When you agree to a Christmas fixture (in August) you have no notion of the potential importance of that decision though these games are always likely to look better decisions to the winners than the losers. We were entirely aware today that a defeat would leave us with an unwanted relegation battle after Christmas but our season has unprecedentedly this year revolved around the availability (or otherwise) of players (five defeats followed by five wins and a draw followed now by three defeats). In this our 38th match against Chawn, all results were possible but unfortunately the only justifiable outcome was Chawn’s 20th win in the fixture. Particularly in the first half, we were very poor (Mark described it as the worst half we’d played in his reign and I might add the full history back to 1991!). Chawn on the other hand were very bright early doors particularly going forward (Curtis was particularly good today) and took some advantage.
However, I really want neither to castigate our lads nor offer excuses for our defeat because we really struggled to field eleven today. Two lads came almost directly from their Christmas parties (a couple of hours sleep apiece), Clive climbed out of his sick bed and Chris pitched up despite having worked best part of 100 hours this week (not to mention Rich who came for a half before going off to play a full 90 elsewhere and a full debut second half for Lance’s younger brother Brad). Our striker Sammy Nelson was pressed into service as a full back (and did ever so well). Thus, while we had a decent eleven players we lacked the energy that Chawn seemed to have in reserve. In the first half this led to an embarrassing imbalance and Chawn raced into a 2-0 lead (two good goals: the first a perfect free kick).
We also though saw some explanation of Chawn’s results this season as despite their dominance they also seemed wide open at the back. This gave us hope throughout an otherwise difficult morning starting in the last minute of the half when we were offered a lifeline when Craig set up Leon for a terrific shaped finish. Amazingly this was Leon’s first start of the season. Circumstances and a bereavement have limited him to five substitute appearances before today which had yielded six goals. Today he kept us in this game with four more!
The goal before half time gave room for a more constructive half time team talk and we were somewhat better in the second half despite draining energies. Chawn though kept at it and more careless passing saw a swift counter attack which gave Chawn a stonewall penalty and any hope we’d had seemed extinguished at 1-3. However we then had our spell as spurred on by Ben and Christie Leon dragged us to the verge of an unlikely victory. It started with a softish penalty which he skilfully converted. Immediately Chawn took a step backwards and looked vulnerable. Leon’s third was an absolute peach. Taking on their defender in the right hand channel he clipped in a remarkable shot that beat their keeper all ends up (and on the undulations of Chawn’s pitch this was quite a feat!). This was so much against the momentum of the game we almost felt uncomfortable let alone when following a corner Leon powered us into a 4-3 lead!
Despite the injustice of it that should have been that and we then had a couple of chances to really finish things off as a shell-shocked Chawn tried to respond. Brad was making great progress down the left and it just got very easy for five minutes! However there was to be a final twist (and I guess a measure of justice) as they scored twice in the final seven minutes to seize victory from the jaws of defeat and leave us with plenty to think about over the festive period! Best wishes of the season to Chawn and all our friends in the WMCFL! It is, as ever, emotional!
PS Interesting fact, Quarry Bank Park is where I started my adult competitive football career playing for Quarry bank Celtic in The Dudley and Cradley League in 1977. The changing rooms are exactly as they were then!