Saturday 25th September 2010
By Colin Brazier
\"You All Played Reasonably Well”
Two games in to the new season and already hit by injuries; I got to Flamingo Park to find Des working out which formation to play…4-3-2, 5-3-1…there aren’t that many options with 10 players. Fortunately Todd was able to bring along two good young players to go along with the welcome return of Richard Whitlock and we actually had what I believe in footballing circles is called a “squad” of 12.
Despite the increase in numbers from last week, we were unable to find a replacement for Jez in goal. Well, a replacement with any meaningful keeping experience that is. Todd was reluctant to repeat his heroics against Croydon Crusaders for a full 90 minutes so Neil Barnes agreed to go in for the first half. Thus having played striker, centre midfield and centre back (in that order) in the two previous matches, Neil completed a remarkable set which should already have wrapped up the Manager’s Player of the Year award. But this is Des we’re talking about, so don’t go running to the bookies just yet.
We lined up as follows:
Neil Barnes – GK
Colin Brazier – LB
Todd Arnold – CH
Steve Blanchard snr – CH
Steve Blanchard jnr – RB
Scott Barnes – LM
Josh Southam – CM
Simon Harvey – CM
Richard Whitlock – RM
Matt Gardiner – CF
James Foyle – CF
Joe Birch – sub.
The sharp-eyed among you may notice the absence of Luke Allen, who fell foul of our “Man of the Match” curse, getting injured in the week after winning the aforementioned accolade, just like Mantas the previous week. So Todd will be crossing his fingers this week (like the rest of us, but not necessarily for the same reason!).
Against another new team in the shape of Lord Hood – a Greenwich pub apparently – who had won and drawn their two openers, we weren’t exactly filled with optimism at kick off. As it happened though, we started the game in confident mood, with the midfield working hard and Matt and James finding space behind the home back four. We were assured at the back with Steve jnr and Colin finding opportunities to push up and start or join our attacks. Neil looked comfortable in his lucky no. 13 keeper’s jersey!
So having most of the game but creating few gilt-edged chances, we were rocked back when amid various claims of handball and offside (neither of which had much substance, in my opinion), Lord Hood took the lead following a rare mix up in our defence. This just served to make us work harder, and we continued to play the better football without being rewarded before half time.
No major changes were required at the interval; we just had to keep going. To his credit, and Todd’s relief, Neil agreed to stay in goal to keep the shape of the team.
We continued to take the game to the home side with Scott and Rich making raids down the wings and soon had the benefit of a hotly contested penalty decision when a Lord Hood defender was adjudged to have raised his hands to block a shot. Matt G. confidently put the kick away and we set about completing the comeback. A few minutes later this looked probable when Rich’s well flighted corner was met at the back post by Josh whose header powered into the net for a well-deserved debut goal.
It was at this point that Lord Hood began to come back at us and they got a grip on the game despite the efforts of Simon and Josh in the centre. For some reason, probably the home side’s resurgence, we lost the edge in our play and started to concede chances, with Neil and the centre backs being called upon to deal with several crosses and corners, not to mention throw-ins that would put Rory Delap’s to shame. Where were they in the first half?? Were they discouraged by the aerial dominance of Arnold and Blanchard snr? Perhaps we didn’t give any throws away?!
Lord Hood, helped by two attacking substitutions, continued to press and finally broke through when a cross-cum-shot (being kind!) found its way into the net when the goalposts sneakily took a huge stride to their left. That was Neil’s reasoning and who am I to dispute it?
We made our own substitution when Joe replaced Matt, who was struggling with a tight hamstring. With both teams tiring and going for the win, the game mimicked Gibbo’s hammy and became very stretched (see what I did there?!). There looked sure to be at least one more goal in the game but the final whistle signalled a sharing of the points, probably a fair result on the day.
Man of the match was shaded by Todd for a commanding performance at the back.
We were certainly pleased to be going home with a point, considering our pre-match tribulations, and while we were congratulating each other Des came over and gave us his resounding endorsement of our efforts: “alright lads, you all played reasonably well”.
With such high praise ringing in our ears, a few of us, Des included, proceeded to get “reasonably drunk” at Steve Blanchard senior’s birthday party.
Man of the match: Todd Arnold