Fronting up with half your team missing is never a good place to start, but Brett Fenton had done a sterling job recruiting some players from D-Grade North for this catch-up game, so we ran on to Paddy Clifton Oval with eleven players, with one sub expected to turn up eventually. After a delay finding a match ball, the game started, with no less than two linesmen and an audience from passing trains.
It soon became evident that Barnstoneworth had the legs of East Gosford, especially in the centres, and within the first five minutes Dave Rankin scored with a hard shot to the corner of the net. Ramin and Washington began carving them up in the middle, both putting on some spectacular displays of footwork that saw the ball put through to Pez and Dave repeatedly, leading to prolific shots at goal. The East Gosford keeper was nothing short of phenomenal though, and either caught or batted away about ten attempts that would have been sure things against any other team in this grade.
Eventually though, the pressure told, and Pez put one home after a long ducking and weaving run down the left flank with a strong return from the corner that found the goalie wrong-footed at the crucial moment.
Meanwhile, things were heating up in the centre, with a bit of shoulder coming in, and with ten to go in the first half, Ramin copped an elbow to the nose that saw him head to the sideline seeing stars. Minutes later, Ivan at sweeper was awarded a free kick at about 51 metres out, and, to collective disbelief, hoofed it hard over the goalie’s head to score, making it 3-zip at the break.
In the second half, East Gosford had a bit more of a spring in their step, and the Barnstoneworth backs found themselves challenged down both flanks. Ryan and Will scrambled to counter, and in goals Pat made save after save, but, despite their best efforts, one of these assaults led to a corner, followed by an absolute pearler of a goal from a header by the East Gosford striker. They followed that up minutes later with a goal from a penalty and suddenly it was 3-2 with ten to go.
The Barnstoneworth forwards, having been relatively idle during this defensive period, were now thoroughly rested, and when Mick hoofed one up front, Pez seized on it, took it straight through the melee and ended up in a confused mass of players at the goalmouth, where the ball ricocheted off no less than four players before sailing over the bar.
Undeterred, Barnstoneworth came back hard and put Dave into position to dribble one onto the line goal-line with two minutes to go. There was some dispute about whether it crossed, but then the linesman—whose good name had been impugned earlier by the referee—held sway, and the goal was awarded.
Final result: 4-2 to Barnstoneworth.
Editor’s note: For those of you who don’t know, the ground is named after the legendary A.O. “Paddy” Clifton, a timber cutter, who was the cricketing phenomenon of the Central Coast in the early 1900s, hitting numerous centuries, and the grandfather of one Australia’s greatest cricketers, Alan Davidson.