Sunday 3rd December 2017
By Mark Harrington
Supporters: Jumbo and Little Jumbo.
Team: Gary Rosslee, James Clarke, Jon Gasson, Frank Pearce, Joe Champ, Dean Wyatt, Dean Murphy, Damien Preston, Jez Mooney, Alan Fines, Paul Tanton, Jason Miller, Barry Grainger
This weekend we were originally at home to Glendale Vets but both the pitch and the opposition were pulled from us midweek so Tant did a marvellous job in securing a last minute away fixture against Midland Vets at the HSBC ground in Beckenham. For those younger readers, Midland Bank were acquired by HSBC and were one of Britain’s finest banking institutions until being absorbed into the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking group. I only provide this information as one player commented that I know a lot about banking so could teach a few, at least I think that is what he said.
Despite being an away fixture our supporters never let us down and travel in numbers, Jumbo and Little Jumbo cheering us on. Is that not an oxymoron? Can you have a little Jumbo? Anyway, I digress.
We really did not mind giving up our home pitch on this occasion as the HSBC ground is one of the finest in the area and to get there and be told we were playing on the large main pitch soon led me to forget about questioning what our club rules are when pitches are dished out. Thoughts soon turned to what formation we would adopt and that the oppo would clearly have an advantage playing week in and week out on this snooker table of a playing surface. It soon became apparent that our ‘week off’ and the size of the pitch would be a problem as we started in an unusually sluggish fashion. Too much lubrication in O’Neil’s at our Christmas drinks the week before provided the longest hangover in history and this went right through the team and even our most energetic player in Jez suffered although I think he may well have been more affected by virtue of the throwing of too many shapes last week.
I was in a very buoyant mood having seen the mighty Mancs smash the Gooners the day before despite being outplayed but just like at the Emirates, good teams have great goalkeepers. So if anyone knows one, can they let me know! Only joking Gary and but for your heroics we would have been more than one down. In the 30th minute one lazy tackle brought down the Midland winger just outside the area and the resulting kick was flicked off the head of the attacker and into our net. We regrouped and with Jason Miller coming on, we change to a 5 man midfield. Jason had a brilliant game and his first effort was to take on the left back, skin him and put a fine cross over which we just failed to add the final touch to.
We started to play our football and the triangles began to appear and from a move between James, Jason and Jez a lovely through ball made it to Alan who ran on and lobbed over the keeper and into the net, off the post, to equalise with two minutes remaining before half-time. It was a great time to score and the last 15 minutes of the half made it a fair reflection on the play.
Midland are a good side, one of the best we will play, and they came out in the second half showing immediate threat. One ball out left let their striker run through and whilst we appealed for offside, the referee who strangely refused to take our offer of a lino declared it not offside and Gary could do nothing about the one on one and was rounded to give our hosts the lead. It was a strange call by a referee not to accept a lino but whilst we felt hard done by, all in all he had a good game but could have avoided a number of verbals aimed in his direction if he had someone else to blame!
The referee proved to be “Johnny on the spot” and impartial, despite being their manager with the award of a penalty kick in the 55th minute although, to be fair it was a stone-waller, Dean Murphy surging into the box after exchanging a neat one two with Jason and being too quick for the oppo defender who brought him down. Strangely there seemed to be the unusual sight of Alan and Dean giving the penalty to each other but Dean did explain he had just run 50 yards and didn’t have the energy so Alan stepped up, changed his usual side and their keeper did a ‘De Gea’ with a fantastic double save but only for Dean Wyatt to charge in, hit a great shot from outside the box that Alan flicked in. Whilst the defence called for offside, the referee was right again and to their credit two of the oppo players confirmed it was not offside to draw us level.
The equaliser gave us real impetus and Tant, assisted by Joe, started to provide good width and some neat passes to cause problems down the left side. Barry Grainger made his return from injury and controlled the ball and gave us time to regroup in the final 25 minutes. Barry nearly side-footed in from the edge of the area after great work by Tant. At this point we took control and despite missing a few efforts our fitness returned and we continued to press and in the 83rd minute, Rhino crossed for Tant to side-foot home a well deserved winner. Rhino had a super game with many an old fashioned cruncher and goes about his business with the minimum of fuss.
Midland are a dangerous side on the break and but for Man of the Match Gary Rosslee they would have drawn level. One brave save and one quick reaction after the ball came back off the bar kept our lead intact. Whilst Gary was rightly MOM with 8 votes all 13 on duty put in a heroic performance, Jon Gasson heading out anything that came in, Frank and James blocking shots and hassling their forwards into errors and our midfield were superb. Both Deanos covered every blade of grass in both halves of the pitch, Jez worked between the midfield and supporting Alan at every opportunity and Jason Miller and Damo provided good crosses from both flanks.
It really was a day when anyone could have won MOM and the oppo confirmed they do not lose many at home and confirmed they were caught by our constant pressing. Lots of positives on the day eg. how we responded to going a goal down for the first time in a long time, the return of Barry from injury and Alan keeping up his record goal scoring form, the efforts of the midfield and back line who worked as a cohesive unit and us not being affected by the late withdrawals of Marcus and Matti through work and illness respectively.
Away to Santos next week and I am reliably informed they are top quality on the buffet and bar front so lots to look forward to in addition to the soon return of Justin and Neil P from injury and Jon Redman from finishing his course.
A good week all. My first one back after nearly four weeks off. Agghhhhhhhhh!!
Man of the match: Gary Rosslee