Men's 3rd XI: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
Excellent performances from the Nomads youngsters while the oldies bag three goals
A ball put into your path, Garth
That stroke was just swell, Mel
Your short corner was neat, Pete
There must be 50 years to score for Nomads
I love a good stat, me, and Saturday provided a cracker. Three goals, three scorers with an average age of precisely 50, and with no artificial inflation from Muncey. All very nice and round, and just in time before I spoil it by having a birthday on Tuesday. Is this a Nomads record? In the absence of any argument to the contrary I am going to claim it. Over to you, Nomads veterans.
Another excellent performance this, and particularly pleasing as it came from a team which was much more unbalanced than last week. With my fellow central defenders variously missing, injured or required to plug similar gaps in the 2's, our defence was clearly going to be worryingly makeshift for a tough encounter. Mike was moved across from right back into the middle, and put in a superb cameo performance for at least a good few minutes before a calf muscle injury took him off for the rest of the game. He did look good while he was on though! What to do now? The skippers e-mail plea before the game for any budding central defenders to identify themselves had not brought a response, and so thinking on my feet I decided to move Bertie away from his favoured midfield position to play at the back alongside me. Not a decision that Bertie was especially ecstatic about, and all I can say is that it was the first thing that came into my head while trying to simultaneously concentrate on stopping the opposition from scoring during what was a good spell for them.
As to the game itself, the first half was another fairly even affair, with perhaps Nomads slowly gaining the upper hand as it progressed. Eventually we got a break on, Mel went haring away down the right, got round the back and pulled back the perfect cross for Garth to flick it beyond the keeper's right hand. It was indeed played perfectly into Garth's path, the finish was clinical, and my apologies if you were born outside the South of England because that rhyme at the top of the page just ain't gonna work.
And so 1-0 at half-time. All going pretty well, except that Bertie was clearly not happy in a thoroughly unfamiliar role. Big thanks for stepping up though Bertie, much appreciated, and you certainly contributed to that half-time clean sheet. Thankfully, Hoddo suddenly remembered that he used to play at centre-back for the 1st XI back in the day, and following a nice simple switch of positions Steve demonstrated just how good he is in that position and Bertie proceeded to control centre-mid alongside Chris. Sometimes captaincy can be as simple as spotting a flow and going with it. The message at half-time though was mainly to keep pushing up the field and not to play the second half in our 23 as we had done the week before, because I couldn't see us making it through 35 minutes without a defensive lapse. As we had done the week before.
Nomads continued to have the better of the exchanges, and won a string of short corners in the second half. I was however getting a bit disoriented with the high quality injections coming nice and quickly to exactly where they were intended, and was consequently either dribbling a weak shot wide of the post or else giving Mel the worst slip pass to the left in the history of league hockey. Eventually I managed to duff a shot so badly that it dribbled and bounced a good three yards wide of the goal, but thankfully Hoddo the Mighty Injector had spotted what I was doing with repeated short corners, and had decided that this must be a ploy he hadn't been briefed on. So he was in exactly the right place to pick up the pathetic shot and flick it goalwards. A defender's leg got in the way, and the umpires did a great job of working as a team to award the penalty stroke. I am not going to claim any sort of an assist for this one, I have some standards.
Not sure whether Mel volunteered or suddenly found himself alone in the D after wiser heads had scarpered, but he put the stroke onto the keeper's left mitt with such venom that it ricocheted into the roof of the net. Rich was not happy with the aesthetic quality of the stroke, I was more than happy to see the scoreboard read 2-0. Particularly when Garth hobbled off soon afterwards, or it might have been before, I forget, having managed to pull a hamstring. Not his dodgy one, the other one, but either way we will all be hoping that heals quickly. Charlie moved up front in a rather more successful tactical change to my previous one, and again the willingness to adapt and to do what the team needs was much appreciated.
We continued to play as though attack is the best form of defence, and with about 10 minutes to go the skipper's half-time words proved prescient as Ely got a break on that we probably should have snuffed out but didn't. For one of the few times in the game we were guilty of following the ball rather than the runners, and one of those runners duly found himself free in the D with time to slot a neat reverse stick finish past Rich. 2-1, and the prospect of a rather more nervous finale than we had been expecting.
Thankfully we had learned from the Kettering game though, and we continued to push upfield. We had a few more unsuccessful short corners, then finally finally finally with about two minutes to go the skipper managed to connect with one properly. 526g of prime Adidas carbon fibre sent the ball fizzing two or three feet inside the left hand post, hitting the backboard halfway up with a most satisfying thunk. Sit enough monkeys in front of a keyboard for long enough and they'll type out the works of Shakespeare etc. etc.
That pretty much sealed the deal, and a cold but ultimately very satisfying afternoon on the edge of The Fens. Top performances from front to back this week, and I am glad we don't have a formal man of the match award to hand out because I have no idea who I would give it to. Garth and Mel caused problems for the Ely defence all afternoon, while Dave and Steve B made sure that we kept our left and Ely's right tightly under control all game. Excellent performances from all of our teenagers Luke, Charlie, Julian and Chris. They ran their socks off all afternoon, which we are getting used to from Chris in particular, and it did not go unnoticed by an aging centre-back. Your work-rate was a major factor behind our success, thank you all. Your skills are also really progressing as well, and the younger three in your rookie seasons can consider yourselves truly settled in to adult hockey. Hoddo and Bertie made sure we kept centre-mid and central defence under control, particularly once I got you lined up the right way round. Mike showed enough in his cameo to suggest that he would have had no problems moving from his accustomed right back position to central defence, and Rich was his usual solid self and made sure his defenders knew exactly what needed covering in front of him. And I provided a very nice stopwatch to time the substitutions.
I will also give a shout out to the umpires. They were fully consistent, particularly on dangerous play, didn't miss much, worked well together, and so fully contributed to a very enjoyable game. Thanks both, very much appreciated.
No eating contests in the bar afterwards, so we turned our attention to musical references in match reports. Seems that Mike missed most of them being a bit of a metal head and, despite being my age, being evidently unaware that the punk revolution was raging through his teenage years. He also seems to think that Motorhead rather than The Fall are the greatest rock and roll band in the world, which is obviously just wrong because the late and great John Peel agrees with me. I do have to say though that I have always thought that Motorhead are the punkiest of the heavy metal bands, and that Ace of Spades in particular could just as easily have featured on a Damned album, so maybe there is more overlap than I thought. Rich also seemed to think that The Undertones' My Perfect Cousin is a superior single to Teenage Kicks because it mentions Subbuteo (ask your Dad, kids). Controversy will no doubt continue to reign over that one.
So, another very decent team performance, goals continue to come, and we are learning to defend properly while missing a number of key defenders. Very pleased with the last two weeks' results and performances, and the continuing response to our 7-1 defeat. You are exceeding my expectations so far this season; let's keep it all rolling into Christmas.