Rowley College 0 St Marys 2

Rowley College 0 v 2 St Mary’s
Match Report by Pete Bennett, (welcome back matey).
I’ve been lured back by the return of Kovacs’ Kolumn and the hope that we might have a broader conversation about the football we’re playing and watching. Though the first game of our 28th season couldn’t deliver a victory, my enthusiasm for new seasons remains undimmed and despite a 0-2 reversal we took more positives than negatives from today’s game. Precisely 17 years ago, at Saltley Leisure I suggested to our lads that what we achieved against Christchurch Hornets that morning would be replicated by England later that day in Munich. This was Chris Staien’s debut game (and he’s still with us) and we won 6-1: England couldn’t quite match us! That team went on to win our one and only league title led from centre mid by Johnny Warr and our current manager Mark Southall, who remains player- and was as good as anyone today.

In the St Mary’s (invisible) dugout was another of the WMCFL’s consistently quality performers, Shaun Green, who is running the football side this year but has not given up hope of returning the ‘player-‘ bit to his title. It was interesting (and sometimes amusing) to witness Shaun’s initiation as a coach (the energy and frustration) but you could see his influence on a very impressive St Mary’s side. Having spent a couple of seasons struggling for players, they are back to their best: lots of familiar faces plus some new lads including a more than decent centre forward called Ralph (reminding us that these are middle class lads: there are not many Ralphs in the Black Country!) We are also a team in transition with new lads to come in to provide much needed energy.

Having spent the summer on artificial surfaces, we were given a chastening ‘welcome back to grass’ by a St Marys team who were brilliant in the first twenty minutes. Down the slope they gave us very little of the ball and Lee, our man-of-the-match, had already made a smart double save before they took the lead when a near post corner was headed in by the smallest player on the pitch. Strangely they then went slightly off the pace and we began to ease ourselves into the game without being entirely threatening. St Mary’s on the other hand brought excellent saves from Lee (full length dive and point blank block).

We knew that we were a little fortunate to go in only one down and were determined to take advantage of this down the slope with Josh causing them problems and a strong bench. Sadly neither of these transpired as the result was effectively sorted before we’d even made a change. First a sloppy goal from a long free kick nodded straight in, then Josh’s dismissal for a second yellow card. We introduced new boy Jack Guy, who was excellent and birthday boy Haydon Richards who also made a difference as well as Ken, who also put himself about. They defended well but were offensively unable to take advantage of their extra man for which our lads deserve much credit. The experience of Mark and Matt and Joe was vital as was Lee’s excellence in goal but all over the pitch we were showing great attitude.

St Mary’s as ever are a credit to this league and deserved their win. Having played nearly half the game with 10 men we can only think of what might have been. A good competitive game, which was aided by Andy and his officials.

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