Saturday 4th October 2008
By Colin Brazier
When I pitched up with the 4ths two weeks ago for our first league match of the season we were so soundly thrashed that when I asked the ref near the end “how many?” and he said “thirteen” I told him I wanted the time, not a score prediction!! To be honest, it was a typical first game, with players getting to know each other’s names and the “more experienced” among us trying to run a summer’s rest – or should that be rust? – out of our systems.
Well, two weeks on, the scene shifts to Chinbrook Meadows to take on Latter Day Saints, winners of their first two games, and the axe had been wielded to such an extent that the only survivors from that experience were Simon Hillary, Graham Rand, Steve Viner and myself! Even the Silver Fox himself was confined to bed, this time with a bird called Nora Virus. Very promiscuous apparently – not fussy who she sleeps with and doesn’t hang around for long.
Anyway, Steve Blanchard (Hon. Treasurer) took the management reins with no less than the Hon. Chairman and Hon. IT Sec. to assist with the admin. And admin there was…the Bromley League insisting on match cards with shirt numbers, signatures, the lot. Well almost. Please no-one mention photo ID to them, they’ll want a team picture every week. The admin took care of the senior players’ warm ups, while most of the team had already run out to face the oppo, who as it turned out were just as disorganised as us, as their secretary couldn’t make the game.
With our final three players arriving minutes before kick off, we hastily checked playing positions and incredibly we weren’t stuck with 8 right-footed defenders and 4 forwards, so Des had obviously put some thought into team selection – no, no, that can’t possibly be right. It must have been Lady Luck.
The team was Simon in goal, saving Steve V. the job; myself and Chris Duffin flanking Tom Delaney (John’s son!) and Steve B. at the back; a midfield of Tony Townsend, Steve V., Nick Hardway and Christian Boyce, and an ex-youth team strike partnership of Jamie Stanton and Jimmy Bane. Graham Rand was the unlucky one on the bench...ok, with the flag!
We started with the strong breeze behind us, and settled quickly, with good football being played on the ground in and around the home side’s penalty area. Communication and running off the ball were good, and we took the lead with Jamie finishing a well-worked throw-in move involving Tony and Nick. Just a word about Nick Hardway…I have never known a guy so wrongly named! Firstly, I’m sure he doesn’t nick anything, and secondly, he never seems to do anything the hard way, strolling effortlessly (yes that can be good and bad) around midfield, winning most aerial challenges and picking good passes. His goal kicks were terrific, arrow-straight and landing well into the opposition half, even into the wind. They gave us a great lift.
We knew with the wind at our backs that we had to score at least once more before the interval, and continued to dominate possession and create good chances, only to be foiled by some brilliant goalkeeping. Tony delivered some great corners but we just couldn’t get a head or toe-end on them. At the other end LDS began to create some chances of their own, and we had to be thankful at times for some poor finishing and Simon’s brave goalkeeping, but generally we were comfortable at the back.
It was still 1-0 at half time, and we talked about keeping the shape and passing going. So imagine my surprise when we lined up and I had Christian in front of me instead of Tony. A quick search located Tony on the right…he had obviously had enough of my nagging to come back and defend! To be fair, he is right-footed and probably felt he had done his stint on the left. Still, Tony, it would help if you told someone!!
Into the wind now; we knew we’d have more defending to do, and LDS didn’t disappoint, but we confined them mostly to long-range shots and overhit crosses. Graham came on to replace the hard-working Christian, to complete a trio of right-footed left midfielders – all did very well on their “wrong” side.
We were coping reasonably comfortably until we lost the ball in midfield and got caught out. Simon parried their first effort but was left sitting on the goal line as the forward followed up to score. This was frustrating and we continued to struggle for a spell, but in Jamie and Jimmy we knew we had good outlets who were getting support from midfield, and 15 minutes from the end a through ball from the right (Tony?) caught out their centre backs and Jimmy calmly converted. This visibly deflated LDS and their efforts to equalise became increasingly desperate. We held on with few further scares to get our season well and truly up and running!
On returning to the unlocked empty changing room we found our valuables bag in the middle of the floor. Fortunately it was still full. Well, when you think about it, it’s the last place a thief would think of looking. That was our good fortune. Less fortunate were the cold showers, which only the two Steves and I were brave enough to use, but only in “run under, run faster back out” mode.
Man of the match was decided by sub-committee back at the Sports Club bar and went on a narrow vote to Jimmy for his hard work and constant hassling of the oppo’s defenders, not to mention the winning goal. And all that from a guy who protested he was a centre half before the game!
It was an excellent performance with a great team spirit. A real foundation for the season. Those players who chose not to show up for the game may come to regret it.