Match Report - 20 Apr 2013, Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI lost to Old Carthusians
Dreams of Mido
Skinner, Wakiwaka, Redhead, Rae (Vernon 60);
Marsh(c), Merriott (Prichard 65), Masefield;
Donald, Irvine-Fortescue (Kiley 75), Sutton;
In underrated 80s farce Clockwise, John Cleese’s character tells us “I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand”. From the minute James Irvine-Fortescue tucked away a Tom Vernon centre for our fourth and final goal in the dying moments of the semi at Harrow, this quote gently gnawed at the back of my mind. By Saturday evening it was bellowing at the top of its voice.
OWFC took on Arthurian League runaway champions and multiple Arthur Dunn Cup winners Carthusians on a glorious day at Teddington Sports Ground. Despite the opposition, hope was the order of the day, and the genuinely incredible OWFC support was in the hundreds. OWFC head online cheerleader Tom Guest exhaustively begged for supportive retweets from what seemed like the entire population of Twitter. Of the celebs, only portly Egyptian goal-hanger Mido, formerly of THFC and KFC, obliged, and for that he will receive our eternal gratitude and love. Meanwhile Ed Neale, former skipper and president of our South American supporters club, urged us to break legs, both figuratively and literally. Several members of our last AD Cup winning side from 52 years ago were present to witness history, not least skipper Huber Doggart. There was a fantastic turnout of current club men, retired stalwarts, girlfriends, wives, mothers and fathers. The next generation were there too, all those enthusiastic youngsters with posters of Jack Merriott on their walls, pretending they’re Taro Kiley when they tap the ball in from two yards on the playground. But those wide eyed young fans, with their Skinner and Masefield replica shirts, would trudge home tearfully asking why life has to be like this. Why must adversity crush our dreams just as they form? Because God hates you Timmy, that’s why. Now finish your pint, you’ve got homework to do.
Fitness concerns over James Irvine-Fortescue – the Didier Drogba of Arthurian league Division One – undermined preparations, and he was only confirmed in the starting eleven after a 2pm fitness test went without hitch. Absurdly, Miles Skinner had contrived to stove his head in by walking into a lamppost in midweek while rubbernecking a minor traffic accident. This rendered him unable to head the ball, which would have weakened us if he ever headed the ball under normal circumstances. But with our only change of the returning Tom Rae in for the sadly unavailable Nigel Day at left back, hope – false, treacherous hope – radiated through the underdogs and their support.
OWFC were almost behind in the first minute with Carthusians crafting a good chance straight from the kick-off. Their Transit Van proportioned centre-forward showed the first example of his unexpected deftness, linking smartly with the midfield. A teasing through ball into the box forced Duncan into earlier action than he would have liked, and his attentions forced the winger sufficiently wide and off balance for his left footed attempt to hit only the side netting. A warning, as if we needed one.
The game settled into the anticipated pattern. Carthusians, multiple Premier Division and Cup champions, the cocky and entitled Manchester United to our determined, easily forgotten, yo-yoing West Brom, looking more assured on the ball and more threatening round the box. Nevertheless, they were being made to work for every inch by an OWFC line up with quality at the back, power in midfield and dangerous counter-attackers up front. Redhead and Waki were continuing their phenomenal fire-fighting work of earlier rounds, and while Sutton and Donald on the flanks weren’t able to get on the ball much, they exuded menace whenever they did. It would be a hell of a fight, but we were in this game.
Carthusians’ next clear chance came after about 20 minutes. A swung ball from the left to the far post saw Transit Van Man jumping with Wakiwaka and Rae, and when the bouncing ball fell kindly to the Carthusians man, some last ditch outstretched limbs from the two OWFC defenders and outrushing keeper did just enough to divert the ball behind. Second warning. Carthusians then had a mirror image chance on their left flank a few minutes later, as their tricky number 10 squeezed just enough inches of space from a jockeying Skinner to get s shot away, but it was too close to Duncan on the near post and was beaten away. Third warning.
Just when it looked like OW’s were in danger of drowning in these repeated attacking waves, they started to get more of the play themselves. The three M’s in Midfield (Marsh, Merriot, Masefield) were starting to shape the game in their image rather than follow the oppositions lead, and suddenly we looked a threat. The scheming Sutton got the ball at his feet a few times, and his smart link play was starting to cause issues down the left. On the other side, Sam Donald drifted inside, prowling for goals, while OWFC greyhound Skinner flew up and down the space he’d vacated. Marsh and Masefield were starting to get into their preferred zone of just outside the opposition box. This growing confidence should have resulted in a penalty on the half hour. Their centre back was far too casual with the ball at his feet in his own area, and when Sutton snaffled the ball from his toes as he attempted to boot it clear, all he managed to do was trip the OWFC man. The crowd shrieked, the players wailed, the referee shook his head and strolled on. Totally objective I may not be, but that was without question what Chris Waddle would call a “Stoned Wall Pelanty”. Shortly after that, opportunity almost knocked, as the Carthusians keeper spilled a deep cross beyond his far post under pressure from JIF and Donald. But the ball just wouldn’t drop for the latter, and his attempt to put the bouncing ball away was crowded out by alert defenders.
