Saturday 26th February 2011
Tom Cooper (Div 2) Trophy
By Colin Brazier
The latest adventure for the Fourths saw a second visit of the season to deepest Croydon to take on the Crusaders in the Tom Cooper (2nd Division) Trophy). My expert knowledge of Wikipedia tells me the second crusade took place between 1147 and 1149, which was about the time I managed to leave my house with the kit. Unfortunately I left it a bit late to manually override my satnav as it took me into the hordes – of shoppers not Saracens thankfully – and having berated the management for late arrival to our last game I was left more red-faced than usual when I eventually found the right dressing room at Lloyd Park 25 minutes before kickoff.
Amazingly the Thirds had returned all last week’s loaned players in the condition they received them, with no further visits to A&E. In fact the fracture clinic at Farnborough Hospital seemed to have decamped to Croydon for the day, with Scott (broken ankle, crutches) and Jez (broken finger, bandages) both lending their support to the team. Both are recovering well following their respective operations.
We had a squad of 12 for the game. Jim St John offered his services in goal, for which we are grateful. Todd had been retained for the Thirds after a couple of good performances for them and with Paul Bailey away for a couple of weeks we had a vacancy at the back. Alex King was preferred here to Mark Edwards, who hadn’t been named in the newsletter squad because he thought he would have a refereeing engagement. Graeme Barnes made a welcome return to partner Connor up front.
So we lined up thus…
Jim St John – GK
Steve Blanchard jnr - RB
Steve Blanchard snr – CB
Alex King – CB
Colin Brazier – LB
Luke Allen – RM
Neil Barnes – CM (capt.)
Tom Smart – CM
James Foyle – LM
Graeme Barnes – CF
Connor Barclay - CF
Mark Edwards - Sub
This was our second game in the Tom Cooper (2nd div) Trophy. I have to give it its full title because the Bromley League, in their wisdom, have brought in another end of season competition, also under the name of Tom Cooper. We needed to win the game to be confident of topping our group and progressing to the final, and we started the game on the front foot, typified by “centre back” Alex’s marauding runs down the left wing, something the Blanchards and myself are not used to seeing from our usual defensive colleagues.
We were playing well, mixing up our usual short game with long probing passes which Connor and Graeme were always willing to chase down. I thought we leaned too heavily on the long ball, but given the very heavy condition of the pitch this was perhaps understandable.
Midway through the first half we were undone by a collection of marginally sub-optimal decisions – as opposed to a single monumental howler that you might see at, say, Wembley for example – which led to their forward striking the ball past Jumbo at close range from a tight angle.
Undaunted, we went back on the attack and looked to have the chance to equalise when a trip on Graeme was spotted by the ref, only for that individual to decide the offence took place outside the penalty area. I think even the Croydon players had resigned themselves to a penalty kick. Graeme’s free kick curled just wide of the post.
The midfield was working well, with Neil earning his Man of the Match award in the holding role and James, Luke and Tom always looking to open up the home defence. Despite having most of the game, however, all our final balls seemed to be just out of the reach of the forwards and any ricochets fell to Crusaders’ feet. The second half followed the same vein. Mark came on for me with Alex’s nominal position becoming left back. Tom did his usual party trick of hitting the crossbar with a free kick, this time assisted by a great save from the Crusaders keeper.
It wasn’t all one way traffic though, Steve (senior) having to be alert in dealing with the home side’s main threat on more than one occasion, and Jumbo commanding his area and taking out crosses with ease (Crusaders…see what I did there? Keep up!). In the main though the Guild were on top but we couldn’t find the vital breakthrough. A very frustrating day for all concerned, but we must remember that we have several players with only 16 senior games under their belts and a few whose legs have seen a thousand or more, so progress will appear slow at times.
So now we need to beat Lord Hood well in our final group game and hope that the three other results all go the right way for us.
Thanks to Ian Foyle and Jez for sharing linesman’s duties and to our small but loyal band of supporters.
As I hinted at earlier, our season has been extended with another competition, giving us a 5-team group and games against premier division Rotherhithe and first division River Plate and Lee Athletic, as well as another encounter with the Crusaders. Interestingly all 5 teams are in the lower reaches of their respective divisions. No doubt given the backlog of home games at Farnborough, all of these will be away, so I’d better prepare to leave the house before 1147.
Man of the match: Neil Barnes