OTFC IIIs match report – vs. @MicksFC IIs in the League 7 South (@AmateurFC):

The team sheet sent round for our 16th league game of the season included only 11 names and no goalkeeper. This didn’t seem a promising start, but the bright weather and gloriously old fashioned country village atmosphere of Mickleham made such concerns seem parochial. The wedding in the church outside Box Hill School made the entire area look like a movie scene, and we were determined to play good football against a team much higher up in the league.

Discussion in our changing room was wide ranging. Topics raised were: the attitude of the players away this week on a stag do; who might be keen to play in goal; and where our Spanish recruits were from. There were no volunteers to go in goal, but it was agreed that a rotation system would be implemented. Ciarán Morris suited up in the light green shirt for the first half and almost looked imposing and confident as we headed out across the brook and through the nettles to the pitch. There were still only 10 of us since debutant Tom Myatt was running late but he had promised to be at the pitch as soon as possible.

The warm up involved a tame shot, a wayward shot and then an upswing in Morris’s fortunes and a corresponding downswing in Aaron Langford’s as the striker tweaked his hamstring taking a shot and immediately volunteered to go in goal for the game. The team then lined up with Langford in goal, Nico Telfer at left back, a new centre back duo of Andy Dickenson and Thishi Surendranathan and James Archidona at right back. The midfield was Morris, Ben Williams (plus a still to arrive Myatt) and Pat Marks, with Arnau Gimenez and Colin Avery up front.

In a tentative opening from both sides Mickleham were unable to make their extra man tell, though they sent a shot wide and Avery wasn’t far away from breaking through their defence. There was good news from OTFC though, as Myatt suddenly appeared walking through a field towards the pitch, and then putting on a pair of ugly boots. Now 11 on 11 Tiffinians were playing the ball around well, with the defence often setting the tone, Dickenson and Archidona charging forward from the back and Telfer getting on the end of an Avery pass in the area and nearly scoring.

Mickleham then grabbed a goal, following a mix up in midfield and then a quick pass setting a player free in the area to fire past Langford. Tiffs stayed in the game and clever passing and running from Williams and Marks in midfield troubled the opposition’s defence. The sharp-eyed referee then gave a penalty against OTFC for a handball by Archidona. The friendly advice of “bottom left” from Avery to the opposition penalty taker was followed but Langford had obviously been listening and made a good save and then swept the rebounding ball away from the players following up.

More chances arrived for OTFC, Avery controlling a cross from Morris and forcing the keeper into a save, Gimenez cutting inside a defender just missing the target, a volleyed cross from Morris passing untouched across the six-yard box and a shot from distance from Myatt.

Half time arrived and we remained confident because of the trouble we were causing Mickleham and knew more chances would arrive. The defence continued to play very well, Langford with loud instructions from the goal and Surendranathan expertly shepherding attackers outside and not giving them a chance to shoot. The opposition was left with little other than shooting from distance, one fearsome thump bloodying the nose of one of their teammates.

Then the Tiffs goal finally arrived, a flick on from Morris to Avery, who avoided the chasing defender for an age before crossing to the area for an onrushing Williams … who stood on the ball and nearly fell over, but kept his balance and played a measured pass to Gimenez who swerved in his fifth goal for the OTFC IIIs.

Further opportunities presented themselves, Morris was unable to get a shot away in the area, Avery attempted to lob the very tall goalkeeper, Marks landed an outrageous chip on the roof of the net and then a mishit goal kick arrived at the feet of Williams 40 yards from goal, but his return shot was calibrated for a goal 60 yards away and sailed over the crossbar.

The end of the game was approaching and our play remained at a high level, with Williams prominent and incisive in the middle, until after a couple of opposition corners in a row in the 88th minute one came all the way through the area and was put in off the back post to make the score 2-1. Tiffinians then flooded forward, desperate for one last chance which should have arrived in the final seconds as the Mickleham substitute right back clearly handled in their area, his arms waving above his head, and then grabbing his face as if he had been hit a la Steven Taylor. The referee’s whistle remained silent though … until he blew it to signal the end of the game a few seconds later, consigning OTFC to a 2-1 defeat, but an excellent performance from all 11, especially those in defence, with Dickenson winning the man of the match award.