There are nights that people look back on in their sporting careers and say ‘yes, that was the pinnacle of my talent, the moment where it all came together, where the gods agreed to grant me the perfect performance, where the years of practise, training, sacrifice and pain finally paid off and I always knew that nothing would touch it and it would all be down-hill from here’. Last night was that moment for Jayson and his linesman’s flag.

Cometh the hour, cometh the raised flag. In the face of unadulterated abuse and threats of physical violence from the opposition (*EDITOR NOTE – MUST CHECK IF ANY OF THIS ABUSE AND THREAT OF VIOLENCE HAD BEEN PROVOKED IN THE FIRST HALF – CAN’T IMAGINE SO GIVEN JAYSON’S CLEAN TRACK RECORD, BUT WORTH CHECKING BEFORE PUBLICATION) Jayson and his faithful flag stood tall and delivered when it mattered most. To do so whilst also continuing a flirtatious, come-to-bed tete-a-tete with the oppositions centre-forward was nothing short of world class.

But I’m getting ahead of myself (and Paul Banoub is already frustrated that I haven’t mentioned the scorers yet) so let me rewind to the start.

A surprisingly on-time squad (note-to-self – must play in professional stadium facilities more often) rendezvoused in an unusually clean and well-laid-out dressing room to discuss tactics, strategy, why Nick had dressed like he was an extra from Miami Vice 1987 and how Paul Banoub has scored at Wembley – ask him, he’ll be happy to tell you 😉

The oppo were old foes – who’d spent the last couple of years teaching us a football lesson in various leagues (apart from that friendly Jed will remind you about when we kicked them off the pitch). But hopes were high, the pitch was flat, and the crowd were beginning to both assemble.

3-5-2. Play through the phases. Protect the ball. Relax. Try not to mess up. All of those things are spoken and very often ignored week in week out in pre-match huddles. But not this time. The game started and Tiffs went toe-to-toe with their opponents (ankle to ankle if you’re Mark). Refusing to be intimidated by Usain Bolt’s faster brother playing upfront, Tiffs played some excellent football through the middle of the park – Mark, Diz and Nick were aggressive out of possession, and calm and progressive with the ball at their feet. Colin and Tim were tireless up and down both wings offering both attacking outlets and defensive stability. JB threw himself into challenges from minute one and Sniffer strolled around controlling the game like a cross between Captain Birds-Eye and Virgil Van Dyke.

Jayson and Nigel were a great physical presence and outlet up front (I think I heard the oppo call Jayson a great physical presence a couple of times but it was difficult to make out from their muffled cries under Jayson’s latest crunching mauling) and Shaun in goal…..well, more about Shaun in goal later.

The game was niggly from the start. Little kicks going in behind the ref’s back, little nudge in the shoulder here, subtle block there, full unadulterated physical assault happening up front. Neither side was giving an inch, and in all honesty the first goal could have gone either way. However, it was Tiffs who grabbed it – a cross from the right catching Jayson in one of the few moments he wasn’t questioning the parentage of a member of the opposition back line to stick out a foot to divert the ball into the bottom corner. Great reaction finish. 1-0 – and in no way did the scoreline flatter the hosts.

Half-Time came – Jayson came off to take up the flag in a moment that none of us realised at the time would be career-defining, to be replaced by Banoub. Simon had replaced an injured Diz. Viv had come on for a limping Nick. But the team came out repeating the mantra of ‘keep our shape’ and ‘hold the ball’.

Well, one out of two ain’t bad…..

A second half reminiscent of the Alamo was to pass – waves after waves of baddie black shirted forwards increasingly desperate to find the equaliser and then surely the winner. But the Tiffs – and I write this with a proud tear in my eye – stood firm. The discipline to keep shape was immense, everyone worked incredibly hard to stay goal side of their own man, there was great communication throughout, positivity, guts, strength, Sniffer coordinating like a conductor, Jayson making all the right calls from the line, and Shaun snuffing out absolutely everything that was thrown, kicked or crossed his way. What a performance from the big man in goal – he was nothing short of immense. The oppo could have played all night and not have beaten him. Crosses were plucked out of the air, shots repelled, great distribution, it was an all round masterpiece of a performance and certainly wins this scribes MVP (on a pitch full of MVPs).

30 mins to go
20 mins to go
Increasingly desperate and regular questions were asked of the ref about how long was left.
All the time management tricks came out of the box
And my oh my how the oppo hated it!!

And then, having been forced (with not much enthusiasm it has to be said) back on by Mark suggesting that he had a bit of a poorly head and needed a nice lie-down, Nick took up the ball on the left (from initially some great work by Sniffer) and from somewhere managed to find the energy to get to the by-line and to the cry of ‘tekkers’ from the crowd pulled it back for Banoub to smash it in. 2-0 and the visitors began to realise it wasn’t going to be there day

Minutes later a big pump up the pitch from The Wall fell to Banoub who instinctively used the outside of his boot to lob the advancing keeper. 3-0 game over, the oppo knew it, and so did Banoub who was already editing in his mind the highlight video

The squad celebrated long and hard on the pitch, and then went to make the most of the only decent showers we’re likely to get all year. The crowd both went mad and attempted a pitch invasion before deciding that it was quite a long way away.

Great performance lads, everyone should be rightly proud of their individual efforts, and those aching limbs this morning were absolutely worth it – especially for the look on the oppos faces as we celebrated amongst them on the final whistle…..