Today’s first big screw-up was made by the 4s captain Graham, and he wasn’t even there.
I arrived late as usual and wandered out onto the pitches to see if I could spot the team warming up. I thought I could see them but as I got closer I realised that team already had a keeper and wandered off. Having checked every pitch I walked back to find that, sure enough, for the first time in LOBFC history we were fielding a team with two keepers. Well, one keeper and me anyway.
The other goalie was Gibbo who normally plays for the 2s. Simon, the stand-in skipper, apologised and said we’d play a half each. I said that was nonsense and Gibbo should play. Firstly, he’s a proper keeper, and secondly … well, there is no secondly.
Apparently Gibbo works with Graham and offered his services mid-week because the 2s have no game. Communication has never been Graham’s strong suit, frankly. Last time I was dropped he told me by text message at 9pm the night before, but at least he did tell me. This time he just fucked off on holiday the night before.
I made a call to Ashley, the 5s skipper to see if they needed a keeper. They didn’t, or at least if they did they didn’t want this one, and who can blame them? They were up against Old Ignations who put eight past me a few weeks ago.
The next big disappointment was the referee, whose name was Leanne, and who despite that was in fact a middle-aged man. It’s possible that his parents were strung out on drugs and digging ‘Boy Named Sue’ when they made that odd decision but I’m pretty sure he was born before that.
So I was watching from the sidelines as the game kicked off and I was quite interested to see what a proper goalie looks like. I got plenty of opportunities too, because we were awful for the entire first half.
They scored within two minutes. Their number 10 was a Rory Delap-a-like throw in taker and a nod on put it into the path of a striker 6 yards out in a crowded penalty area who poked it home.
Ten minutes later they had a corner and their two forwards were fighting each other to get a head on it. I’m normally very hesitant to criticise the defence because frankly I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I was very pleased it was Gibbo and not me who had to ask them if perhaps they could see their way clear to marking somebody next time, thanks awfully.
Shortly afterwards Gibbo made an outstanding save, rushing off his line and making himself big in front of a forward who had got behind the defence and closing him down quickly, the shot striking his legs and going wide.
With fifteen minutes left in the first half Garvy, who had been playing superbly on the left wing, pulled up with a hamstring problem. He came off for a bit, but seeing there were no outfield subs, soldiered on.
The only attacking moment of note was a 1 on 1 between their keeper and James Lindie. James is a very strong player and not one to shirk a challenge and it was clear (to me at least) that the keeper was going to get there first, but James had other ideas. They both went in hard, James feet first and the keeper was extremely brave not to duck out. He got the ball and a few studs in the midriff.
2-0 down at half time but still (just) in the game. A half-time comment from Paul, the right back hit the nose on the head: “We’re playing like girls.” I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that they were playing like people who did not understand the offside rule.
Skipper Simon offered me the keeper spot and I declined, but said that that if Garvy needed to come off I would swap in and Gibbo could play outfield. Garvy said he wanted to come off so I started getting kitted up as the second half kicked off.
As is often the way at LOBFC they were a different side in the second half and really dominated the ten minutes or so I watched from the side. Sam scored. I don’t remember the goal I’m afraid, but it was definitely Sam – two goals in two games for him. So it was 2-1 as I came on and Garvy hobbled off, Gibbo taking up station on the right of midfield.
We continued to play well and it was several minutes before I had anything to do. My first touch was a characteristic disaster. A long ball from their own half was being chased by their forward and our defender. It was clear that I could get there first and ran out, but got there before the ball had reached my area. I chested it forward straight to their player, then tackled him and it was sheer good luck that the ball came off him to our defender. “You lucky fuckers,” he said, and he was right.
Then they scored from a corner. There was a bit of a scramble as neither side brought the ball under control and they struck it at chest-height, about four yards out. I didn’t see the strike at all, there was a defender between me and the ball and it whizzed over his shoulder and in just under the bar.
However, in the last fifteen minutes I made a string of three or four decent saves. None of them were brilliant, they were just competent, but for me that’s absolutely fine. Better than fine in fact. Miraculous might be a better word.
With five minutes to go we scored an absolute belter, a brilliant running header at the near post from a corner. I wish I could remember the name of the scorer. I even asked it after the game and still don’t know it. Anyway, whoever it was, it was a great goal.
So 3-2 and five minutes left and we just couldn’t get the equaliser. If we’d played the whole game like we played the second half it would have been a different story, but we didn’t, so it wasn’t. It was the same old story.
The 4s haven’t had a win since the 5-3 game against Mill Hill which was my first game for the side. They are at the bottom of the table following last week’s 9-a-side and it’s not looking too pretty. I gave (a different) James a lift home afterwards and he told me that last season they were winning most games (and got promoted) and had too many people wanting to play. This year they are struggling and have to plunder the bench (aka the 5s team) all too often.
Having said all that I really enjoy playing for the 4s. They’re a really good bunch of people and they considerately make sure I am involved in the game at least every two minutes, and get plenty of chances to make saves, unlike the 3s who frequently leave me freezing in a deserted goalmouth for eighty minutes of the game. Despite some absolutely appalling goalkeeping from me I’ve never heard anything but encouragement from the rest of the team which must take superhuman restraint.
Now to send Graham an email telling him he’s a complete tit.