Chairman fussed over his squad today on the eve of the Cheshunt tournament as if we were fragile porcelain dolls though in some cases dolls made on generous lines.
Felled viciously a few weeks ago like a great tree of the forest by a clumping kick to the ankle from Granite Bob, Deadeye Chris both played and refereed. As I type, there is great interest as to whether he will be travelling to Cheshunt tomorrow; his resurrection has rivalled that of Lazarus for speed and dramatic impact.
Just the four goalkeepers playing today with New Pete absent, your correspondent in a deckchair and Tug now becoming the Lord Lucan of the HUWFC squad. Actually, that’s not a good analogy; Tug’s manners are excellent, and he is always good company but I’m not aware of him being an aristocrat. And as far as I know, he hasn’t killed anybody.
Viewed from a distance, our warm-up drills must resemble one of the more intricate games in the Krypton Factor, an awful 1980s strength and stamina gameshow occasionally hosted for a while by Roy Barraclough. I noted that as messages became increasingly garbled down the line, New Dean did great work in keeping the group movement going during the drills.
Match 1 began with Oranges against Pinks (first-mentioned team are always at the Rye Road end in these reports). Kevin Wingnut surveyed his Oranges with pleasure and pronounced them to be ‘a Tangerine Dream’. While not quite the gaudy peacock that is Nutkin, Kevin was psychedelic when not wearing his bib today in lurid green top and scarlet shorts of a Kevin Keegan 1970s length. He doubled as central defender and keeper, and began out on field.
Oranges started the better with Jim sending raking balls down the right flank to supply Legendary Roger of whom much more later. For the Pinks, Russ was characteristically busy, encouraging, and unselfish. An opening salvo from the Pinks saw Kevin block well from Deadeye after which Russ tested Ricky low to his left. It wasn’t all one-way traffic, and New Dean forced a fine save at medium height from the Cat. Wingnut asserted himself with some accurate long passes through the centre. (‘Down their throat’ as Russ is fond of saying.)
Late in arriving and a little slow getting into it for the Pinks having been obliged to jump-start his car, Mattie Longshanks served up a fine long pass to Hughie who wisely took it first-time but shot wide. Hughie soon found himself in the sin bin for an offence that I didn’t see but must have impressed Chairman with its gravity. Roger was moving well, timing his forays precisely and fed Holy Paul who rattled the Pinkos’ left upright.
The Cat was busy throughout and produced a good save from New Jim. His oppo, Ricky, parried well from an acute angle after Posh had drifted in from the right wing, and the spin from the ricochet meant that Rick had a tougher second save to make all in one movement.
Goals were a scarce commodity today, but we saw one early doors when Leg Rog, again finding a pocket of space on the right, was calm (indeed inscrutable) as he slotted low down past the Cat. The build-up had been bizarre with the ball pinging off Rick and onto Hugh who could only watch it fly to Roger. Oranges 1 Pinks 0.
Match 2 saw the Oranges stay on to face Chairman’s Blues who fielded Tim at right back. Tim is familiar to us, has watched us for hours, but was a first-timer. He is the attendant/janitor at the Academy. Tim has obviously played a bit in his time, bossed his section in front of keeper New Colin, was calm in possession and always able to find a useful pass. A great debut; we hope his work schedule allows him to play again.
“I’ve got Holy!” “Is somebody getting Legendary?” If you were a passer-by hearing all this you might think we were playing charades, but this was only the dulcet voice of Doc Dyer telling us where we should be. There was an early chance when Rick (Wingnut having replaced him in goal) missed with his right foot against Colin. In the other direction, Beaky, ever a threat, was keeping Wingnut on his toes with quite a peppering of shots.
Dean was doing great work for the Oranges and Holy Paul was penalized for a second transgression when he connected with Chairs. Leg Rog flopping to the astroturf as if scythed down while nobody was near him might have got everybody’s favourite economics and commerce teacher a straight red for simulation, but it was adjudged to be a self-induced fall.
More remarkable still, moments later there was a foray by Bob into the centre forward position. Another sideshow was Chairman’s excellent close control; with his little jinking runs he does indeed appear to have the ball glued to his feet when at his best. A lovely move for the Oranges saw New Jim pass to Rick (a wonderful trap-stun movement to bring the ball under control by the big man) followed by a pass to Dean who couldn’t convert. Oranges 0 Blues 0.
Match 3 saw Blues stay on to play Pinks. Early on, a Pete-Chairman-Beakie move saw Beaks shoot just wide of the Cat. This was soon followed by Chairman feeding Pete to be in a one-on-one stand-off with the Cat only for the keeper (who looked like the underdog in the situation) to make an outstanding save.
Amusing exchanges continued – we go well beyond footie “banter” – and I believe we are genuinely funny guys. When Deadeye, as referee, was told: “I didn’t know you could be booked for kicking the ball high!” our star striker and authoritative referee snapped back with: “That’s right. You can’t. But you can go in my book for dissent!” Touché.
