Sunday 9th February 2020
By Mark Harrington
Earth, Wind and Shipps on Fire…...
Supporters: Jason Miller and dogs, Gary Willison, Danny Saines, Patrice Mongelard.
With the week dominated by beer virus and the upcoming storm Ciara about to batter everyone’s back doors, Gordon the Gofer knew exactly how we all felt.
I was woken on Sunday morning by a loud banging and the Mrs saying “the weather outside is really terrible, you cannot possibly be playing in this”. Well once I opened the door and let her in the noise subsided and messages that the opposition were keen to travel from Farningham and Gary confirmed the Club was open and pitch playable and with a robust 14, declaring their wish to play we were on. Much relief to Alan as he quite clearly fancied adding to his amazing goals total. Well more on that later.
It was obvious that there could only be one style of music to be played in the changing room and we quickly had “Wind Beneath my Wings” and anything from Earth, Wind and Fire. It wasn’t September of course but the style of play from the Guild, even in the conditions we had, would have had you believe we were playing on a basking day on a carpet of a pitch. I know most folks really will not believe we played today but it was not as bad as you would have thought or in this case, as the Seniors postponed their game and we benefited from the bottom pitch. Those wimps at the Etihad should be ashamed. Snowflakes!
Shipps had dressed for the weather at the North Pole and confirmed some trees had come down in Downe. Shipps certainly pulled up a few trees of his own this week and had the audacity to take the hat-trick plaudits from Alan. Clearly the hat and coat from the Eskimos had warmed him up earlier than the rest of us. On the subject of dress, I admit that I broke Club rules today in playing in the away kit at home but in my defence this was supposed to be an away game and with little time to collect the home kit from the previous washer we went with the skin-tight blue. Obviously good tactics with the wind from an aerodynamics point of view. I did promise that I would spare Joe’s blushes but I’m afraid it’s probably one of the funniest things I have seen in a dressing room and so it would be wrong not to share with our audience. We all know the blue kit is tight, even the large sizes but the sight of Joe trying to remove a medium after realising that Christmas had come way too early for the blue kit was a real team bonding moment. The shirt was so tight that at one point I feared for his safety as his head was so red it looked like it was going to pop. Balotelli eat your heart out but it was Mark Friend who saved the day and swapped shirts with Joe for the match. Removing the jersey was probably the hardest thing Joe had to do all day as along with Tant, he played some neat triangles on our left side and put over some excellent crosses.
The warm-up was brief and Robin strode forward to take the toss-up and make sure he won so we could play downwind. Only one job to do and you guessed it, he is not a good tosser, contrary to public opinion. In hindsight, it was best to defend the power of the wind when we had most energy. Gary Rosslee managing to get the ball to the halfway line on most occasions.
Gary McQueen, Mark Friend, Robin and Joe were excellent in defence in the first half and never gave the attackers an inch in very difficult conditions. Only one shot breached but it smacked the bar, which Gary would have no doubt saved if it tried to squeeze under the bar. Sean and Chris formed a great barrier in front of the back four and help launch attacks. We seized our moment with a goal that defied the conditions. We previously spoke about keeping the ball on the deck and quick movement and this goal followed the instructions to the letter. It was very reminiscent of England’s third goal against Holland in Euro 96. Younger readers ask your parents or Google it. Sean dummied to shoot and instead supplied Alan, whose side foot pass to Shipps was perfect and Steve did the rest with a Shearer-like powerful shot beyond the despairing dive of the oppo keeper. It was a great team goal.
We were not really troubled and went into the half-time break with a deserved 1-0 lead. I replaced Mark Friend who looked like he needed Shipps' coat. Mark retreated to the dugout looking freezing and to be fair, it wasn’t a day for the short sleeves but we are made of strong stuff. I wondered why I left the warmth of the dugout but playing was better than running the line. At this point the wind really roared and the temperature dropped but we didn’t. We began to take a firm grip of the game and Damo replaced the excellent Tant and gave the right back just as much hassle as Paul. Chris Morris and the returning Sean drove us forward and an excellent through ball saw Shipps bag his second with a left foot finish. Another fine team goal which started at the back and Shipps coming off the wing to finish in fine style.
It was not to be Alan’s day this time as one overhead and one goal ruled out for offside meant he would not add to his season’s tally; however his role changed today and he became provider for Shipps to side foot his third and a well deserved hat-trick. He would have had a match ball but that is somewhere down the A21 due to the wind.
It was another good team performance but a few outshone the collective. Rhino covered every blade of mud in the first half and Robin marshalled the defence solidly throughout. Gary Mac and Joe were neat and tidy in such poor conditions and Matt Ellis took over from where Rhino left off in the second half. Sean, usually a striker, played like a box to box midfielder and Gary Rosslee’s handling was solid in slippery conditions. Damien and myself came on and performed our usual Forest Gump impressions to add to an already energetic team display. So we managed the conditions superbly, played good football and took our chances in clinical fashion. Clearly something was wrong with the climate!
An easy MOM vote this week but Shipps didn’t have it all his own way. 10 votes for him but one for Robin and Rhino.
A good dry week all.