Saturday 23rd April 2011
By Colin Brazier
The big news for the Fourths this week came from a game we weren’t involved in. Having completed our Tom Cooper Trophy (Div. 2 group A) fixtures, we needed Latter Day Saints to beat Croydon Crusaders by one - and only one - goal to leave us topping the group with all four teams on four points and FOBG with the superior goal difference (+1!!!). In such a tight group, and with LDS proving themselves to be the better side over the season, it wasn’t such a forlorn hope, but when the Bromley League website was updated Saturday evening and showed Croydon to have won 2-1, I thought “oh well, it would have been nice…” and got stuck in to my fish and chips. I then got a frantic phone call from Vic on Sunday afternoon explaining that he had been told by BL chairman and fixture secretary John Cooper that the website was wrong and LDS had won the game 2-1, meaning we were in the final!!! Okay, it’s only the BL equivalent of the Johnstone Paints trophy but over the season we have earned our day in the sun. To have ended the season with a second-from-bottom league placing and knocked out of all the cups early would have been scant reward for all our efforts.
The final venue and date are as yet undecided, as are our opponents, but Crofton’s 3-0 win over AFC Bromley makes them firm favourites to win their group. We have met them three times this season, winning one and losing two, all very close games.
Back to this week’s game then and for our last league match of 2010-11 we welcomed AFC Mottingham to Farrow Fields on a blisteringly warm April day. Over the last month or so we have needed to use the full size of our squad, with different players being unavailable each week and Jez being drafted in to right back and Nick Barclay as emergency sub to enable us to put out a bare 11 or 12 players. It had to happen then, that most of the absent players would be available and we would have too many, and that indeed was the case this week. Mark Edwards, looking fit and tanned from his refereeing duties, was asked to step down and willingly did so, whilst the no-show of Rhyse Elliott saved the management another difficult decision. With Tom Smart and Gary Harrigan down from the Third XI, we had the following squad:
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
Gary Harrigan – CF
Connor Barclay – CF
Subs: Dan Giles, Tom Smart, Tommy Noad
In terms of league position, we had nothing to play for, being cemented in 7th, but Mottingham needed to win to ensure 3rd place and a possible promotion, which possibly explains their explosive start, penning us back for long periods and winning several corners and close range free kicks. The defence, aided by a hard working midfield unit, held firm however and Jez’s flying tip-over encapsulated our defiance. Jez was coming up against Mottingham for the first time since he wrecked his finger against them two months ago, and any butterflies in his stomach would have disappeared following that save.
We had our moments at the other end, with Connor’s trickery and Gary’s willingness to shoot on sight always threatening, but the deadlock was broken in surprising fashion when a Mottingham cross-shot crept in off the far post past Jez to give them a deserved lead which they held until half time.
Now the Silver Fox is often either absent at the interval or willing to delegate the half time talk to Neil with contributions from the other senior players and/or Nick and Ian, but on this occasion he felt it necessary to give us his version of the “hairdryer” and we were left in no uncertain terms that we weren’t doing ourselves justice. Neil volunteered to come off, Tom Smart replacing him in the middle, an apparent straight swap but presenting the visitors’ midfield with a very different type of player to contend with.
After the restart Mottingham continued to look the better side and have the lion’s share of possession, but slowly we managed to impose ourselves on the game, and kept in it at 1-0. We then won a corner on the right, swung over to the far edge of the area by Tom where James met it with a thundering header. The Mottingham keeper made a great save to keep it out of the top corner, but Connor returned it into the mix and the ensuing scramble left us celebrating an equaliser, later claimed by Connor to give him the outright lead in the goals tally. The goal must have been hard for Mottingham to take, having had so much of the play, but of course it was a real boost to the Guild. Soon afterwards, substitute Tommy Noad overhit a right wing cross that was collected by James, who centred for Gary to control and turn adroitly before smashing the ball home from close range (OK Gary??!). 2-1 FOBG! We withstood the expected onslaught from the visitors and held on to record our only home league win of the campaign.
Once again we had shown resilience that was missing in earlier matches, and that can only be a good sign for the future.
So that’s (almost) it for the season, just two Tom Cooper (Open) group games to go and - oh yes - a cup final! I’m not holding out much hope of progress in the Open trophy as we would need to win our remaining two games with a goal difference of +13 to make the final!
Plaudits this week to Man of the Match Gary, and to referee Brian Harvey for an excellent performance in a game played in good spirit by the two teams.
Man of the match: Gary Harrigan