Michael Owen for United vs City in 2009. Patrick Andersson for Bayern v Hamburg in 2001. And Sam Donald for Old Wykehamists vs Salopians in 2018.
It’s an elite group of the extremely rare times in which (i) the injury time goal, (ii) the instant response goal and (iii) the match-winning goal all combine into one glorious moment of orgasmic drama. The fact that Old Wyks extended their winning run to 6 games and briefly flirted into the heady heights of 2nd place for a few hours were mere footnotes to one of the more farcical ends of a football game this season’s Arthurian League is likely to see.
The ending rendered much of what had come before as irrelevant, and no tears shall be shed for it doing so. The Dubs struggled to match their recent performances, were poor for the whole of the first half and were lucky to go in at half-time 2-1 down. Salopians adhered to the Immutable Law of Science which states that a team who are fighting to avoid a league’s final relegation place will play for a few games in Spring with the kind of zeal and purpose which if present for the rest of the season, would have left them well clear of the danger zone.
The first half’s only redeeming feature our first goal, Essex’s weekly breaching of the golazo frontier, with a first-time, on-the-turn, across-the-body side-footed strike from 30 yards, that as he hit it, any Dubs player in their right mind was surely cursing him for attempting something so heinously ambitious. As reality would have it, it flew into the top corner.
The Dubs were without their scuttling pixies Mike Hodnett and Matt Black, necessitating a change to 3-5-2 at half-time, which yielded instant positive results. Pete Fuller and Ollie Mitchell were enabled to “bomb on” from wing-back, and Sam Donald equalised for 2-2 early in the 2nd half, scoring from a tight angle after a well worked move on the right. For the final half hour, the game was fairly open with both teams desperate to win, as tensions spilled over into an array of frank and honest disagreements.
As a reciprocal throwing of kitchen sinks were going in opposite directions in search for the winner, the Dubs knew that one clear chance was all that the frontline needed, and on 89 mins Essex bodied his way to the byline. Donald screamed in the middle. Essex pulled it back, and Donald turned it in. 3-2, and only minutes left. The scenes were reminiscent of the last minute winner in our first win of the season against Marlborough in September.
Salopians frantically piled men into the box, knowing their season was on the line. Injury time began. Hours seemed to pass. And then on 90+2, the Dubs gave away the 2nd penalty of the game thanks to a lunging tackle that we can have few complaints over. Despite the Dubs’ careful and repeated policing of whether the ball was in fact on the spot, Salopians converted it and seemed to have somehow salvaged a point from the game.
Expecting the referee to blow his whistle straight after the restart, Essex travelled from kick-off down the left, as Mitchell ran on the overlap seemingly unmarked. Mitchell was threaded and got towards the byline. He threaded Donald free in the middle. Time stood still. Donald connected messily. The ball trickled goalwards – and in, only 8 seconds or so from the restart. The sort of scenes ensued that yielded the most intoxicating takeover of the players’ emotional G-spots, to cause a collective shit-losing for the ages.
With 28 points the Dubs already exceed the highest points tally (25) for a newly-promoted side in the Premier Division in the 2010s. Two games left, against the two teams battling it out for the title respectively, Foresters and Carthusians.
Team: Gray, Fuller, Alex Dawkins, R Mercer, G Mercer, Mitchell, Sever, Prichard, Goulding, Donald, Kaz Fushimi, James Essex.
Goals: Essex, Donald (3)