The game was a promotion 6-pointer that the 8s simply had to win. The squad was looking strong. Robson and celebrity Kaverne were back, as was Madgwick after a lengthly ban – the latter oozed an unsettling calm having spent the morning in the bath meditating to Japanese Flute music. After a long but cultured dressing room wait discussing social history (the persistence of the gallant highwayman myth in popular culture), the kit arrived just in time – a flustered Asim racing in to dish out the famous amber and black. Fashion-conscious Gustavo in goal meanwhile opted for an extravagant white/green no. 6 shirt (Editor’s note – it was worse than it sounds).
The pitch was typical Vamps and resembled a bombed playground. Following recent events, our opponents had been assigned Top Level referees for the rest of the season. Ours looked less than happy to be there.
Gus was in goal, with a back four of Asim, Robson, Uli and Spinks. All the Cs and Ks in midfield with Captain Cowan and Korek in the centre and Cass and Crawford wide. “Great feet for a big man” Jenks and goalmachine Glassar up top. Energy from the bench was from Varrall, Kaverne and Madgwick.
The 8s started well. Crawford found joy in behind the left back, whilst a series of set-pieces from Spinks caused problems. The home side however were battle-hardened, direct and organised old-timers – scrapping and knocking the ball over the top at every opportunity. It was they who took the lead. Their right winger cut inside a little too easily before laying off the striker for a powerful shot which deflected past Gus, who was unfortunate having made a great save moments earlier. 1-0.
Just before half-time however, AP levelled. A chipped ball from Harrison was flicked on by Kaverne. Gambling from midfield was an onrushing Madgwick, who took a neat touch into the area and fired low under the keeper. A great finish on his return. 1-1. Jamie got a happy hug. Half-time and all to play for.
The teamtalk was a difficult one, because the endeavour was there if not the cutting edge. The pitch made it near impossible to get the ball down and play, meaning controlling the game in an attack sense was tough. A nip-and-tuck second half was inevitable. The back 5 were superb, with Kashmiri battling hard and MOTM Robson relishing his heavyweight bout with one of those stand-on-your-toes, mouthy target men.
As the game looked in danger of fizzling out, Gus made a great save high to his left from a free-kick and a draw looked the likely result.
Not to be. The referee had had a decent game, but with 10 minutes to go he got it very wrong. In the non-linesmen lottery of amateur football, it was AP whose luck was out. A through-ball to a striker 5 yards offside allowed a simple cut-back for a tap in and the match. 2-1. A cynical foul from behind on Crawford stopped a late breakaway and earned a yellow card, but the final minutes were played out without AP managing to seriously trouble the keeper. Full time.
A disappointing result, but a decent team performance left the squad pretty baffled as to how we lost the game. The back 5 and midfield were solid and organised, with Cowan, Madgwick and Korek rotating well in the centre. It just wasn’t AP’s day. Promotion now looks a tall order – 4 wins required and a fair few results to go our way are needed.
Up the 8s.