Sunday 16th December 2018
By Mark Harrington
Venue: Beckenham Cricket Club, Foxgrove Road, Beckenham.
Team: Adam Banks, Mark Harrington, Jon Gasson, James Clarke, Matti Wright, Joe Champ, Dean Murphy, Dean Wyatt, Kevin Aluwani, Paul Tanton, Barry Grainger, Sam Harrington, Josh Zegeling.
So it’s that most wonderful time of the year, yes the last game of 2018. The crowds flocked to Beckenham where nearly 30 people turned up to witness the Orpington derby. The week’s rain had no affect on the beautiful playing surface. OK I’ll rewind a bit....the 30 people from Farnborough was actually as a result of both vets teams being drawn at the same ground. There was yellow and red everywhere!
It is actually a miracle we fielded a side as so many of the Young Vets were otherwise engaged for a variety of reasons. No doubt shopping or seeing a figure that many simply cannot believe eg. an old grey man with a white beard and surrounded in red. No they were not at the Labour Party conference but Santa’s Grotto. Even manager Marcus was absent so yours truly was back in the hot seat.
Anyway, we managed 10 proper vets and called basically on the Harrington family connections to field a side. Upon arriving we did declare to our opposition that we had exceptional circumstances and so had to field a couple of youngsters but we would honour the spirit of vets football and only play the two outfield players when the game was not in doubt. We were true to our word and they only came on with the score at 3-0.
Marcus has brought some continental tactics since taking over so I didn’t want to deviate and went for a 3-5-2 formation. There were mutterings that I played this formation to allow my Cafu style but if that was the case then with 5 minutes gone, one solid tackle and a run in the box proved me correct! The knee was well and truly tested by the tackle which allowed Tant to break and put over a peach of a ball for me to side foot from four yards. Tant looked on in envy at a distance he usually is exceptional from.
Tant was the architect of our second. Both Deans and Kevin were like a bunch of tramps with a Pret sarnie. They were all over the opposition and won the ball back and fed Tant who waited and waited and then side footed another exquisite ball through to Barry Grainger who, as usual, made no mistake. A fine goal.
Adam Banks, making his debut in goal, kept our clean sheet intact with a couple of smart saves from the ever dangerous Kevin, who is probably one of the best but nicest forwards we play against. He causes all sorts of trouble with his runs but Capt Jon Gasson, James Clarke, Matti Wright and Joe Champ kept him at bay. I am refusing to draw any comparisons or even make any jokes about having a keeper with that surname but daughter's boyfriend backed up his previous claims of being a good goalkeeper. Two years of not playing has not dimmed his reflexes and one save in the second half was a worldy. Onlooking Dad, senior Banks even ran the line for us. He could have probably played!
We kept our hosts at bay and went in with a 0-2 lead. Changes saw yours truly and the excellent Rhino depart for James Clarke and the also excellent Kevin to return. I’d only just put my top on when disaster struck, Matti Wright’s Newcastle exertions had caught up with him and his hamstring went. I was back on and we reverted to 4-5-1 with Barry being supported by Dean Murphy who played as a number 10 and a number 7!
A ball out wide found Joe Champ, who somehow found himself further forward than when playing wing back, and Joe’s quality left foot bent the ball into the top corner. A cracker of a goal to put us 0-3 up. I think this is Joe’s first for the club and what a way to open his account.
Josh quickly followed up with a smart low drive into the bottom corner for his first and their keeper made two smart saves from Barry and Sam before being powerless when the goal of the game arrived. Rhino was back on and bodies were bouncing off him at regular intervals. The ball was played out from the back to Joe who played infield to Rhino who returned it to the left side where Tant played another super ball for Rhino to side foot into the goal. A goal to grace any game and no involvement from anyone under 35!
To their credit Orpington did not drop their efforts despite starting to moan about the youngsters, they nearly got a goal back when a long punt was almost headed past our own keeper who had decided to go walkabout off his line but it was easily cleared off the line by the ever alert centre half. I won’t mention it much!
Josh scored our sixth with another run and shot and then a moment I thought would never happen. Nephew Sam was not only playing in the same team as old uncle for the first time but his smart finish ensured we also both troubled the scorer. A fine finish to end a week where we as a family had not much to celebrate but a strange sense of irony looking down on us.
We did not want to play youngsters as we have had it done to us but you either accept it or don’t play the game at all and so it is thanks to those that came to play for us and allowed us to get a game. The game was won before the young subs came on so I hope our oppo will see we did our best to keep the spirit.
There were many notable performances from the regulars. As usual Mr Dependable James Clarke filled in wherever asked, Barry and Tant deserved 90 minutes and with four assists I would have thought Tant would have won MOM but Rhino pipped him with 6 votes. Jon Gasson also featured with a few votes as he headed almost anything that moved. Kevin and Dean Murphy looked a formidable partnership in the middle and we look forward to seeing Kevin more regularly now.
So Farnborough ruled Beckenham with both teams winning although final word went to the youngsters who could not believe that the Senior vets had a hooter, a wig and also a mouth organ (no not Pete Harvey an actual harmonica) in the bar. This they believed to be the difference between vets football. I just told them the madness had already set in but they concluded that the standard was very high which surprised them. I’ve sent them off to their rooms to do their homework.
See you in 2019 at Stone Rec boys. To those attending next week's drinks, first round on Marcus!
Merry Christmas one and all.
Man of the match: Dean Wyatt