Barnstoneworth United AA1 v Dunbar Rovers White

Semi Final - 20 August 2017


Last week’s workmanlike victory over Maccabi brought the regular season to a close for Barnestoneworth and earned a final place of 2nd in the table, a very solid achievement given that the squad were adamant in holding up the club’s tradition of slow starts in the league back in April/May. As the season went on the team found its shape and gelled together well with new signings, AA2 promotions and last year’s returnees learning to come together as a team and play some extremely effective football. That, combined with the team’s excellent attitude and drive (a couple of blips notwithstanding) resulted in the prize of a top two finish and two bites at the cherry in the finals should they be required.

On this cold and windy August morning, however, a bruised and battered Barney squad were determined to get the job done in one. With multiple niggling injuries, players overseas and a suspension the Barney squad was stretched to its limits but with a few lads coming up from the AA2 Barney were able to put out a strong side and a quality bench. Gordo started in goal with a back four consisting of Andy Porteous, Dave Thompson, Simba and Boot making up the defensive unit. The starting midfield had Stevie on the right, Alec on the left with a central partnership of Dave Shannon and Joe Peters pushing up from defence to offset Merv’s back injury. That left Chris Moore playing just off Walshy up top. A solid bench of Gaffo, Nick, Hiro, Damo, Marty and Sam Binks was in reserve with Merv a late scratching, confirming in the pre-match huddle his back was “fucked”. Not sure if that is the medical term or not, Dave “Dr Harold Shipman” Shannon may be able to confirm.

A good warm up had the whole squad fired up for this game with the team keen on ensuring a week off ahead of a grand final to allow some squad recovery (not to mention a couple of big fuck off jolly ups with Sim’s 40th and the circus McGregor-Mayweather fight lined up for the following Friday and Sunday respectively). The game started in cagey fashion with both teams feeling each other out. This, combined with quite a hard and bobbly pitch on the cricket oval at Rushcutters, made for some scrappy football. Dunbar were determined to play passing football from the back out and some great energy from Barnestoneworth put them under early pressure. An early defensive turn over from Dave Shannon and some good link up play through the middle saw Alec put in behind his full back on the counter attack. Alec got to the byline and drilled the ball across goal but a good defensive block from Dunbar stopped the ball reaching Lord Moore on the penalty spot. Promising signs from Barney who continued in this manner as the dominant team for the first 15 minutes of the game with more possession, getting joy up the wings through Stevie and Alec.

That being said there were no clear cut chances and Dunbar slowly got a foothold in the game with their centre backs pushing into midfield to load the area and create a man advantage. The small pitch and Barney’s compact shape and energy made it difficult for them to break the red and white down. As a result they started to go longer and higher in their passing to their big centre forward as well as looking to get balls into the channels behind the full backs. This tactic lead to their first clear chance of the game when a turnover and quick ball in behind found Dunbar’s right winger inside Barneys box on the byline. A low cross attempted to pick out their centre forward who looked odds on to score until a fantastic last ditch challenge by Andy Porteous saw the ball blocked. The ball fell to another Dunbar player at the back post who conspired somehow to put it 6 feet over the bar and keep the scores at 0-0.

The ref was not allowing much in terms of close marking and this resulted in a series of free kicks for both sides as the first half wore on, much to Dave Thompson’s consternation which nearly resulted in an untimely booking as the ref pulled out the red card as a reminder that he wouldn’t be shouted at. Boot put in two excellent balls from the left for Barney and while Dunbar struggled to deal with them, Barney failed to capitalise and so the game remained deadlocked. Dunbar returned the favour with some free kicks into the box and some corners for Barney to defend but all in all there was no major threats and any that made their way through to goal were dealt with solidly by Gordo in between the sticks. One good save low to his right was pushed across the goal with a Moore on hand to hack away to safety. Another resulted in a heavy collision after an excellent punch from Gordo saw a Dunbar defender clatter him. This saw Gaffo warming up on the sideline but the big man was able to continue.

The half was petering out a touch when some great combination play between Boot, Dave Shannon and Alec up the left saw a cross come into the box with Walshy, Moore and Stevie waiting. Some 18-yard box pinball ensued and resulted in what seemed to be a clear handball by a Dunbar player but, with the referee on the other side to the incident, play was waved on. The ball dropped to Moore 20 odd yards out for a chance at goal. Unfortunately he got underneath it and the ball was last seen taking an elderly man off his yacht in the harbor. When he was finally pulled out of the water he was heard to remark “How did he miss the target with that one?”. He is tipped to make a full recovery. Little else of note happened in the half and the teams went in at the half all square, probably a fair result.

Barney made no changes in personnel at the half but made a switch on the wings with Alec and Stevie swapping sides. This nearly paid immediate dividends with Alec taking on his man in the opening seconds of the half, roasting him and getting a good cross in under pressure from a covering defender. The ball just landed on a Dunbar head and resulted in a corner. Great start from Alec and Barney and it set the tone for the half. As the game went on Barney continued to come more into it and were getting lots of joy up the flanks. This was the formula that resulted in the deadlock being broken.

