The 13 minutes that defined a century or was it a match?

Patrick Moore

A day to remember or forget? 16th July, 1969 … no this is not youngster’s Paul C’s birth date. This is the day that Apollo 11 took off and 4 days later, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. 50 years on, would the planets align and make this weekend a return to winning ways?

Whilst the ‘13 minutes that defined a century’ moment, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, may be beyond compare, the first 13 minutes and last 13 minutes of this tightly fought encounter were telling. So where do we start?

As a weekend winter fixture and on grass, the omens were initially not looking good. Through injuries and unavailable players (at least 6), oh yes and there were some late arrivals and not I hasten to add related to Steve H’s wedding activities, Houston (The injured Gaffer) constructed and communicated the plan. Namely “let’s closely mark and DON’T get wound up by their center forward”. The problem – it then took us 2 minutes to identify who he was?!!

The good news, we had a good subs bench (players I mean), and the first steps on this new planet/big pitch were so much better than last year’s mud bath and of course there were no craters – synthetic cricket wicket yes, but no craters. Again with no toss taken, the referee told us we were going uphill and had kick off – decisions that were all part of NASA’s detailed master plan.

The whistle blew and the first 13 minutes from Legend’s perspective were brilliant. Maurice was in fine form, and with excellent interplay through our midfield, chances to open up their back line were numerous. Three well saved shots occurred even before Mo put in the perfect corner to an unmarked Ronnie to hit home.

1-0 and a deserved start. This goal unfortunately also seemed to wake up their very mobile forwards, and the verbals and diving immediately started. Ray, tightly marking the very gifted Ashburton centre forward, then earned a rightly awarded yellow … but in fairness he did offer an apologetic handshake – in hindsight perhaps the first round of this ongoing featherweight boxing match!!

As the half progressed, the downhill advantage meant that we had to do some tight defending but the plan was working. Of the very few times that Ray lost his shadow, sweeper Paul E cleaned up, or a well-positioned Graham caught comfortably.

And then they scored. In a tightly crowded box, the ball fell to the “smiling assassin” and he saw his opportunity. With back to goal his close ball control and sprightly movement meant that he dribbled into Ron’s static leg and no surprises immediately he went down. A penalty was awarded and cleanly struck making it 1-1.

The next chapter opened and the verbal and physical stoushes became more frequent. The onfield message went back to mission control “Houston we have a problem”. For separate incidents Ray and Paul C were immediately sin binned by The Gaffer, even before the referee intervened. Eric L then took over Ray’s marking role and did a very good job of keeping the cheeky Scouser quiet for at least five minutes. Perhaps they were sharing their best jokes with each other. Regardless both were actually smiling, and Eric followed this up with a powerful defensive header, reminding him “I’m still in your pocket.”

While Ashburton pressed for a second, we also had our chances at the other end. Mario hit the crossbar, and even Emery got forward, nut-megging a defender before gaining a corner from which Ashburton desperately saved on the line. Despite a City call for a penalty, nothing was given and the arm wrestle continued.

The half ended though with a real memorable moment of some quality. With their centre forward hitting his straps and demonstrating his clear football talent, Erick S once again put his life on the line. Ashburton progressed down the right, and with a driven ball to their centre forward he looked to be lined up for a simple tap in from 6 yards … and then from no-where Erick appeared. Not content on donating his blood for the team (Beaumaris match), on this occasion he reenacted the Spider-Man Far From Home film. No I’m talking about the nerdy student bit, being used to fight all evil, but the ability to somehow fly through the air and put his body in line of anything. The result – the ball flew off his body at such a velocity it screamed past his near post and in astrological terms “flew inches past Uranus” or was it Graham’s? Regardless, as with any Apollo mission, there was then the requirement of applying the old “Lunar Orbit Insertion” technique – in layperson’s language Erick’s landing!! From close range, this was not a pretty sight. With the Scouser even impressed and giving him a round of applause, the City defense had the job of putting all his flailing limbs back in place.     

