Hot and sweaty was the order of the day for the first session of the new Hastings United Walking Football Club.
The Cage of Dreams was a cauldron of excitement, a fitting curtain-raiser on Champions League final night. And made even more breathless with a penalty shoot-out finale.
The morning started with a round-robin between Stripes, Blueberries and Wine Gums but after everyone had played each other once under the searing Hastings sun, it was decided – by democratic vote – to switch to a 7 vs 6 match of 45 minutes across three thirds.
It could not have been tighter. After 30 minutes of football it was still nil-all and it was left to the final third to decide the outcome. One goal from Matty and one from Oh My Cod! for the Stripes couldn’t settle matters so it went to penalties – and you could hear a pin drop. When Granite Bob finally missed one for the Blues, the pressure was on. Charlie Farley scored a pressure pen against Jeremy and Magic Wand stepped up. If he scored, the Blues won. He opted for a powerful strike right down the middle and The Cat – going to his left- stuck out a paw and tipped it over. A win for the Stripes and a fitting climax to a great session.
Medhi marshaled the Stripes from the back, feeding Oh My Cod! and Charlie upfront. Holy Paul, Rusty, Bexhill Chris and the Cat completed the team. Against them, Chairman Phil lined up with Speedy Steve, Matty and Granite Bob, with Magic Wond and then Jeremy in goal.
Charlie did not have his shooting boots on and spurned chance after chance; Matty drew a couple of excellent saves from The Cat who also foiled SS with the save of the morning.
But it was Jeremy at the other end who really kept his side in it. He made eight decent stops and one breathtaking tip around the post with his left hand to foil OMC. Holy Paul committed himself full bloodedly and Scouse Phil was on the receiving end of a couple of hefty challenges resulting in free kicks.
Rusty and Phil’s tit-for-tat domination in midfield was a pleasure to watch but it was The Assassin who played the coolest game in the heat, barely putting a foot wrong in 45 minutes and dancing around the opposition like a geriatric ‘Strictly’ contestant.
The whole game attracted a lot of attention from passers-by: one pledged to come and play next Monday (another bloody goalkeeper) and a second vowed to attend next Saturday. One verdict came from three young lads who muttered: “They should be playing in their graves!” We aren’t sure it was meant as a compliment but we earnestly hope we will!
Men of the Match: Jeremy Malies for a solid performance in his first outing for two months. And Medhi (67) for his total football.