This curious late summer meant a morning in shirtsleeves in the Cage of Dreams this morning.
Normally in early October we would be freezing our nads off in Alexandra Park but today’s session was played in bright sunlight.
It was the first truly independent cage session with no help from the council and, consequently, the playing charge went up to three quid each to try to cover the hire fee.
And if the money went up so did the quality this morning with three very balanced and skillful teams playing eight 8-minute matches battling for bragging rights down the chippy.
The teams lined up like this: Jezza was in goal for the Lemons with El Jay and Medhi, Holy Paul and JD.
The Pinkos had Ricky DLTN as keeper with Matty Longshanks, Oh My Cod, Ken the Bass and the Motormouth and the Blueberries fielded The Cat between the sticks with Massive Mark, Touchline Mike, Chairman Phil, Donut and Granite Bob.
The first game finished one apiece between the Pinks and Lemons. Matty got his first of the morning with an unstoppable finish against The Nutkin and Phil equalized with a lovely curler at the other end.
In the second game The Cat kept the Blues on track with three great saves from Matty and Ali and there was some sublime football between Massive Mark and Andy, one touch stuff, which opened the Pinks up like a can of tuna but came to nothing. Granite Bob made a couple of great blocks and tackles, rolling back the years as he so often does.
Game 3 was a tense 2-all affair between the Yellows and Blues. Mehdi got his first brace of the morning, scoring twice but his second was a jammy mishit that had the Cat scowling in frustration. At the other end Jezza made two fabulous full-stretch saves to keep MM and Andy at bay but eventually Donut got the better of him twice to ensure the tie. He is definitely the new kid on the block to watch and it won’t be long before he gets a walk out in Hastings colours.
Game four was the highest scoring encounter. It finished 3 -2 to the Pinks with a triple of great goals from OMC, MM and Matty. But it was nip and tuck all the way with The Assassin scoring his second double of the day. He really had his shooting boots on. It was great to see and hear the Mehdi roar again.
The Blues won their second against the Pinks by a solitary goal – bent wonderfully past Ricky by Scouse Phil.
And in their second outing against the Lemons, the Blueberries walked out two-nil winners thanks to a beautifully taken goal by Touchline Mike on the right and a last-kick-of-the-match score by Donut. Ricky made an incredible triple save in this one and then blocked an El Jay penalty after TLM infringed in the box.
Rick also played well in the penultimate match having come out of goal to exercise his legs and scoring a beauty but two great goals – another from The Assassin – and a well-taken winner from Holy Paul won the encounter for the Lemons.
The last match was a free for all with goals scored by Mehdi, Scouse Phil and Massive Mark – this one curled around the stout legs of Hassan leaving the Cat unsighted and rooted to the spot. His (MM’s) encouragement of others reached more heights today with some lovely trusting touches to Bob and Ken TB came close to scoring with a left foot pearler that ricocheted off the post.
JD is a regular fixture now but always impresses with his enthusiasm and sheer love of the game, let alone his performances.
There were a couple of niggles. Both Jay and TLM fell foul of The Assassin’s bladed boots. There was nothing deliberate but it might be time for footwear checks as we enter the winter.
MoM: Blades or no blades, with his haul of six for the morning and a gleaming Ultrabrite smile for 90 minutes our Man of the Match is Mehdi.