As the sun rose on the early Sunday morning there was a serious bit of anticipation in the air. After several long hard and for the most part, dreadful preseason weeks, Barnstoneworth AA4’s looked to hit the ground running on the opening day of the season. It had been a topsy turvy week, with the AA4’s being promoted to AA3 on Tuesday only to be relegated back to AA4 on Thursday. Having reached the Grand Final last season, losing out to a devastating own goal in extra time the team were hoping to go one better this year.
Not that preseason had set a good tone, 4 games, 3 loses, 1 win and leaking on average 5 goals a game it hadn’t looked too solid and they’re was a general feeling around the club that AA4 might struggle at the start of the season. However mood in the camp was high all week with serious banter on the e-mails, Wynton in particular leading late night rants about opposition teams! This coupled with a team building Friday night in the Beresford, the introduction of Big Richie at centre back and the return of golden boy Joe from a few weeks in Paris meant there was a definite belief in the squad that today was going to be different.
It started well, with star striker Eddie, thinking it was 8.30 when it was actually 9.30, in his favour the clocks had gone back but he didn’t believe his IPhone actually picked it up automatically. This was followed by the gaffer getting the pitch wrong, the lads all looking like creeps watching the under 16 girl’s game finish of, Ed was wetting himself at this stage! Eventually we found the pitch and out came the white board, Paul was going to be going hard on the tactics today it seemed. A light warm up followed as we noticed the opposition (Queens Park) were hardly even ready, only a few players and they were looking a bit lax for Game Week 1. Game on, the boys thought. Then the moment we were waiting for, Gaffer goes to name the team and give us an inspirational talk to set us on our way. Not a man to hit it off the cuff, Paul had it all laid out on some lovely little notes, which he clearly stayed up all night writing, it was inspirational to say the least, particularly when he had to pause, flick over to the next notes to find his spot again and then tell us to pass it more. Team line up came out: Gary in nets, Tony right back, the two big men, Richie and Joe (c) centre half, Wynton slipping in at left back. A midfield delight of Dan Eeles, Gav Roberts, with Gar Lucy on the right and Wes on the left. Fergal taking up the free role in the middle and speedy Gonzalez Eddie up front. Solid team but there were a few disappointed heads on the bench, itching at the bit to get on and show the gaffer he had made a mistake.
Rumour had it Tony was carrying a tight hammer and Wes was struggling with a little toe blister so the bench knew they could be required at any time! Barnstoneworth won the kick off and elected to Tip off. The game started at an electric pace, it could have been the Premier league and Barnstoneworth were having the better of it. A lovely flowing move involving Dan, Gav, Tony and Gar down the right had Queens Park worried, Tony was looking particularly menacing steaming forward from right back and looking create mayhem whenever he could winning a couple of early corners that didn’t amount to much. There were no real chances in the first 5-10 minutes but the away team were definitely having the better of it. There were a couple of half chances as Eddie was set through by a couple of nice balls but he just couldn’t get on the end of them, his pace was worrying the opposition defence at this stage, they looked like they might take him out of the game at some stage. Then the first clear chance of the game, good play by the midfield, with Fergal winning the ball high up the pitch, a couple of tidy passes and Gar was released down the right, yards onside and with no one in sight, Eddie and Dan were storming into the box, this was it BUFC one up about 20 minutes in and no more than they deserved. Then just when it required a cool head and to roll the ball across the six yard box for the 3 BUFC players there, unmarked and onside Gar gets a rush of blood to the head and decides to kick it out for a throw in, ON THE FAR SIDE! Ah well, first game jitters we put it down to but there was a sense that we could rue the missed chance. Later in the half and Dan slides a delightful through ball to Eddie, his pace was far too much for the ageing centre back and he was clean through a couple of touches and he slides it just wide of the far post, keeper was never getting there. Another sitter gone down the tubes and the thoughts were of it being one of those days. A couple of changes happened somewhere in the middle of all this action, Tony’s hammer was done and Ro Murphy took to the field at right back. It was going to be a tough act to follow after the 25 mins Tony had put in and Wes was off to be replaced by Chris Hamilton, a quick shuffle and Wynton was on left wing, Chris left back. The first half turned a bit scrappy. Queens Park started to grow into the game and seemed to come to terms with Barnstoneworth’s 5 in midfield, they began to create a couple of chances but nothing serious to bother Gary, until late in the first half and some nice movement across the middle and front line of Queens Park had Barnstoneworth losing their shape, a little dink to the back post and it looked like they might sneak the lead but a combination of Richie and Gary did enough to put off the striker who put his shot just wide on the second attempt. That was a wakeup call, then with two minutes to go, Barnstoneworth looked to pass it around the 6 yard box, there was a scream from right back “Get that F**king Ball Out”, a lucky escape and Murphy was not happy to be messing around the box with a couple of minutes to half time. Peep peep peep and it half time 0-0 the away side had two clear chances and should have scored both but the home side really came into the game in the last 15 minutes and looked like they might cause some trouble for an otherwise solid back line if they were allowed to get on the ball.