Great work up the left from Boot and Stevie resulted in a throw in for Barney deep in enemy territory. The ball got into the box and some great scrapping from Dave Shannon, when Dunbar looked certain to clear, brought the ball to Walshy’s feet. He took it to the byline and put a high (and hopeful) cross in that flirted with the byline but stayed in. Dunbar switched off to the danger by appealing for the goal kick to the referee. This allowed Andy Porteous to come from deep and show great presence of mind to head back across goal and pick out Alec 6 yards from goal. Alec stayed composed, took his time and buried the ball in the back of the net with his right foot. 1-0 Barney and well deserved based on the flow of play in the second half.

Barney continued in the same vein, chasing the second goal to kill the game off instead of sitting in and defending. This, combined with Dunbar needing to go for it and some tired legs on both sides, lead to the game becoming more stretched. The next chance came as Dave Thompson came out of the back to clatter his man and claim the ball. A quick one two with Alec found Dave in the opposition half with the ball at his feet. He picked a good pass up top to Walshy who overran it and the attack petered out. Minutes later Dave was involved again when a Barney attack was broken up and Dunbar countered at speed and looked to have the men to make an uncomfortable situation for Barney when Dave came to the rescue and broke up the attack with a tackle that could only be referred to as barely legal. The ref letting him know that had there not been a covering defender he may have got that red card he was threatened with in the first half.

The game went pretty end-to-end from there with Stevie and Moore making the most inroads down the left and Dunbar having a lot of set pieces thrown into the box. Ultimately, no clear cut chances were created however. Barney were tired and had to dig deep and they did so admirably as a wave of balls came into the box from Dunbar between corners, throw ins and free kicks. Marty came on for DT at this point with Joe Peters sliding back into the heart of defence and Marty sitting in next to Dave Shannon. He was almost back sitting on the bench minutes later when, in what may have been a case of mistaken identity, there was an attempt to sub him off for Sam “Jar Jar” Binks. Lord Moore let the sideline know this was not happening and the substitution was cancelled. It marked the first time in Barnestoneworth’s 30 year history that Eddie Sweeney admitted wrongdoing...

The scrappy nature continued and the game wore on until about ten minutes from time when it was all but put to bed. A Barney attack high on the left wing was broken up by Dunbar who looked to break quickly with time winding down. Their centre back advanced with the ball and looked to make a quick pass forward through midfield to his striker but Joe Peters read the play beautifully and stepped up to intercept the ball. This caught Dunbar short as they pushed up the pitch. With the ball at his feet Joe strode through midfield and found one centre back having to mark both Walshy and Moore. He remained composed and picked the right pass behind the defence to Walshy who had escaped the defenders attention. With the Dunbar keeper backing off Walshy hit it first time across the goal and into the back of the net. 2-0 and cue some wild celebrations both on and off the pitch. Rumours of Billy giving John Morton a piggy back on the sideline are, at the time of writing, unconfirmed.

Dunbar threw numbers forward in the final minutes and their closest chance came as a free kick came in low to Gordo’s left. It looked destined for the bottom corner and a nervy final 5 minutes until Gordo got a strong left hand to it and push it towards the byline. Lord Moore was once again the quickest to react and cleared the ball almost as far as his first half shot was hit in the direction of the harbour adjacent. Barney saw out the rest of the game relatively comfortably and the final whistle confirmed Barney’s return to the Grand Final for the second time in three years and a weekend off ahead of a showdown with either Coogee United or Dunbar who square off next week. The squad came together the celebrate the important victory and while most chose hugs and high fives Boot, never a conformist, decided the best manifestation of his joy was to bury his fist into Dave Thompson’s nose! Another injury concern ahead of the final…

Another exceptional performance from Barnestoneworth, particularly when it came to attitude and commitment. The pitch and conditions did not make for attractive football but we dug in for a well-deserved win. Joe Peters will be starting a Go Fund Me Account to get Dave Shannon’s flight home for his wedding delayed by 24 hours (and his hospital bills paid for when his fiancé beats the sh%t out of him for asking the question), allowing him to play the final. All donations welcome. In all seriousness if this was the last we saw of Dave and Stevie this season, a massive thanks must go out from the lads for their exceptional efforts put in throughout the year. Safe to say we would not be where we are without them.

All that remains now is to make all this hard work worth it by returning the mighty Barnestoneworth to the top of the tree in ESFA by winning the final in a fortnights time. If the same commitment and attitude is brought to the final then there is no reason this can’t be the case. MTFB.

MOTM: Andy Porteous. A goal saved in the first and set up in the second swung the match in Barney’s favour. All action performance from Andy, great to watch.