Scorers: Gunes(2), Manu, Graves(2)
Where to start with a game like Saturday’s? It was the kind of match that deserves it’s own motion picture, never mind a match report: a rags to riches affair where all hope is lost at half time, yet somehow – against all odds – the protagonists snatch victory from the arms of defeat. In essence last Saturday we were Police Academy 3: Back in Training.
Every good 80’s cop movie needs an uptight character whose “by the book” manner threatens to derail the whole proceedings, until he eventually gives in, loosens up and turns out alright. The referee was auditioning for the part before the game had even kicked off by refusing to allow James Spencer onto the pitch with a taped earring. To be fair though I’d be inclined not to let him out in public with that ear stud, so fair play. He also seemed to have a bee in his bonnet about contact, which made for quite an idiosyncratic game of football that EBOG seemed to adjust to quicker, backing into our defenders for the aerial duels to emphasize contact. The most fruitful incident resulted in a free kick on the edge of our area half an hour into the game, which was duly curled into the top corner to break the deadlock against the run of play.
The game was beginning to feel very similar to the match against Merton where we came into the break one nil down despite enjoying most of the possession and chances. Before the feeling of déjà vu really set in though, we conceded another so even that was out of the window. There was no air of foul play about this effort though; just a well worked move down our left with a clever flick buying their player time to swing a peach into the far post which was met and headed back across goal and in.
Half time and an opportunity to galvanise? With our captain and star player on non-speaking terms it was looking somewhat unlikely, and this proved to be the case as EBOG made it 3 shortly after the whistle with a sharp counter and crisp volley.
Things were looking bleak for the team. The stakes had never been higher, as a loss would have dire ramifications on our season. This was a time for the new recruits to step up, and seeing as we only have one player who could be vaguely categorised as young it was up to James Spencer to step up. The precocious winger had managed to get the stud out of his ear and was making up for lost time by terrorising the right of the pitch. With a trademark jink he drove inside only to be brought down before boring in on goal. Yellow card for the offender and a chance to get a foothold on the game. No pressure for Ozan Gunes who stuck the penalty away low and to the left, adding to his rich goalscoring form. Five minutes later and almost a carbon copy of our first goal occurs as Spencer once again shimmys into the box, this time cutting outside. He gets tripped; not enough to go down, but the referee doesn’t need an excuse. He points to the spot again and Gunes opts for top right this time, pinging the ball into the stanchions.
Game on! There’s only one team in it now. Get the champagne ready because we’re back in the ascendancy and we’ve just headed the ball into our own goal…
Mike Bardgett cryptically alluded to having had a bad game on Facebook afterwards. Although on paper 4 never looks good, he had conceded 3 top drawer goals, and the fourth was a pretty decent finish too: Sometimes when you’re in a rich vein of form it’s harder to miss. Ozan seemed to be having this trouble as he calmly headed a goalmouth scramble back to Bardgey, perfectly lobbing the Onion, who had come off his line ready to narrow any chances in the fracas.
That knocked the wind out of our sails, and when we had a free kick disallowed for being indirect, it seemed like luck just wasn’t on our side. Who needs luck when you have players as naturally gifted as Les Manu though. With Matt Hillier doing well to retain the ball higher up the field on the left, Hubbard working tirelessly to make something happen in the final third and Ozan dropping deep to orchestrate things, Les was given the opportunity to have a run at that shaky right, and at around the 80th minute mark the front line combined well with Ozan feeding Les who cut into the box, moved inside his marker and found the far side of the goal with aplomb.
Cue a frantic last ten minutes as we searched for a vital goal that would maintain the three point gap between the two teams. Comdt. Lassard and sgt. Mahoney (Keith and Dave McLoughlin) conspired to turn the screw again by moving Mike “Winslow” Graves up front. The inspired decision immediately bore fruit as a break down the left saw McLoughlin find Graves on the edge of the box. He moved the ball out of his feet and dragged the shot perfectly into the far corner.
A point rescued under such improbable circumstances. A great testament to our togetherness and spirit. Now time to hold what we have and see out the rest of the game, right Dave? Dave?! Dave is marauding up field: He’s got the blood lust after getting an assist. With mere seconds on the clock and Johnny Hammond wailing at him to get back, he launches into a tackle on the half way line, takes out two of their players and initiates a counter for us with the G Man leading the vanguard. The break advances to the byline and all our defenders can do is squint and hold our breath as Graves laces it. The angle looks too tight. It looks like it’s gone through the side netting, but the despairing look of the defender on the line tells a different story. Rapture erupts from the counter-attacking party and spreads cautiously to the rest of the team. Cue the compulsory player bundle, the fist pumping, the badge kissing: We’re still in the hunt!
MoM: M. Hubbard