Tiffs 6 Claygate Royals 0

Scorers: Seabrook 1, Arlow 1, Houghton 1, Lee 1, Barnett 2

Dave Smith
Trevor Huggins
Simon Burton
Simon Baile
Pete Markham
Pete Stephens
Steve Moodley
Matt Seabrook
Michael Barnett
Oscar Omo
Bruce Houghton
Rob Lee
Warren Arlow
Nigel Sprunt
Dave Gardner

The Old Tiffs vets got the season off  to the best possible start with a six nil home victory over Claygate Royals on Saturday.
Before kick off rumours abounded that the opposition had been training all summer, and they certainly looked readier than Tiffs before the game, on the pitch 30 minutes early and going through their routines.

But after riding out the first 20 minutes – when Claygate harried and hustled and disrupted any rhythm the T’s laboured to develop, the home team got a break.

Seemingly out of nothing Oscar Omo was through with the keeper to beat. Was it a shot, was it a pass? Who knows, but it ended up as an assist. Matt Seabrook was there to tuck it past a despairing keeper.

Not long after, Tiffs got another break, when a rare excursion into the opposition box resulted, correctly, in a penalty.

Rob Lee, who had not been on the pitch more than a couple of minutes, seized the ball Zlatan-style, waving off other applicants for the spot kick. Zlatan-like, he converted with no bother, 2-0.

Tiffs goal then came under pressure as the Royals upped the ante. One shot thundered against the cross section of bar and post, then they were awarded their own penalty when Markham, caught two versus one, lunged to block and connected with the already toppling attacker. Contentiously given, the penalty was comprehensively saved, keeper Dave Smith’s dive to the right pushing the ball clear from danger to cheers from the home team.

The teams changed ends at 2-0 and – with the third goal vital – it was Tiffs who grabbed it on the break, the ball being worked out of defence to Rob Lee on the right, who put Warren Arlow in the clear. Faced with the keeper rushing to block on the angle of the box, Wazza shifted his feet and deftly past the ball into the empty net. Daylight for Tiffs, who started to sense this was their day.

This sense was confirmed a few minutes later when, during a period of pressure on the Claygate box, Rob Lee controlled a high ball into the path of Bruce Houghton. The midfielder, who had been enjoying a terrific game in midfield, hit the ball on the volley from outside the area and it whistled into the net for Tiffs’ fourth, and best so far.

Events were not finished though, far from it in the case of Michael Barnett. The busy left midfielder dispossessed his counterpart on the flank and evaded two tackles, bordering on desperate fouls, to put himself clear. Claygate’s keeper tried to make himself big but Mike finished with aplomb for number five.

Non playing skipper Craig Walker – pulling the strings from the side lines like a virtuoso violinist – substituted both Pete-named central defenders, making sure all members of the Tiffs 15 got a good shift. And though the away team seemed to take some encouragement from the change, it was Tiffs who finished off the scoring.

Barnett it was again who scored what would have been the goal of the game; George Best once scored a beauty in which he hoisted a lob into the far top corner and the Tiffs man appeared to have matched him with a wonder strike. His celebration though, suggested all may not have been as it seemed and – sadly for those who appreciate a moment of wonder – he revealed later it was a mishit cross.

No matter. Tiffs finished the weekend top of the league, and in fine fettle, every man doing himself proud. A promising start to the new season.