Saturday 16th April 2011
Tom Cooper (Open) Trophy
By Colin Brazier
Our second game in the Tom Cooper Open, in a round robin group of five. Our first was away to Lee Athletic, a 5-1 defeat. Ironically, today’s game was to do them as many favours as us in terms of qualifying for the final, which is a shame really, considering their less than flattering comments about us on their Facebook page. To be fair to them, that was one of our worst 3 performances of a generally decent season.
Anyway, today’s visitors were River Plate, not from the southern hemisphere but the rather less exotic southern part of Orpington. Previous results in the group left them simply needing a win at Farrow Fields to book their place in the final (they had thrashed Lee 6-2) and if they had looked at our league position (second from last in the bottom division), in tandem with our result against Lee they may have at least subconsciously thought it wouldn’t be a difficult task.
Once again we were down to a bare eleven despite the sizeable squad we have these days, and once again Nick Barclay assumed the role of substitute. The major change in the side was the return in goal of Jez, just an incredible nine weeks after he broke his finger against Mottingham. This was rather sooner than he, or any of us, would have wanted, but he felt he could come through the game. It was what Anita was going to do to him after the game that was the problem, I was half expecting to be visiting him in the Princess Royal again! Our frantic efforts to make an Ivor Swatton mask and pad him out with a pillow (OK, two) fell down when we couldn’t get him to bellow at the forwards or the ref.
Jez’s place at right back – now there’s a phrase I thought I would never see myself typing – was taken by the returning Steve B. junior. Tom Smart had been retained by the Thirds after helping them out last week, and Graeme Barnes returned from another term at university to form a central partnership with his old man. Also making a welcome return was Dan Giles. All these changes meant the following team:
Jez Allen –GK
Steve Blanchard jnr – RB
Steve Blanchard snr – CB
Alex King – CB
Colin Brazier – LB
Luke Allen – RM
Neil Barnes – CM (capt.)
Graeme Barnes – CM
James Foyle – LM
Dan Giles – CF
Connor Barclay – CF
Subs: Nick Barclay
For the first – and probably only – time this season we had use of the main pitch which meant we had more space to play our favoured passing game. We started confidently, keeping the ball in the visitors’ half for most of the opening quarter hour, mostly down the right hand side. Not much for our left back to do then! More importantly, not much for Jez to get involved in either. River Plate became frustrated when we harried them out of possession. They seemed visibly perturbed at this unexpected challenge from a lower league side, but grew into the game, and should have taken the lead from virtually their first attack, when their striker rounded Jez and shot into what appeared to be an empty net from an acute angle. But a blur of Blanchards appeared from nowhere, and Steve junior got himself in the way of the shot and cleared the danger, a real game changing effort.
Following this scare we got straight back on to the front foot and went close when James shot just over the bar. I was expecting a goal kick but a corner was awarded so there must have been a slight deflection. James himself took the set piece and caught the keeper flat footed as the ball crept in at the near post for a deserved Guild lead. Almost immediately we doubled the lead when Luke crossed from the right (or was it a corner?) and Neil stole in at the near post to shoot in off a defender’s hand for 2-0. Seeing the scorer I was tempted to claim the penalty, but decided against it. It was Neil’s 3rd goal of the season, not bad for a sitting midfielder / centre back / goalkeeper.
The half time moods in the two camps were quite different as you would expect. While we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves we knew that River Plate had gone off steaming and would come out on the attack. This was indeed the case but we had to deal with their onslaught without man-of-the-match Alex, who was changing his boots in an attempt to alleviate pain from blistered feet. It was unfortunate that River Plate scored in this period and given the previous occasions on which we had gone on to lose when conceding, we faced a difficult time. Alex duly returned to the fray and our general response was nothing short of magnificent. We saw off the visitors’ dominance and looked the more likely side to score, but a single goal cushion is always precarious and we did well to see the game through. Nick came on for the last 10 minutes for his FOBG debut, so at this stage we had FOUR sets of father and son on the pitch, a club record I suspect.
Anita Allen was relieved to get hubby back in one piece; our appreciation goes to Jez for getting us out of a fix by volunteering to go back in goal, but we will be looking for another keeper for the last few games to ensure that that finger heals 100%.
As previously mentioned, Man of the Match was Alex for a commanding and battling performance at centre back, his second consecutive award, the last one being in a midfield role. With Alex, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference!
Many thanks to Nick for helping us out and once again to Ian Foyle for running the line (cut and pasted from every previous report!). With regards to this competition, we just need to win our last two games with a goal difference of 13+ to reach the final, a doddle then…
We’ll be back at home on Saturday to end our league campaign against AFC Mottingham (cue flashbacks for Jez). Let’s finish the league on a high.
Man of the match: Alex King