With a number of substitutions at half time, Mark on for Gav, and Nick on for Eddie the second half started slow and scrappy. That was until a quick break down the right with Murphy feeding Lucey who slotted it into Heather, a good touch and sharp turn saw him put it on a plate for Dan about 12 yards out, you would have put your house on him finishing from there but he curled it wide of the right hand post and again Barnstoneworth were left to rue another gapping chance that went begging. Two minutes later and a strong attack from Queens Park lead to Wynton dragging the number 10 down in the box, definite penalty but the Ref somehow thought it was outside the box, Richie put the resulting free out for a corner and the away team looked like they had got away with murder. It wasn’t to be, from the corner Chris looked to run it out only for the Queens Park Striker to just get in front of him, Hamilton proceeded to run through the striker and the pen was awarded, justice seemed to be served from a Queens Park viewpoint. Up stepped number 10 and slotted into the bottom left hand corner, Gary made a valiant effort to get there but there was no stopping that.
So after letting three clear chances go begging Barnstoneworth were one down due to a bit of sloppiness all round and it was going to be an uphill struggle from there. Things went from bad to worse when indeed Queens Park had enough of Eddies (who had returned at some point) pace and proceed to crush his ankle, he didn’t look good and he was shouting “It’s Broken”. After getting taken off the boys knew they had to dig deep. The game hit a bit of a lull with lots of hard tackling, with Wynton, Mark & Feargal getting stuck in. But no real chances at either end and Barnstoneworth really looked like they were missing Eddie’s pace to trouble the back line. That all changed with about 15 to go when Feargal who was having a stormer of a game took the ball about 25 yards out and drove into the box cutting the ball back across the six yard box from the by-line. Madness ensued in the defence and it appeared they all took each other out of it, the ball kindly fell to Mark, who coolly side footed home from 6 yards GAME ON!!!!!! This gave Barnstoneworth hope and they pushed on looking for the win but it was anyone’s game, it felt like a mistake was going to make the difference today as Ronan so loudly screamed every chance he got. A couple of changes and we headed into the last 5 minutes, Murphy found Eeles on the right side of the box, Dan turned and cut inside only to be taken down by the defender, penalty!!! 1-2 Barnstoneworth and we only had to see out 3 minutes to take home a moral boosting 3 points on the opening day. With less than 2 minutes to go in normal time it was kick out to the away team, the shout came out, “2 minutes to go boys lets be first to the ball here!!!” Queens Park won the kick out without a challenge and moved it nicely in the box and number 10 gets taken down by Gary after moving the ball sharply in the box. Penalty with less than 2 minutes on the clock, Barnstoneworth were livid they had thrown it all away so easily after working so hard to get back in it, but it wasn’t over yet. The number 10 who slotted the first pen so well was feeling a bit worse for wear after the hit so let the pen duties to number 11. He stepped up, smashed it and hits the post, only for the ball to fall right back at his feet and he puts it in the top corner. Queens Park were celebrating, Barnstoneworth are devastated, then the ref blows the whistle it hadn’t touched another player so it was disallowed, Queens Park hadn’t realised but Murphy made sure they knew it wasn’t given!
That was that and Barnstoneworth took home a hard fought 3 points, a good start to the season particularly at the back. All eyes turned to star striker Eddie, what were the extent of his injuries, was it broken? Only time would tell, but 3 points on the board, and it was back to Paine to see how the rest of the boys were getting on!