Sunday 21st October 2018
By Mark Harrington
Venue: Eltham Town FC, Starbucks Close, Green Lane, Eltham.
Supporters: Shippey’s family.
Squad: Mark Harrington, Frank Pearce, James Clarke, Neil Pearce, Matti Wright, Joe Champ, Damien Preston, Simon Davies, Dean Murphy, Justin Blundell, Steve Shippey, Tom Naughton.
It’s been a week of players coming in and out of the squad but we still had 18 declaring themselves available to play so it was a question of who would stand down? Tant, Matti Wright, Dean Wyatt, Barry Grainger and Robin Moody all humbly took a week off. Unfortunately, due to illness, Matt Kerby had to be replaced by Matti Wright but that was OK and I sat at the Clubs Elvis tribute night discussing with Marcus how lucky we are to have such a crop of players. Mrs Allen watched her hubby sing along to Love Me Tender and with a raised eyebrow said “If only”. Not sure what she meant but Mrs Preston nodded in agreement. Anyway, all seemed well we crowed smugly……………..we had a lot to choose from, playing at a ground and against a team we had good results against, weather good, match report almost written with numerous Elvis gags and Johnny Lee Memphis was in the building and playing a blinder as “The King”. In fact, if he had hung around a bit longer he would have been in the team as his movement was much better than any of our own! What could go wrong? I would like to say 24 hours is a long time in football but it turned out to be about 9 hours before we realised the 14 on duty had gone down to 12 of which, one had to leave after 60 minutes. Far be it from me to repeat the changing room banter and who was the reference but his brother-in-law is a comic genius and commented “disappearing after 60 minutes - nothing new there then”. See Neil I told you I would keep it private!
Anyway, we are a hardy lot, even in the absence of manager Marcus who was entertaining Mrs Allen on her birthday or recovering from all that Elvis gyrating, one or the other, so I took up the manager's duties for the day. I was still going to use my Elvis references, go in goal and we had one sub. So I’ve said that the first person to give me the number of Elvis songs in this report will be subs-free next Sunday so here goes. It was always on my mind that the four standing down had made a great gesture but suspicious minds in the squad always thought we may need reinforcements in the ghetto of Green Lane. One player had heard reference to Starbucks Close and immediately said “if you are going I’ll have a skinny macchiato”. At 10am in a sort of packed changing room this was a schoolboy error and we immediately wanted to drop him and go down to 11 but decided he can just look a numpty for 90 minutes.
We began with a little less conversation than normal and demanded more action please and the boys never let you down. Realising our opposition had strengthened from the team we beat 8-0 last year, they had a summer merger with another local club, the first half was an equal battle. Si Davies was strength and calmness in a frantic midfield, Frank Pearce was not only defensively strong but a good outlet, same to be said of our other full back Joe Champ. Matti and Neil (Captain) were handling anything that came their way and Tom and Damo were working their considerable butts off. Then disaster struck…..Steve Shippey pulled his hamstring going for a one-on-one with the oppo keeper and so we had to immediately change him for James Clarke and push Dean Murphy up front. Shipps was to re-appear but more on that later. Hopefully, the injury is not too bad and Shipps will be back in a couple of weeks and if we can take a positive out of the unfortunate injury, we can at least say that we then took the lead from the new front man Dean Murphy as he opened the scoring with a cross shot. A bit of déjà vu it seemed as it was the same opening and pattern as last year and we hoped the game would unfold in the same manner. Unfortunately not so but another positive came out of the change as James Clarke was magnificent in an unfamiliar midfield role. A quiet man James but hard headed and tackled anything that moved, whilst helping to launch attacks. A very well deserved Man of the Match performance with 6 votes.
So we made it to half time saying to the footballing gods – don’t be cruel as we can’t help falling in love with the game. We kept the half-time chat short and concentrated on what we were going to do once Dean departed for lunch after 60 minutes. Easy we thought, Shipps and myself will swap positions. He’ll go in goal as he could at least walk and I’d be our new number 9. It all seemed to be going rather well and we could then relax a little as Damien scored an absolute left foot cracker after being put through by James. A great finish from a hard angle. I’d spent the previous evening watching Damien showing great discipline and going easy on the alcohol. Only 5 pints, 2 gin and tonics and a glass of red consumed meant his goal was a perfect reward for his abstinence. So it was now or never for Dean to leave and make the change. 10 minutes later and sadly it was not only the shirts that we swapped as he must have left the dodgy hamstring in the shirt. After chasing a ball I felt the usual pain in the back of the leg and had to come off. I was at least comforted that it wasn’t the knee! This was, however, after the referee had given his team a penalty after a brilliant tackle by Frank Pearce, was adjudged to be an offence and he even refused to speak to his player who confirmed it was not a penalty. A shame, he had a good game up to that point but who would be a referee? So we had sympathy, albeit hard at the time. We were all shook up but the defence were superb and returned to sender anything that game into our box. There was time for me to come back on and be a limping nuisance and nearly toe punt a third for us, Justin had two headers saved and so our win was well deserved.
The final whistle eventually blew and I said to the players “The wonder of you”. We have come way down here, they were caught in a trap and could not get out and we have done it my way. Marcus back next week and with no Elvis night out I will have to search the archives for another theme.
I don’t want to be harsh on the players who didn’t make it to the ground for today’s game as you never know the reasons and it is all about those boys that put their bodies on the line for the Guild cause. Yes we had injuries and struggled but the positives are we won, showed resilience, players like; Tom, Damo, Si (who have deserved it) got 90 minutes. We said “Thank you very much” to our hosts as we left the building.
So a tenner could be your reward for the number of Elvis references. My decision final – That’s the way It Is! (Yes that one counts!). Do try to make the next Nick Pitt promotion of Elvis. He is brilliant and gives a good night out. Next one is Friday 7 December I think, at the CIU Club in Petts Wood. Look out for the posters.
A good week all.
Man of the match: James Clarke