Rowley College FC was effectively formed twenty-five years ago this week with its first competitive match: our first outing in the wmcfl followed a year later (2-1m defeat to West Bromwich Beacons). Fifteen years ago Chrissy Staien debuted for us on the day England beat the Germans 5-1 (we won 6-1 away to Christchurch Hornets and trumped them!): we went onto win the league that season (Chris’s career has been harder since!). Thus I’ve seen the starts of many a season (I started playing competitively in the seventies!) and they always bring the same hope and expectation and they nearly always require time for adjustment.
We went to Woodgate Valley today to welcome Maple Leaf to the top flight for the first time and in torrential rain we took part in an enterprising game in which both teams tried to play in spite of the elements. And though we dominated possession at times and carved out the majority of the chances, I think Maple Leaf deserved their first point on the basis of the commitment of their players, especially the keeper who delivered a man-of-the match performance: they did the manager proud.
In the light rain that started the game off we seemed significantly the better side though Maple Leaf have good players and a real threat up front. It seemed likely we’d need an early goal to quieten their energy and enthusiasm and when Matty Williams won a header back post Matt Stanton was first to respond by lashing it into the roof of the net. They were certainly not down hearted but we were having most of the efforts and should have gone further ahead when Sammy crossed excellently but Brad couldn’t just supply the touch.
Then largely against the run of play they got a quality equaliser following a quick counter-attack. It was barely a chance but a perfect cross was bravely nodded in by their diving striker. We came off disappointed and resolved to win it again!
As the weather deteriorated the game became difficult and more open. Though our final ball was often limited we created enough chances to win it three times but their keeper made save after save. The best was from Ben’s overhead kick (genuinely professional standard). Meanwhile Maple Leaf had rallied as both sides refreshed with good quality subs. Then they shocked us with a cracking drive and we were behind and playing in driving rain. All three of our subs had an impact: once Clive got settled he terrorised them down the left and Nathan Hylton looked very much the class player he is. We played through them often but the custodian did his job and they played their best spell of the game. We scored with nine minutes to go when South played a defence-splitting pass to put Ben Fowler in and there were thrills and spills right to the end both sides.
All the best to Maple Leaf for the season and to Mo and his team for braving the elements with us.