Saturday 17th December 2005
By Danny Saines
A scoreline that didn''t really reflect on a cracking match played and fought outstandingly by the Seconds, all bar the last 5 minutes.
We knew Middle Park to be a top outfit, but Middle Park I think were unaware that we were a top outfit as well. They were riding high in the Premier, us relegated and 4th in Division One. Nice to give them a wake up call. Our preparation, to be fair, was diabolical, especially since we were at home, and we were playing in the big boys cup. People turned up in dribs and drabs, some got changed and went out for a warm up, some got changed and sat around in the warm chatting. Nobody bothered carrying any equipment up to the pitch, apart from myself, managing 2 journeys. Once up there the second time, the half a dozen or so players bothering to warm up decided to wander back down to presumably see where the rest of the team were. This is cack boys which hopefully I put across to you all in the changing room once (along with Vic & Couch) we had managed to sort out your day''s football for you. You are not kids whose mums and dads drop them off for footie on a Saturday, so please stop taking the pee. Be there when the newsletter says. Be in the changing room 10 minutes after that, be changed and ready to go out 10 minutes after that for a solid stretch and warm up, taking all necessary equipment left outside for you by Vic, with you. And back for the team talk 20 minutes later please.
Saying that, the b*ll*cking given out once we had finally managed to all get in one place (albeit with 5 minutes to go in the changing room before kick off), seemed to do the job(!!) and I was pleased with everyone''s response once we got up onto the pitch. Luckily the stand-in ref was running a few minutes late himself so we lined up in good time (just), ready for action.
And didn''t we just fly at them. Middle Park were caught off guard and within 10 minutes Barry had a goal disallowed for offside. Shame, but it knocked them sideways and installed more confidence in our own ability. Then, not 10 minutes later, when Barry was judged to be offside again when putting Judgie through for our disallowed second, I knew we had matched the premier team''s best. In my opinion it was never offside, and the Middle Park''s linesman got it completely wrong in view of the FA''s rulings on offside this season. But there you go and what can you do? This decision seemed to upset our rhythm and not 5 minutes later we gifted Middle Park a fairly easy goal through lapsed concentration. This lapsed concentration being off of Ben Jones'' head past a late calling Stewart straight into the back of our own net. Again, not really anyone''s fault (apart from Ben''s obviously - just kidding Ben), it''s just one of those freak things that sometimes happens in football. It was totally undeserved and Middle Park celebrated for they knew that they had been let out of jail for Christmas. From then on we understandably looked a bit rocky, and nearly let them in again for an annoying second. Lucky for us Stewart redeemed his earlier ''late'' call and pulled off a blinding save to keep us in it.
With half time approaching we responded well, but with Middle Park''s confidence showing, it did look like we were slightly losing the battle. But then Jay Hardy got us back in it with 5 minutes to go before the half. Out of nowhere he span and shot a screamer past Middle Park''s keeper, who was caught only a few yards off his line. Superb stuff and I think everyone thought justice had been done to come in at one apiece.
The team talk went well, with everybody up for it for the second half. We discussed not having our usual 10 minutes of not turning up, and the necessity of not conceding but getting the first goal out the traps, which I believed would be enough to put us through, seeing how tight it was. For the next 30 minutes we matched them in all departments and although we didn''t create too much, neither did they and opportunities at both ends were rare. It was discussed on the line that extra time looked extremely likely and with Middle Park using all three of their substitutes with 20 minutes to go, I thought we had a very good chance of taking it before penalties. With less than 10 minutes to go it was obvious that one mistake would cost dearly and we were praying on the line that it would be them rather than us. Unfortunately it wasn''t to be. With about 6 minutes on the watch, we gave the ball way stupidly from a full back''s position out of defence, and were punished accordingly. Middle Park picked up the sloppy pass, catching us all of out of position and attacked accordingly. The ball across our back line was not dealt with, someone called for offside, and we were caught ball watching, leaving their outside left alone to run at Stewart with the ball at his feet. Bang, out of nowhere two one down, punished for one mistake.
With 5 minutes to go such a kick in the teeth for all the hard work and effort put in by everyone. Trying to get back into it we pushed forward from the back looking for a salvation equaliser. With 2 minutes to go (I made it 5), a counter attack (or huge lump out of their defence), saw Stewart dropping a bit of a clanger after receiving a somewhat dodgy back pass and it was definitely all over. No fault should be laid at Stewart''s door as before that he had kept us in the game with a couple of good saves. It was our defensive error five minutes before that which cost us the game.
Don''t worry though boys, we did ourselves proud against a quality opposition who are riding high in the premier. This was reflected by everyone who stayed around for a Christmas drink afterwards. Have a good one and I will see you in the new year, whereupon we need to have a good run to get us back on a promotion scrap. Oh, and we also have the Kent County Cup to look forward to as well...