Sinjuns Old Grammarians Vets 1-2 Old Tiffinians Vets
What counts as glory for a football team depends on their circumstances. For Tiffs Vets, this season, it doesn’t get any better than what happened on Saturday.
Sinjuns Old Grammarians, top of the league having won all eight of their matches this calendar year, needed to beat bottom of the league Tiffs to seal the title. Old Tiffs, for their part, lost 6-0 to these opponents on the first day of the season but after a difficult start have been piecing some form together. We didn’t turn up with plans to be the whipping boys.
And nor did it turn out that way, as right from the first whistle, the Tiffs – sporting a magnificent new kit – asserted themselves on the game, battling for the ball all over the pitch and playing some decent football through the midfield when time allowed.
Simon Baile, formerly a Sinjun, briefed fellow defenders on the merits of the opposition in the moments before kick-off: ‘He’s fast, that one’s got pace, he’s really fast so watch him – and he isn’t fast but he’s brilliant on the ball.’ Excellent. Can’t wait.
As the first half went on though, Sinjuns forward line found themselves blunted by a disconcertingly well organised Tiffs back four (Ted Wightwick, Pete Markham, Trevor Huggins and Simon Baile), and if they did get a poke at goal, they found a keeper (Dan Rose) in fine form. Our midfield (Sniffer Smith, Oscar Omo, Craig Walker and Bruce Houghton) meanwhile snapped and harried, not allowing the Sinjuns central players to dictate play, while setting up the odd decent attack for our forwards, Dave Harry and Ricky Evelyn.
Playing to some degree on the break, we conjured up a chance which flashed over before, around the 30 minute mark, Tiffs tore up the script and took the lead. Sniffer Smith’s driving shot was clawed away but reached the feet of Mr Harry, who dispatched it with a no-nonsense finish. 1-0!
At half time, alcohol professional Mr Baile reiterated a motivational pledge he’d made pre-match: ‘If we don’t lose, I’ll buy every player a jug of beer.’
‘What if we draw?’ enquired one player, perhaps unnecessarily. ‘If we draw, beer – if we win, champagne,’ replied Mr Baile, presumably thinking the chances of this were still fairly remote.
Tiffs took a while to get back in their stride in the second half, but were aided by an early injury to one of the opposition’s slightly troubling wide players. Going for the ball against Bruce he came away the worse, failing to gain possession and twisting his knee in the process. Our man was not overly sympathetic.
After a brief interlude, on came a replacement: a bloke who’d turned up to watch a goalfest, and instead found himself as part of an attack looking to recover a deficit.
About 70 minutes in, the game changed. A long ball put their tall, ostensibly powerful forward in possession just outside the right hand corner of the penalty area, under the close attentions of Markham. Suddenly he was down. Free kick. In the post match post mortem we debated: Did he crumple like a paper bag, or would a paper bag have been more robust under the challenge? The paper bag was deemed hardier.
Regardless, it was a soft free kick to give away but the resultant shot was not soft. From an unconventional angle, the taker fired it inside the near post, and they were back in it, 1-1. That they scored added insult to injury and our skipper said something which rhymed with ‘clucking disgrace’, for which he was cautioned by a ref who – correctly – thought this comment was aimed at him.
There was only one thing to do: bring on the sub – returning right back, Simon Burton. Minutes later and this looked like a masterstroke. Burton knocked the ball into a danger zone where Dave Harry was able to take advantage of some indecision at the back. Suddenly he was through on goal, and though his initial effort was parried, it bounced back into his stride and he gleefully found the empty net, 2-1.
Sinjuns continued to press but found the Tiffs in resolute mood, all the way through the team.
The game ended, fantastically and against all expectations, 2-1 to the bottom-placed side; taking into account the journey the team has been on this season – winless for most of the season but slowly picking up recently – beating the (still) likely league winners was glorious.
Baile’s ales tasted good afterwards, and the boys deserved them.