Rowley College 1 Zion Athletic 0

Difficult day for me today, but also many reasons to be thankful. My dad died on Friday, peacefully, surrounded by his family after a full seventy nine and a half years, so I ventured out Dadless for the first time this morning intent on stepping back on the side of life as he would have wanted. The support I got from Mark, Mike and our lads and Zion (special mention to Shawn and Leon) was deeply touching and really helpful, reminding me that this league has special fringe benefits. Thanks guys. (Edit: Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and you family Pete, Neil)

Football often has the knack in these moments in its glorious silliness of adding a little perspective and so it proved today in this more than decent game. For me, of course, the result for once was not the issue but a hard-fought win was not to be sneezed at. Zion are a really good side and in an uninterrupted season would I’m sure have mounted a serious title challenge. In Devonport, Naylor and Mills, they have three of the best footballers in our league and all like to run at you and on a Lion Farm pitch with the texture of a farmer’s field, this spelt danger. In the first half in particular they were far less rusty (we’d gone eleven weeks without a game, they’d perhaps had one in that time!) and dominated possession. We though are a hardy bunch these days and despite being wasteful with the ball we were also well-organised and resolute: Mark sat in front of a busy back four: Dave Scott and Chris were much involved and Matty Stanton had a stormer against the formidable Mills. We also have Kovacs’ Kolumn plotting our progress (whenever Neil doesn’t predict a win the game gets called off).

We also carried a threat with Leon as ever giving his all and a properly fit again Christy McKenzie offering a man-of-the match performance. Zion will have gone in thinking they should have been ahead but without quite making the definitive chance whereas we hoped the breeze and some fresh legs would put us back in the hunt. And so it proved. To be fair I think Zion were caught on the hop by our wind-assisted momentum and the game changed with us getting much more of the ball. Ben Fowler joined the action just after half time and gave Zion a taste of their own medicine, running at them freely and delivering a good quality ball in. Clive, despite injury, also did the same in tandem with Olly down the left. We lost Leon and Nathan to injury but that brought a new front two in Sammy and Craigy with Christie now joining the ever more influential Southall in the centre.

Don’t get me wrong: Zion were still a massive threat with Leon and Shawn a constant menace but we carved out the better chances (and missed them!). Then after one hilarious appeal for a back pass for each side we broke the deadlock and won the game. A scramble ensued in their pudding of a goalmouth (there were still unplayable pitches at Lion farm this morning!) and who else but Craig Micklewright was able to find his feet and poke it home. As time pressed on Zion made a couple of changes I suspect in preparation for next week and we saw out our hard-earned three points. Thanks to Kevin Dabbs in the middle and all the very best to Zion for next week’s semi: they were a credit today. Finally I’d like to dedicate this to my Dad, Roy Bennett, with love and gratitude!

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