Sunday 17th March 2019
By Mark Harrington
Venue: Eltham Town Football Club, Starbucks Close, Green Lane, Eltham.
So apologies for this reporter's absence for a couple weeks unfortunately, laid up with a nasty bout of writer's cramp….yes I said writer's! Anyway, I am grateful for the young upstart Neil Pearce for providing a couple of reports. These upstarts…..they put bar charts, use long words and actually report on facts. Well I am pleased to say that normal service is resumed following my return from what a lot of people assumed was a self-inflicted wrist injury.
Before commentating on the game, I would like to wish the ‘Downham Destroyer’ a very happy 50th birthday, which fell on Sunday. Unfortunately, celebrations got in the way of an appearance and we missed Frank’s usual combative style. A couple of us have played in many teams with Frank since 1996 and he has never lost his desire to give his all for the team. His positional sense and tough tackling have left many a winger frustrated over the years and his recent performance so no signs of him letting up. Frank, best wishes and a very happy 50th birthday from all the players and Guild personnel.
So moving on to a bit about our opposition. Apparently it is a high protein powder that was developed by Germany during the war. Commonly known as “Brain Powder” and sold in all good health shops and supermarkets. Sorry enough of the poor jokes as Gary Rosslee really cannot be beaten as in the warm up he gave us a fine stand-up routine with a plethora of vitamin jokes eg. “Let's defend deep on the Vitamin D”, “I’ll take one for the team” and plenty of others. Actually, having said Gary could not be beaten is a misleading statement as we found ourselves 2-0 down in the first half. Gary to be fair held up his hands on the first goal. A shame because if he had literally held his hands up we would not have conceded. I am sure the Millwall goalkeeper will know how Gary feels but unlike Crisp Packet or whatever his name is, Gary redeemed himself late on in the game. More on that later.
So having come back from illness I really didn’t want to feature too much, maybe a gentle 30 minutes when others are tired towards the end but as usual nothing is ever straightforward with squads at the Guild. We had a good 13 available despite a number of people working so I was confident we had enough to get through 90 minutes. After all, it would give good game time to many after not playing the previous week. Best laid plans and all that, unfortunately we lost one player at 9.45am on Sunday to family duties, which left yours truly as the only sub and within the first 10 minutes, James Clarke pulled a hamstring so we would have to play the remainder of the game with 11 and with my lungs trying to extract themselves from my body through my rear end. Normally this is not a problem but when you are playing a young side, as Sanatogen are or perhaps their own brand of vitamins are so good they just don’t age, it is hard. It becomes even harder when other things go against you but the least I say about this matter the better otherwise the Club will end up in disrepute! I appreciate everyone wants to defend their team but when you have the whistle, a young side who should not really be playing vets, you should respect the nature of the competition especially, letting the oppo know that you are a bit youthful and be impartial. Anyway, as I say, least said the better! What I can say on behalf of the team, is that we cannot compliment the players from Sanatogen highly enough as they were super lads, friendly, competitive and no aggro at all and so it was good hard fought draw.
As you may recall, we very rarely draw and only the second time in my time at the Club. There were chances at both ends before a cross was not dealt with and landed at the feet of the oppo player who had the simple task of tapping in from two yards. Gary immediately apologised but no blame was directed at Gary, he would have dropped it anyway. Seriously, he has saved us on many occasions and so it was not a problem. We immediately set about trying to equalise and a great cross by Dan Herbert landed on the head of Alan Fines and whilst we all waited for the inevitable net to bulge, it went past the right hand post for a goal kick. Again no blame was directed as we have already had Alan’s ‘once in a lifetime’ headed goal a few weeks back so we should not expect too much. Like Gary, Alan redeemed himself later on.
Sanatogen scored what I will call a bizarre second when a ball was played through, the striker was offside, the flag went up and the ref screamed ‘play on’ from 50 yards away. Those vitamins really do something for your vision so I am off to the local Holland and Barrett’s to get a year's supply. In fairness, we should not have stopped and carried on to play to the whistle but with the linesman in line with play rather than 50 yards away we thought it was done deal free kick for us. No amount of reasoning was heard and so we carried on with much of a grievance. It didn’t end there!
Half-time came and I was off the pitch sprinting for the oranges and water to squash any dehydration. Something must have got to me as we changed tactics to three at the back and Simon Davies pushed into midfield. Simon had started the game as centre half and when asked to do so, like the true team man he is, was up for it. Well I thought he was at the time but the look of relief on his face at half-time said more than words! The change in formation, which also pushed Dean Murphy up front with Alan paid immediate dividends. A shot, by someone who shall remain nameless, was going towards the corner flag but thankfully, it was headed in by Dan Herbert at the near post. Fortunate, probably that there was no reason for it to be disallowed but that Dan reacted so swiftly to get a head on it. Shortly after, the change with Simon moving into midfield proved it to be a good decision. Ignoring two other players' calls to be played in, Simon composed himself and sent a sublime pass through to Alan, who despite a knee injury, held off the defender to slide the ball past the keeper to draw us level. Credit to Alan as he remained on the pitch, hobbling but holding the ball up at every opportunity to keep 11 men on the pitch.
The equaliser was no more than we deserved but rather than it proving to be a catalyst to go on and win the game, we seemed to settle for a draw and despite one or two near misses we really had to put on a rearguard action. Capt Jon Gasson was a colossus at the back, heading and kicking anything that came into the box. Kevin and Justin worked tirelessly in the midfield. I swear Kevin had popped a few of their vitamins before the game. I’ve never seen so much ground covered and he was a true box-to-box midfield player. Dean dropped deep to help the midfield and Damien helped both in defence and attack on the left hand side. Dan Herbert, who was only drafted in on Saturday and who has only played two games in two years for the Young Vets, similarly covered both halves of the right flank. Joe slotted alongside Jon and myself to create the three at the back and as we didn’t concede in the second half we can consider it to be a job well done. Well so we thought…..as I mentioned, Kevin covered every blade of mud and when tracking back with 10 minutes to go, he made a great last ditch tackle, won the ball and guess what, from 50 yards and through a bunch of players, a penalty was awarded despite the linesman confirming the ball was won for a corner. Anyway, justice was done when Gary threw himself to his right and saved the penalty. In fact, no rebound as Gary managed to hold onto the taker's kick.
So really we managed to get a draw against all odds but a slightly bad taste left in the mouth on some of the decisions. Yes appreciate it is a thankless task to referee but you can make it easier on yourself. Anyway, it was a great contest, played by all the players in the right spirit and lots of action. If we had any spectators they would have enjoyed it or probably been on the subs' bench. Jon Gasson was voted MOM with 6 votes to edge out Kevin on 3. Gary, Joe and Dean also picking up votes whereas, yours truly was only left to pick up his lungs.
Hopefully with a dry week we shall be at home to Farleigh next Sunday.
Enjoy your week.
Man of the match: Jon Gasson