Q: What do the Barnstoneworth 35Cs and the best place to snort cocaine off a hooker have in common?
A: They’re both ‘off the bottom’
Yes, gentle reader, you read that aright. After a protracted period as pointless as the Eurovision Song Contest, we now have another 3 shiny points which doubles our total to a glorious 6. But let me tell you how it happened.
We were supposed to be playing again at Paddy Clifton Oval, something which precisely none of us were looking forward to, but presumably after some murky discussions between mercurial power brokers (I’m looking at you Dave Stef) in shadowed rooms somewhere, the match was moved to Ourimbah. This is probably an improvement, although the clear decision to only seed the middle third of the pitch seems odd, and frankly doesn’t suit a team such as ours that is used to playing sweeping runs down the flanks, using the full width of the park to great effect etc. But never mind, we gathered there ready for the first game since the last one, bolstered by optimism at our previous magnificent victory and also by the arrival of new player Tom, on a free transfer from Barnsley. He had actually made his debut in our victory against Mountains last time, but I didn’t want to mention him until I was sure he was properly registered – and yes, he was and is, he’s fully paid up and been given his Little Red Book by Our Glorious Leader(™), so we’re all jolly comrades together. Indeed some could draw attention to his arrival and the sudden change in our fortunes. More on this later.
So, kick off time approaches. Starting formation – check. Complex subs regime – check. Sadly depleted Kariong side due to (alleged) non-payment of registrations – check. For the first 10-15 minutes we were playing against only 10 men, but boy did we make it count. We started strongly with lots of talk and energy and were soon creating chances. Kariong defended well but the deadlock was broken after only about 7 or 8 minutes when your faithful scribe ran (really quite quickly actually) to pick up a loose ball in the far right corner, crossed it in to Leigh who turned and hammered it home. Much jubilation ensued. Buoyed by this positive start, we continued to play well, controlling the ball, passing and even moving occasionally, and we were further rewarded only a few minutes later when a through ball to Kent put him in a one on one with the keeper that was never in doubt. Kariong appealed for offside, perhaps with some justification, but without a linesman (Russian or otherwise) who knows? Certainly not the ref, who was too far away to tell and consequently (and correctly in my view) couldn’t give it – after all, the benefit of the doubt is supposed to be with the attacking team, am I right? This point in the game really set the tone for the rest of the afternoon; call it luck, call it divine intervention or just a long overdue cosmic re-balancing, but for once the close calls and 50-50 decisions seemed to be going our way – a very welcome change.
Kariong’s 11th man arrived but apart from making things a little tighter in midfield it didn’t seem to help them much. Our forwards and wingers had their back line repeatedly beaten for pace, and we could have extended our lead several times if either Tim or I could shoot straight. Eventually we did score a third, but this came from the penalty spot after the most obvious handball since Mexico 1986; Payney stepped up and coolly slotted it past the keeper as he has done so many times before. Death, taxes and Payney’s penalties, three things on which you can rely. There then followed a shaky ten minutes as we struggled to organise ourselves and started to panic a bit on the ball, but solid defending with some immense headers from Della and clearances from Harry steadied the ship.
So 3-0 at halftime, and as Sam Smith once sang, ‘we’ve been here before’. Memories of last season’s Massacre at Kariong Hill were no doubt uppermost in our minds as this was exactly the situation at half time that fateful day. However, we are not the same team we were then, and we did not suffer the same fate. We trotted back out and again started strongly, maintaining the pressure on an increasingly tired Kariong team who, like Switzerland, had no subs (think about it). Time and again we built a strong attack from the back, with great work in particular from Nick and Jon, and not far into the second half Leigh once again found himself in a scoring situation which he duly converted to make it 4-0. There were further protests for offside but the ref was clearly not moved, although perhaps we were conscious that we were getting more than our fair share of luck. How else to explain what happened next, when Tom was put through on goal in a clearly offside position without a whistle from the ref? He could have blasted it past the keeper but, conscious that the Kariong players had stopped instead he put it across the goal to Kent where the attack fizzled out. It doesn’t happen to us often, but when you’re 4-0 up you can afford to be magnanimous, and keep the moral high ground. Which is important. Kind of.
Did I say 4-0? I meant 5-0. Having had the goal surrounded for most of the match Tim finally got his name on the score sheet and in so doing put the match beyond any doubt. We kept up the pressure right until the final whistle, and greeted it with raptures when it arrived. Five lovely goals and three more beautiful points. Also a clean sheet – I could say something sarcastic here about Pierre and clean sheets, but I won’t. The truth is he was rarely troubled, and easily kept out what few shots Kariong had.
All in all a solid effort across the park. Man of the match went to Nick for tireless work at the back and pushing forward when he had the opportunity, followed by Leigh and Tim tied for second, and Jon in third; deservedly honoured all four. But the truth is we all played well and did so as a team. Special mention should also go to Tom, not least for his solid work in midfield – he’s a hard man to muscle off the ball – but also for what must surely be now known as ‘the Barnsley effect’. Unbeaten since his arrival. Magnificent work chaps. National recognition must surely be just around the corner.
Final Score: Barnstoneworth 5 – 0 Kariong