Saturday 26th March 2011
Tom Cooper (Div 2) Trophy
By Colin Brazier
Keepers Curse Strikes Again!
We have rarely let ourselves down this season in terms of not competing. One of those occasions was at home to Lord Hood in the league in early November, when we were rewarded with a 5-1 thrashing, shortly after having held the same opponents to a 2-2 draw at Flamingo Park, once again the venue for this third encounter, this time in the Tom Cooper Trophy. Since the autumn, Lord Hood, while failing to set the league alight, have reached the final of the Junior Challenge Cup so we knew we had a stiff test in front of us.
We have acquitted ourselves well in the round robin stages of this division two-confined end of season competition, drawing with Latter Day Saints and losing to Croydon Crusaders by the only goal, both games away from home and having left us frustrated at not returning with more points. The fact that other results in the group meant we were still alive in the competition gave us some extra incentive. We needed to win by at least two goals to have a chance of topping the group and reaching the final. I put all that at the back of my mind when arriving at the ground a full hour before kick off, driving past the home side’s full-on training session, wondering how many players we would have and when they would arrive.
These questions were answered by the Silver Fox half an hour before the start. We had a bare eleven! Steve Blanchard junior was away in Germany (working for a race team at the Nurburgring in Germany, in case you are the only person he hasn’t told!). Tommy Noad had gone down ill and Mantas Gaiglas and Rob Lipscomb were unavailable. Not to mention our longer term absentees. In view of our personnel shortage Jez insisted on being a sub (only to be used in an emergency…).
So we lined up thus:
Jason Payne – GK
Alex King - RB
Steve Blanchard snr – CB
Neil Barnes – CB (capt.)
Colin Brazier – LB
Luke Allen – RM
Rhyse Elliott – CM
Tom Smart– CM
James Foyle – LM
Dan Giles – CF
Connor Barclay – CF
Subs: Jez Allen
The pitch was next to the one on which we had played Lee Athletic two weeks earlier, and seemed a better surface (this was an illusion). We started well, always first to the ball and getting the ball to Dan and Connor in promising areas. Connor, on the back of goals in our last 3 games, was riding high on a wave of confidence and almost got through on several occasions.
We were passing the ball around as smoothly as we could on the bobbly surface but it was the home side who came closest to a breakthrough when a cross eluded our defence and settled nicely for a home striker to volley goalwards from eight yards out. Jason got down brilliantly to deflect the ball down onto the hard ground and over for a corner. A brilliant save. Sadly it was to be his last meaningful contribution, as he pulled a groin muscle taking a goal kick, and once again the Curse of the Fourth Eleven Keepers had struck. Both James and Alex volunteering must have been music to Neil’s ears, as he was the only one on the pitch with “previous” between the sticks for us this season. Alex, then, became our eighth keeper in our twenty games this campaign. Jez was more than happy to make his first outfield appearance for 35 years, in the right back position. His first act was to take a foul throw (never was any good with his hands…). While we tried to recover from this setback Lord Hood stepped up the pace but the Guild held firm and the half ended goalless.
Not much needed changing at half time and we continued in the same vein, with debutant Rhyse growing accustomed to the pace in midfield alongside Tom, and Luke and James making inroads down the flanks. Jez looked as though he had played right back all his life and was linking up well with Luke in front of him. We took a deserved lead when Rhyse (I think) collected a Guild clearance and put Connor through the middle to place his shot past the right hand post. Sweet!
We still needed a second goal, but there was no reason to change our formation looking for it because the game was becoming stretched and chances were becoming more frequent. About 10 minutes after our first goal Luke made a good run down the right, Lord Hood were unable to clear and Tom lashed the loose ball high into the net for his first goal of the season. About time mate!
At the other end Alex looked assured and we only had to worry about free kicks. Rhyse stood up well in the wall to deflect one of theirs and we cleared the danger that arose from Neil’s shanked effort. Other than that, Alex decided to do a bit of juggling on the goal line while back at the other end Luke hit a post.
A fine 2-0 win then, well received by all. Now all we need is for Latter Day Saints to beat Croydon Crusaders by a single goal to reach our first cup final! A 2-0 win for LDS would leave them level with us on all counts, so hopefully alphabetical order would come into play! Any other result would leave us a respectable second.
There were 12 worthy performances today but the man of the match award went to Connor for a superb display highlighted by a well taken goal.
Man of the match: Connor Barclay