Match Report - 11 Sep 2021, Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI beat Old Alleynians
Match Report: OWFC 1s vs Alleyns - Saturday 11th September
Sun: shining. Pre-match fitness tests: positive. Lateral flow tests: negative (maybe).
Ready, steady, football.
Like absolutely nobody's business, Saturday 11th September had rolled around - with the first game of the (Arthurian League) Premier League season ringing in the official end of summer (Southgate you really were the one) and the start of what I imagine will be another belter of a winter. Hard to top 2020/21 for me though - that was class, all that darkness, desperation and social confinement etc. In a world of chaos and change, however, the Dubs did their very best on a glorious, sunny day in South West London to provide a ray (first pun: confirmed) of continuity to proceedings: by entering the first game of the season missing as many as 10 regular first team squad members. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - apart from Long Covid, which absolutely does not - and against a strong Alleyns side who had taken us to the metaphorical cleaners last season, the Dubs produced a performance of real character, quality and +insert another cliché from post-match press conference+ to dig out an immensely satisfying 2-1 win.
The Dubs lined up with not one but two full debutants in the starting 11. Kahan Shirvani - class of 2017 (I believe) - lined up at centre back in the absence of club secretary and world-class house party host Alex Dawkins, whilst Caspar Byers - class of very much more recent, brother of Seb and more importantly the newest member of the OWFC Chris Good fan club - positioned himself at the pivot / base / foundation of a new-look midfield 3 formation. Gone are the days of two holdings midfielders. Of 25% possession. Change is here and it looks like c.45-50% possession. Change is here and it looks like a single pivot who can sit in and do the boring (not for me I like it) but difficult and critical role of dictating possession and tempo. Think Sergio Busquets but moulded not by La Masia but by La Guadia (that's my last Chris Good reference). Within 10 minutes both debutants had made their mark - Byers Jr. rotating the ball around midfield and defence with an ease and maturity that defied his years, and Shirvani getting his name etched into the referee's book after 3 minutes with a tackle that Graeme Souness (but you've got to ask yourself, where was Pogba in all of this?) would be proud of. Pundits after the game were quick to reference Shirvani's early years at Winchester being trained by Sever and Hodnett, and the early yellow card suddenly made a lot more sense.
Alleyns - who were by all accounts a terrible bunch of blokes at school-age and whose striker confirmed on Saturday that this may still be the case by asking Sever if he 'wanted some' - offered little by way of attacking threat in the first 15 mins, with a back four of Woodman, Sever, Shirvani and Byers Sr. martialling them well and barking orders at each other. We liked it. And going forward, we were creating chances - with Essex, Morse and Ross-Skinner getting in behind and having early opportunities at goal. And then, just like that, the old haunted figure of early-season's past reared its ugly head - their long-legged holding midfielder picking up the ball from 30 yards and deciding to plop one in top bins. 0-1. Cue 15-20 minutes of forgettable football to bring us to half-time - with the Dubs at the break ruing missed chances and (quite rightly) suggesting that it could have been 3-1 the other way. But we were in this - Essex was making serious inroads down the left hand side, Morse was pulling them all over the place (insert some clumsy segue / reference to Junior Part socials), and Hodnett was doing his usual thing of being way too good for anyone in the postcode to get anywhere near him.
And then, immediately after half-time, the Dubs were back in it. Hodnett played a delightful through ball for Morse - hitherto unnoticed by both centre backs, who were keeping their steely gaze solely on the dangerous figure of an offside Essex - who raced through and knobbled it past the 'keeper. High fives, Covid-conscious fist pumps - you name it: 1-1. And then, like London buses (shout out to the rail replacement bus that brought us from Hounslow to Whitton), 1 became 2 in a flash. Essex's quick thinking long throw set Fitton away down the right hand side, who got the ball under control, picked his head up and cut the ball back diagonally to the returning, on-rushing Essex. 3 words to summarise what followed: Andrey; Arshavin; Barcelona. And another two words: Sucker; Punch. And then one more word: Scenes.
Alleyns were in disarray - their usual South London (Dulwich - average house price: lots) swagger replaced by a sort of chaotic, fraught energy that didn't look good on them. And boy did we let them know it. The Dubs battened down the hatches and settled in for the long-haul flight to a 2-1 win - McCleery looking solid at CB, and Goulding coming on for the cramp-ridden Byers Jr (tabloid pundits suggesting he was feeling the affects of a Friday night out on the town) and positioning himself right in the centre of the action - taking to it like the proverbial duck to aqua. Eager for any opportunity to nibble at the opponent, kick the ball away, and chirp in their ears, Goulding gave a demonstration in the dark arts, generously offering a free Ted Talk on his latest tour-de-fource: the Global Shithousery Manifesto, 2021-22 ed.. And like a virus, it spread. Others got in on the act too - Shirvani repeatedly kicking the ball away from opponents, Woodman ambling ever slower between every throw-in, and Sever doing just enough (which wasn't much) to push their troubled striker over the edge into a full-blown meltdown. And Hodnett kicked a few people - as is his want. Goulding's Disciples, the fans called them.
One stunning save from Wheal aside, it was a complete and utter lockdown (insert reference to morally bankrupt political elites and a lack of accountability in political culture). It finished 2-1 to the sons of Wykeham and boy what a strong reminder of the growing strength in depth at the club. A few drinks at the aptly named Winning Post pub followed (Me: Coke, Lekan: Coke, Hodnett: Coke, also Beer. Different drinks, different needs) where we soaked up some sun, chewed the fat, and started planning for the next week. Onto Tonbridge - I'd love it if we beat them. Love it.
Mes que un Dub.
Old Alleynians 1 - 2 Old Wykehamist Football Club 1st XI ()