Sunday 16th March 2008
By Roger French
Following heavy overnight rain most players were surprised to learn that the game against Maidstone was still going ahead. A few of the regulars were unavailable but luckily Chris Webb managed to persuade last weeks capable band of replacements that taking a 30 minute jaunt (depends on who is driving/navigating) down the M20 on a grey, cold, wet and windy Sunday morning was a good idea. The good news was that the game was on and we had a squad of 13 to select from....the bad news was it was my turn for the kit. Having located the ground via a tour of local roundabouts (well the last time I went to their ground the road lay out was different back in 2006) a phone call was required to guide the stragglers in to the upstairs changing room with onsuite facilities including urinal - luckily nobody wanted a pre-match dump. The team line-up was Gary Rosslee in goal, Pat Mongelard, Nick Frost, Chris Webb and Roger French at the back, Nick Kinnear, Andy Faulks, Chris Ponulak and Colin Ebdon in midfield and Paul Smith with Ian Shoebridge up front. The bench was made up of Trevor "Stewart" Stewart and Toby Harlow whilst Chris Bourlet came along and ran the line (what dedication!). We trooped out of the changing room with the plea of "lets keep it clean" meaning the kit of course.
The pitch was surprisingly OK on the flanks but resembled the Somme down the middle which would have suited Micky Gearing if he had been called into action again. Within minutes of kick-off we were in trouble when a very harsh penalty was awarded to Maidstone following a ball to hand incident. Maidstone displayed great sportsmanship when the penalty taker effectively passed the ball to Gary rather than make any attempt to score - luckily Gary had not already dived in the nearest puddle and so the game remained at 0-0. It soon became clear that Chris Ponulak had decided to play very dirty and if he carries on like this I will be buying him a large box of Persil as all his tackles virtually took place under water and the state of his kit was an absolute disgrace but then again he did put in some excellent tackles. The team played very well and the action flowed from end to end. We created a number of opportunities but seemed reluctant to take a shot on goal. Maidstone got the breakthrough when one of their attackers beat Gary to the ball and lobbed it into the back of the net to put them 1-0 up at half-time. No changes were made at the break.
We started the second half on the attack but once again without testing Maidstone''s keeper. Against the run of play Maidstone scored a second goal and this turned into more sustained pressure. Gary kept us in the game with a number of athletic one handed tip overs and anything else that involved flying through the air. We needed to be on form for this game against one of the tougher teams in our fixture list who are always full of running and very difficult to shake off the ball and in previous fixtures going 2-0 down at this stage would usually have signalled a collapse. It was therefore pleasing to see us get back at Maidstone and pull one back through Paul Smith (deservedly so) with 10 minutes to go. We upped the tempo (well as much as you can for a bunch of knackered vets 80 minutes into the game) for the last ten and had them worried and even created a couple of chances to equalise but to no avail. With a couple of minutes remaining Maidstone got a third much to their relief and put the game out of reach.
We lost but were not down hearted as we had given a very good team a very good run for their money. A very pleasing performance with the hippo wallowing award going to Chris Ponulak, the flying cat award for extravagant diving to Gary Rosslee (keep it up) and the blessed are the donkey''s award to Roger French for his up and under clearance leading to his replacement by Trevor Stewart. Note to Chris P - he is not called Stewart Stewart. A good turn out in the bar but no grub. Another break coming up for Easter followed by a lot of homes games towards the end of the season. Once again thanks to the new lads for turning up and for Chris Bourlet who ran the line.