Barnstoneworth United FC 3 – Lokomotiv Cove FC A 2
It was a bright and breezy day – perfect conditions for a game of football. Everyone was anxious to put last week’s debacle to bed with a good performance and most importantly a win. Starting line-up: Gary Anderson; Anthony J; Rich Petchey; Chris Hamilton; Lee Plumridge; Wynton S; Fergal Gallagher; Dan Eeles; Ronan Murphy; Nick Heather; and Wesley Nolan. For the first 15 minutes, we started well with some slick passing and good movement up front – Wes ably supporting Nick (a typical little and large striking partnership). However, Loko came back into it: with the help of the strong breeze, they started peppering our goals with some long range shots. Gary pulling off two magnificent saves to keep the game nil all. How and ever, the pressure finally told when the main Loko striker swivelled and volleyed a shot from twenty yards which just beat Gary and flew into the top corner. A decent goal in all fairness.
Alas, it was 0-1 and this was the acid test. Would we put our heads down and allow the demons of the previous Sunday to take over? We had to man-up: which is exactly what Nick did. Chasing down what seemed to be a lost cause (a back-pass to the Loko goal-keeper which was a bit short); Nick blocked the goal-keeper’s hurried clearance, ran on to the ball and coolly slid it home to the unguarded net from six yards. One all. The Barnstoneworth lads were back in the game.
What followed – as we approached half-time – could only be described as sheer bad luck. A defensive mix-up between Tony and Chris allowed the Loko striker a free run to goal and a shot from ten yards. Gary did very well to save it but in the process managed to break his right wrist. As Gary left the field of play (the stature of the man meant he walked off the pitch rather than stage a sit in), the Loko striker received the rebound and slammed the ball to the back of the net. Everyone thought in unison: “Ref, surely not. Stop play for a serious injury. For the love of God, the guy has just broken his arm”. If Paolo Di Canio was playing he would have lifted the ball, consoled Gary, asked the ref to ring an ambulance, while singing a verse of ‘Nessun dorma’ to soothe Gary’s pain. Unfortunately, there were no Paolo Di Canio-esque players in the Loko side. They played on, they scored, and the ref said the goal stood. Halftime: 1-2.
We were shell-shocked at half-time. 1-2 down and we were without our prized goal-keeper. What were we to do; who would go in goals; and who’s bringing Gary to hospital? The answers: score two goals and win the game for Gary; Chris Hamilton in nets; and Al Dowling to do his best impression of Mother Theresa and bring Gary to hospital to get checked out.
We started the second half with some serious intent. The wrongs of the first-half had to be put right. The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw us play some of our best football of the season to date. The comeback started with a cracker from Wes. Receiving the ball about twenty-five yards out from goal, Wes had a few options: Dan on his left, Fergal just behind him or spray it our right to Wynton. Stuff that he thought. So, a bit like Peter Kay in the famous John Smith’s television ad, he says: “’ave it!!!!!!!!!!” Bang. He let fly and the ball looped over the goal-keeper into the net. Actually, the keeper got a touch (maybe three or four touches) but the poor lad couldn’t keep it out. 2-2. Game on.
From the kick-off, we were like men possessed. Chasing down the opposition we won the ball back. This time it was Dan’s turn to have a go from distance. An angled drive low to the keeper’s left, the ball nestled into the back of the net. 3-2. Momentum was with us now. Again from the restart we won possession. Tony made a searing run from right-back: beating one man, then another and another. He was on the edge of the box and played a delighted through ball to Ferg. Ferg was one-on-one: this was it. Time to break the duck for the season. The goal-keeper came rushing off his line, Ferg took it first time and slid it past the on-rushing ‘keeper. The ball glided along the ground and was destined for the back of the net. Alas, the post got in the way and Loko escaped.
In fairness to the opposition, they came right back into the game. They threw the kitchen sink at us for the remainder of the second half. They shot from all angles. They hit the crossbar. Chris made some truly fantastic saves. One in particular from a free-kick – Chris dived across the goal like a salmon jumping along Belfast Lough and palmed the ball away for a corner. At this point the ref was giving everything – unintentional handballs, 50/50 challenges, looking side-ways, using expletives, as a sub not entering the field of ball at the half-way line. Unreal.
And then it came down to one last free-kick twenty yards from goal. Ronan had been adjudged to have used a high footed challenge. Again another 50/50 challenge against us. Everyone was on tender-hooks. The Loko striker came up and slapped it past the wall. All eyes were on Peter Pan (I mean Chris Hamilton). Chris again saved but the ball rebounded out into the six yard box. A Lokoplayer got there first and nudged it towards goal but again Chris saved with a fearless dive. This time the rebound was cleared and the full-time whistle was blown. 3-2 victory. The lads were elated. Questions about our character from last week’s mauling had been answered. As Meatloaf once sang “Three out of four ain’t bad”….or was it two out of three? Regardless, we were on the march again.
Man of the match: Chris Hamilton. Also, a special mention to Rich Petchey for some uncompromising defending. These two lads carried us across the line.