Sunday midday, and a fine day for OTFC 3s(ish) and 4s to stretch out their legs in the glorious sun at Grists. A couple of minor cock-ups led to a slight reshuffle in the two teams with 3 players agreeing to play with less than an hour until kick off. The 3s, bolstered by 1s Seb Rose, Ollie Robini and Greg Nutt, as well as Luke Peake from the 2s, ended up as the victorious side, with an experimental(/very well-bolstered) 3-5-2 formation.

Both sides started well in the midday sun with some nice passing, good positioning and interesting technique. Early on came the first goal of the game, and it was a beauty. Joe Yates, who kept up his form of scoring in every friendly match he has played in, picked up the ball some 30 yards out, and swept it in to the top-left corner. Take a bow son. Hurst, in goal for the 4s, was left completely helpless.

The 3s were clearly benefiting from the youth and pace of wing-backs Ruane and Robini, who broke past the 4s’ midfield on a number of occasions in to dangerous areas, and then managed to get back in time once the breaks inevitably broke down, when stand-in skipper Conrad Bell would nick the ball away from an attacker, chip it over his (Lewis’) head and calmly play the ball out from the back, having just playfully shouted something along the lines of “All they’ve got is the long-ball” and “You shall not pass!” All in good spirits, of course.

The 4s were looking dangerous soon after the opening goal, with Stephen Dwyer, Michael Peake and Ed Lambourn playing the ball nicely between each other whilst running hard at the 3s’ back three. On one such occasion, when the ball was swung in to the 3s’ box, an awkwardly bouncing ball popped up, and appeared to strike (unquestionably) Dan Jackson’s arm. Jackson’s reaction? Questioning the referee’s judgement and pointing to the upper-left corner of his chest, pleading his innocence. Tiffs just want to win. The man was as guilty as OJ, penalty given. Stephen Dwyer, the club’s golden boot winner calmly sent Rose the wrong way, and it was 1-1. Game on.

Nerves developed amongst the 3s with a few hacks at the ball and big tackles from Luke Peake preventing the 4s from taking the advantage from the momentum they had gained. Peake, playing in a deep role stormed forward when the space appeared and following on from a long ball, did what Peakes (with the exception of Matt, Michael, Dan and Steve) do best…tackled the goalkeeper and the ball cruelly bounced in to the 4s’ net. A quick third goal came from nippy debutant José Marquez, who stroked the ball in, following a quick break from the 3s.

On more than one occasion, strong knees from Matt Hurst prevented a 4th goal for the 3s, and all of a sudden, it was half time, and the 3s led 3-1.

The second half was another nervy start from the 3s. Lambourn came close with two efforts from the far left edge of the area, and the 3s were fortunate to have Seb Rose holding the ball well and sweeping up behind them when the defensive line were caught out too high up the pitch. However, the fitness from the 3s’ younger players (bolsterers) soon proved their worth and three goals quickly followed from Marquez and Peake. Luke Peake got his head in the way of a low cross to knock it in past Hurst, and then followed up with a calm, curled finish to complete his hat trick. I imagine that sentence hasn’t been written many times…

Cruelties for the 4s followed, and the 3s scored two more, another for Peake and an unfortunate own goal completed the victory. 8-1 was the final scoreline, though it was mentioned after the game that if the bolsterers had been shared a little more evenly, the scoreline may have been considerably different.

Congratulations to Luke Peake for winning man of the match, finishing with four goals, an assist and a Thug Life moment having shamelessly hacked down Ed Lambourn (did he apologise? Did he ‘eck. See above: Tiffs just want to win).

Other mentions should go to José Marquez scoring two on his debut, and welcome returns for Lewis Baister (back from injury), Laurence Hinton (LAD Bible duties) and Greg Nutt (who refused to come on as a substitute in order to finish having a ‘chat’).

Hopefully more friendlies will come over the summer months, and it was fantastic to have pulled together 26 players for the summer fixture. Charlie Hughes also deserves…criticism, pulling out of the match on the day, and then showing up to the ground with incorrect kit, leaving just before kick-off. Fine: £10.00.