So on a crisp Saturday in mid-November the 3rd XI return to North London for the first time in a millennia to play Old Finchleans. Despite a week full of dramatic cry-offs and selection to’s and fro’s (Andy essentially wanted to increase the facial hair proportion in the squad) we turn up with a strong 13, including 4s superstars Pat McGlogan and the baby-faced and follicly challenged Karl Packham. The starting line-up consisted of new boy Stevie in goal, with a back four of Fabb, Hancox, Chewie and Ziggy. In front of them sat a trio of Jed, Adam (who turned up before kick-off in some kind of miracle) and Ben “Jack Morris-wannabe” Carter. On the wings were Denzel and Karl with John “Crusher” Gatenby up front. Elion and Pat dutifully waited their moment on the bench.
We didn’t really know what to expect with Finchleans, they had played 4, won 3 and lost 1 and taken a decent scalp by beating promotion-chasers Actonions, so we had to be cautious. Luckily, with Will’s excellent scouting knowledge and attention to detail we remembered that, in simple terms, they don’t like it up ‘em. So if we got in their face and physically controlled them, we’d have a good shot at 3 points.
Now, to the game. It started off fairly low-key. Finchleans probed without troubling and we tried to get to terms with the very heavy New River pitch and for the first 10 minutes it was fairly even. But as the half went on, we really started to control the game more. Jed was seeing more and more of the ball and we noted that we could play it through their defence relatively easily due to their precarious offside trap. Eventually after some inquisitive passing we won a corner allowing Burwell and Hancox to hulk forward, knuckles dragging into the Finchlean’s box. The corner came in and was poorly dealt with by Old Finch’s who headed it straight up in the air. Burwell then decided to plant himself in the ground and let the ball hit him on the head firing it right back up in the air and then repeated the act, this time the ball fell to Karl who despite ignoring Will’s screams for the ball shot on the turn past the Finchlean goalkeeper. 1-0 to the oranges.
From this point on, we smelt blood and I’m very proud of how we went about the next 30 minutes. We passed the ball well, especially in the back 4 where we worked our way past their strikers and onto midfield. A second came shortly after when Will dinked the ball to Karl on the right wing who then proceeded to run past 3 defenders through on goal and cooly passed it into the back of the net. An excellent solo goal and 2-0. This breathing space gave us more confidence and Finchleans were in for a bit of a hiding now.
Just before half-time Ziggy scored my personal favourite goal. He picks the ball up at left back and plays it on the Jed, Jed passes it onto Denzel with Ziggy under-lapping him, Denzel, instead of passing to Ziggy passes it onto Gatenby who produces a Bergkamp-esque flick into the path of Ziggy beyond the defense (who controls it with his neck) and then slots home. Reminiscent of some of the Arsenal team goals of the past (Sorry Ziggy and Denzel!). Seriously good fullback play and passing. 3-0 at halftime.
The talk at half-time was to keep up the tempo and not give Finch’s a way back in, and we duly obliged. Complete control in that second half, including some great chances missed. Ben made it 4-0 with 25 to go, we’re not too sure what happened but he definitely didn’t mean it! Karl came off for Elion who had a few chances himself, then Karl came back on up front in search of his hattrick. He was found in the last minute by the dynamic Pat McGlogan, Karl twisted and turned his man and then slotted home. A hattrick well deserved, and he now owes us a jug!
Overall, this was a very, very solid performance. We didn’t concede a shot on target or even a chance for 90 minutes. There was only going to be one winner here and it really should bring us a lot of confidence. We sit top of the league with 10 to play. Leagues aren’t won at this point of the season and we’ve got some big games still to play (and win), but we’ve done ourselves justice and we really owe to ourselves and to the club to kick on and win this league. We have a great team, a great squad of players to pick from and a great attitude, let’s keep this up and drive on for promotion.
MOTM- Karl Packham, a great hattrick and work ethic. Still owes us a pint. Honourable mention of Jed, who marshalled that midfield magnificently.