OWFC 2-2 Old Carthusians
The final game of a ground-breaking season encapsulated much of what typified the campaign as a whole – late drama, quality goals, and a promising sign of things to come for the OWs in our very comfortable new home of the Premier Division.
Finishing 3rd required beating Carthusians, while they had to win to keep the title race alive against Foresters – the sort of day primed for enough drama to make Martin Tyler’s voice breach new octaves.
Trying out a potential new home on a pristine 3G in Acton, as players arrived they spotted Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty) from The Wire having a kick around with his son. The Wire of course is a show about murderous, lethal marksmen whose deadly strikes instil fear into their enemies, something eerily relevant 5 minutes into the game, as Mike Hodnett, Matt Black and Sam Donald ravaged the Charterhouse defence like a West Baltimore drug lord laying waste to a stick-up boy from the Projects.
A sublime goal that narrowly missed out on Goal of the Season when awards were given out later saw a long raking ball from Hodnett on the counter, volleyed on a lay off first time by Matt Black on the turn, to Sam Donald in the middle who took one touch and smashed it with his second on the half volley high into the net. Charterhouse, used to beating schools like Winchester as both teenagers and men, looked momentarily shell-shocked. “Things done changed” as Stringer Bell might say, were he alongside Rob Essex in the stands.
Carthusians are however unbeaten this season – and made the most of the very wide pitch by putting cross after cross into the box. Sever and Mercer dealt with most, but Dubs’ occasional weakness in the air saw a very good header from the striker into the corner (1-1) and then a header from a corner at the back post to turn the game around and put them 2-1 up within half an hour.
OCs, with their floppy hairstyles and arrogant demeanour befitting of a school located within Jeremy Hunt’s constituency, started to gallivant around confidently, and the Dubs needed to stabilise and regroup. We didn’t find our rhythm for much of the first half, and did quite well to go in at half time only 2-1 – with Al Wheal making a few key saves.
The second half was balanced on a knife-edge, with the Dubs starting to find rhythm, and Carthusians starting to tire. Chances came at both ends. Ollie Mitchell, who turned up with a black eye, put in a man-of-the-match performance from left-back that was but a mere footnote in a week in which “going rogue” barely scratches the surface of his off-the-field activities, such as [redacted by OWFC lawyers].
Peter Elphick also put a very solid shift in on his debut from right-back, while Al Wheal jigged like Jerzy Dudek at one point while on the ball on the edge of our area, putting collective hearts in mouths. (He then successfully cleared it and for my money I never doubted the fella.)
The clock ticked down, although the referee would not reveal the time to anyone but the captains and threatened to book people who kept asking - as ever in the Arthurian League, high-stakes drama laid very closely side-by-side with farce. On 89’, a free-kick was sent in by Hodnett, and after a goalmouth scramble, James Essex lashed it in, sparking a corner flag melee of ecstatic relief.
There was still plenty of time for chances at both ends, as both sides came inches away from grabbing a late win, but the game ended there.
While we should be aiming to win games like that next season, an encouraging game typified an encouraging - and thoroughly enjoyable - campaign: 4th in the 10-team table, we’ve won half our games, having done the double over Eton (#mindthegap), Malborough and Salopians, with talk for next season of a cup run as well as getting In and Around the title race.
A season round-up with stats and awards will be sent soon.
Team (picture attached): Wheal, Fuller, Elphick, H Sever, R Mercer, Mitchell, Prichard, Goulding, M Black, Hodnett, Donald, Essex.
Goals: Donald, Essex