As the final game of the season for Barnstoneworth, there wasn’t a great deal of concern over this game, especially as Umina beat us 5-0 last time. For Umina though, the opposite was true, as Barnstoneworth’s 2-0 defeat of Avoca the week before had put Umina into the finals, meaning a victory today would make them minor premiers.
The ref lined us up before the game and told us he had a pocket full of cards and wasn’t afraid to use them. We soon discovered what he meant.
The first ten minutes of the game saw both sides testing each other, with Umina getting most of the ball and putting on a fair bit of pressure. Their usual adept passing game in the centre was disrupted by some pretty intense challenges from Barnstoneworth though, and a bit of frustration began to creep into their game. It was at this point that Will, unaccustomedly playing in the centres, failed to brake in sufficient time when challenging the Umina winger, and knocked him to the ground. The Umina player, incensed at what he perceived to be a deliberate elbow charge, leapt up and let one go to the back of Will’s head, which saw him marched off with a red card. No final for him unfortunately.
A few minutes later, Umina took a corner and their striker banged it hard into the crossbar. In goals, Simon grabbed it, but two Umina players (who appeared to be offside anyway) somehow managed to dislodge the ball and kicked it over the line. To the disbelief of the Barnstoneworth team, and amidst calls to the sideline for adjudication by the linesman, the ref awarded the goal.
By this stage it was becoming clear that the ref was not really in control of the game. Increasing physicality on both sides saw players go tumbling, with Jason and Ryan putting in some particularly effective tackles, and with Darryl solid as ever in the middle. Threats of violating parole conditions and curses were flying, yellow cards and penalties were being handed out with gay abandon, and there was much bemused head-shaking from both sides at some of the ref’s decisions. Umina’s tactic of loudly identifying every possible infringement was quite effective at swaying him, but it has to be said that a lot of the decisions were pretty randomly distributed.
Shortly before half-time, Umina had another corner and their kicker arced in absolute pearler of a ball that sailed into the corner of the net without anyone touching it, leaving Barnstoneworth down 2-0.
The team resolved to keep in the faces of the Umina players in the second half, as it seemed to be working. Having set himself a goal of lasting until five minutes before the end, Jason Bush embodied the half-time mission statement a little too enthusiastically, and managed to get a second yellow five minutes in to the second half.
With both tams down to ten-a-side, Umina piled on the pressure and kept the Barnstoneworth backs busy. Adam, Trevor and Brett did some hard chasing, while Luke was rock-solid with his clearing kicks. It wasn’t all Umina’s way though, and as the half wore on the tables started to turn. Pez took the ball up the sideline in one of many darting runs, and the defender, expecting him to duck and weave as he’d done on all previous occasions, got a surprise when Pez just ran right over him, Jonah Lomu style. Predictably, there was a penalty, but Barnstoneworth were mounting sustained pressure down the left wing, with Andy getting a few shots at goal, and eventually this pressure turned into a corner. Trevor lined up and lobbed it right to Pez’s feet, who smashed it like a cannonball into the net.
Shortly after, under about the fourth corner in a row, Simon got a fist to the ball and knocked it … just behind the post and in for an own-goal. A disappointing moment for the Barnstoneworth keeper in an otherwise top-quality defensive performance.
With a few minutes to go, the game had degenerated into a highly-enjoyable farce, with loud interjections from both sidelines, and jokes being exchanged between players amidst continued heavy tackling. Umina must have been relieved to hear the final whistle though: had the crossbar goal not been allowed, it would have been 2-1 for the last 30 minutes, a far less comfortable position when a minor premiership depends on it.
When they realised they’d finally won, Umina were cock-a-hoop, and why not? They took a celebratory team photo, sang a celebratory team song in the sheds, and did celebratory doughnuts in the carpark as they departed, leaving clouds of tyre smoke drifting over the field.
We wish them luck in the finals, they’re a consistently skilful team, although this game certainly revealed a chink in their armour.
Final result: 3-1 to Umina.
Postscript: apparently Umina failed to register for the game so it counts as a win to Barnstoneworth!