So 1-1 it went into half-time (a common feature of our last few games) … with us still baffled with the Buzz Lightyear puzzle of reconstructing a medically enhanced/manipulated Erick. The instructions on the box just didn’t match the contents in our possession. And where was that third leg meant to go?

Oh sorry, back to the report – the team talk with NASA’s mission control. Clearly this was not rocket science, so the message – let’s just keep it simple play good football and not get wound up was the order of the day. But in hindsight, rocket science is perhaps easier. Sport is unscripted, perhaps much more complicated than astrophysics. As per the New Zealand/England cricket World Cup final, it can be personal, emotional, frustrating and joyous all at the same time.

And so it seemed in the second half of this match. Half chances were created at either end and as the rain fell and the ball skidded, there were plenty of Muppet Moments. Emery for example completely missed two unpressured opponent goal kicks, on one occasion gifting Ashburton’s most skillful player a goal scoring opportunity. Fortunately for us Graham, who has often done in recent games, brilliantly saved this close range one on one shot to again keep us in the game.

Ray redeemed himself with a risky but well timed tackle on his alien friend, and as expected the ‘sniper’ acting Oscar was awarded and went unpunished. From one of our own free kicks from just outside the box, Ronnie proved the dummy (no not on this occasion to keep himself quiet) for Martin to provide a well struck shot that was well saved by their keeper.

However, as both sides pushed for a win, many of the encounters were now being accompanied by verbal and physical actions/reactions. For example, an earie silence was broken by Eric’s expletive and a charging rhino impression (Muppet Moment), before Houston and the Russian Space Agency claimed their respective properties and benched the two sumo wrestlers involved.

Unfortunately, history does have a habit of repeating itself. This closely fought out football game was finally determined in the last 13 minutes of the match. With Ashburton starting to dominate our midfield and pressurise us on the ball, possession became a premium on our tired fatiguing legs. Both teams were starting to pick up and complain about the awarding or not awarding of freekicks. At one stage I thought we were given a penalty only to find the push in the back was given the opposite way.

We then lost possession down the right wing and an exquisite cross landed on their centre forward’s head to finish off from 6 yards. This decisive goal made it 2-1 and credit where it is due, this was a well taken and executed goal.

As City pushed forward and Ashburton getting to too many of our passes first, we again got undone by a counterattacking move, this time down the left. A long cross aimed towards their one forward in our box fell short. Unfortunately Gid wanted an assist and headed the ball directly to him (Muppet Moment) and with just the goalkeeper to beat, he powered the ball home. 3-1.

With the final whistle following shortly and with handshakes being offered by both teams; for some reason this lit the touch paper. An explosive verbal stoush was heard and handbags at dawn boxing match request was reignited. Personal insults apparently were traded and it appeared that some players wanted to make it physical and take the matters into their hands. With commonsense prevailing players/non-players from both sides separated the main offenders and quickly/successfully diffused the situation.

Mission control – I can confirm that even after a very civilized coffee (!!) and analysis, we all had a safe landing and returned home.

Whilst the countdown is still on until we play our last match weekend match on grass, for me it was a memorable day in a positive way. No … not for the moon landing, and definitely not for the behavior on the park, but for England finally winning another world cup!! Yeah!! Cricket was the winner, and well done New Zealand and England – as really there was no loser. The spirit of the game was enhanced … now let’s ALL emulate this in our own lives and especially on the football field.

MMM Memorable moment Erick S’s last ditch throwing his body on the line … even without his Spider-Man outfit!   
MMM Muppet moments;

Paul E – complete mishit to check out just how good Graham was in goal.

Ray – Yellow card and then wanting to finish things off after the game.

Gideon – heading ball to opponent just to get his name into the match report.

Eric L for providing a rhino impression. The accompanying sound was somewhat different though.

Ronnie W for his two consecutive slide tackles and hence sin bin moment before the referee took action.  

BMW BoP Maurice – firstly for an excellent display of footballing skills (particularly in the first half) and secondly for actually walking away from confrontation when things got heated in that second half. Well done Mo!!

 

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