Sunday 3rd November 2019
By Mark Harrington
Venue: Harrow Meadow, Eynsford
Squad: Gary Rosslee, Gary McQueen, Jon Gassson (Capt), Robin Moody, Joe Champ, Paul Tanton, Chris Morris, Sean Blackwell, Jason Miller, Marc Davies, Alan Fines, Damian Preston
Supporter, linesman and generally grumpy old man on the sideline: Mark Harrington versus the rest of Eynsford Village who had turned out to support their team.
It was an elongated build-up to this game as by Wednesday it was clear that a number of injuries, half-term and generally “I’m injured but really it’s too far and I don’t like the pitch” meant we were struggling for a side. The weather forecast was also not good and so it looked very unlikely we were going to play. However, most of Saturday’s rain had no doubt run downhill and into the car park at Riverside’s ground and late Saturday evening we were assured by our hosts that we would be good to go. This was a surprise but as one part of their pitch is above sea level the downpour really didn’t affect the game although, I can say this is actually the first time in my playing career that I have been beaten by a pitch and not the team on it. There were other factors, which I will elaborate on further down.
So the player recruitment went into overdrive and our thanks to Gary McQueen and Robin Moody for adding friends to the squad which ensured we could field a side. Alan’s hammy had healed so his late call-up was welcomed and big thanks to Jon Gasson, who again put his body on the line to play when he would have preferred a rest. So from a position of 9 we ended up with 14 until the inevitable happened and we were reduced to 12 on the day of the match. It was inevitable that 12 was not going to be enough especially, with some already carrying knocks and this pitch is not one you want to play on at all let alone with niggles.
Robin had flown in from Spain and he just about made KO and Jason had trouble parking his sports car amongst all the 4 by 4s that seem to dominate the village. Anyway, we were good to go and started the match well. It must have been at least into the tenth minute before our opposition had touched the ball although admittedly, many of our passes were not forward. Jason was dominant against the left back and skinned him many times before Alan side-footed us ahead at the second attempt. We were completely in control but then switched off and a cross-field pass found their forward who placed the ball across goal and into the bottom right hand corner to level. We still continued to dominate but our adventure was punished, when trying to play offside, their forward ran through to lift over Gary and place our hosts 2-1 ahead. This was incredibly hard on us as we had dominated and worse was to follow when Paul Tanton could just not get close to the ball, two yards out, goal gaping and the ball rolled in. Sadly, whilst he is normally deadly from this distance, he was back defending and just could not clear and so our hosts took a very undeserved 3-1 half-time lead. Even with the slope against us we were by far the better team but as in previous weeks, we seem to be punished with every unfortunate bounce that fell to our hosts.
We decided to go for it at half-time and reverted to 3-5-2, with Gary McQueen having to leave the field with a calf injury and being replaced by Damien. We had nothing to lose and started the second half very much like the first with good passing and interplay and we were not running up the hill. Chances came and went and we were caught not once but twice and suddenly found ourselves 5-1 down when we really didn’t deserve to be. The fifth goal summed up our day when Gary made a great save only to see the ball take a ricochet off our defender to fall nicely into the young striker's path who tapped in. We seem to face many teams who have no shame in playing younger players. I have no problem in them doing so in order for a game to be played but it would be nice to be asked? Why younger players want to turn out at this level is beyond me and it very much devalues the vets game. It wasn’t as if they didn’t have enough subs and perhaps they could have offered us a player as at that point we went down to 10 men as Jon Gasson, again defying injury to slam into a tackle had to leave the field. Subliminally this seemed to spur us on and we attacked to try and restore pride and we were rewarded when Chris fired in and then Alan reduced the arrears to 5-3. Sadly we conceded again and at 6-3 it looked to be over but to a man the 10 FOBG boys put in a hell of a shift and Joe Champ's shot took a deflection and found the back of the net, Alan reduced the arrears further and then to set up a frantic finish, Chris Morris who was making his debut, scored a fine second goal to bring us to 6-5 with 5 minutes remaining. We had a few chances to level the match but the bounce which went against us at the other end also went against us in the oppo area. Damo, Alan and Marc Davies, also making his debut and but for a bit of luck could have rescued a seemingly impossible situation.
Anyway, the result was secondary to the performance on this occasion. We know we should have won but we missed too many chances and created our own problems in defence but it was not easy on this surface. Chris and Marc are always welcome to play for us as both had fine games and have the fibre to play for us. You would not have thought it was their first games as both put a great deal of effort into the match as if they had played for us for years. Chris was easily Man of the Match with virtually a clean sweep of votes and is an excellent central midfielder. Accurate passing, strong and an eye for goal. Marc would also be a fine acquisition with his pace and we are currently negotiating with both players' agents!
Whilst we left the field disappointed to have lost we know that on another surface and a full squad we would dismantle the opposition. We were all ready to dismantle the world renowned buffet in the Five Bells but sadly it was not to usual standard. Perhaps the previous night's firework event had scuppered us or was the chef expecting the iffy weather to not have to take the delights out of the freezer? There were no chicken legs or samosas of previous years. Loud cries of cancel the fixture going forward and don’t they know who we are rang out but in truth the sarnies and sausage rolls were still very good and put most other home ground offerings to shame. The moans on the buffet could have been disappointment or was this was another example of the modern day footballer? So we finished our lentil waters, picked up our iPhones and ear pieces and left in our flip flops to the nearest bistro.
I really am not a good watcher of football and being injured is literally a pain. I share the frustration with Jez, James, Simon, Kevin and Matt Kerbs (illness) who we all hope will return soon. Even more frustrating than the result was the groin injury to Sean, calf injury to Gary and the knee injury to Jon Gasson. Jon was brilliant today and after putting his body on the line he paid the price with another injury. Hopefully all will be short term and thanks to Gary McQueen for coming back on when Sean went off otherwise we would have been down to 9.
A fantastic effort bearing in mind the circumstances and strangely it feels like a win rather than a loss due to the character that was on show. We are away to ‘youthful’ Wickham Park next week when hopefully, we can carry the fight on. Well played everyone, your determination, strength and character was hugely impressive today. You did the club and yourselves proud.
Man of the match: Chris Morris