You have to go back as far as December 1914 for the last time a set of troops decided to take a sabbatical from the trenches. Fast forward to April 2021 and the Old Tiffs Purple Army were returning from an enforced 3 month AWOL period from the trenches. All quiet on the East Molesey front……for now.
As is expected after such a lengthy break, the first weekend back saw a double header take place at fortress Grists. The opposition would come in the form of Old Grantonians, with Tiffs aware that they could ill afford any slip ups as they reconvened their title charge.
Skipper Sam Edgar had chosen his squad to cover potential injuries and fitness issues, including a return to the 3s fold for Steve Dwyer and a place in the squad for Adey, who has really suffered in lockdown with the QPR club shop being deemed non-essential retail. Otherwise it was a familiar looking squad, with an impressive array of hairbands/ clips and pony tails being sported.
The Tiffs were bound to be a bit rusty after such a long break and it showed as the first part of the double header got underway. Some misplaced passes, panic stations in key areas and a general unwillingness to try and play encapsulated a scrappy opening period, in which Tiffs were under pressure from an impressive Grantonians attack. However, having weathered the storm Tiffs came into the game. The majestic Tom Flynn went through on the Grants keeper with a trademark jinking run, rounding him, only to put his finish into the side netting (is this now a trademark Flynn finish?). That chance seemed to inspire Tiffs and before long they took a 1-0 lead, perhaps against the run of play. After having screamed for the ball 6,325 times, full back Rob Palmer finally received the ball in some space on the right flank. He fed a neat ball inside to playmaker Billy Zeqiri who played an exquisite through ball to Khaj who slotted past the visiting keeper. A real classy finish from a classy man.
Unfortunately the lead didn’t last long as Grants levelled a few minutes later. Some hesitancy from the Tiffs backline coupled with a few conscientious objectors in midfield allowed the Grants number 11 to drill home a left footed shot that heroic keeper Connor could do nothing about (for once!). 1-1 and the half time whistle soon followed.
The second half saw Tiffs start to gain control, getting more possession of the ball and looking to create attacking opportunities. Jez the valiant dog of war was grafting away in midfield as always. The defence was holding firm, with George Sullivan in particular nullifying the Grants threat, delivering his now legendary 7/10 weekly performance. However, as had been the tone for most of the match, another goal went in against the run of play. Grants had won a dubious corner and from the resulting inswinger it was bundled over the line. There were shouts of handball but to no avail and suddenly, with 15 minutes to play, Tiffs were facing a shock defeat that would send shockwaves across the coffee shops and gastro pubs of East Molesey (when they open of course). Skipper Edgar was making changes, trying to rally his side and Tiffs really started to dig in and graft away to try and at least rescue a point. A few near misses came and went and it looked for all the world that defeat was on the way as we went into injury time.. However, you just cannot write off the 3s and today was no exception – Tiffs were awarded a corner from the left. Set piece specialist Rob Palmer trundled over to take it, delivering his customary tender care to the corner flag in the process. Having assessed the options in the box he decided to shoot for goal straight from the corner and Grists erupted as the ball sailed into the net to secure a point with the final kick of the game ( if you wish to see something similar I would strongly advise going on Youtube to watch Artim Sakiri’s goal for Macedonia v England from 2002)
It wasn’t the best performance but hard work and spirit meant Tiffs gained a valuable point at the halfway point of the double header.
There were changes for the Tiffs for the second installment. A change of shape to a 3-5-2 meant The Careless Whisperer Harry was on at left wing back. PC Dom Lundie was now in a back 3 with the married men at the back, while Ash was back in his customary centre forward role as the outlet. Grants had made changes and Tiffs pounced nice and early. A vintage long throw from Flynn saw Khaj outjump his marker and glance a header across goal to give Tiffs a 1-0 lead within the first few minutes. Shortly after, it was 2-0 and it was that man again (he really is becoming the talisman of this team, he is someone you always want in the trenches when it matters) as Khaj scored again. It was a cross come shot from Flynn which I am told was heading for the bottom corner, but Khaj was there with a toe poke to poach his second of the game. I’m told that poaching is very much a hallmark of all the great estate agents of their time.
The game started to slow, with fitness being tested to the limit and the pace not as intense as the earlier game. Grants continued to cause problems, with a deflected shot being well saved by Connor in the Tiffs goal. A-Ron was putting in some meaty challenges in midfield while Ash and Khaj were working tirelessly. The Purple Army continued to look for the elusive 3rd goal to kill the game off but it sadly would never come.
Into the second half and the game had really slowed down by this point. Most players were going through the motions, dreaming of getting over to the brand spanking new picnic benches for a well earned rest. However, there was still work to do and the last 10 minutes saw some excellent game management from Tiffs, with a clear intent to still attack. Ash went close with a couple of chances and almost unbelievable Jez went through on goal from Right Back and was unlucky not to score, however there is only one Right Back who scores goals for this team.
The veteran stalwarts Sam and Rob were now at centre half together, putting the Grants attack on a tier 4 lockdown, while the unflappable Connor was solid in goal. Harry was repaying the faith in him from his skipper, with an outstanding performance on the left flank, enjoying plenty of freedom and telling the rest of the squad “I’m Your Man”.
And just like that the final whistle came, Tiffs securing a 2-0 victory meaning they had amassed 4 points from a possible 6. A good return on the first weekend back and while it may not have been the prettiest performance, it showed the grit and determination of this squad.
Men of the Matches brought to you by Sam the Handyman
MOTM Game 1 – Harry Littlejohn
MOTM Game 2 – George Sullivan