Scorers: Gunes(2), Dewan, Bidiki, Akrong
What is it about this fair club that has us pushing forward each season? Is it Dave’s never say die attitude? Gustavo’s tireless creativity? Dodimead’s relentless liver? It’s a question that I’m compelled to wonder as I reflect on the inaugural game of the season, which saw us play against a team who had just been promoted and should have been pumped for the new challenge ahead, rather than scrabble to make ten players for kickoff, and leave with even fewer.
It would be a little unjust to say that the difference between the two teams was that we had at least an extra player for a lot of the game. It certainly helped though! Keith had wisely neglected to inform us of our numerical advantage at the start of the game, and despite a pretty lacklustre warm up and our own personnel issues, we started the game with a formidable 11 and began to make that unwitting extra player count as we spread possession around, mixing composed retention with well timed long balls.
About twenty minutes in and at a point where we’d probably be getting a little nervous about not making our possession count, one of those long balls set the rapid Aaron Akrong (don’t get it Akwrong) loose just past the half way line. He cut in on his defender and left the rest of the line for dead before finishing with daunting accuracy off the inside of the far post. It could be a contender for goal of the season – but let’s face it – no-one’s going to remember it in May.
With half time approaching we started to press for the two goal cushion our dominance deserved. Ozan Gunes had the luxury of being able to find his range with his new boots as he fired a warning shot safely into their keepers clutches. He shanked another ball into a position that would – on another day – be lapped up by an industrious opposition striker, but was instead calmly fetched by Dan Wilding. Wilding is an alchemist though: He takes ugly passages of play and turns them into things of beauty. He launches a peach of a pass at a marginally offside and questionably passive Konrad Stoklosa. Thankfully Ozan has found his touch just in time to intercept, bring the ball down on the drop of a hat and calmly slot the ball past the keeper for 2.
Second half and 11 versus 11. The next goal would go a long way to deciding the tone of the remaining 45, and there would be no more fitting a goalscorer than the rejuvenated captain. He used the half time team talk to press home the importance of not letting our performance drop and after a slack bit of play that saw the opposition hit the bar, he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and slotted home the third goal after a counter attack started by Mark Taylor.
This pretty much put the nail in the coffin. The rest of the game was messier than Bardgie at The Kings Head a fortnight ago: Their goalkeeper inexplicably went out of his way to tee Ollie Dewan up for what may have been described as “the most undeserved goal ever”, possibly because his contributions prior to the goal revolved around treading on the ball and falling over.
To cap pretty dismal second half, one of their players picked up the ball after losing a 50-50 to Nana and proceeded to skulk away, cursing the referee who was still deliberating over which way to give the resulting free kick. After attempting to call the player back and belatedly receiving a bit of verbal, the referee indignantly proffered the red card. The player was subsequently followed by one of his compatriots who decided the game was “s**t if the referee [was] going to be like that” and that he’d rather not play. I’m not sure if he was planning to inspire some sort of mass walkout or something, but all that happened was the he sulkily watched the last ten minutes like a bit of a berk on the sidelines whilst his team tried to retain a bit of dignity.
The only bit of class in the last 20 came from a really decent two touch move which culminated in Jack Bidiki artfully slotting into the far post. Thus rounding off a decent game which could have been far more competitive if not for the naivete of our competitors.
What keeps us pushing forward each season? I’m not sure exactly, but pride, the desire to compete for our colleagues and professionalism definitely count for a lot, and if we use this game as a lesson for the rest of the season it should hopefully stead us well.