John Fisher seemed a strong side, having dominated their opening fixtures, but a win today would take the Ts joint top – perhaps the strongest start in living memory.
Some Tiffs may remember a previous encounter here where the oppo ‘hotboxed’ their changing room at half time, but today was the opposite: no changing room facilities (just a hallway leading to a smoking area), a cold wind… the only ‘munchies’ here were a collective hunger for goals.
Captain Yates nobly started himself on the bench from the luxury of the opponent’s dugout (and later evading a self sub fine for the very same); the Ts were instead led to charge by Dicky, continuing his 6-year coin toss loss streak, an existential feat of Stoppardian proportions.
The playing conditions made it difficult – the ground refused our ability to accelerate, turn, or slow (no different from usual), and the wind swayed any aerial attacks; a portrait of this fixture could well have been titled ‘men in the air, balls on the ground’.
The scene was set for agricultural football at its most literal, proving the industrial revolution went astray and that the most efficient model of the plough would be to organise an AFC Division 4 South fixture before seeding the new crop.
Ben Harrison, Bambi and Tom battled exceptionally in the middle, disrupting any opposition attempt to pass through the middle. Our defensive line stood up well, forcing speculative efforts to fizz wide; Tom (GK) was barely tested in the opening twenty minutes. Joe, having orchestrated a triple sub, found himself through on goal and forgot rule number one: ‘Always go down’ and opted for the strategy of wearing their keeper down via ball-retrieval cardio.
0-0 at the break, we turned back into the wind for more. Unfortunately, we conceded a low header from a bit of a scramble at the near post, 1-0 to the bad guys.
There was some outstanding willpower on display to bounce back, particularly from Chippy who barrelled through a few men on the left before placing a cross well into Thad who thudded it into the keeper. We were knocking at the door and some built some good attacks through from Steve and Joe. Still, a tactical switch was needed, and the Ts went for the rare trump card of playing 12 men – not an unoptimistic strategy given the ref’s attentiveness.
This gave us the emotional boost we needed, and we got one back only for it to be called offside (note to self, don’t intercept shots on target) – it felt like the game was about to swing back to the good guys.
Alas, it was not to be. Their left back evaded our defences, and snuck in to place the ball inside our far post. 2-0.
Play resumed, and after a good retrieval (arguable backpass) into those safe Nichols arms, their LB, perhaps on a goal scoring high, channelled the Catholic Bishop himself, squaring up to the referee screaming ‘A good man is not a perfect man; a good man is an honest man, faithful and unhesitatingly responsive to the voice of God in his life’, although it did sound to this author a lot like ‘you f****** c***’.
Perhaps intimidated by the almighty rage of their 3, we only pieced together a few unconvincing attacks afterwards, and the game closed at 2-0 to the bad guys.
An interesting piece of game theory ensued for MOTM as Ben Harrison failed to receive a single vote, given his start to the season perhaps everyone now votes with him as the assumed winner? The well-deserved winner this week was Dan Jackson, having channelled his inner Sol Campbell, as he received the skipper’s decision in a rare threeway between Jackson, Tom, and Steve.
John Fisher refused the Hamptoncourtmen here, however, their namesake’s refusal of the original Hamptoncourtman, Henry VIII, ultimately led to the Bishop’s execution. Let us channel this stinging insult for their pending arrival at Fortress Grists.
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