While OWFC were now threatening, Carthusians were nevertheless still enjoying the bulk of the play, and shortly after the non-penalty had the best chance of the game. The usual tsunami of midfield runners pulled our centre backs out in support of the fullback, which meant the subsequent cross into the box found Transit Van Man unmarked and eight yards out. Duncan pre-emptively threw himself in front of the striker, hoping the inevitable bullet header would find him and not the netting. Fortunately it did, although if he was being greedy, the youthful keeper would probably have preferred it to have struck a different area than his face. But beggars can’t be choosers, and the attentions of Waki and Redhead meant the ballooning deflection was dealt with too.
With two minutes until the break, OWFC were starting to dream about attaining their first target of the day – half-time parity. But, as was explained to young Timmy in the introduction to this story, when a dream is so close, that’s usually when fate smiles wryly and starts to unbutton its fly. With the interval in sight, Carthusians hard running right winger – and offspring of OWFC Chairman John Hornby – got the ball in sufficient space out wide to run directly at the back four. Some skilful footwork took him inside Rae, and with Duncan flying out and hoping his luck was still in, cooly opened his body and curled a left foot finish inside the far post. 1-0, half time, heartbreak.
Lew Chatterley gave half time a pleasingly retro feel by offering his musings to the dispirited underdogs. But in all truth there wasn’t much to be said that we didn’t know. We were playing a very strong side. They would doubtless have more chances. But if we could keep maintain the improvement we’d shown through the first half and ride our luck at the back, then anything was possible. On field captain Marsh bellowed encouragement, delivering the rousing soliloquy Henry would probably have proffered at Agincourt if his speechwriter had been not Shakespeare but Barry Fry. Full of fire and wine gums, OW’s were ready for the second half.
Sadly, we did not yet know that we had already peaked for the day. Carthusians came out at half time more focussed, more aggressive, more clinical, and OW’s were simply not able to keep a grip on their coat tails. Within five minutes of the restart, the advantage was doubled. Again, an excellent cross met the forehead of Transit Van Man. Again, Duncan deflected the ball away from point blank while knowing little about it (the shoulder blade this time). But unlike the first half, the looping rebound was swivel-volleyed into the far corner with no little skill and the jig was up. Ten minutes later it was three. A long throw bounced between Marsh and Duncan on the corner of the six yard box, the latter hesitated for a fateful split second and in nipped an OWFC midfielder to round the keeper and side foot home from a narrow angle.
The third goal triggered OW changes, with Vernon coming on for Rae and playing in front of Sutton, and Prichard making a straight swap with Merriott in the middle. Vice-captain Prichard was soon into his full-on “flying buttress mode”, block tackling with gusto before careering up the pitch in support, resembling a riderless horse at The National. The momentum from these two additions came very close to creating clear cut opportunities, but too often OW’s final through ball found the goal line rather than the support run. Kiley joined the fray 10 minutes later, and buzzed around with all his usual energy, but the rapier strike never came, despite a succession of well delivered Masefield corners nearly producing joy for Marsh and Donald. Instead as OWFC vainly threw men forward in hope of the unlikeliest of comebacks, the ever valiant Waki was left with two men to mark as Carthusians countered. A perfectly weighted chipped pass took the centre back out of game and allowed the Carthusian winger to power home from 10 yards without breaking his stride.
The only thing left to be endured was the singular awfulness of collecting our ‘thanks for coming’ medals in front of a not insignificant crowd, and watching the Carthusians skipper raise the Arthur Dunn trophy and wave it for the lined up cameras, who in a final act of mockery had lined up directly in front of us so we could have the best view in the house. The vanquished had to console themselves with the warm applause and embrace of the many who had come to support us, and the hospitality of Chairman Hornby as he threw open the doors of the excellent White Swan pub in Twickenham (that’ll be a fiver John – ED), with free beers and whitebait for all.
Victor Hugo said adversity makes men and prosperity makes monsters. Taro Kiley said we’ll f***ing do them next year. In twelve months’ time, we’ll see how right they are.
Old Carthusians 4 - 0 Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI ()