Sunday 20th January 2019
By Mark Harrington
Spectators: Andy Cob, Si Davies, Mrs Tant and little Tant, Neil Connolly, Gary Williamson, A few other ex Guild players and kids.
Squad: Gary Rosslee, James Clarke, Jon Gasson (Capt), Mark Harrington, Joe Champ, Paul Tanton, Kevin Analuwa, Dean Murphy, Steve Shippey, Alan Fines, Tom Naughton, Damien Preston, Matt Kerby.
Ref: Paul Parsons.
So having watched the film ‘The Darkest Hour’ the day before, we did need a Churchillian effort to gain our first victory in 2019. Well it is exactly what we got.
The opposition arrived somewhat late which meant we kicked off at 11 instead of the customary 10.30 and at some point an apology will be forthcoming!
Manager Marcus had given us a midweek “hairdryer” about commitment and turning up on time. A shame our opposition had not seen the message but this sometimes happens, especially when there is a bit of frost on the ground. Anyway we probably needed an extended warm-up so it did not distract from our immaculate preparations and Marcus and dog Otis did not miss as much as they thought they would due to an incident on the M25. Otis was thankfully fine but his master had clearly been affected by said incident. The hard shoulder could only dream of a dry January.
We knew what we had to do; we knew the formation that would work against an opposition we have not beaten in a few years. Wickham Park have willing runners and are an athletic side so it was going to be a tough 90 minutes, which it proved to be.
We decided that we needed something to spark us and so we elected for changing room music to get the boys in the mood. No, despite our age, there was no Glenn Miller especially as it was my playlist and anyone who knows me will testify that I am a man of varied taste (no jokes please). One minute the 80’s and then switching to a bit of R&B followed by rock. With a late start we could have played a few 12-inchers, the older folk will know what they are but probably not their wives. The mood in the room was one of determination.
My favourite Churchill quote is “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. If you are going through hell, keep going. Never, never, never give up”. It summed up today’s performance perfectly. We had the unwanted proposition of being the only young Vets team to ever lose three on the spin. It was not lost on us and I have witnessed many determined performances by the Guild but to a man, we were never going to let that happen today.
We elected for a 4-5-1 formation to counter their runners and our spies informed us that the oppo like to play out wide and get crosses into the box. We started very much on the front foot and but for a bit of bad luck and last ditch defending, we could have been a couple up. Anyway, our moment came when Dean Murphy played in Alan Fines who squared to Shipps, who did the rest with a powerful finish into the right hand corner of the goal. Unfortunately our lead did not last long and a cross to the edge of the area fell to their right winger who hit an unstoppable shot beyond Gary. Soon after, we found ourselves behind when a failed clearance fell to their right winger who cut in an fired beyond Gary. Capt Jon, in his usual honest style, immediately took responsibility for the error but he, more than anyone else has saved us on numerous occasions and so there was no finger pointing. We had to withstand an onslaught and Big Jon and the rest of the back four more than made up for the error. We expected to go into the half-time break a goal down but right on the stroke of half-time, Alan Fines coolly slotted in to draw us level. Our tails were up but I was keen to stress at half-time that we should not be fooled into thinking the hard work was done. We could have conceded at least one more and but for sheer determination we had fought our way back into the contest. Against younger opposition, bodies were thrown on the line and it would be needed in the second half.
Our second half performances have not been good recently but we more than corrected that today. Matt Kerby was excellent and gave us time with his running with the ball, Dean Murphy was always available to take the ball as were Tant and Shipps. Special mention goes to Tom Naughton who, even with a family bereavement, made himself available at short notice to play. Tom came on in the 25th minute to replace Kevin, who had to leave for a family event. Kevin would have played more if they had been on time but we are grateful to Kev for what he gave us. Tom came on in an unfamiliar midfield role and I asked him to just “patrol the centre circle”. He did more than that and followed their “big fella” who has probably got more muscles than the whole of the Guild team put together. A lovely fella is Manny but an absolute beast and Tom had the unenviable task of marking him. Tom was more than a match and put in a tremendous shift. Pure northern grit! I said grit not git.
Shipps had a great first half and absolutely slaughtered their left back on numerous occasions and we really should have made more of his raids. We were causing all sorts of confusion in the oppo box and when the ball fell to Alan, as usual, he was deadly to put us 3-2 up. No more than we had deserved. Kerbs was hitting some great set pieces and it was only a matter of time before one turned into a goal. His effort to Shipps was perfect, the defender could not clear and Shipps was in but the left back could not resist a grapple and the obvious penalty was given which Alan duly converted for his hat-trick. A well deserved treble for Alan, who is now back in the groove after a few months out. The oppo protested but they knew the excellent Paul Parsons was correct. Paul not only got this award correct but about every decision in the match.
The last five minutes became fraught as they reduced the deficit when their player, clearly offside, slotted in. Our linesman was apparently too busy deep in conversation with those on the line. Anyway, it didn’t matter Barry as at least you didn’t spill your coffee and we held out for a deserved 4-3 victory.
No team is built around one man and today more than demonstrated this. Gary had saved us at 2-1 with a save that went onto the bar and over and the linesman missed it so a goal kick was awarded. I said I would mention this as he got no appreciation at the time. Gary was loudest to beg the ref to give the corner! James Clarke was probably facing the fastest player in vets football and was more than equal to their left winger and put in some super tackles to deny any space especially, when he bravely threw himself into a goal-bound shot when it seemed they would score.
Shipps gave us legs and room on the right, the same on the left by Tant. Alan dropped deep and as a lone striker gave us not only goals but some tackles to disrupt our oppo. Tom came out of the closet. Sorry came out on top against the Wardrobe and Joe kept a close eye on their speedy winger. Dean, Kevin and Matt covered every blade of grass and formed a formidable barrier in front of the back four whilst also setting up chances.
We were short on numbers today but rather than talk of absentees, we must talk about those like Kevin and Damien who put their bodies and family duties on the line. It demonstrated the bond at the club. This extends to the support by those on the line. Si Davies, with a fine Nelson impression, cheered us on for the 90. A game Si would have excelled in and we hope he returns soon as well as the other injured souls.
We thank Leanne for the grub as no doubt do other non-vet players, we also thank Gary for all his efforts on the day, despite the wheel falling off the top pitch goal. Thankfully, it was the only Guild wheel that fell off.
Sanatogen Vets at home next week and looks like we are the only team at home so we maybe able to grace the bottom pitch? In any event, the top pitch was in excellent condition so we don’t really care!
In a performance of such determination, spirit and quality, the MOM could have gone to anyone today, so I am humbled to get it for the second week on the trot but even more so to just pip the excellent Shipps with 5 votes to 3, Matt Kerbs, Alan and Jon Gasson also picking up votes.
So music got us in the groove and the turntables will be playing again next week. Get your suggestions in for tunes. First on the list has to be “You can call me Al”.
A good week all.
Man of the match: Mark Harrington