This match report could be left quite simply as ‘AP 1st XI beat Southbank 1-0 at the Racecourse to remain top of the League…… but that would not tell the full story of the drama of players going AWOL, a monsoon, a 7 man cab ride, or a late night trip to the Mile End chicken shops. It would not tell the tale of striker Jay Hughes turning up at the wrong ground for a home game…. how he managed that one I don’t think we’ll ever know. He only managed to miss our ground by about 2 miles and end up at Fred Knight, which, bar his goal, was probably as close as he came to hitting the target all afternoon.
Once we had a full roster we focused on the game in hand against an up and down Southbank team. Southbank are a strange sort, brilliant one moment and horrendous the next. They have a talented team and had us on the back foot for significant periods at their place, but if AP managed to concede 5 against Southgate then I’m sure we would be forced to retire or face execution…. Stimpy the likely administrator, only once he had finished off Hornsey girls school of course. Skip hammered it into us that we would have to be on our guard against complacency and to ‘have a big first 20, get chalk on our boots, press high and to keep our heads on,’ the usual blurb.
The poor weather meant it was understandable that he kept the covers on the Rolls Royce and Sam was apparently still hungover from 2 weeks ago; so those two made up the bench. Olly made his debut on the right and Dan and Chris were the preferred midfield partnership. AP started well and despite the boggy pitch, the blustery wind and heavy rain actually played some decent stuff. We passed it pretty well, controlled the midfield battle and could have been 2 or 3 up in the first 20. A combination of good goalkeeping, poor finishing and wayward final balls meant the game remained 0-0. That changed midway through the first half when Matt’s vision played in Jay on goal who expertly flicked it past the onrushing keeper and slotted calmly home.
We may have expected to affirm our dominance, but from then on in until half-time we were pushed back by a resilient Southbank. All of their players were comfortable in possession and without creating a clear cut chance, definitely gave us a couple of scares. (A special mention has to be made to Stimpy whose handling was first class throughout)
So half-time came and the message from the gaffer was clear; we would have to step it back up to ensure the win…. Skips piped up again with more clichés, ‘it’s a game of two halves, win your personal battles and clear our lines early etc.’ So the second half resumed under intense rain and again we failed to take a number of clear cut chances.
We should really have put the game to bed long before the end and rumours were rife that Johnny was contemplating Micky Beard as a third sub to add a bit of class in the final third (wearing his glasses of course). In fairness to Southbank they huffed and they puffed but a back four of Dan, Egan, Alex and Tom kept them at bay. At times it ugly (Martin’s fashion sense) and at times vicious (Martin’s fashion sense) but it was certainly effective. Not since the 91 Arsenal Team have I seen such a miserly defence and long may it continue… a solid platform for our ball players to ‘ball and ting’ has worked well.
Full-time came and credit to the team. Chris and Danny passed the ball well; Kieran looked like his dietary change from Big Macs to nuggets has worked, whilst Olly, Dan and Tom put in solid performances. Another special mention has to go to the members that came to watch in appalling weather, it is with regret that as well as the usual stiff neck syndrome cause by seeing Martin pump another ball forward, two members were taken to hospital with pneumonia.. this has yet to be confirmed however.
The First XI are now very close to something special. The title is in our hands, we are overcoming stubborn opponents and we have got great strength in depth. We must keep our focus and ‘take each game as they come,’ as Alex is likely to be thinking at this moment. We have a great selection of keepers, a strong defence and enough talent going forward to devastate teams on our day. Johnny, ever the man motivator gave us a pre match cry of ‘let’s get right in their arses,’ the tone was set for a special late night Camden celebratory party hosted by Jay and Matt. Perhaps it’s too early to talk of promotions, league titles and SAL dinners but if we maintain our commitment and momentum then why the f**k not!