The build up to the weekend’s first AP 9’s cup match was an intense one. Avid football fans from up and down the Piccadilly line and as far away as Dalston knew the importance of the game, and being billed as big as the Barcelona V Arsenal 2006 UEFA champions league final, the lads did well with coping with the pressure, and didn’t let it get to them, despite what the result suggests.
The teamed turned up to a changing room prepped for the pros they are. Socks and shorts neatly folded, with the shirts hung perfectly from each peg. Number order of course. We expect nothing less in the 9’s. Shout out to el capitan Jon Gallaway for taking time out to present us with such a professional changing room, and a bigger shout out to Mrs Heath for actually providing us with lavender smelling kits. Added bonus of dry socks gave all the boys a big lift, and a skip in their step. Game on.
The whiste blew, and for the first time this season we looked lively from the go. We had a slightly rotated squad with a few players, including myself, playing in new positions. But confidence was high, and we matched the opposition man for man, strong in tackles, winning headers and taking control of the ball, playing some lovely passing at times.
We were not intimated. We kept battling, and the opposition’s frustrations were becoming more evident as ball after ball kept getting swept up by our defence. Solid. We worked hard, right up until the ref blew his whistle for half time. We hadn’t had that many chances in the first half, but we had shown resilience, and we knew that going into the second half confidence was on our side.
Half time oranges weren’t provided, but we went back onto the pitch with a sweet taste in our mouth, that victory could be ours if wanted it enough. Again we battled hard, and finally had a break which was worked from the defence, up the wing to Mr Sam Heath, who netted for the second time this season (joint top scorer with myself (Dave) and el capitan Mr Gallaway).
We had scored and it felt good. We played some more silky football, but after several corners from the opposition, and some dodgy marking, the smallest player on the pitch, wearing goggles, wormed his way through many bodies circulating the box to head in an equaliser.
We were devastated, and the realisation of extra time and penalties spurred us on even more to get another goal and try and claim victory to the next round of the cup. Chris O’Hare made some storming runs along the left side of the field, and on several occasions left the right back for dead, but we scuppered in the final 3rd, and didn’t make anything from our chances. Legs were getting tired, and a fast break through our defence, along with a spilled ball from Mr Gus our shot stopping superstar keeper unfortunately led to a second goal for Alleyn.
Heads went down, and everyone was clearly devastated. We dug deep, and once again showed what we were capable of, passing the ball around nicely and moving the ball from the defence through the midfield and out to the wings. The minutes were ticking down, and we knew we had to gamble and pounce on any given chance to get back in the game. In the final mintues, we did just that. We risked it for a big fat double chocolate biscuit, and all went up for the corner in the closing moments of the game. It was not to be however, as they defended well, and broke away, hoofing the ball well into our half, for their striker to easily run on and pass it into our goal. That was it. Match over, and a heavy stench of disappointment hung in the air. We were out of the cup. Dream over.
Once again, many positives to come from this defeat, and once more a glimpse of what we can achieve, and what we are definatley capable of. A great team effort, and we were unfortunate with the result. A couple of players in fact, (mentioning no names), were rumoured to have first degree bachelor hons or something like that, and this clearly translated in their performances on the pitch. You know who you are.
Pat on the back, and a doff of the old proverbial graduate cap to the whole team. Excellent performance. Just not the result we were wanting. Again. There is always next week…..
MOM – ULI KANYBEKOV