LCWM45 vs Northbridge A 26/07/2008

Lane Cove West 1, Northbridge A 3

26 July 2008, Blackman Lower

A great improvement on last week’s 0-7 against the same opponents (and 0-5 in the last pre-season game, let’s not forget). We played with great courage and determination, and with a little luck could have been ahead with 20 minutes to go.

 

We strengthened our side with Pete Nolan and Dave Pritchard from O35s. As they are both over 45, this was entirely legitimate. But Northbridge have had a bee in their bonnet about this all year (easy for them, having a side mostly from last year’s O35 A-grade: we were all reserves). They were unhappy and moaned: they seem to want to win 7-0 every week.

 

In fact, it was a far more competitive game than last week and more enjoyable for all, one would have thought.

 

But it was also rather more violent, and the ref did not do a good job of penalizing or remonstrating. In the end it was not a surprise when bloodshed caused an early end to the game. But I’m leaping ahead.

 

A veritable chatroom of discussion during the week had established that we needed to do something radically different: one of the signs of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So we agreed on 10 men behind the ball when Northbridge had it, close marking of Dr George, and of their big John and of their Brian. (Ernie took a bit of persuading that we were all agreed on this, but the suggestion that he might like to adopt his alternative tactics on the sideline made him remember that he had been with us all along really).

 

Brian was given the job of marking Dr George. They are acquaintances, and had been due to have dinner together the night before. I fear that the invitation may not be renewed, as Brian’s table-manners today were not entirely polite. But effective: George got free only rarely, and never looked the threat that he was last week (which, by the way, was the second time he’d scored five this season).

 

The tactics worked pretty well. Having Dave P & Pete N, and Scott back too, certainly gave us more steel, and the early exchanges were fairly even.

 

But, alas: a set-back after 19 minutes. A lofted shot from well out deceived Phil in goal and dropped under the bar. Later your reporter secured an exclusive interview, and Phil revealed that no, it wasn’t the sun in his eyes - just wrong positioning: 0-1.

 

We continued to hammer away, the tackles flew fast and dangerous, and our best move of the half almost produced the equalizer on 39 minutes. Peter made a great run into the area, and smartly passed to James on the left just in time before crashing to the ground. James shot hard but the keeper was well placed to save.

 

Five minutes into the second half, Phil saved well from a dubious free-kick, and before long we were level. By now we had learned that we’d get nothing we didn’t plead for. Our loud protests that a back-pass had been picked up were heeded, and the ball was touched to Peter W who smashed it into the far corner: 1-1 and everything to play for!

 

Within a few minutes came action at both ends that turned the game.

 

First, Dave P was pole-axed: just outside the area, it was judged. Scott blasted only just over: a couple of inches lower, and we’d have been happily ahead (though think how much more they would have moaned!).

 

Then at the other end, a throw-in was smartly headed on to big John who headed home: not much we could do, and rather than 2-1, it was 1-2.

 

On we battled, no-one giving an inch, and everyone doing us proud. We were a bit lucky to avoid a penalty when Pete N’s raised arm struck the ball, but we didn’t deserve to go further behind.

 

But with 6 minutes to go we did: George got away for once, and slotted a shot just inside Phil’s right hand post: 1-3, and too steep a hill to climb, probably.

 

But we’ll never know for sure, as we only got only 4 of the 6 minutes: with 2 to go, big John launched himself at Howard as they went up for a header. A clear foul for dangerous play (not given) but of more immediate concern was the blood that spurted from both heads. The two doctors on hand made reassuring, and not very interested, noises (this being not nearly in the same league as the heart attack they’d dealt with earlier in the season) but the ref decided we’d had enough fun for the day and ended the festivities. 

 

So lots of sweat and blood, and had we not lost, I suspect there would have been tears, too – certainly tantrums, anyway, from our opponents. But it was not to be, and we could take away only the satisfaction of plans well devised and executed, and a stirring fight-back from last week’s drubbing.

 

Pete N was the clear man-of-the-match. He played all of it, and always seemed to find time and space to clear with ease. Brian was second for his determined marking and Pete W’s goal and other efforts got him third.

 

Scott and Dave P no longer have a 100% win record. Scott’s still at 75%, followed, unsurprisingly, by Bob, Matt & John S on 67%. But the five of them have averaged only about four games each, so that’s telling, isn’t it?  (As is the fact that only James, Ernie & Pete W have played in all 14 games).

 

Thanks to Brian for filling in at no notice when Howard wasn’t up to officiating the next game. (Big John was off to fly a jumbo, apparently, which is a worry!). And to Tim for also being linesman.

 

MARK BRYANT