Casual online observers will have learned two things from the Facebook reaction to AP’s long away trip to Old Parks. Firstly, there is a shared team fetish for sharing bruised and battered legs (uncut toenails and all) on Facebook. Secondly, there is a shared team pride in a hard-earned point at Old Parkonians.
Thursday’s selection newsletter revealed that, due to mix-ups over membership pay, three of the team who had won so well against Old Stationers last week were frustratingly forced to miss out. That their replacements didn’t bother to turn up (or even cry off) left quite a bitter taste. Needs must however and a bare XI lined up in Redbridge, with several players out of position and a few older heads forced to endure a full 90.
A makeshift back four saw attacking wingers Kendall and Crawford at full-back, with Spinks filling in alongside Cowen. Further forward, Jenkins dropped into CM alongside Sam, with Laurie and Dillon out wide and Tom Kaverne in behind Robert Holder. At least we had a recognised keeper in Dalziel (even if his official kit was missing).
Having no substitutes creates other potential problems – particularly when your opposition have a game plan to kick seven lumps of shit out of you. AP’s unswerving efforts to play football on the ground couldn’t have been in starker contrast to the studs up hoof ball on show from the home side. Their aggressive intent was made clear from the off, with Crawford on the end of a horror challenge and Laurie forced to limp through for an hour after another cynical stamp on his foot.
But AP’s physically slight backline didn’t physically shirk. MOTM Crawford in particular was up for the battle, first to the ball and winning everything. Reece got forward when he could and the centre halves worked calmly together to repel the attacks, with Jamie going for the initial ball and Spinks sweeping up. Unwittingly, a defence had been created that was very confident in possession and happy to play the ball out. When Old Parks found a way through, they found young Holder in fine form – a wonder save high to his right at 0-1 was crucial and kept AP in the game.
AP were creating chances going forward, with Sam and Jenks picking out the prominent Boyake and Varrall to attack out wide. After a sustained period of pressure Tom hit against the left hand upright with Robert hitting the same post on the follow-up. Yet against the run of play it was Old Parks who went in front – an up and under, a flick on, a misplaced header and a slide tackle to poke the ball over the line. Probably their goal of the season… 0-1 at half-time.
AP were down to 10 when a writhing Sam was forced off with a shoulder injury, but to his credit the midfielder grit his teeth to come back on and play through the pain barrier. Chances were still coming and Boyake whipped in a great cross for Robert whose header was well-saved. Ironically for the team which had played all the football, the deserved equaliser finally came from a set-piece. Just as time was running short, Spinks whipped a corner to the back post and Kaverne rose highest to head home and make it 1-1.
There was still time for an Old Parks player to punt Boyake off the ball and get himself sent off. A referee’s assessment that – “You did well to keep your cool, I’d have lamped him,” summed the game and AP’s discipline up.
That a depleted side kept their cool, continued to play and ultimately earned a deserved point in difficult circumstances bodes well for the season ahead.
Up the 8s!
John Spinks (this week’s kit washer)