Saturday 28th March 2009
By Colin Brazier
I know it will be strange to see my fizog at the top of this report but your regular journo has a spot of writers’ cramp, possibly connected to his dead leg late in the game.
With me back in the squad I need hardly say we were again depleted, a touch of food poisoning hitting Simon Davies and late illness also depriving us of our top scorer Dave Thompson, among various other absences. Since Steve Viner and I were brutally dropped, despite, and I quote Paul Parsons, “not looking completely out of place” in our last game for the 3rds, results have been disappointing with 2 draws. Things would change with this game, even though Steve was otherwise employed getting practice in for his coaching badges with the 4ths.
The lack of a regular keeper and several backups, plus neglecting to call Toby Manchip (for whatever reason!) meant that Paul P. donned Sean Webber’s gloves and went between the sticks, while the aforesaid keeper played up front, alongside the jetlagged Ben Slade. Our midfield was Adam Steward on the right and James Behagg on the left, with skipper Piers Moss and Josh Travers in the centre. We had a centre back partnership of Luke Dunne and Jack Hopper, flanked by two more Bens – Dutton on the right and Tomkins on the left. I was left to take the flag.
Our opposition had had a recent run of good results in contrast to their earlier form which had left them rooted to the bottom of the division.
Despite our makeshift line-up we started the better team, having most of the territory but needing to watch out for Wickham’s quick breakaways. We spurned several free kicks in dangerous positions, which were the result of a combination of AFC’s willingness to throw themselves into the tackle and the referee’s willingness to punish them if they were mistimed, with a booking to go with any backchat.
Both Piers and Adam got knocks in the first few minutes, with Adam’s groin being the more serious, but our one substitution had to be made after just 20 minutes when Ben T. (as opposed to Ben S. and Ben D.) caught the ball flush in the face and suffered blurred vision. He was able to see the rest of the game and had recovered fully by the second half. No (further) disruption to the side was necessary as I came straight in to left back.
Meanwhile, Wickham slowly began to get accustomed to both the Guild and the ref, and they took the lead with a tap-in leaving PP with no chance. That’s no chance to save the goal, and no chance to flatten the forward.
We hit back straight away when Adam limped on to errr, Josh’s?? through ball and scored at the second attempt. 1-1 at the half then, and about 4-1 in bookings to AFC. We had a feeling we might end up playing against ten or fewer men and the instructions were to be patient and keep our cool.
We made a couple of positional changes for the second half, with the struggling Adam moving up front, Sladey coming back into left midfield which freed the right-footed Behagg from (a) playing on his wrong side and (b) my nagging (not that he ever took any notice of that!). We hadn’t really settled in to the second period when Wickham scored one of those goals that you just have to applaud - well I did (it’s coming up to the club Sportsmanship award, don’t you know!). A cross from Wickham’s right wing was hit at waist height and slightly behind their midfielder, who steadied himself and hit the perfect right foot volley into the net from 20 yards. Again Parsons had no chance (on either count!).
To be honest that rather knocked the proverbial out of us, though it shouldn’t have as there was still at least half an hour left. We seemed to be reluctant or unable to impose ourselves, and our game became increasingly stretched with the ever willing Sean and Adam being asked to chase down increasingly hopeful long passes. Wickham were pinning us back and Piers’ determination to provide some resistance was unluckily punished with a straight red, though he was on a yellow anyway and his tackle was late.
We were still in the game though, but were forced to chase it and leave ourselves open, and it was from one of these breakaways that AFC increased their lead. Their forward went clean through against Paul, and from my position running back to cover him I was sure he would save it. I was right, but had I stuck to my convictions I would have watched him parry the ball and cleared the rebound; instead the ball and myself passed each other like a cricket ball and an England player's bat, and a Wickham player side footed home. D’OH!
We kept pressing and were rewarded with a great LEFT footed drive into the top corner from James to keep Wickham nervy until the end. Paul did manage to tackle an opposing player but for once came off worst and caught a knock to the thigh. He recovered to make a couple of timely saves and to say he’d scream if he got Man of the Match for just going in goal.
MoM: Paul Parsons (“AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!”) along with James Behagg and Jack Hopper.