The ‘buffering’ period was over and expectations were rightly high for the opening fixture of the season. In typical AP fashion, the trip down to Lower Sydenham became a challenging logistical operation before a ball was even kicked. Further difficulty was added to proceedings with those meeting at London Bridge being delayed due to a few latecomers. Unconfirmed rumours were that this was caused by Matt Kelly’s deliberation over which smiley to use in his ‘ledge BBM banter’ before getting on the tube.
So, slightly later than planned we arrived at the Kent County Cricket ground, a top facility with a few lovely pitches.
We lined up in the 4-2-3-1 system that has worked so well and the gaffer urged us to build upon the pre-season, keep the ball and press with intensity.
What unravelled in the first 20 minutes was a mix of nerves and bewilderment and were lucky to still be level. Whilst we had bamboozled teams with our liquid football for large parts of pre season, it was the 4-3-3 of Lloyds that had us baffled early on. With pace and trickery on both flanks, we drifted a little deeper than we should have and weren’t able to press the ball as high.
It was a scrappy half, not helped by the heavens opening about half an hour in. Elion tested the keeper after an entirely unintentional through ball by the skipper. At the other end, another entirely unintentional (but equally incisive) through ball by the skipper was bailed out by a fantastic Dan O’Leary tackle. A goal saver. Lee almost got on the end of a drilled Kier corner shortly after.
We improved into the second half and probably shaded the exchanges. Elion attracted an admirer in the form of the enormous Lloyd’s centre half and their relationship blossomed over a twenty minute period. Regardless if Elion had initiated the early flirting, it did not excuse the off the ball cuddling and ‘heavy petting’ that ensued. The referee however, possibly seeing the potential for a wacky sitcom featuring the two, allowed it to continue unabated.
It was going to take something out of the ordinary to break the deadlock and we obliged when it all went a bit wacky races from an innocuous ball over the top, eventually culminating in a simple tap in. 1-0 Lloyds.
Richie Hancock and Jay Hughes came on to freshen things up as we sought an equaliser. Possibly distracted by his saucy orange boots, the latter came within a whisker of whipping one in from 20 yards.
The clock was ticking down and whilst we looked the fitter side, time was against us. We had one off the line and a goal bound effort from Frazer was blocked by what looked like an arm. The resulting corner was our last roll of the dice in stoppage time. Kieran (whose set piece delivery was exceptional throughout) swung one in to the back stick and the Alex arrived late like an albino freight train to thump a header into the roof of the net. John Morris allegedly danced down the touchline like David Pleat, Chris Simpson joined the celebrations from an alarming position beyond the back post. 1-1.
Obviously, three points was the aim but given the circumstances, it was a well earned draw. We showed good grit and resilience despite being below par. You would think Lloyd’s would be in the mix come the end of the season and we can only improve. Good work by the lads who hung around/bought jugs/kicked on after the game. A drinking culture is fundamental to the success of any good side. If it ends up in Egan inventing bizarre AP songs/ old school Garage nights in Old St, that’s an added bonus.
Team : Simpson, Carlin, Patterson (c), Egan (Hughes), Shaw-Morris, Jones, D O’Leary (Hancock), K O’Leary, Morris, Kenga, Kelly
MOM (To avoid getting absolutely caned, this is a John Morris quote and decision) : Alex Patterson, mom crowned with a glorious goal. One way of getting a match report written for you!