Match Report - 13 Apr 2013, Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI beat Old Malvernians
Duncan; Underwood, Wakiwaka, Rann, Walters J; Marsh, Merriott, Prichard; Masefield, Kiley, Skinner
Cup runs, we are told endlessly by the punditocracy, are a distraction. OWFC have displayed a determination to prove this hoary old truism in recent weeks, with fantastic cup victories bracketed with lame league defeats against Bradfield, Aldenham and Saturday’s opponents Malvern. It had now got to the point where an unlikely second relegation was still mathematically possible. Kaptain Kiley banned any pre game talk of next week’s cup final. Focus was needed, no dreaming of Arthur permitted just yet. The initial augurs were good. The team selected looked strong, containing the bulk of our cup side. The passing drills seemed sharp and snappy. Waki arrived a full 25 minutes before kick-off, and had brought his own shin pads.
The game had been moved to an artificial 3G pitch. This invariably guarantees three things. The better technical team winning (us), someone bringing the wrong footwear (Duncan) and enormous amounts of guff being spouted in the pre-game huddle (everyone). The game was stretched, so we’d have to play a high line but also sit deep, as balls in behind were dangerous. We’d need to press to preserve the high line’s integrity but try to conserve energy as the game would get stretched. Keeping would be more difficult because of the absence of bobbles.
One thing OWFC did display throughout a first half they entirely dominated, was an unparalleled willingness to pass the ball in all areas of the pitch. The ‘hit the channels’ approach from the wintery bogs was entirely abandoned, and the back four were more than happy to knock the ball left, right and back again until the opportunity to pass forward presented itself. OWFC’s defensive hard men trio of Rann, Waki and The Mule™ seemed to be deeply enjoying this deviation from their usual job description. As for Walters, well, he’d been waiting for this game for years.
Waki and Rann’s little triangles at the back even started to include fellow former Collegeman Duncan, evoking the heady days of 1999’s Flower Pot, when the former two were youthful apprentices to the unstoppable Gerrard-esque driving midfield force of the latter. Sadly in 2013, the baby-faced keeper’s once precise first touch is long since tucked away deeper in the closet than (rest of sentence deleted on legal advice). Now, there was a hint of condescension to their attempts to allow the keeper to “get involved a bit”, like two young brothers at a family Christmas playing along with a demented elderly uncle’s nonsensical attempts to join in a game of charades.
Despite all this tippy tappy tiki taka, it was a more conventional show of strength that brought the opener. A Masefield corner from the right was flicked on at the near post by Marsh for OWFC’s Man of Letters Jamie Rann to power a far post header into the roof of the net. A proper centre backs goal, and one to savour.
But the patient approach soon bore fruit with one of the best goals this writer has ever seen OWFC produce. Skinner was absolutely destroying Malvern’s right flank, blasting down the outside of mud-footed opponents before spinning back in and unleashing his patented mix of dancing dribbles, accurate crosses and innaccurate shots. But for our second goal, he was merely the final part of a passing move that travelled the full length of the pitch and involed all eleven OWFC players. From a goal-kick the ball went patiently from right to left back, then all the way back again, before the midfields link up play with The Mule sent Skinner bursting towards the centre backs off his wing. The keeper did well to stretch and meet his low angled drive across the goal, but Kaptain Kiley was there for one of his favourite two yard screamers. Surely, he would now stop his bitching about an earlier effort that was apparently about a foot over the line before being hacked away.
Masefield always likes to join in the goals once we’ve got cracking, and soon he had two of his own. Or none. Or one. There’s a bit of a debate you see. First his curling freekick from the edge of the D hit a defenders head and totally wrong footed the keeper. “Going in anyway” he claimed. “Hmm, probably, I guess, alright then” came the reply. Then from wide on the left, his inswinging cross was met by their winger, ghosting in front of everyone and deftly nodding inside his own near post like a young Alan Shearer. “Going in anyway” he claimed. “Don’t take the piss” came the reply.
The half time interval was almost entirely devoted to talk of how, after a near perfect first half which saw us 4-0 to the good, the only thing threatening us was complacency. And in industrial quantities, relentless, eleven man complacency was what inevitably followed. Immediately from the restart, OWFC gave their own ball away, and after some good Malvern link play, Duncan was flinging himself full length to his left to tip a well-placed curling shot behind. This gave Malvern their first corner of the game, but they would go on to have about a dozen more. From one, an effort had to be tipped over. Some great last ditch heading and a couple of punches were needed to keep the line unbreached from others. Defenders, all of a sudden, were being required to actually defend, rather than just stroll magisterially about like Gordon Baker on his holidays. You can normally tell how badly we’re playing by the vocal pitch of Mad Dog Merriott’s instructions, and at no point in the second half did the meter fall below 7.2 Pasquales. These were troubling times.
All our composed passing and big-boy swagger had evaporated. The front three that had caused such total havoc in the first half were now having to survive on much reduced rations, but were still managing to cobble together the odd decent meal. Skinner still caused nightmares for whoever happened to have been sentenced to right back at any given time. Marsh surged through at one point and put Kiley in, but his finish was uncharacteristically easy for the keeper to pluck. Merriott hit the bar from a Masefield corner, then slalomed through three tackles before the out-rushing goalkeeper put a stop to that nonsense. Prichard had a shot blocked on the edge of the area.
Finally, in the dying minutes, Malvern summoned a goal that their vastly improved second half warranted, as Duncan allowed himself to get blocked off at a corner and the ball drifted on the wind over the near post man and straight in. A vaguely farcical end, but OWFC could reflect on a vital three points and an impressive showing.
Now then, what was it we weren’t allowed to talk about?
Old Malvernians 1 - 4 Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI ()