Sunday 6th September 2020
By Mark Harrington
Date: I think it’s September 2020
Venue: Farrow Fields
Opposition: Inter Vyagra
Team: Gary Rosslee, Gary McQueen, Jon Gasson (Capt), Robin Moody, Joe Champ, Dean Murphy, Paul Tanton, Si Davies, Dean Wyatt, Alan Fines, Steve Shippey
Subs: Matt Kerby, James Rutter, Sean Blackwell, Neil Pearce
Ref: Paul "Play On" Parsons
Supporters: To keep in line with COVID Guidelines…I didn’t see any; however, Marcus and Otis, Neil, Jay Gasson, daughter and dog were walking past and did stop for a bit.
So just checking the file it was 23rd February when we last played and I wrote the final match report of the 2019/2020 season. A mixture of weather and then these unprecedented times halted what was turning into a team full of momentum as we had just put the third win on the spin with a 7-3 victory away at John Roan.
Shortly after along came disaster and ruined the year. Many tears have been shed, pride hurt, social gatherings scrapped and the need to keep a distance from others. Yep after 30 years of ‘falling off their perch’ the Scousers legitimately (for once) lifted silverware by winning the interrupted Premier League. Quite a year for our resident Scouser Marcus Allen. Not only turning 50, getting back on his perch but also becoming a grandad. Daughter Sophie and partner George giving birth to little Rohan. What a super little fella he is! Congrats to the Allens. Also significant birthday booze-ups have had to be deferred for Damien Preston, Gary McQueen and yours truly who also joined Marcus in the Half Century Club. I am sure there have been other celebrations amongst the doom and gloom so apologies if I am not aware but congrats to all and nice to see you all well.
In all seriousness, during such sad times we also as a team send our heartfelt thoughts to anyone affected by this virus. It has been fantastic to see how people have cared for others, helped and showed a much more generous side. I hope it continues and the effort people have been making by doing various charitable things to raise money, lend a hand and give their time has been remarkable. This has been no more evident than at the club where time has been given to upgrade the club for all the players benefit. We now sport a lovely welcoming entrance with the badge proudly showing and clear directions of where to go. Not that many of the vets need any invitation to a warm entrance and entering by the rear. Pitches have had many hours of hard work and we thank all concerned for their efforts.
So whilst over lockdown the team has aged, be rest assured it gave our scouts plenty of time to recruit younger blood. We have added Jay Gasson, Mark Fisher and James Rutter who are below the 40 mark to our ranks. The average age dropping as a result of James being in the first half of the 30’s. Welcome all three. BTW, this other fella turned up for training with a cultured left foot and familiar face and all this nonsense of a COVID stone was quickly blown away as Joe Champ is half the man he used to be. Working from home has certainly paid dividends. I guess if you work for a brewery it always will but what an effort as he looks in fine form. Al, Shipps and Si Davies have also been on the fitness regime and so will serve us well.
So with new directions to the rear, there is no better team to see it first than Inter Vyagra. No they do not play in blue and yes are stiff opposition. We did all those gags previously but they do have strange numbers and nicknames on the backs of their shirts. Not something we in the younger vets will follow as doubt a law suit would follow with walkers going past the pitch. Anyway, last year we triumphed against their strong resistance by winning 6-3. So with club instructions if we have a temperature, breathing heavily and feel unwell, we should not appear at the club. I’d say after about 5 minutes of the start I was wondering if we should call it off. Thankfully just early season rust rather than COVID and rear was definitely the word of the day as that is where most were breathing from.
There has been much talk of the government's “Track and Trace” process but I didn’t imagine it referred to our passing in the first half however, from a sublime Steve Shippey pass to his fellow striker, Alan Fines we took the lead when Al did well to stretch and slide the ball past the oncoming visitor keeper. Nothing more than we deserved but you felt that Vyagra were made of sterner stuff and they didn’t wilt or let their heads drop (honestly trying not to put any puns in) but they hassled and deservedly equalised when they forced us into a midfield mistake and whilst the initial shot was saved by Gary, I hope he kept the receipt for those new £70 quid gloves as the ball fell to the striker who was again stopped by Gary but only to see the ball fall free for an easy tap in. Whilst it would be easy to criticise Gary, the fact they had three shots without any FOBG player being anywhere near them tells its own story. Or so Gary has asked me to say but they did come in handy 35 yards out when Gary brilliantly saved the striker's shot. No the yardage is not wrong, Gary was well out of his area and in these kinder times, Paul Parsons deemed this to be a free kick only and whilst the opposition quietly called for him to be off, they sensed the occasion and to their credit didn’t really moan too much.
