Pre-season. A time to burn off the summer BBQ flab. A time to dream. A time to tweak formations, welcome new players and strategise for the season ahead. A time to learn that Donkey Fields is not Albert Road Rec.
Due to utter personal incompetence, I can’t report on the opening 10 mins of the 8s epic clash with Civil Service 6s. I’m sure it was splendid. As the whistle blew, I was somewhere in a sweary traffic jam with a lost Turkish taxi driver interrogating me on the government’s ‘Rent to Buy’ scheme.
Having given up on the taxi and instead scaled fences following the distant sounds of Captain Eric’s barked orders, I arrived smeared in vandal paint to find the game in full flow.
The 8s were lined up in our customary 4-2-3-1 formation, with Dalziel “The Cat” Holder in goal, Shane and Asim at fullback and Uli and Jamie in the centre, shielded by Eric and Sam. Reece and Crawford were hugging the touchlines with Big Jenks in behind Big Holder.
The opposition were recognisable as those that had been dispatched 4-2 en- route to last year’s cup final, yet the addition of a very tidy looking number 9 in centre midfield (later identified as their 4s player of the season) and a talented striker meant they were quite a different proposition. Young Holder in goal pulled off a number of great reflex saves and Asim made some vital interventions but the pressure told when an unstoppable header from a set piece made it 0-1.
Potentially fuelled by the introduction of Gallaway, it was time for a romantic interlude to turn the game. Enter Romeo (a nippy scrote of a winger with unforgiveable yellow boots doing his best Tom Daley diving impression). Enter Juliet (Captain Madgwick) to quiz Romeo on his sporting behaviour.
Tension. Shouting. A few choice words….. Enter Cupid (the Ref). After a magical lecture, love was in the air. Both Eric and Daley showcased their new- found affection with a big hug. Both sides wolf-whistled. It was quite beautiful…
And the new atmosphere must have inspired the 8s equaliser. A breakaway down the right saw Crawford play in Jenks who precisely laid off to the edge of the box for an onrushing Spinks to sweep against the far post and in. 1-1. A customary one-goal-a-season man, the celebration was tinged with sadness at the inevitable 8 month drought to follow.
Shortly after it was 2-1 to AP when a freekick was won on half-way – “We’ll score from this” said a confident Madgwick. Sure enough, the looping ball in was entirely missed by the goalkeeper and Holder bundled in from the mêlée. This seemed to anger CS who responded almost immediately with a rebound to level the scores at 2-2 at half-time.
AP started the second half well, with Reece causing problems with his pace and Shane, sub Hughes and Uli mopping up at the back. Sadly, with about 25 minutes left it was time for Yellowboot to win a penalty with a ludicrous dive that fooled a young ref on debut. It was tucked away to make it 2-3 and, despite AP creating a few chances, the game was put to bed with the final kick of the game.
A 4-2 defeat against a very strong side is no shame, but AP will be hoping for better luck and less ludicrous penalty decisions next week as they kick of the league campaign.
UP THE 8s.
KIT WASHER: Sammy Heath