Sunday 6th December 2020
By Mark Harrington
So would it all end in Tiers?
Welcome back all, well those in Tier 2 anyway! Hope you have all managed to get through the last month safe and sound and yesterday did feel a little bit like Christmas Eve. You could feel the buzz of a return to football coming out of the WhatsApp group. Alan was already insisting on fines (no pun intended) for the dirtiest boots and the safe money was on Tant but little did we know he had an early visit to Santa Mike Ashley and obtained a fresh new pair of Puma Kings from Sports Direct. It turned out to be a case of “Billy’s Boots” but more on that later.
We have suffered at the hands of mid-season breaks previously when weather has intervened and so was this Boris break going to derail our 100% start? I started to wonder when manager Damo phoned me on Saturday evening to tell me that he now has to isolate and the gloss of a fine Mancs win over the Spammers was quickly forgotten. We hope all the Prestons will be fine and Damo confirmed no symptoms in the family so we hope that remains. To relieve the boredom during isolation, Damo has put himself forward for an escapologist course, I’ve always said he needs to get out more. No doubt he will be back in a few Sundays time and The Woodman pub will realise normality has resumed.
So I was going to be in sole charge and would I be the man whose formation ruined it all? No thankfully I didn’t pick myself to start but pressure mounted when we went behind for the first time this season. We started really poorly, too slow in play and a little tentative and this gave our opponents the impetus to attack on what was the smallest pitch you will ever play on. It seemed the goals were too big for the surface and Jon Gasson only had to take three strides before he was in their penalty area. Anyway, we understand their usual pitch was out of action due to some dodgy tree surgery, which landed on the pitch. They should have sought the services of our tree fella Si Davies who is an expert on bushes.
Our opponents obviously had more experience on how to play on this pitch and it showed; however, slowly but surely we got back into the match and rhythm and after upping our game and equalling their endeavour, we began to dominate but not before escaping being further behind with a mix of last ditch defending and Gary's saves to keep it to just the one. Alan hit the bar with a header and we began to take the game to Orpington with midfield pairing Si Davies and Mark Fisher won duels and Chris Morris and Dean Murphy provided width and from a brilliant Paul Tanton cross, Alan Fines side-footed us level. It was no more than we deserved and this was virtually the last action for both as we have already agreed on a change of strike force after 30 minutes. This proved to be a tactical masterstroke as new pairing Sean and Barry hassled the defenders into an error and Barry lobbed over the keeper to put us 2-1 to the good. On the balance of play it was no more than we deserved and a couple of long range Chris Morris efforts could have seen us further ahead although their keeper was equal to them all.
Half-time came and we knew this was not going to be an easy lead to defend especially as Orpington have recruited well during lockdown and we needed to be mindful of their quick forwards. I replaced Gary Mac at right back with Chris Morris moving infield with Tant returning to take Mark Fisher's place. Tant was having a fine game and was tormenting the right side of the Orpington defence but a couple of chances came and went and yes we ended up paying for it. A through ball was played to their forward Kevin, who always seems to score against any Guild side and he rounded Gary to place into the net. The flag had gone up for offside, the ref would not listen; although who am I to argue with an ex-Vauxhall Conference official. I understand this particular league are all better for it now. Anyway, he seemed to officiate and give the goal on our questioning rather than talking to the lino who he claimed “only put it up once the ball was in the net”. I politely tried to remind him that now the flag only goes up when they become active but he had made his mind up. Even their oncoming sub confirmed it was offside but there you go. Who would be a ref, even in a Vauxhall?
The decision not to talk to his lino did not sit well with us and we immediately gave the proper response, Tant jinked in his new “Billy’s Boots” down the left and put over a superb cross for Alan to head in (yes head in!) to put us back in the lead. It was a super goal and whilst the finish was not spectacular the craft before it certainly was but again Alan was in the right place at the right time. Not long after, in trying to chest a ball down in the area, their sub inadvertently handled and Alan graciously allowed a hat-trick to pass and let Sean take and convert for a well deserved goal. Sean had played in a number of positions throughout the game and the goal was a good reward for his unselfish display. Perhaps the defender thought he was outside the box when handling? Which is easily done on such a small pitch. Something Alan can testify to as picking up the ball after believing it was out for a throw, only to find it was their penalty area was a classic moment in this strongly contested local derby. I guess with the tier system they will all have to be local derbies anyway!
Orpington still did not give in and even with a few minutes remaining they stayed as committed in the last as they had been in the first. A really good match and it could have gone either way but after the sloppy start, as usual the boys increased their game and made it 10 wins on the spin and spared my blushes!
Neil Pearce was a colossus at the back and his calm and assured display, which has not been uncommon this season, made him MOM winner with 5 votes; however, Tant and Gary Rosslee ran him close with votes also for Jon Gasson and Mark Fisher.
Hope you all have a good week and next Sunday we shall try to equal the Young Vets' best ever run of 11 straight wins. Some achievement but will not be easy!
Man of the match: Neil Pearce