From Ordinary to Extraordinary in Seconds

Paul Em

Despite having played football for at least four decades, the roller coaster ride of a football match, never ceases to amaze me. In hind sight, this was no ordinary game. However as is often the case, initially everything seemed oh so very normal. For example, it was a cold, wet windy day, and we had already played on a similar large grass pitch, earlier in the season. Furthermore, the fact that we could barely get 12 players (thanks once again to so many United boys who stood up for the cause) and were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the kit 10 minutes before kick-off, these were all similar scenarios that we had encountered many times before.

Likewise the game started with The Gaffer predictably choosing to go up hill and into the wind. This meant that we were often camped in our own half (I suppose better than some snow covered mountain, eh Gary?). Despite the pressure we were generally playing some good solid football. Defensively we were well structured and saw some good counter attacking moves particularly through Eric, Steve H and Ray down the right.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a Legend’s match if there weren’t one or two moments of amusement and hilarity. For example, The Gaffer inextricably passed the ball directly to his opponent who was meant to be marking him. Such was the shock, Emery as the last line of defence and in acres of space then fell over, getting tangled in his own laces. Worse still he got up and as if everyone had missed it, repeated the same skill again. It was like Bambi on ice!! Fortunately, with everyone laughing so much, this highly skilful manoeuvre actually worked, as Sandringham passed the ball to one of their players in an offside position.

As a wake-up call, the laces were retied, and City became more focused in their defensive tactics. Dyksie and Jeremy combined well down the left and we nearly managed to get a hard chasing Brownie through on at least two occasions. However, credit must also be given to our goalkeeper Graham, who neatly flicked a 25 yard shot over the bar. This was then followed by two goal bound corners. Both were very confidently punched clear under heavy pressure on his own goal line. The good news a 0 – 0 half-time score line, and we now looked forward to a wind assisted second half.

The second half started with strong City pressure. Glenn, Steve H and The Gaffer provided some good long balls for our fluid forward line of John, Steve B, and Michael to enthusiastically chase. Despite some good long shots, the Sandringham goalkeeper had followed Graham’s lead and it appeared that nothing was going to rebound from his tight grasp.

And then somewhat surprisingly the wind just disappeared. So much to our match tactics. With our limited numbers on the bench, fatigue started to set in and Sandringham soon took control of the midfield. As we pressed for a winner, Sandie produced some excellent counter attaching moves. Moving the ball very quickly to a speedy winger they opened up our inside channel on a regular basis. On at least three occasions Eric or Graham had to save us. Then the inevitable happened and they scored. Suffice to say the referee, very fortunately for us, ruled it offside.

This prompted The Gaffer to move Emery into midfield and strengthen the back row by bringing Jeremy into a more central defensive position. This seemed to work as City were winning possession and now started to create goal scoring opportunities. John found himself with a one on one with the keeper, and Brownie was continually putting pressure on their left full back. From an attacking City corner that resulted, Ray won a fifty fifty ball and drove the ball hard into the box. Emery, on the edge of the 6 yard box, controlled it cleanly with his left and as he span around to hit it with his right, sniffer Brown, with his great poaching skills once again, was already there to strike it into the net making it 1- 0.

With barely 15 minutes left and City defensively getting numbers behind the ball, it looked as though we were at last in control of the result. Mistake. This is where the ordinary suddenly turned to extraordinary. Firstly the referee now appeared to be commentating on and during the game. With ball in play, he was regularly saying things like “6 minutes left” and as if in a mantra, “no fouls, no fouls”. Clearly Ray hadn’t turned up his hearing aid, as with just 4 minutes left, his innocuous challenge some 25 metres out resulted in a direct free-kick. City appeared to have sufficient numbers back. But as the wall was forming and moving 10 metres back (at the request of the referee), a quick thinking Sandringham player chipped the ball high in the air and it must have bounced twice before it trickled into the side net. An astounded United questioned the referee’s decision, particularly as he had asked us to move back 10 metres, but to no effect. He merely suggested that none of us “know the rules”. For the last 2 minutes both teams played out a draw and the game appeared to end amicably.

Both teams had been committed to a hard fought game where respect was clearly evident. Not a single dirty tackle or bad word had been exchanged between the sides during the match. BUT … as players from both teams were shaking hands with each other, Jenkins Junior went to the ref (not in an aggressive manner I hasten to add) and said “I thought you had a very ordinary game”. This is where ordinary went to extraordinary in a matter of seconds. A dialogue of the rules quickly escalated to a 1 minute Referee monologue that questioned the parentage of MJ and in no uncertain terms was foul and racially abusive language from a referee to a player!! Hearing the fracas and amusingly so, the two 6 foot perpetuators were ironically separated by the smallest guy on the field, Bulldog Ray, the very instigator of the infamous free-kick.

A sad way to end what was a roller coaster afternoon of football … but it at least meant a fun car journey home with plenty to talk about!!  

MMM Memorable moment of the match – The unpredictable nature of a game of football – the before and after of the infamous free-kick.

Muppet Moment of Match – Jenkins Junior for lighting the fuse for a highly explosive and abusive Referee rant.  

BMW BoP Doncaster’s Best on Park – Graham’s commitment to Legend’s cause both in terms of keeping us in the game for as long as he did and also due to his off-field attitude towards the City team in The Gaffer’s absence. 

 

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