Scorers: Kelly, Adjekwei
I think I had my lowest moment in football at Old Parks. It took me 2 hours to get there from Mile End because of engineering works, Lee Carlin was deployed in a screening holding molding midfield role, we lost 4-0 and probably touched the ball 12 times. Never again.
I don’t think Abba had the SAL Senior Division 2 promotion race on their mind when penning the 1980 smash ‘The Winner Takes it All’. It was however a tenuous link to the state of play as we travelled to Old Parks on Saturday. A win was primed to take either side up, a draw keeping Parks in the hunt whilst eliminating AP.
Ronnie was driving back from East Anglia in a race against time for kick off, in possibly the worst episode of Top Gear you will ever see. However, he arrived to 2.45pm to slot in, and I think we were all boosted in the knowledge that Norwich Airport would have enough aviation fuel for the summer at a very competitive rate.
We went 4-4-1-1, this years ‘false 9’ is actually a ‘defensive 10’, a role I am sure you will be seeing a lot more of over the coming years. The team talk was Anfield ’89, nothing wrong with getting to 0-0 at half time. Keep it tight, stifle, and nick one on the break. It was about intelligence in our pressing, in the knowledge that Parks would have more ball.
The first half largely played out as expected. The oppo kept the ball well, probing for openings, AP played on the break and looked to capitalise on set pieces. Parks probably had about 80% of possession, this was indeed helped by our sometimes comedy attempts to keep the ball. ‘Their centre halves don’t want it lads..’ 100% correct. That said, Parks only created half chances and we kept our defensive discipline really well. A few tackles went in, no ‘leg breakers’ as some media outlets may have you believe. We also had the best chance of the half from one of many superb Kelly deliveries. Patterson arrived later than a Matt Kelly dinner reservation at the back stick, before heading clear superbly onto the cricket pitch. Poor in anyone’s book, particular as one of only three amateur footballing capabilities possessed by the skipper (shepherding, heading, clearing for throw) 0-0 at the half and patience was the key. We actually made a relatively sensible switch in shape, saving whatever cartilage Ronnie may have remaining by sitting off the backline a touch more.
The key moment of the game came 10 minutes into the second half. After a surprisingly fluid move, Rick played in Ronnie who was swiped down when surging away from the centre half. Penalty and a red card. You had to feel for the Parks centrehalf, more rash than anything. It was however another example of how easy it is to pick up red and yellow cards at first tem level when the ‘letter of the law’ is applied. Matt Kelly, player of the season by a country mile (for me Clive, not simply in voting terms) stepped up to take the penalty and kept his bottle. 1-0 AP.
Parks came back at us and we had a good 5-10 minutes of digging each other out, whilst the 10 men of Parks dominated possession and we soiled the bed. That said, they only got in behind on a couple of occasions and didn’t create anything gilt edge. They had 1 very tidy curling effort ruled out for offside. We defended superbly as a team, personified by the Fraser who went through a couple of kilometres ‘on the cover’ alone.
With Parks opening up, we once again caught them on the break. A swift break gave Ronnie a 1 v 1 with their young centre half, he squared him up, powered past him and fired home over the keeper. A great goal, 2-0 and scenes. For all the very tidy football of Parks, in concrete Ron, we had an x factor of power in the final third.
The remaining 15 minutes seemed an eternity, but we took the zip out of the game. Alain was but a whisker away from the cherry on top, that whisker being power, accuracy and disguise on his shot. Finally the referee blew, the cheap champagne flowed and we were back in Div 1.
Parks are a good side and play football far easier on the eye than most at this level. That said, had this been broadcast on Sky it would have been hailed as a ‘Morris Masterclass’. It was the perfect gameplan for the circumstances, we worked ourselves into the ground and were absolutely clinical when the chances opened up. A number of contenders for man of the match but it has to go Ronnie. Scored one, made one and went through his own personal marathon.
What an ending to a long, hard season. I am immensely proud of the guts and bottle of the lads showed, not just on Saturday but over the course of the season. We have finished above some very good sides, Actonians, Parks and Bank but a few. If we’re honest, there are probably quite a few sides wondering quite how. However, over a 22 game season, the league table doesn’t lie. We have just found a way to keep grinding out results, and it’s testament to the attitude of the players.
The first team have a lot of work to do maintain the status next year but for now, it’s worth enjoying the achievement. A special thanks to John Morris amongst all of this. Having gone down comprehensively last year and lost players pre-season, he has lifted the gloom and kept us moving forward. It is a testament to what he has put in that we have ‘bounced back’ a la Partridge.
Only played the one wildcard this season as well…