Sunday 8th April 2018
By Colin Mant
Seniors on “peak” form to overcome ‘A’ Hill
Our return to Farrow Fields was greeted with showers and overcast skies, and formidable opponents in Avery Hill – one of the fittest and most mobile teams we play against. Our record against them isn’t the greatest, given that we only play them once a season. You’d have to trawl back to the 13-14 season for our last win over them. As usual, their competitiveness hasn’t dimmed, and we knew we would have to be at our best to get anything out of the game. One drop-out was confirmed with Phil Anthony succumbing to injury (and he’ll be delighted to hear he earned the biggest cheer of the day!! Or not…). But we were bolstered by two debutants in Chisa (Michael Hill’s football fwend, ooh, fwend) and another ‘fwend’, sorry Friend, in Mark Friend from our more youthful namesakes. Sexual councillor, DJ and master tactician (stop laughing at the back!) Mick O’Flynn lined us up as follows:
Mark Friend, Ian Coles, Colin Mant, Colin Brazier;
Simon Thomas, Jay Hardy, Sinisa Gracaanin, Michael Hills;
Waine Hetherington and George Kleanthous.
Subs: Mick O’Flynn, Pete Harvey, Ian Shoebridge and Chisa.
Spectator; Tony Harvey
Our thanks to Paul Parsons who refereed the game with calm authority and communicated well with both teams.
Right from the off it was clear that both teams had quality throughout and although the newly mown pitch was slick with the earlier rain it held up well, both sides favouring quick incisive passes on the greasy surface. When we attacked we found the tall Avery Hill keeper in good form and they were also putting our defence under pressure, particularly with some quality corners. We rode our luck somewhat with two goalmouth scrambles at successive corners and it would have taken goal-line technology to determine if an Avery Hill effort had crossed the line or not with Colin B hooking clear. It was not given and if they thought they had scored they sportingly did not prolong any protests. It was certainly one that may have been given another day but whether it had gone in was deemed inconclusive.
Having weathered the storm it was a little against the run of play that we went in front. Jay busied himself on the edge of the box and, when he had been foiled twice, followed the looping ball into the box to steal in before their keeper could gather, poking the ball into the net. A lesson in proving that, if you gamble, you can get rewards. On 30 minutes we changed things about, Mick replaced Mark, Pete took over from Waine, Chisa stood in for Sini and Shoey came on for Michael.
Shortly before half-time Avery Hill were level. It looked like we’d done enough to thwart another attack, but the ball broke to their forward on the edge of the box. With us man-for-man we could not prevent him having the time to classily curl one over us, past Matt, into the corner. So 1-1 at the break.
The second half followed much the same pattern, them threatening at will, but with us to a man resolutely putting in the hard yards. A mention to both Jay and Chisa, who looked a very decent signing, bringing an athletic and muscular presence in the centre, who stuck to their chore of getting goal-side when needed, snuffing out their attacks. Shoey early on flashed an effort past the far post and we had just edged on top when we regained the lead. Chisa picked up the ball outside their box, drove at them with a sharp one-two with George* (?? Ed, please check before some snowflake gets upset!!). It looked like the ball hadn’t run for him, but Chisa continuing his run was undeterred and beat Avery’s keeper with a low finish into the far corner, capping his debut with a classy goal. Jay’s work was done at this point and we made our final set of changes, with Sini coming on for him, Michael for Simon, Mark for an injured Colin B and Waine for George.
As you might imagine they did not take it lying down and we had to be at our best to keep our lead. On two occasions it looked like we would be foiled, but Matt bravely saved at feet, on the second occasion earning a boot in the bread-basket as he grabbed the loose ball. The challenge was a tad late, but there was no ill-intent and their player was fully entitled to go for the ball. Paul blew for full-time in a game you’d enjoy playing every week; competitive, good quality football with no nasty edge. A game that could have gone either way, but we put in a massive performance to earn (and I mean earn) a win against a tough opponent, credit to all today.
Leanne had kindly assisted Shoebridge Catering Solutions in putting on today’s après match spread, with sandwiches, cheese, cheesy biscuits and other assorted nibbles being eagerly hoovered up. Less said on that the better. The usual subjects (minus bar stalwarts Steve B and Pat) stayed to discuss and dissect club matters, briefly joined by Chairman Viner. A hotly contested Man of the Match today with Jay being pipped by Chisa for the award, but both Colesy and Matt also got honourable nods on behalf of the defence - evidence of how hard-fought a win it was. Onto next week and no lesser test in Inter the Valley Vets.
Man of the match: Chisa