After the storm of scandal and fiasco generated by his last match report, your correspondent approached this one with considerable trepidation. Fortunately though, the match in question today was one fought between two equally-matched sides who both played with gusto, and it could have gone either way quite easily.
From the sideline, the game appeared to start in slow motion, but after a few minutes the pace picked up, with both sides challenging the goal mouth and a fierce competition for the ball in the centres. As always, Darryl was rock-solid in the middle, receiving goal kicks, making headers and generally intimidating the opposition. Rahn and Ramin on the flanks also got in there and mucked up a series of pass attempts by Southern Ettalong’s centres.
After twenty minutes it was nil-all and anyone’s game, when a long pass from Trevor found Pez on the wing. He headed for the corner at speed, deftly moved the ball around the fullback, cut inside and banged it into the corner of the net to a rousing cheer.
Two minutes later he repeated the performance, but crossed it to Andy, who closed on the goalmouth, kicked and missed by a foot. This kind of thing continued for the last ten minutes of the half with no result, while Southern Ettalong started to get some traction down their left wing and made some strong attacks on the home side’s goal, one going wide, another brilliantly batted away over the crossbar by Simon, who was having an absolute blinder in goals.
Given that Southern Ettalong beat us 5-1 in the first game of the season, coming off one-up at half time was an impressive turn-around. But true-to-form, we took the foot off the pedal in the first ten minutes of the second half, and Southern Ettalong came down the right wing, crossed, and their striker smashed it so hard we thought it would penetrate the net. Having stopped several similarly powerful kicks already, Simon was caught wrong-footed on this one and it was one-all.
Barnstoneworth rallied and launched a series of attacks on the Ettalong goal, with Trevor making one particularly impressive incursion from fullback straight through the centres. Pez, Andy, Tom and Brett all had shots, some of which went wide, some of which were simply botched in ways no-one could understand, another of which, from a penalty, would have made an excellent conversion kick.
The forwards’ dogged persistence paid off though, and Andy’s next strike found mass confusion in the goalmouth, the goalie on his knees, and a Southern Ettalong player inadvertently knocking a certain goal away with an instinctive hand movement. Expectations of a red card were quickly dashed, but Tom lined up the free kick and nailed it. 2-1 with 20 to go.
Southern Ettalong were now finding gaps in our centre, and despite some powerful chasing and tackling from Adam, Nigel and Luke at the back, they found their way in again down the left flank and their striker managed to level the scores.
With five minutes left to run, a goalkick lofted to Dave on the left, and he dashed down the sideline, manoeuvred his way into and out of the corner, came back to what must have been at least 45 metres from the goalmouth and laid into it with a will. Goal! Much rejoicing and cheering on the sideline.
The last five minutes were a welter of defence against a determined Southern Ettalong attack, but they found themselves pressured into the sideline one too many times and eventually the whistle blew time on a tough but enjoyable game.
Afterwards there was talk of the team becoming ensconced in the top 4 of the ladder. This might be too comfortable a word, but if we can keep putting in performances like today’s we’d have to have our feet firmly on some of the rungs.
Final result: 3-2 to Barnstoneworth.