The 6s have already been involved in some great games this season and this derby humdinger was another such match, more than living up to the huge hype generated in the media in the preceding week.
Our warm-up was gentle and measured in comparison to the 7s racing around like they’d just been told that their school trip this year was to Kavos. However, with first place up for grabs, it was clear both teams were going to be ‘up for it’, and the tension hung thick in the air like Tommy White’s Topman aftershave.
The 6s were dealt an early blow after losing the toss and having to kick down the hill in the first half. Indeed, we never really got to grips with how to play the slope, particularly as on the counter attack the 7s looked sharper than one of Ditmir’s Saturday night shirts.
With the 7s dropping deep we looked pretty clueless about how find a way through the crowd of bodies, many of them Dudmishes, and the 7s made it more difficult by pressing and harrying us at every turn. However, we were slowly growing into the game, Jan going close with a low drive which needed a smart save, when disaster struck.
The skipper had highlighted before kickoff the importance of ‘safety first’ and not making a mistake in what was sure to be a tight encounter – and then proceeded to do exactly that. Having already been caught on the ball several times his attempt at a quick throw-in fell short of Sam, allowing Charlie, the 7s absolutely rapid forward, to run in and finish well to give the youngsters the lead. After this the pace of the match slowed slightly, as the 6s started to rush their shots and final balls and each goal kick took Jamie about two and a half hours.
We made it to half time deflated but knowing we were still well in the game. Banny and Crofty came on and the move instantly played dividends. Mike, Sam and James were defending like warriors at the back, allowing us to throw everyone else forward. Tom was making lung-busting runs from full-back, Banny, Crofty, Robin and Jan were working hard up front and Terry, Scants and then Derek were getting a grip of midfield.
We started to create a number of chances, Jan and Crofty going particularly close, but it was starting to feel like maybe it wasn’t our day. We switched to an innovative/ridiculous 4-3-3 formation and the game became even more end to end, but the imperious defending from James and Sam in particular meant we could continue to take risks.
Then it came. Jan burst forward from a position that definitely wasn’t offside and squared it to Banny to finish emphatically from six yards out. Cue Banny sprinting off for a cartwheel/DJ celebration and then I’m not sure what happened for the next 2-3 minutes as I think I blacked out – the last thing I remember is running down the touchline, still shirtless, like a camper/weirder/paler Jose Mourinho.
There was still time for more chances at both ends and only a magnificent save from Darren by Lloyd, who really is a fantastic keeper, stopped the skipper from losing us the game despite only returning to the pitch for the last 30 seconds.
At the end of the ninety minutes a point was probably fair given our poor start and wayward finishing, but it was tinged with some disappointment given how many chances we created. Still, the point keeps us top and leaves us, with the 7s (who are also a very good team), one of only 2 undefeated teams in the division, which is obviously great for the club.
With 80% of the league season still to go there is plenty still to play for but I think we’ve now proved we are capable of beating anyone and everyone in this division. Let’s make sure when our ‘home’ derby comes around we’re still on top – and that starts with a win in our game against Winchmore Hill on Saturday.
MOM: Banny and Crofty changed the game, Jan worked hard despite being isolated, but I’m giving it as a joint award to Sam and James, who were total monsters in defence.