Opening day of a new season but that old familiar smell in the air; freshly cut grass, stale shin pads and the sweet pong of Harrison’s aftershave ‘eau de pretend-I’m-not-hungover’. But there was also some new odours that most of the lads had never smelt before in their life, actual new shorts and socks which were nothing compared to the delightful aroma of Luke Karavias’ lavender comforter used in the shirt wash.
Despite the unavailability of nine players, a manager and a number 2 jersey, the AP 1st XI boasted a fierce squad demonstrating their strength in depth for the upcoming season. A welcome cameo return from skillful powerhouse Emmanuel Arrowosafe who was surprised and pleased to recognise nearly the entire squad. We also are pleased to announce a warm debut for dictating midfielder Joe Furbur; watch this space.
I’m sure horses would not have liked to live in our pre-season because nothing about it was stable; handfuls of debuts, crazy scorelines, a Jed wood brace, an inexplicably small pitch, more expansive gameplay, an Alex Lanigan brace, Tim at full back, a broken arm, Jason at full back, Dillon playing against the 10s, Dan Hawke centre mid, the worst own goal I’ve seen in a while, a Slava 15 min hat trick and of course Gravesy being actually available. Who knows what the season has in store but if Tim’s “Banksyball” is anywhere near as his prolific as his use of semi-colons, then we’re in for an absolute stonker 😉 one thing we did learn from pre-season is that Old Garchonians are a bloody good side, as we were on the receiving end of whipping and not in the good war. The SAL conveniently scheduled this as the opening fixture. I’m not one for conspiracies but I am one for spotting them. If I was a betting man I’d say the SAL scheduled this difficult game for us on purpose… “the SAL scheduled this difficult game for us on purpose.”
After a motivational sex referenced team-talk, the 1s were raring to go- in more ways than one. We agreed we all wanted it tight and to pump it if needed- the lads were certainly thinking with their balls. Early on the hosts looked very impressive. 6’5 Elliot Brough might not have met the minimum height requirements for the Garchonians team which looked like a Russian basketball team. But we frustrated them early on and let them know they were in for a real battle. Other than a delightful Elliot Brough bicycle which was closer than he can even believe, the best chance of the first half for the oranges fell to Harrison Cass after winning the ball back on the edge of the box. Maybe it was all the sex talk but he blew his load too soon with a shot which didn’t really trouble Darren Randolph in goal. If he’d looked to his right, Joe Furbur could have been slipped in for a clear one-on-one. Harrison is more than capable of scoring from where he shot though so you can see why he did it. There was also a penalty claim at some point as the keeper clumsily brought down JJ in the box from an aerial challenge.
The oppo had a couple of good chances too, including the ball in the back of the net which was ruled out as the nippy winger had just run the ball out of play before cutting back for a tap in. Without the treat of three officials, we may not have got that one.
Personally I don’t think it’s very noteworthy but numerous players have stated that the match report would be incomplete without mention of Tim’s dramatic dive. He was very late and caught me for sure, it was my job to make sure the officials knew it. Turns out there were referees in South London which could hear the high pitched yelp as I pulled off a half-twist tuck and roll. 3.5.
The second half started full throttle as known supersub, Emmanuel, almost made a decisive impact within 30 seconds of the interval. He capitalised on a fumble through instigated by JJ’s jostling. 12 yards out and unsure whether to side foot or lace, he decides the latter and leathers it inches wide. Best chance of the game so far.
Garchonians had some decent spells themselves as the nippy winger had the beating of Tim for pace and got through on the right. His shot was strong but Pat in goal parried well. It rebounded high in the air and their midfielder waited for it to drop and cleanly hit the volley towards the empty goal. Tim just about recovered and got the block away. Let off. Another brilliant chance for Garchonians came from a huge goal kick. The ball managed to bounce once high in the air. The striker charges for the second ball now nearly in the 6 yard box. Pat in goal timidly calls but Brough decides to try and deal with it, only managing to head to the striker who in turn nod it in the goal. But the referee blows for a foul on Brough who was adjudged to have been nudged by the striker as he tried to clear. A bit harsh really but it stayed 0-0.
A risky tactical manoeuvre saw dominant Dillon substituted for the midfield maestro Luke Karavias. This meant the dynamic duo at the back, Torrance and Brough had more first balls to win which they dealt with brilliantly. In the middle of the park, Ed & Luke began to work their magic which saw our best spell in the game as we maintained the ball consistently in the Garchonian half. Was the game sliding away from them? After working it out wide Emmanuel skins his man as bears towards the byline with real intent. But from nowhere the same defender recovers with an amazing tackle. You can only applaud that defensive work. Bassetti has some decently whipped shots from outside the box, but not destined for the top bins this time round. JJ a constant threat with his power. It ends a fair, but well earned, draw.
A very impressive performance and, in fact it’s the third year on the trot the opening game has ended with a clean sheet to AP, this one the toughest though. The orange apes showed they can add to Tim’s compact style of play which they’ve developed over the past couple of seasons by introducing more confident ball possession as the game opens out in the latter stages. Just need to keep improving, including turning our control into goals. Defensively it was a real team performance but the stand out man of the match was Virgil van Torrance. Big shout out though to Jason who put a brilliant shift in at right back. Questioned whether he was up to it at the start of the game but he won’t be questioned again, and that’s not because he’s going back to uni.