The skills were on show even during the initial kick-about at the Stade Geriátrico this evening with Bobby performing a Cruyff turn while helping the goalkeepers to warm up. Well, we think it was a Cruyff turn though he may have learned it off a whirling dervish on one of his many trips to the Middle East.

There was hardly a whisker, and a kitten’s whisker at that, between the Gums and the Blueberries tonight with a wonderful display – often one-touch – ending 4-4. Two teams of nine faced each other with only one regular goalkeeper this being Howard in a fetching shade of lemon-green lycra playing well all evening for the Berries with much de Gea-inspired footwork.

“You’re marking space – marking thin air” was the call from the Blueberries’ midfield dynamo El Jay. Hastings’ best import from Spain since chorizo rallied his colleagues and was as tricky as ever; if this were chess, he would be two moves ahead of many of us. Marco von Gasman has an increasingly ‘lean and hungry look’ (that’s Julius Caesar) as tournament football hopefully approaches. He seemed to have time on the ball and his positional sense was outstanding. Similarly, Puffing Paul appears to be less puffing on his marauding runs down the wing (he has been known to take in enough air to raise a Montgolfier balloon) which bodes well for our competitive games.

John Magic Wond gallantly went in goal initially for the Gums. Later he would play up-front with much flair and he is being ‘groomed’ (a loaded phrase) by the committee for an attacking role. The club’s quartet of keepers would far rather have him in defence protecting them. Wondie forced a great save from Howard from mid-range. With no gloves or pads, White Cliff also proved brave in goal for the Gums and knew his angles.

Having left his chip shop in the hands of a juvenile, Ali Yukselir (Blues) finally began to interact with Long Shanks Matt and there were some lovely one-twos between the pair with both seeming to get their form back. ‘Transitional phases’ was the coaching book catchphrase of the night; I think introduced by Speedy Steve whose pearler of a game was topped off by a Jairzinho-style shot from distance (with minimal backlift) leaving Howard rooted to the astroturf for once. I think I also heard Steve and John Dyer muttering about Joe Jordan – perhaps personal anecdotes about dentistry. On the subject of teeth, Medhi the Assassin, who spends more money on his gnashers than Jürgen Klopp, is doing well after an operation. Similarly, Ricky DLTN was seen today at the Oh My Cod! chippy getting himself outside several kilograms of watermelon.

The Granite One received a bullet of a clearance flush on the nut prompting Howard (monumental keeper and monumental mason) to suggest he had punctured the ball. Hastings’ oldest half-marathon runner sprinted round the back at halftime and found a ball with all the pride of a golden retriever and similar footwork though thankfully not dribbling – that’s with the tongue not the feet.

Bobby Dazzler was literally dazzling in fluorescent orange socks (is this where the name comes from?) and with the Gums achieving a great deal of width, he charged down the left flank regularly only to cut inside and test Howard. Legendary Rog appears to have gained two yards of pace and his relish for the game to the point that you might think he had taken a stimulant. Rog (is he really a mathematics professor or is this just an urban myth in the same way that some of us thought Charlie Kite was a priest?) left promptly refusing to give a test by any means be it lateral flow, PCR or urine.

The first corner was suspiciously late on nine minutes with the Gambling Commission currently investigating some irregular betting patterns by the tramps who lurk around Ali’s chip shop. Given a bit of space, our favourite chippie re-found his shooting boots with a clean strike low to the Gums keeper’s left from distance. Hoping to net more than a post-Brexit Icelandic trawler, it was his only goal of the night but a sweet strike.

John Dyer handed out business cards to everybody; we’re not sure of the service offered but they looked suspiciously like those cards still to be seen in the town’s few remaining telephone boxes. Rusty arrived shortly after the start and kindly refereed. His movements reminded me of Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and I’d plead with him not to test his recurring injury too soon.

They say that Gary Neville didn’t need to look up in order to make a long pass to David Beckham such was the telepathy and we’re getting to that level between Jay and West Ham Paul. Jay’s realistic but always encouraging remarks included: “When we press we must press together or there’s no point.” Oh My Cod! continues his ridiculous stamping moves which fool nobody (more stamps than Stanley Gibbons) and I’d ask Jay or Russ to talk him out of it. Ian Jean Luc showed many simple sweet and unselfish moves, and he also took a turn between the sticks for the Gums when their goal was beginning to resemble a coconut shie.

The close control geometrical tricks merchants who adore The Cage seemed to enjoy the chance for long raking runs and playing with width. The beautiful game, the people’s ballet. It was a lovely display and I’m glad I took the trouble to watch.


MoM: Speedy Steve.