Well prepared, confident, fully fit and raring to go, these were all things I was hoping we would be in our first league game. Sadly we were quite a long way off these things. With several regulars still away, and others taken up to higher teams I was only able to name 5 players that finished our only meaningful friendly last week. On the day of the game my optimism was further dented. With the heavy traffic on the A10 leading to me arrive late, I discovered we only had half a team. I had already had 1 cry off an hour earlier and was now faced with another two. We were down to a bare 11, with Scants playing his first game for a year having been out with injury, and with unseasonably hot weather, I knew it was going to be a long afternoon. Matters got worse when Parker pulled up in the warm up having tweaked his hamstring, it was a massive loss. I had to put in an emergency call, and was never more glad to see Galloway than when he arrived to help us out (it was much appreciated) after Parker had tried his best to limp around for the first 10 minutes.
The game itself got off to a bad start, with Broomfield scoring a wonder goal inside the first 15, an unstoppable shot that looped above Paul into the top corner. It was looking like we could be on the wrong end of a drubbing. However credit to the lads we dug deep, seeing out the difficult period and settling into the game. Paul made a decent save, diving to his right to keep us in it. Midway through the first half a decent move led to Louis getting in and slotting home, putting us back on level terms. The half ended 1-1 and we were able to regroup.
We started the second half brightly, Alex playing in his AP debut switched to a more advanced role and started to cause Broomfield problems. Scants, Derek and Galloway were more than holding their own in the middle and Dit was having a blinder on the left. We started working the ball around nicely. The work rate of Louis upfront came up trumps again, when he capitalised on a poor defensive header to smash in a second and put us 2-1 up. The game really started to open up and there were chances at both ends. We struggled to clear a corner, with the ball somehow being scrambled off the line. Paul then made a fabulous block with his feet after their forward went clear. Then on 65 minutes Louis again made a great run, getting in behind Broomfield and putting it past the keeper, and to my shock we found ourselves 3-1 up. Soon after we nearly made it 4-1, Ditmar’s cross found Alex unmarked in front of goal, but his shot was blocked. That goal may have broken Broomfield’s resolve, but as it was we new we had to keep concentrating and battling. The task was made more difficult when Broomfield came back with another good goal. Their forward smartly hitting home from a tight angle to make it 3-2. We were unsurprisingly tiring and Broomfield could now sense there was still something in the game for them and they put the pressure on. We defended as best we could, but were finally undone by a massive long throw which no one dealt with and Broomfield hooked into the net at the back post. It was a hammer blow, and I was worried we would struggle to cling on for a draw, with Scants cramping up and barely able to walk. But as Broomfield pushed forward we had 2 or 3 golden chances to win it. Amazingly Scants through the pain came up with a pile-driver of a shot which looked destined for the top corner, only for their keeper to produce an unbelievable finger tip save which he didn’t look like he had in him. Derek also had a great chance to win it, after being put through he tried to lift it over the on rushing keeper only for it to be saved. In the dying seconds we very nearly threw it all away and Paul came to our rescue to block at the near post. So the game ended 3-3, but it could easily have been 6-6!
It was certainly an entertaining start to the season. Having lost the opening game to Broomfield last year I am confident we can go one better this season and win promotion. Certainly we will get stronger, and I can’t credit the lads enough for the way they battled against the odds. Several people had great games, Ditmar was lively, Alex showed promise, and Derek was a calming influence. But the two heroes of the day, who share man of the match were Louis who bagged a hat trick and Paul who came to our rescue on numerous occasions