Saturday 17th September 2011
By Colin Brazier
The current 4th team squad’s first anniversary! This time last year we were licking our wounds after being thrashed 8-0 at home by AFC Bromley following no pre-season preparations whatsoever. Twelve months (and one trophy) later, we embarked on a second league campaign together, with no fewer than four friendlies, weekly training sessions and a hernia op for Des under our belts (hmm…might have to rephrase that!). OK so results in the games weren’t fantastic, not everybody attended training (ahem!), but at least the Silver Fox is a new man!
Our first competitive opposition for the 2011-12 season were River Plate, whom we had met in one of the Tom Cooper competitions at the end of last term, emerging with a 2-1 victory on our main pitch. On this occasion we were at the newly modernised Hall Place, where unfortunately the pitches do not quite reach the impressive standard of the changing rooms. We had a squad of 14 for the game and Des drew the following team out of his hat:
Jez Allen –GK
Scott Barnes – RB
Steve Blanchard snr – CB
Todd Arnold – CB
Colin Brazier – LB
Steve Blanchard jnr – RM
Neil Barnes – CM (capt.)
Tom Smart – CM
Tommy Noad – LM
James Foyle – CF
Connor Barclay – CF
Subs: George Jardine, Rhyse Elliott, James Pyne
As hinted previously, conditions were not ideal for a first match of the season; despite the recent rain and a typical British summer, the surface was hard and bobbly. The sun kept trying to peek out into our faces from behind some ominous clouds which a strong breeze was doing its best to blow out of the way. Add to that a very determined River Plate side and it was clear we would be hard pushed to get a result. In fact we didn’t really have an attack of note until 20 minutes into the game. We had held firm under pressure in the early stages though, with few chances being conceded, save for a couple of free headers at corners we were lucky to survive. In particular Scott at right back was looking every bit as experienced as the septuagenarians (“old blokes” for Todd’s benefit) alongside and behind him.
The highlight in this period was the ball being kicked down the Bourne Road on the back of a strong tailwind and being returned special delivery a couple of minutes later by a passer-by on a bicycle!
We had just begun to put some passes together when one of River Plate’s forwards seized on an error - “no names no pack drill” to borrow an expression from the Territorial Army (TA) - and ran through on goal. Before Jez could set himself, he let fly with a great shot giving our custodian no chance to even get a finger on it (thankfully! none of us wants to go through that again do we Jez?).
Unperturbed by this setback we got our game together and began to threaten the home goal. Tom and Neil were winning their midfield battles and setting up good raids down the flanks through Steve Junior and Tommy. Connor and James were chasing everything down. We got our reward about 15 minutes after going behind when Connor did just that on an diagonal through pass from James and despite crying out for a left foot shot from the difficult angle, last season’s Golden Boot winner somehow contorted his right foot to flick the ball over the advancing keeper and agonisingly slowly into the net – a really great finish. Boosted by this goal we continued to take the game to the opposition and were awarded a penalty when a River Plate defender was harshly adjudged to have handled just inside the area. Tom Smart placed the ball over the spot but the referee fell for the oppos’ old “it’s not on the spot” trick and made him replace the ball in the centre of the spot, making it about two inches below ground level, resulting in a poor contact and a relatively easy save. At least he got it on target, something Wayne Rooney didn’t manage from his pen.!
So we turned around at 1-1 optimistic about taking all three points. It must be said we didn’t really come out of the blocks in the second half and became embroiled in an attritional battle. River Plate took the lead when they finally converted one of their corners by heading in at the far post. Last season we would have been beaten at this stage but we are made of sterner stuff these days and helped by all three subs’ fresh legs, we kept plugging away. Tommy Noad was enjoying some great runs down the left and one of these resulted in a corner. Our set-piece expert Tom Smart placed it just over the keeper’s outstretched hands and under the bar to tie the game up again at 2-2. So what with missing a penalty and scoring direct from a corner, Tom wants the penalty marks at Farrow Fields’ top pitch to be replaced with corner quadrants.
The remaining ten minutes were played out with no real scares for either side resulting in a point apiece, which on the day was just about right. So we had come through a difficult fixture with a creditable point and can take alot of satisfaction from coming back twice.
Man of the match was Tommy Noad for a great left-midfield display, both defensively and offensively (that last word doesn’t seem right but I’ll leave it in for now!). The game was played in a very good spirit and well refereed by Mr. ???
After the game Des announced that he would be away for a few weeks and that Nicky Barclay had agreed to take the games during his absence. That’s some act to be understudy for but Nick has the stage experience to handle it! We wish him well.
This week we are back to cup action already with a home game against Lord Hood in the Ashgrove Trophy – should be another close affair.
Man of the match: Tommy Noad