With Mattie beginning to get into the game, this exchange was followed by the man from Harrogate shooting with power but slightly above Colin’s crossbar. At the other end, Beakie shot wide past the Cat but probably because everybody’s favourite Henry VIII actor had got his angles right. Deadeye was also prominent in this phase; he extracted several saves from Colin and in the last second of the match he fizzed a cross-field ball towards Ken the Bass. Such were the revs on it, had the St Leonards modern jazz legend been able to slide a toe in, I think it would have whistled past Colin. But it was far too much of an ask. Blues 0 Pinks 0.
Match 4 It was Pinks who stayed on, defending the top end with the Tangerine Dreamers assembling menacingly at the Rye Road End. No Bobby-style “Ooh-ooh-oohing!” but they appeared to mean business with de facto skipper Wingnut issuing some stirring words. He was now sitting just in front of Rick who had gone back in goal. For once, our keeper-drummer produced a wayward roll-out which fell to the engine room maestro for the Pinkos, Iron Russ. The ball struck Russ’s arm (which was in a natural position) and the contact was deffo accidental. Everybody – including I believe the keeper – stopped as Russ scored. Good sense prevailed. But Chairman hadn’t blown so if there were ever an object lesson for tomorrow: play to the whistle!
Not exactly end-to-end stuff but both sides were in it and Mattie got a crucial toe in to rob Dean as he was threatening to score. Moments later, Posh fed Deadeye who pinged a ball wide of Rick’s right upright.
Rick was in action moments later when KtB did well to feed Russ who tested the Orange keeper’s reflexes. Touchline had been quiet for the Pinks, but he found a pinpoint pass to Deadeye who again brought a good save from Rick. More active now, the plucky Welshman must have been perceived as a threat by Iron Russ. As the Welsh international went past our coach, he got a tug on his shirt. A blue card for Russ was the only option. Just on the whistle, Jim missed from close range. It wouldn’t have counted; the game was over. Pinks 0 Oranges 0.
Match 5 was Oranges vs Blues with Rick soon testing Colin with a first-time shot. And then, wonder of wonders, another goal. Beaky made an incisive move into space, advanced on goal while remaining composed and made Kevin (no mug in a game of who blinks first) commit himself. The finish was then simple. Oranges 0 Blues 1. But Oranges countered quickly with Jim forcing a low-down save from Colin. Then came the save of the day as Chairman passed to Pete who shot strongly only for Kevin to dart out a glove, get a few fingers on the ball and brush it wide.
Time and again, Blues assaulted Kevin’s goal (always from acute angles) but with menace only for the Tangos keeper to put in save after save. The most dangerous was a first-time toe-poke (I don’t regard this as crude or an insult as they do in Bexhill) from Beakie. A moment of high comedy ensued when, I think short of time or ideas, Doc simply blasted the ball at close range towards his teammate Pete only for the ball to smash off Pete back to Doc’s feet and this time be controllable. “The weirdest one-two I’ll ever see” said somebody. Oranges 0 Blues 1.
Match 6 was a goal fest – two goals as Blues played Pinks. We began with a disallowed goal for the Pinks as Iron Russ scored from a build-up that was adjudged by Kevin to have included a foul. The whistle sounded as Russ’ shot crossed the line. Another disallowed goal followed immediately for the Pinks when Posh was adjudged to have been inside the area when he beat Colin. New Colin (does he have a nickname – could it be Arsenal-related?) was beaten for real moments later when Ken the Bass got into the game with an assist, feeding Deadeye who finished well. Blues 0 Pinks 1.
A flurry of action now. Ken scored soon after but like Posh, was adjudged to have been in the area. And it was Hughie Canoe who did the walk of shame after an infringement that was considered a DoGSO (denial of goal-scoring opportunity.) Ever kind-hearted, Kevin let Hughie back on since there was little time on the clock. But the action wasn’t over.
After a marauding move down the right for the Blues, Posh found himself at close quarters with Colin at an acute angle on the near post. Only the pair of them will know what transpired. Maybe Posh used some chess psychology? He may have shaped to cross and done the Gooner keeper with his eyes. The ball sneaked in somehow. Blues 0 Pinks 2. With Kevin making to blow up, Pete was in a one-on-one with the Cat just as the whistle sounded. The shot went wide.
I am intrigued to know why Iron Russ had a bottle of Factor 50 suncream visible in his bag. Possibly a cast-off from Wondie after a holiday or he knows something we don’t.
Men of the Match. Barely know where to start. It was a delight to have Tim playing with us and he was hugging teammates for joy at the close. Dean is a massive asset. He has a good football brain, will shout the odds without being mouthy, and is fleet of foot with his close control. The most impressive player on the park was Legendary Rog. There are a few square yards midway up the right flank that he simply owns. He moves into them, looks up and either makes a pass or takes it on himself as he did once today. And his first touch is always excellent. I don’t buy the slightly patronizing: “Isn’t Roger coming on in leaps and bounds! Let’s give him the most improved player award.” Roger was always good.