FA Cup Final day was always an exciting one for us oldies as kids. The build-up would start at 11 in the morning and would include an ‘It’s A Knockout’, a quiz between supporters and all the player pen-pictures with the road to Wembley. Things have changed and these days we are lucky to even see the match on terrestrial TV.
But in the Cage of Dreams this morning – in the pouring rain ( fine rain that soaks you right through)- the excitement was palpable. Two O50s teams of six and seven players turned out despite the weather and got Final Day off to a great start.
An Oh My Cod! invitation team, striding out in glorious red and white stripes, took on Chairman Phil’s Blueberries in a three (20-minute halves) outing which demonstrated the best in walking football that Hastings has to offer.
The teams lined up like this: Ali, alongside Medhi upfront with Speedy Steve and Old John at the back and Hughey Canoey in the middle of the park and Ricky DLTN in goal. For the Blues, Scouse Phil led the way up front with Matty, Big H in goal, Puffing Paul Hutton and Granite Bob at the back supporting Mad Margaret and playmaker Rusty in the middle.
It started tentatively with both sides testing each other out and Ricky forced into making five good saves – one a superb double from Matty who leathered two great shots on target to be parried away by the soaking wet keeper. At the other end, Big H was not tested early on and the Stripes scored with a superb strike low to his right from The Assassin ( 67). Scouse Phil equalized with a cracking solo effort that gave Ricky no chance but then matters fell into the referee’s hands.
Granite Bob – who usually gets away with murder- was pulled up for stepping into the box and Oh My Cod! stepped up to place a beautiful penalty to Big H’s left, sending him the wrong way and ending the first half 2 – 1 to the Stripes.
It could have been different if Puffing Paul had kept down both of his siege gun efforts. One had to be parried by Ricky and the other was HW & M. Then the Blues woke up and really got into the game, Big H let Scouse Phil don the gloves to see what he could do in the dampness and he didn’t disappoint. Big H scored a 15-yard thunderbolt to level the scores at 2 all and – luckily for the Stripes – it was the only shot of the morning that the big unit got on target.
There was more. A lovely first touch three-man build-up saw Mad Margaret unmarked on the edge of the box and she let fly through a forest of legs, giving Ricky no chance to even see the shot coming. 3- 2 to the Blues as they went into the third and final half.
Playing from the back, 1066’s bionic man-to-be, Speedy Steve, had his first shot of the game on target and it was a pearler, giving stand-in keeper Paul Hutton no chance to level the score at 3 all. Then came drama in the form of two disallowed goals, one each from Oh My Cod! and The Assassin, both of them having strayed onto the box line. (Medhi had another disallowed for the same offence earlier. The rule is clear as mud. If you or the ball are on the line, it’s a foul and no goal.)
Normally, denying the hot-blooded former military man two goals, would lead to a strop of mega proportions, but at the Club sessions where the dissenters are not present, Medhi shrugged it off, simply enjoying the game. His next effort was part-deflected by Paul Hutton onto the bar and it was the closest of close shaves. When Big H picked up the ball in his own half with four minutes on the clock, nobody paid him much heed. He danced past one, jigged past a second and beat a third opponent with all the grace of a water-bound hippo and then gave Matty a through ball which he simply devoured with a great strike to win the match for the Blues 4 -3.
There was superb covering (and a couple of rubbish shots) from Rusty, some incredible turn-and-shooting movement from Ali, at least three sublime defensive tackles and sidesteps from John Martin, who simply rolls away the 73 years he’s been on the planet. To see this fellah, soaked to the skin, dancing around the back third of the pitch with energy and vigour when fellow septuagenarians are snoozing in front of ‘Bargain Hunt’ on the TV, epitomizes everything the Club does in our Cage of Dreams.
When the aggressors stay away; when the arguers stay home and when we simply play to the bloody whistle this is a beautiful game, played by guys ageing like fine old wine in fine old barrels.
MOM: Old John