“They’ve shown during periods of matches they’re good enough to compete against the best teams in this league, but through inconsistency and fine margins we haven’t had the best of starts.
“We’ve also had some tough fixtures and haven’t played anyone in the bottom seven or eight. We’ve played all of the top sides and Reading City (who are third) twice now.
“We have got a lot of tough fixtures out of the way, but we also should have won more of our games. We didn’t play well enough to do that through that period, but that was a good win on Saturday, and it’s given us something to build upon.”
Cooper’s side are young, and he says with that comes an element of inconsistency that he and his coaching team are grappling to correct. However, a first clean sheet of the season should take some of the pressure off the defenders and attackers.
“We know we’ll score goals,” said Cooper. “Since I’ve been at the club, we’ve been one of the top scoring sides.
“We have scored the second most goals in the league this season which is incredible given how we’ve started.
“But we know that if we keep clean sheets, we’ll win games. Clean sheets take the pressure off. It’s a fundamental thing to say but it’s something we have to focus on because scoring goals at this level is not incredibly difficult.
“When you get a predominantly young group of players you miss the experience that some older players bring to help you see games out properly. Confidence also suffers when you’re not winning games. But they’re learning and growing, and we saw out the game on Saturday which we’ve been guilty of not doing before.
“It’s a positive step but it’s only that, a positive step.”
The fixture list has thrown up another tricky away test for the Royalists on Saturday, a trip to Bishop’s Cleeve.
“We’ve had some difficult games this season and we’ve got another one at Bishop’s Cleeve on Saturday.
“They’re a big strong side but we’ve got to go there and get something. After that we’ll have some more difficult fixtures coming up, but we’ve got to build on what we did on Saturday.
“We’ll have to work hard and do the basics right again if we want to come back with something.”
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