Croxley Green Vets 2s 1 – Old Tiffs Vets 2s 2

Last league game of what’s been a long season, though not quite as long as the journey on the M25 today actually to get to Croxley (or their clubhouse afterwards).

But a strong Tiffs squad made the schlep despite some still recovering from last weekend’s Jersey tour (and well done lads on bringing home the much coveted FairPlay award). But this was Rickmansworth and there was to be no resting on laurels.

With the late April sunshine and a huge bobbly pitch we opted for a 3-5-2 formation with the team-talk including the usual guff about staying compact, winning the second ball and above all…..enjoying ourselves.
Well something must have resonated because Tiffs came out the traps like a team possessed and for the first 20 minutes enjoyed a ridiculous amount of possession. Rather then fearing the space afforded by the humungous pitch, Tiffs were positively revelling in it, none more so than our midfield dynamo Jed Butcher (more later). There’s this thing that I’ve read about in the posh papers, commentators on telly talk about it, it’s called recycling the ball. And blow me down with a feather, at times Tiffs were stroking the ball around nonchalantly and doing that thing they talk about called recycling. Unheard of. But what a joy. Front to back. Inside outside. At times Croxley were reduced to spectators. And Tiffs were creating chances to boot, opening up Croxley’s defence like a tin of sardines (it’s the season’s last Match report, and I’m shoehorning in all the cliches). It wasn’t long before Jed had the ball close to the half way line, Banoub dropped deep and showed for the ball, his defender following him, little ball to feet, a sublime ball heal from Banoub and Jed was away, the whole pitch opening up in front of him. Just the keeper to beat but we’ve seen these missed, but not today. Jed gave the keeper the eyes and slotted the ball in cooly to the keepers left. 1-0.
Though Tiffs continued with more possession Croxley started to get themselves back into it and it became more of an even contest. The back three were more than up for the contest, JB was sticking to Croxleys best player by a country mile no.27 like glue, not giving him an inch to manoeuvre. Love that defending JB. Sniffer, leaving it a bit late to make his season’s debut (I reckon only because he can tell the grandchildren he’s played 65 successive seasons at Tiffs!) was his imperious self, mopping up any loose balls, winning header after header and marshalling his young apprentices Josh and JB as if they were his own kids (maybe they are!).

The midfield trio of Marky Mark, Jed and yours truly remained comfortable in the middle of the park, happy to collect the ball and move it on neatly, sometimes side to side, and then finding that pass into our forwards Banoub and the ever youthful Dave Harry (who by the way covered acres, coming short, going long. Love it). Wing-backs Read and Baile also were getting a fair amount of joy on the flanks, covering ground and pinging in crosses. Never seen before. Precisely one such move found Baile on the flank outside the penalty box, with time to measure a cross Baile (Maddison-like) beautifully, delicately crossed the ball and picked out Jed who dispatched the ball on the volley gratefully into the back of Croxley’s net. Get in you beauty. 2-0. Peep peep. Half time. Drinks washed down with the usual half time guff about shape and fight and belief. Oh, and the next goal being the vital one. And so it proved. Nearly.

Couple of minutes in and collecting a back pass Jay decided he was Bukayo Saka and took on their forward, a tackle, a slight mistouch and the forward accepted the invitation to throw himself to the ground in rather dramatic fashion. Penalty. It was tense. I half thought the Croxley player was going to do a Solly March. Instead he went low, to Jay’s right who dived the right way, got a hand to the ball but not quite enough to prevent it hitting the back of the net. 2-1.
2-1. Game on.

To Tiffs credit, there was no shrinking. In fact quite the opposite. With fresh legs in the form of Del, Pete Bishop and Viv, Tiffs continued to take the game to Croxley. Del in particular was on fire, back after a short absence he was really putting himself about. Chasing everything down and not allowing Croxley defence to settle. And that created further Tiffs chances which we weren’t quite able to convert but our pressure was growing. Croxley meanwhile were themselves going for it. Their no. 27 was a tricky little blighter, twisting and turning (how we didn’t concede another penalty to him, I’ll never know. I did try but couldn’t quite get close enough to him). JB was reduced to a grovel. Players came on and off. Dave Harry ending up in the back three alongside Josh and Baile. So disgusted was Baile at this he decided to knee Josh in the head in protest. Sparko on the ground Josh was seeing stars. The ref jogs over and just may have attempted a little levity, up springs Josh “concussion bleep concussion you bleep”. Without hesitation the Ref reached into his pocket and draws out his red card. With no Big Dave Smith present to defend the young warlock, he was off to an early bath. With 15 minutes to play, the heat beating down us and Croxley smelling blood, it was backs against the wall and defend for your lives boys. And defend we did. Jay scrambling the ball away. Sniffer clearing. JB limping. Their no 27 ghosting one way then the other. Please don’t bring him down. Peep peep. And that’s your lot for the season boys. 2-1 against third in the division. You see we can play some bloody decent football.

The season haul looks like this:
14 games played, 15 points. 5 wins, 9 defeats. Finished 6th in a tight league. Just 4 more points and we finish 3rd! I hope everyone’s who’s played V2s this season has enjoyed it. I’ve had a blast. Not all the results have gone our way but the wins have more than made up for the lows (have I mentioned Ascot lately). It’s been a pleasure leading you boys out this season. Here’s to season 23-24. When we’ll be a tiny bit older but a lot lot fitter! Cheers lads.