ARE YOU SETTLED? Strapped in? Good. This rollercoaster is ready for takeoff.
We probably should have seen it coming. Last week’s opponents Grattan arrived at our place back in October when the season was in its infancy. It took a stoppage time screamer from our top scorer to end their resistance and swing the game back to us at 3-2.
We knew it would be tough. Any place away in the city of a Sunday morning is tough. After housing and industrial estates were navigated and the pitch eventually found, we settled into the dressing room and prepared for battle.
We had a debutant with us. A fresh-faced youngster who had made the leap up from the youths to us. Not a quantum leap I’ll grant you but as he sat quietly and darted his eyes around the room I was reminded of my own debut and that nervous energy that swarms through you. You grin sheepishly at the jokes of the veterans and poke about your gear bag hoping nobody really notices you.
The marching hymn of studs was the pre-game soundtrack. The rusted enclosure still warm from a thousand joyous laughs and thousands of vengeful roars gave way to the calm green field. They were well ready by the time we had come out.
The rollercoaster has inched its way to the top. Deep Breath.
Thirty seconds in. Penalty for us. Debatable? Don’t care. Our midfielder Mark sprints towards the ball and takes charge. He is confident. Straight down the middle. Cannons off the keeper’s legs and is cleared. A blow. He recovered quickly to his credit.
I am not one for excuses. I don’t want to mention the DEFCON One cold I was battling before and during the game but I feel it is important to mention as so to paint a fuller picture. I am not saying my nasal blockage or watering eyes contributed to my skinning on a number of occasions in the first half but it did obstruct my eyesight so bad that the only thing I can remember seeing of the guy I was marking was his number 11, in case you were wondering.
The penalty miss derailed us slightly but their opener was preventable to say the least. 1-0. Never mind, get the next one. A corner for them about 10 minutes later. Would you care for a ‘defence was all at sea’? Or perhaps at ‘sixes and sevens’? Let’s be modern. We collectively pulled an Almunia and were two down after 40.
The Corkscrew. Our winger Pa, who garnered the headlines last week, pokes the ball home from 10 yards. Half-time 2-1. The juddering halt. Get that breath back. Instructions given and taken on board.
We attack at will. Mark has fully put that penalty miss behind him and is striding about midfield, bossing it. But the ball is not going in, chances missed. Pressure building, building, and building and then released to nothing.
Still time for a couple of more drops in this ride. A free-kick. I amble forward. I had one header from a corner that I really should have done better with. Delay in taking this one. What’s going on? The kid is coming on for his debut. He runs past me, a combination of fear and raw excitement.
The ball floats in; I turn and have the perfect view. The Kid leaps over the veteran and slams a header into the net. Thirty seconds on. One touch. One goal.
Must be near the end. It has slowed down again. A corner for us. Pile forward. You can sense their anxiety. One winger Bob flicks it on to the other Pa. 3-2. A corkscrew drop and loop the loop mashed into one. Delirium when it finally ends. Might go again next week.