A great session in the Cage of Dreams this morning with two teams of six playing a full hour’s football.
The Hornets’ home tie against Ringmer on Monday meant that several regulars were resting in anticipation of the league fixture but a quality turnout made for a really great game of three 20-minute halves.
It was absorbing and entertaining in equal measure.
The teams lined up like this: Massive Mark, Speedy Steve, Matty Longshanks, Holy Paul (making a welcome return after his successful cataract op) and Granite Bob played in Blue.
And Puffing Paul, Popdark, Ken the Bass, The Assassin, and Blakey ( formerly Ian Jean-Luc), lined up for the Pinks.
Keepers Nutkin and The Cat, switched between teams and reffing.
The first 20 was a close-run affair. Mehdi – who really had his shooting boots on today – opened the scoring for the Pinkos and added a second before MM got his first of the session with a thunderbolt low to Nutkin’s right which he could get nothing on.
Move of the half saw an inspired Bob, put a lovely through-ball to Matty but his shot was well saved.
The Nutkin played a blinder with no fewer than five decent stops – all of them with his feet – to keep the Pinks in touch, the best a low steamer to his right from Longshanks.
The Assassin had eight shots in the first period and was the man in form. He, unselfishly, put Ken through when he could easily have got his hat-trick but the Bass’s shot was just wide to the left.
In the second period the Blues began to assert their authority. Hughy Canoe – our latest signing – scored with a sweet strike past the The Cat from a well-placed corner and MM netted twice to make it 4-2 Blues at the turnaround.
The moment of the match saw two behemoths of the walking game, Granite Bob and Poppi, go for a 50-50 ball on the edge of the Blueberry box. You would have bet your shirt on the outcome but Croydon triumphed over Serbia as Bob nipped in, deftly side-stepped and came away with the ball. Even Poppi applauded our veteran defender, who was literally having the game of his life.
The Cat made three good stops, including a right-handed tip over from a thundering Mark shot. The massive striker again won huge Brownie points by disallowing his own hat-trick goal for stepping over the line, but not to be outdone, Mehdi did exactly the same thing at the other end. Sportsmanship at its finest.
Period three saw the Pinks draw level thanks to a typical, sizzling low drive from Blakey and a bizzare own goal by Speedy Steve who wrong footed his own keeper Canoey with a back-pass-cum deflection. Then Jeremy Nutkin went full stretch to his right to keep Steve’s make-up effort out and it was the save of the day. But the up and coming commando keeper made his only error to allow Massive Mark his third to make it 5-4 Blues.
The pressure was too much for the Pinks in the last ten minutes, Speedy Steve finally made amends for his o.g. with a beauty which dipped and swerved direct from a hotly contested free kick. 6-4. Mark was not letting up either and he smelled blood adding his fourth of the morning with a cracker into the low-right corner. When Matty, deputising in goal, channelled his inner Michael Jackson to clear a thriller of a shot from Blakey, the game was up.
Mark scored again to make it 8-5 Blues, again following a disputed free kick awarded by RefCat and just before the fat lady sang, the Assassin got his hat-trick. He had walloped no fewer than 15 shots goal-wards and it was a just reward for his efforts.
It finished 8-5 to the Blueberries but the score line was almost irrelevant.
Puffing Paul had been tireless all morning on the wing and linked up beautifully with Blakey and Poppi who played at the heart of the defence. Steve once again showed deft touch after deft touch and his trapping and pinpoint passing was exemplary.
And – as is always the way with Hastings United – the encouragement for all players – particularly from Mark – was simply delightful to see and hear. Bring on the Ringmer lads Monday – the Hornets are ready and waiting.
MoM: Granite Bob. He really put in a shift today and played his best game for months.