Think everything is updated. I am now off for a 10 day break but I will try and keep on top of things but no guarantees. A quick email check before heading to bed shows that the ever reliable Pete Bennett from Rowley has indeed sent me his match report before I jet off.. as always, many thanks Pete
Rowley College 1 vs 2 Clarendon
First of all congratulations to worthy champions! (edit: Champions elect Pete. Should Selly Oak Methodist win 4-0 or by a 5 goal margin next week, then St Marys would be Champions, Neil Kovacs). This is never an easy league to win and this year has been no exception with four teams to my eyes capable of winning it (and making a decent effort to do so). Sadly we have been observing this battle from afar this season and, having beaten one of the challengers recently, we once again proved today that we are competitive against the best so to be sweating on relegation on the last day is just not good enough from our point of view.
It’s hard not to speculate in these positions and we knew that what we needed today was to make this a close game but that didn’t mean being negative and we set up positively. Our plan was not to think about events elsewhere but rather to do everything to solve our own problems but we knew even a narrow defeat would make it very difficult for Monyhull. By full time it was Clarendon waiting for the final whistle but only because our whole sixteen had given everything and I commend them for it.
Here was a game that a vicious wind couldn’t ruin though there were one or two comic moments where the simplest of passes proved impossible. Clarendon were straight at us up the slope and Chris cleared off the line in the first minute. Chris played at full back and was one of six excellent defenders for us today (including Pidd and Joe as sub) with matt Stanton, Matty and Kev they went toe-to-toe with those talented Clarendon forwards. Clarendon were really at it in the first half at their fluent best but they met with a wall of defensive resolve and the only goal of the first half when it came was a magnificent lofted drive from 30 yards (Pidd had no chance). Meanwhile we were providing them with problems of our own due in no little part to a man-of-the-match performance by Ben Smith, who set us at our opponents with a mixture of driving runs and artful through passes. On one such attack Josh went round the keeper only to have his shot brilliantly blocked by Roger with Matty Suff’s follow up narrowly wide. Then Ben went through himself and his dipping drive was just over. At half time we were 0-1 but not downhearted against a better team.
We made progressive changes, firstly at half time with Shola and Hayden introduced to positive effect. Shola has spent half the season injured and you could see today what we’ve missed: he held the ball up with quality and got others involved. We really took it to them up the hill with the recently birthdayed 43 year old player-manager, Fin and Clive creating a solid base in the middle. They. Of course are always dangerous and in our only rash moment of the morning Matty took out Quinn (who was as excellent as ever) to allow the same player to strike a good penalty just out of Pidd’s reach. We had a nervous five minutes but were quickly back at it and when Jack came on we gained that extra bit of flair and guile. He was literally everywhere and we started to exert some real pressure and Shola headed us back into it. I was fairly confident 1-2 would be enough for us as it was for Clarendon but there was no sense that either side settled for anything. Our keeper was running to the half way line to take a free kick forward in the 90th minute. We still had one more chance when supersub Ken outpaced their defence but just couldn’t find a finish. Though losing the game today, we put in a performance on our own account that bodes well for the future against the team who set the standards. Congratulations to Roger and Squaddie who run their club so well and are good blokes and to Andy and his officials who ran everything so well.
Season 28 beckons even as 27 is coming to an end but I’d like to wish everybody in the WMCFL the very best and particularly to ‘Bedders’ who as Neil has said has been a ‘proper competitor’ for many a long year. I remember in particular many battles against us with Mark Southall, often bruisingly physical but always ending with a handshake and mutual respect. All the best, mate!