Half-time was looming and in the very last minute Shipps rolled in number two from a great wing pass from Dean Murphy, who had presented numerous crosses from the right flank all morning. So we went into the break 2-1 to the good but the message was an obvious one. Hold the ball, do not overplay and pass to someone in a better position. Very basic stuff but we have not played for a while so it was natural for people to overplay. The second half came and we were the dominant force. Passes were reaching the players and no one tried too hard and were calm on the ball and reverting to a 4-3-3 formation was a masterstroke. Matt Kerby began to run the show with numerous passes forward, Dean was relieved on the right (no not in that way) but service was quicker and enabled him to stretch the play. Neil Pearce brought a sense of calm to the back line and Sean, as ever, held the ball up fantastically well enabling us to release others. Sean was unlucky with one free kick that cannoned off the right hand post but for every striker that takes the glory, there is a player like Sean doing all the build up work and he was fantastic in this match. Nice to see him in a proper strip this time. You’d have to be on the WhatsApp group to get this one!
Shipps extended our lead from another Dean Murphy pass, just at the time he was going to take a rest. So at 3-1 we would have thought it was over but Inter Vyagra do not give in and but for a couple of smart Gary Rosslee stops, it could have been a much tougher second half. The back line held firm and prevented any further damage and this enabled us to put Shipps back on to try and get his hat-trick, which he duly competed with a neat finish for a fabulous treble. Not long after, he smashed the best of his four goals after being released by Kerbs and our 5th sealed a really good return to football. Shipps looks in great form and will give most teams a real battle. Our talent in the striking department has never been stronger and this is backed up by a quality midfield and a tight back line. We almost have two players for every position and so whilst this presents problems in selection and having to ask some to stand down, it’s a better position than last year when we sometimes had to scratch around for numbers and people play with injuries. Hopefully, this carries on but let's see when the cold away trips come along!
We had 20 available for this game and nearly the same number for the next week but the balance of the squad is so good that it is not really weaker when players are left out. Oh talking of balance, step forward our new recruit James Rutter. Good on the ball, good tackler were some of the comments from pre-season. This also looked to be true on his debut where he played in centre midfield then at right back in the second half. Unfortunately, he was a the victim of a terrible tackle. Lifted off the ground, bundled over and whilst we waited for the culprit to apologise we realised there was not a Vyagra player within 20 yards of him. This touch that was so good at Tugmutton must have been left there as he did a classic Frank Spencer and fell over the ball. Obviously, we are known to be a supportive bunch and once we all stopped crying with laughter we realised the opposition were on the break. Thankfully nothing came of it other than a bit of red face for James. I blame the new ball as they are rather sticky but it was a great way to get yourself noticed as a new player! We wait to see if new boy Mark Fisher can better the comedy next week.
Anyway, enough of the new boys, this squad was definitely picked for their experience and previous commitment and this was no more demonstrated by Robin Moody. After celebrating Mrs Chris Morris’s 40th birthday to the early hours, Moods arrived looking fresh and keen to play. If he wasn’t then the first header from a dropping 60 yard ball was just what he needed. Slab head duly sent it back into orbit and duly retreated quicker than his namesake from a Mykonos copper. It was fabulous to see skipper Jon Gasson return from his knee injury and looking like he had never been away and unlucky to have a header cleared off the line. Rhino was another who had a bad injury last year and his return was the usual all action display. Robbing people of the ball and then nimbly skipping past the opposition to set up attacks with Si Davies, who again brings class to a congested situation. Gary McQueen and slimline Joe were again rock solid in defence and accurate in their distribution.
So it’s unusual for us to get off with a win as usually our season’s unbeaten run is normally over by now. Manager Damo returns next week with much to consider selection-wise but with nice problem to have.
Keep safe all and see you at home for the visit of Sanatogen next Sunday.
Man of the match: Steve Shippey