Scorers: OG, T.Spencer
I miss one weekend and my spot turns into the obituaries column? Well despite the sombre love-in pencilled after last weekend’s defeat, the reserves aren’t dead and buried yet – though from the looks of things at 7am on Saturday morning we might as well have been. Things were looking bleak for the second string as dropouts thinned our ranks to 8 at a point in the weekend where no one should have to be up sending text messages. Such is the chairman’s lot that after a frantic couple of days he found himself scrabbling together a motley crew to face the formidable NUFC Oilers at such an ungainly hour. Thankfully he was not alone in this task, and after a considerable amount of time spent by Dave, Keith and Tom we found ourselves with a luxurious 13, including Charlie Smith, whose been a revelation for the 3’s recently, and a familiar face in resident foodie hipster, Anthony Fabb, with trademark whacky accessory (this time a luggage case. Nutter!)
With a starting 11 that didn’t drastically deviate from our regular lineup (Les Manu being the only exception, with an impressive stint in left back) we looked like a team who could at least hold our own – and having read the match report from last weekends first team it looked as though we might have to. We started to grow into the game after a cagey opening spell. Things weren’t as free flowing as they have been at points this season, but then things were also a lot more competitively contested: The fact that we went into the game with a real sense of being underdogs gave us an added impetus. This tenacity was exemplified by our two wingers: drafted in at the last minute, Konrad and Carnell were doing an exceptional job of harassing the opposition and working for the team. In fact the opening goal was caused by the latter’s endeavour, pressing the right back from a goal kick, which led to a back-pass bobbling fortunately over the keeper’s foot and into the goal.
1-0 up against our main contender for promotion with a patched up squad. We couldn’t believe our luck and although the goal had more than an element of fortune to it, it’s not as if the scoreline was flattering us: Ozan Gunes and Mike Hubbard were holding their own against a three man midfield and their talented lone striker was becoming more and more agitated with the way Mark Taylor was bossing him off the park. The only manner they even looked like scoring would be from a set piece, which – funnily enough – they did with 10 minutes left in the half as a second ball was driven back in from a cleared corner, and amidst a bit of a scramble in which many a ridiculous penalty shout was heard, the ball was deflected into the net via Marks face: He was getting his head on literally everything!
1-1 and just a little bit of time left in the half for an ethnic slur and sucker punch on our captain. It’s strange: NUFC aren’t your typical miscreants. They are a well-to-do team mainly comprised of old Nottingham University alumni. They know how to work the law of averages with savvy fouls that mostly go under the radar of referees; the most egregious of which was a pretty blatant shove on Taylor which changed a clearing header from another set piece into a pretty decent goal to put them 2-1 up. We rarely saw any outright nastiness except for this unsavoury assault on Ozan. It’s unfortunate that moments like this are rarely seen by referees, but I’m pretty sure the SAL aren’t strangers to complaints against the Oilers.
So with 60 minutes gone in the second half we found ourselves chasing the game. We were however doing so against ten men as two of their players had managed to unfortunately injure themselves a week before a cup final. Tom Spencer had been doing an excellent job of holding the ball and giving us a bit more possession higher up the field, and with Carnell becoming more and more influential as the game progressed and Keith switching Dan Wilding to the wing, we had a little more control up the park. This proved telling as a cushioned header into Wilding’s vague direction allowed him to burn past the covering midfielder and roast two defenders with what was later described (after a few drinks in the clubhouse by an anonymous witness) as a “14 stone shimmy”. He then obligingly tee’d up Tom who (will tell you that he) guided the ball across his body to open up the angle for a clear shot on his wrong foot into the corner.
2-2 and all to play for. The three point swing could be telling at the end of the season and what better opportunity than with a player advantage. Adam Reader had run the flanks tirelessly to work off any extra pounds he may have gained in Texas last weekend, and Tom Spencer was still covering an exorbitant amount of ground, beating two players to a clearance that otherwise had goal written all over it, after a long range effort that was well saved by Bardgett. He was equally in the thick of things in the other box as in the dying seconds he got his head to a free kick, but alas the effort went wide and the game ended all square.
A valiant effort which Keith was quick to praise after the final whistle. Full credit to those who came in (especially Konrad for a decent performance at the clubhouse afterwards), and Dave McLoughlin for showing in the build up how invaluable he is to the Reserves team. It leaves us needing the Oilers to drop points in 4 of their remaining 9 games. Somewhat improbable but not impossible when considering their unspectacular performance, tough run in, and mounting injury list. All we can do now is crash another party in a fortnight as we head to Norsemen and try and put a dent in their credentials too. If we show the guile we exhibited last weekend we should really make things interesting.