An underwhelming way to end a campaign that promised so much a mere two months ago. A return of 4 points in our last five games however has seen our hopes of promotion all but evaporate as the season has reached it’s nadir. A trip to the league leaders was always going to be a tough ask, but the terrible trance music and ridiculous roars coming out of the home dressing room before kickoff gave the impression that a bit of complacency might have crept into a side who had already attained promotion. Instead it seemed that we were the team who had nothing to play for despite the potential three points putting us in strong contention for promotion, as we entered another crunch match with a shed-load of regulars unfortunately ruled out. Once again we were lucky to find a talented cast of understudies for the game, including former 1’s goalkeeper Chris Simpson, perennial Player of the Season winner Jed Wood, the highly acclaimed Olly Heath, and new signing Gavin Stewart, who was lively, tenacious and very classy in spite of the unaccommodating pitch: He’ll certainly be an asset to the 1’s next season if he hasn’t been too put off by our mild drubbing.
The indestructible properties of Preston Manor have landed us in a situation where the league has had to play catch up with us. So whilst we’ve casually stuffed our faces with chocolate and indulged in hashtag fuelled grudge matches over Easter, Norsemen have been fastidiously winning a string of very competitive games: It’s little wonder that they definitely looked the sharper team on Saturday. Despite this we matched them for opportunities over the course of the game; hitting the crossbar twice, having a penalty saved and producing a couple of very presentable chances at their back stick. In essence we lost to four set pieces (- one of which was ours, admittedly), which probably explains why they’re going up and we aren’t… that and organisation, desire and teamwork, but those are elements that Keith is more than capable of drilling into us if we meet him half way by getting down to training a little more frequently. We know we have one of the most talented squads in the league, but at the moment we tend to rely too much on individual brilliance rather than good old fashioned teamwork. If we address this next year and play more as a unit, I’m sure we’ll be formidable.
Anyway, on to the main event! For those of you who weren’t at the awards ceremony, it was a great night which saw two of our biggest players this season picking up awards. Both winners managed to highlight how important they are to the team in Saturday’s game by not being present and letting the scoreline speak for itself. Mark “Olly Reed” Taylor bagged goal of the season, scoring a powerful header outside the box with 10 minutes to go, earning us an extra 2 points. Dan “Wildibg” Wilding deservedly received the hotly contested Player of the Season award. It’s been like having Xavi playing at right back; not just because he’s slow and somewhat ineffectual in the air, but also – and more pertinently – because he’s strolled the most assists with his quality set pieces and ability to find space and time to pick out runs with pinpoint accuracy. Awards celebrating positive achievements are all well and good, but not very entertaining, so I thought I’d take the liberty of giving out a few of my own:
OG of the season: Tightly contested affair with two headers which left Bardgett with no chance. I especially liked Ozan’s effort as he shouted “Mike” before planting the ball in the top corner. The award has to go to a goal which occurred way before that though: it was a joint effort as an apparent lack of communication led to the defender latching onto a through-ball and nutmegging the goalkeeper with a well timed pass.
Winner: Dave McLoughlin / Mike Bardgett vs. Lloyds (away)
Miss of the Season: Another winner from that crazy game down south. Tom Spencer turned provider for once with this bold miss, squaring the ball to the perpetrator in the six yard box. With the goalkeeper stranded, the young winger managed to deftly squib it wide of the post.
Winner: Ives Lohasu vs. Lloyds (away)
Best Bantz: This could easily go to Leon Knight for laying down some logic in that fabled Lloyds game, but he was unfortunately far too passive to threats of being kicked in the head. Instead the winner get’s this award for mercilessly slaughtering his teammates on the train ride to the game, and then scoffing the half time oranges before the match had even kicked off.
Winner: Keith Nicholas vs. BoE (away)
C** of the Season: I moved away from my last team after picking up this award. I’ll try to make it a thing here in the hopes of shifting the mantle to someone else. The winner managed to attain our only red card this season with two consecutive yellow card offences despite the captains best efforts at the time. Who knew the referee would be prickly to being told he was “the worst referee I’ve played with this season”. Alas, form is temporary but being a c**t is permanent.
Winner: Andrew Smith vs. Merton (home)
Most Valuable Player: What to say about this player? He is less a man, more an institution to Alexandra Park, whose outspoken charm and straight cut 501’s (take that AP 7’s) are the foundations that this club’s recent success has been built on. He’s had a few sublime games for us, coming on to lock out Carshalton away (despite grumbling about not being warmed up), and playing some gorgeous passes against Old Blues at home. It’s a shame we couldn’t attain the promotion that he deserves, but it certainly hasn’t been for lack of the incredible work he’s done on and off the pitch. His tenure will be missed but the memories – those that haven’t been erased by craft beer, fried chicken and guilt – will not be soon forgotten.
Winner: Dave McLouglin