As anyone who has watched Amores Perros knows, it is not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog. That and don’t seduce your brother’s wife. It will end badly. We may not have had the size, but we certainly had the fight.
Ben Gunn was back from Tenerife, where the temperature was 25 degrees and back between the sticks, where the temperature was numbingly cold, with flakes of snow. Ade Shitta was a terrifying force at right back, scything through tackles like a threshing machine. Pat King and Chris Little were reunited at the centre of defence and worked in tandem shutting off all hope of opposition attacks and stifling their strikers. Robbo Robinson, a whirlwind of energy like Flask on the Pequod, was a last minute replacement at left back, and was untroubled by his man, getting free to put dangerous balls forward into the melee.
The midfield was marshalled superbly by James’ Perkins and Mellor. The Starbuck and Stubbs of our team, they exuded energy when challenging and sense in possession while pushing onward, slowly crushing the opposition and controlling the centre ground. The James’ were ably supported on both flanks by Ligio and Amish, who stifled all opposition endeavours while pushing forward at every opportunity, keeping possession and always offering themselves as outlets.
Dan Higham was up front, constantly running and battling with the opposition defence. I was man marked near out of the game, my quest for the elusive 12th goal of the season becoming the sort of monomaniacal obsession that calls to mind Captain Ahab’s pursuit of the White Whale.
The game started at a ferocious pace, with battering challenges in every area of the pitch. This was no place for the weak, the fragile, or the cowardly. Dan Higham was on the receiving end of a shameful challenge, but stood his ground when confronted by their centreback, who conscious of his spreading waist and slowing foot, decided to try and goad us. We remained steadfast and unmoved, a lighthouse in a storm, a beacon of fair play and sense in a tempestuous league. Free Kicks were contested; throw ins were appealed for, and for the opening few minutes SCB struggled to find a rhythm. Pat King was fortunate to escape a censure more severe after dawdling on the ball and then dragging his man back when beaten, but the referee’s sensible opinion that, as the incident was on the half way line, he wasn’t denying any form of opportunity at all, was only contested by the aforementioned centre back clogger.
However, apart from a free kick which was comfortably blocked by the wall, and a regulation tip- over from Ben in goal, the opposition were shackled, providing nothing going forward that could not be comfortably dealt with by our defence. Meanwhile, we began to assert ourselves going forwards. I was being man-marked near out of the game by a young Willie Nelson lookalike, but fortunately for us Dan and Amish were combining superbly down the left hand side to win possession and territory. Ligio harried their left back into a mistake and we won a corner. Amish swung it in, but I could only get the faintest of glances and the ball skidded in between the post and Ade’s last ditch lunge. Moments later I wriggled free of a crush in the box stabbed at the ball from Hell’s Heart and a tight angle, but the keeper smothered the shot and my dreams.
Ginger Rob was launching howitzer long throws into the box (as we’re sure he will do again once his dislocated shoulder is healed) James got a flick on to one long ball but the keeper leapt to catch it as I challenged. I harried down their left back and turned the ball inside to Jimmy Mellor darting forward and he worked it out to Dan, who was fouled on the edge of the box. Dan himself dusted himself down and stepped up to deliver a testing ball into the area. I rose to head it firmly goalwards and was shoved over in midflight. My appeals for a penalty stopped short of my throat as, while I was face down in the mud, James had brought the ball down and angled it into the bottom corner to put SCB in the lead.
At 1-0 up were exerted our dominance in the game. Dan, Rob and Amish were given time and freedom on the left, and Dan’s fizzed ball in narrowly avoided defenders and attackers alike. James spanked a free kick woefully high over the bar despite everyone’s exhortations to work the keeper, and it was only an unkind bounce which prevented me in getting to Jimmy Mellor’s cultured through ball. Dan was booked a trifle harshly for cutting inside to men and sliding into a third as he slightly overran the chance. Chris Little joined him in the book for clearing the ball without hearing the referee’s whistle, leaving the man in black with no option to uphold the letter, if not the spirit of the law. Oh how the chunky curmudgeon chortled, but he wasn’t chortling after Jimmy Mellor and I exposed him, forcing a last ditch tackle from my close attendant.
The second half was conducted in the same manner as the first. SCB kept the opposition at arms length and I ran myself into the ground in the channels, holding play up as best I could. Amish won a throw in deep in the opposition’s half through sheer force of will and after Rob’s mighty throw the ball looped high with the keeper stranded and James, alone but for his thoughts, beneath the ball in the 6 yard box. Sadly, he got too true a purchase, and cleared the bar.
It was good that James did get a true purchase seconds later, after I was felled on the half way line trying to hold up the ball. Chris sent a ball like a Scud Missile forward, that nearly took James’ head off as he tried to flick it on, and Jimmy Mellor was gambling, and rushed through to poke home our second.
After that, the game didn’t so much peter out as we throttled it. Dan dropped slightly deeper, affording us another man in the centre, and they didn’t even come close to scoring in the final half an hour. We ventured the occasional foray forward to keep them honest, but were content to professionally see the game out, keeping the ball or them at arm’s length if they attempted to essay an attack.
It was a thoroughly satisfying performance and result, showing real professionalism in the way we went about our task and saw out the game. Next week, in true professional style, shall be a shamefully debauched tale of WAGs, nightclubs and dens of ill repute, but I expect all the evils to be expelled from systems before our next game in a fortnight. We’ve got a massive run-in this season and if we keep it together throughout the second half of the season winning the league is more than feasible.
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