Match Report - 26 Sep 2015, Old Wykehamist Football Club 2nd XI lost to Old Alleynians
In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers launched the Mayflower from the old Surrey Commercial Dock, Rotherhithe to start the first leg of their journey, to Southampton for supplies, and then the New World.
Few could have predicted the similarly enterprising bunch that might appear there some 395 years later for a similarly noble task, as 14 brave Old Wykehamists arrived in search not of a new home, but merely three points.
Standing between them and victory was an Old Alleynians side new to the idiosyncrasies of Arthurian League football, although, myself included, many of the OWs could hardly claim to be veterans.
On a surface that was as memorable as anything else, predominantly because a week later you’ll still be finding small black pieces of matter emerging from your navel, our opponents produced much of the football in the early stages.
OAs had lined up most unsportingly with five men in midfield, breaking from the traditional 4-4-2 that any god-fearing captain employs, and the extra man in midfield proved vital in the early stages, as Dulwich College’s men stroked the ball around with authority.
When OAs didn't have the ball, they showed an altogether more ruthless streak, using their superior physical presence to inflict a potentially career-ending injury on James Parker in the first five minutes, although in fairness he did make a Lazarus-like recovery in the space of 45 seconds.
His strike partner John Wilson was not so fortunate, suffering a serious ankle injury after a crunching 50:50 which caused every man to wince.
If that took the wind out our sails, what happened next was a leak in the hull, as debutant James Gray (for it was I) spilled a free kick, which was sent back across goal to be turned in by an Old Alleynian, albeit one clearly behind your side (Er, I think it’s called offside? Ed.)
A rousing half-time talk, worthy of any of the great orators - Cicero, Lincoln, Churchill, Corbyn… - from our stand-in skipper Jamie Rann, and we returned to the field, this time with five across the middle, matching their lousy tactic in an effort to get level.
And for maybe twenty minutes, it worked. Paddy Lloyd, a ex-Cookite with plenty of Liam Taylor’s spunk in him, marshalled the space in front of the midfield with energy and Javier Mascherano-esque dynamism.
OWs even produced some shots at goal, something of a golden egg in the first half, with Will Thurston and the energetic Theo Suh both causing keeper problems.
However, our opponents' quality told, when Zac Tiplady’s left flank was finally penetrated, and the pull back was smartly converted in off the far post.
A third quickly followed, as we failed to track a midfield runner, who slipped the ball under a goalkeeper too slow to fall to his backside ('tis not usual, dear reader).
With the result seemingly beyond us, our discipline, up until that point exemplary, abandoned us somewhat. Lloyd, the gadfly of OAs’ talented central midfielders from minute one, eventually got sufficiently under one man’s skin to provoke a reaction, but with no men dismissed, it was in vain.
OWs continued to create chances; Hamish Russell’s long throws created many problems in the box, and Parker probably should have done better after a fine flick on from Nick Baines, but still to our name remained a zero.
And would that it had ended 3-0. But no. Rann, a rock-like general of defence all day, produced the blunder of a lifetime, scuffing a back pass directly into the path of a grateful striker, who had only to chip the ball some 35 yards into an empty net. He might have buried his head in the sand, but between his legs only found black rubber crumb.
A fifth did follow, a rather fortuitous pinball affair that cannoned in off a striker’s arm, but 5-0 did no justice to the perseverance and hard work of the Wykehamists of the day.
Like the Pilgrim Fathers who left 400 years before us, we went to the Mayflower. However, while there’s was a vessel to carry them to the hope of a new world, ours was a pub, to carry us to the familiar cradle of a beery, afternoon nap.
(James Gray, GK '09)
Old Alleynians 5 - 0 Old Wykehamist Football Club 2nd XI ()