Karate injuries, weird rooms and Mrs Kuldeep’s laundry, meant the usual surreal build up to what Captain Marvel had labelled as the “biggest game of the season” for the IIs (never mind the battle for league survival). Unofficial reports have it that the Is captain had a different mentally to the game, with an inspiring team talk consisting of “we’ll play as we always do and we’ll easily have them… Just watch out for their number 6”. Being IIs boys we obviously can’t confirm whether the first part of the statement was correct (it might be…), the second part was…well…not quite right and for the third, Mrs Kuldeep would be proud as punch.
After morale for over half the team had been destroyed by an uncharacteristic Avery master class during the warm up, the game kicked off with the Is trailing 10-11 (it wasn’t the only thing they trailed by 1, but more about that later).
The first ten minutes saw some good chances come and go for the IIs, with (only) the ball preventing these opportunities from being taken. The Is were then buoyed by the arrival of their eleventh man and at the same time the IIs were concerned that the end was nigh for their number 6, having made it abundantly clear with both his words and actions that it was all too much for him. However, the Is jubilation didn’t last long. A well worked move led Avery to spot Hook on the left, who then slipped the ball between the defenders for Bettis to strike it from a tight angle on his weaker left foot (a point that the Is defence consistently noted…whoops). 1-0 IIs. Some more slick football by the IIs led to a few more chances being created, and save for an attempted through ball from Peake with the outside of his left peg, the Is posed little threat to the IIs solid back line, who had limited them to a few long range efforts (some coming closer than others). Half time, 1-0 IIs.
The second half started in similar vein to the first. Plenty of tackles and plenty of throw ins. The Is started to have a bit more possession in the middle of the park, but never really troubled the IIs back line in the final third. Some heroics from Ralph in the IIs goal meant that when he was called into action the clean sheet never really looked in doubt. Some neat possession football created a few more chances for the IIs to secure the game, the best falling for Burns-Peake who, having burst through the heart of the Is defence, couldn’t convert his low drive, forcing the keeper into a good save. With the centre mid trio of Hollamby, Kimber and Mrs Kuldeep’s son constantly breaking up the play, the Is couldn’t capitalise on their increased possession and the game, in an uncharacteristic manner, was calmly seen out by the IIs (minus the 18 yard strike against the post and any last minute hopeful balls into the box). A thoroughly deserved win for the IIs and for the second time in the day Mrs Kuldeep would be proud as her son picked up the MOTM award. Despite Peake’s best efforts that’s now two clean sheets in three for the IIs, a run they’ll be looking to take into the final three games of the season.