Men's 3rd XI: National Shite Day
Or at least it was East Cambridge Frustration Afternoon as Nomads come within 5 minutes of being unbeaten at home in 2017
The Cambridge South website says it came midway through the second half. I spent the third quarter on the bench and it felt like I had been back on the pitch for a while when it happened, so I am going with 5 minutes from the end. But either way it was a hugely frustrating goal and a horrible end to an unbeaten home record stretching all the way back to a stonking 6-1 win in the first home game of 2017. Our opponents that day? Some outfit called Cambridge South 4th XI, I wonder what became of them.
The pleasing symmetry, including that of the South goal tally, did not unfortunately compensate for the disappointment of the result. The only blemish on our home record for 2017, which reads W7 D1 L1. Hell of a run though, and no wonder that grown men have been spotted weeping in the car park at Fortress Coldhams and begging not to be made to play here. Hey ho, we'll just have to go one better in 2018.
There were some very disappointed Nomads players at the final whistle, but it's important that we get it all into perspective, set it against the scale of human suffering. Rather than think of the Mugabe government and the children of the Calcutta Railways, I prefer to think back just three short weeks to our debacle of a trip to St Ives. We were woeful that day, and got the absolute pasting that our defensive performance so richly deserved. Quite a shock after picking up 13 points off the first five matches, and it did prompt uncomfortable thoughts about how maybe we might be, you know, not all that good really. And with three matches to follow against the other sides in the top half of the table, it was difficult to be too optimistic.
So the huge positive since then is how well we have responded to that defeat. Three superb performances, four points, an aggregate score of 4-3 in our favour, and confirmation that we can indeed compete with the best sides in the league, when we remember to defend. If you had offered me that three weeks ago I would have bitten your hand off, and if you had told me that we would be bitterly disappointed after losing 1-0 to the league leaders I would have laughed in your face. No-one did offer or tell me that as it happens, not least because they would have to be the sort of wierdo I would cross the A14 to avoid, but I count it as a very big plus that we were far from satisfied on Saturday with a strong performance and a narrow defeat.
So, plenty to be positive about from these last three weeks, even if we end up encountering Primark FM.
The game began with a first half which very rapidly developed in to a high tempo and high quality contest. Both sides fully contributed to this state of affairs, but you would have to give the first period to the visitors. We were not up to their pace in the first 35 minutes, didn't create too much, and in fact could and should have been behind at the interval when one more South short corner was well blocked on the line by a defender. Unfortunately he forgot to use his stick, and we were very grateful to see Rich keep out the resultant stroke. The stroke itself wasn't quite in the Ashley Jackson class, but the big fella still had to do very well to get down and save to his right. Jubilation in the Nomads ranks, and was this to be the first indication of one of those days for South and a sneaked result for the home side?
We spoke at half time about the need to play the men in front of us and not their league position, and to have some confidence that we could go out and compete with them if we truly believed we could win. This seemed to have the desired effect, as we tore into the opposition from the restart like a man with a mullet going mad with a mallet in Millets. We put together attack after attack, won a number of short corners, but found the South defence very well organised and tough to break down. When we did get through we came up against a keeper who was picking a very good day to have an absolute blinder. Or maybe he always plays like that, don't know, but either way we could not find a way through, and when asked in the pub afterwards for our casting vote for their Man of the Match, he was a pretty unanimous choice.
Into the final quarter, and Nomads continued to push for the win. Maybe we had learned from sitting back too far against Kettering, maybe we were just having a good spell, but we sensed that three points were there and it certainly felt to me by this stage that we were the only team who were going to win from here on in. Hubris, say hello to my very good friend, Nemesis. A quick break from South, and somewhat against the run of play at that stage South had a late short corner. Rob pulled out a quite superb stick save from the initial strike, but that seemed to be all part of the cunning plan as South immediately rolled out a slick training ground routine involving a prone goalkeeper, 6 attackers and 4 defenders all hacking around the ball like a bunch of desperate teenagers contesting the last couple of Brook sausages. Eventually, what felt like the 15th attempt on goal finally dribbled inside the post for the most deflating goal we have conceded for a very long time.
We continued to press for an equaliser, still to no avail, until on the final whistle we were awarded one final corner of our own. Everyone up, no pressure, but this is the whole match right here right now. Despite all our training routines on a Tuesday night we managed to make a complete pig's ear of exploiting the 10 v 4 overload, the ball broke to a South defender, and he gleefully leathered it out of the circle to secure the three points. Cue drumroll, it's Nomads' Shite Day.
Hugely frustrating for us, and more than one South player said to me during the post-match handshakes that there had been precisely nothing between the two teams. Having had time to reflect on it though, this match comes with a very harsh lesson, which is that we lost because we failed to score when we were on top. Do that, and you are always going to be vulnerable to a mistake, a break and a goal. It happens. South won in the end because they were disciplined enough to absorb everything we threw at them, then when they had their solitary late chance they took it. And that, gentlemen, is why they are on top of the league and we are looking up at them from 8 points further back. A kick in the teeth, certainly, but we can and will take pride in the performance and learn from the experience.
Not much else to add really, except to report that I found a dead wading bird by our dugout. Let me know if this is your sanderling, and I'll parcel it up and send it off to you.
And may the Lord have mercy on Stringy Bob.
Right, my whisky's empty. Thank you, and goodnight.