LCWM45 vs Wahroonga M45 05/04/2008

Lane Cove West 3 v Wahroonga 2

5 April 2008, Blackman

A stirring start to Over-45s. Came back twice from behind, scored the winner with 20 minutes to go, then never really looked like giving the advantage away.


We start the season with the same 19 players as last year: a first in living memory. (Not as long a period as it used to be, it’s true: Bob rang me last night to say that he’d been for a run on Thursday and his leg, if heavily strapped, should be OK. Welcome news, indeed. Just as it had been the night before when he’d told me the same thing).


But Jon B, Matt & Steve L were working, Mark S is injured, Dave was at the races, and Phil pulled a fetlock shortly before the off, so we were down to just 13, and facing our first 90-minute game for many a year.


Blackman was its usual sunny self: grass already more yellow than green, and the mid-winter dustbowl lurking beneath. And we reverted to the Upper pitch (slightly shorter journey time), which has got no flatter in our absence. No doubting that it’s a former garbage tip. And no danger that we’ll turn up one week and find that lawn bowlers have taken it over.


Our opponents were Wahroonga, fellow starters when Over-30s was launched about 20 years ago, with at least a couple of players from then. (We have an impressive 10: Bob, Brian, Howard, Ernie, Eric, Steve L, Matt, Tony, Tim & me. Bill – on the sideline today - makes up the 11).


And you could tell that this was a game of older persons of British extraction: two Walters, one Victor, one Eric, one Ernie.


After 5 minutes, Sportingbet had us 50-1 against winning. We’d hardly touched the ball, Wahroonga had stroked it about at will, and floated over a cross which was headed in with aplomb. 0-1, and 90 minutes was already looking far too long.


But we rallied, inspired by Howard’s urgings, and Bob’s requests that we move to the ball, in preference to looking at it (well, as well as, probably, now that I think about it).


And before very long, a free kick on the right was skillfully flighted across by James, and Bob, himself, was on the end of it. The memory problem is clearly only intermittent: after the game, Bob remembered not only that he’d scored, but also that Joe Royle (who’s been retired as player for a while now) was once described as “leaping like a startled salmon to head the ball into the net.” Which is exactly what Bob did, too; and it was 1-1.


At half-time, Howard berated “players trying to do someone else’s job.” I tried not to be too hurt by this, but true it was that Wahrooga’s second goal had been assisted by an unusual incursion of mine into our own penalty area. We’d lost the ball and I hared back into what seemed to be the alarmingly open spaces of our defence. Alas, not open enough, as a cross going nowhere hit me and rebounded to the only Wahroonga player nearby, who gratefully struck it past Tony – no chance again – and it was 1-2. (I won’t be doing that again: half-way line – that’s as far as I’m coming back).


But not much later, we’d had a free kick for handball, well outside the area, but right in front. The wall refused to go back and the ref was reluctant to boss around players old enough to be his father (possibly grandfather, in some cases). But stand where you like, boys: when Peter blasts into the top corner, nothing’s going to get in the way! 2-2.


Despite this encouraging second equalizer, Howard’s half-time address was so strong that it drove away the Over-35Bs (the new us) who’d been enjoying a peaceful half-time in the shade before we got there. The final words were, “C’mon: we can win this”. Not only could we. We did.


And a fine team effort it was too: Tony resolute in goal, clean catches, safe clearances; Bob, Howard, Martin and Brian rotating in the central defence, and hardly ever allowing the attack a clear chance. Tim, Eric & Steve B battled away at full-back, and Eric had a few surges up the left, one of which saw him confront a ‘keeper (new in the second half) who was perhaps worried about the goal-posts collapsing as the garbage below shifted. That or something kept him well off the line for the entire half. Eric intended to chip him, but couldn’t get enough height.


In midfield, John, Ernie and Peter were all busy too. John was another who spotted the ‘keeper well out of goal, and swept it past him; but, alas, also past the post.


Wahroonga play nice passing football, rather than the big hoof. Sometimes, persistent chasing will bring this undone, and that’s certainly what they got today. Ernie, in particular, came off best from some well-timed interventions (belying his 60th birthday this week), and we often looked likely to set the forwards free.


But forwards were in short supply. James, as befits our youngest player, stayed on for the whole game, and ran tirelessly. And I was off for only a few minutes before returning to dispatch Howard back to mid-field. (He looked slightly disgruntled at having been allowed only a short time to add to his tally of goals this millennium: zero).


But I have leapt ahead of the key second-half action. With 20 minutes to go another of our flowing moves (Brian, I think, prominently involved) brought the ball to me, and seeing the ‘keeper out one more time, I pushed it past him. Slowly it trickled towards the line, but the doubt seemed to be whether the defender would get to the ball before it stopped moving, rather than whether the ball would get to the goal. But, defying physics, it sped up at the last minute, and 3-2 it was.  


20 minutes then looked like a long time to hold on. But in fact, we did it, if not comfortably (especially given the heat), at least without too many scares. More resolute defending and chasing Wahroonga off their game saw us home. 100% record in over-45s!


Eric and Martin shared third place in the man-of-the-match voting. Peter was second (not least for the stunning goal), and Howard the runaway winner for inspiring leadership. As Howard said afterwards, it was an emotional game!


Thanks to Brian for reffing at 3pm and Ernie and Tony for being linesman; to Ivan for driving off to get the beers which were very welcome; and to Peter who has again organized someone to do the nets and flags at Mowbray, thus saving us from the chore.