It’s only a friendly tonight!

It was a perfect night for football – calm with clear skies and a slight chill in the air, unlike the previous weeks when you were lucky to be able to stand up straight against the howling gales and horizontal rain blowing in from the Antarctic. I swear there were polar bears and penguins on the pitch last week! Actually, the Polar Bear might just have been the Gaffer, he was certainly wandering round like he had a sore head!

Other than the weather, tonight was somehow different; there was a strange look on Gaffers face, the likes of which we had not seen for many a day and as the rest of players arrived they were greeted with light hearted jocularity. Some were puzzled; some didn’t know how to be puzzled so carried on as usual, oblivious to the events that were unfolding or just oblivious.

As game time approached, the Gaffer called the group together for the team talk before venturing into battle, it was after all Juventus Masters we were facing! The change room was a hush, waiting for the battle plan as the Gaffer stood erect, ready to embolden his men! But wait, the strange look on Gaffers face had become even more pronounced! What could this be? A distant memory flashed before my eyes; surely this couldn’t, yes, this was a smile which had now broken into a full blown Cheshire Cat grin – complete with newly bridged teeth!

At this point the Gaffer bellowed the words “It’s only a friendly tonight boys, go out and enjoy yourselves, have fun!” With this the grin became even wider as the team stood in stunned silence. But this was Masters we were playing and never has the word friendly and Masters been uttered in the same breath.

With these words still ringing in our ears we moved out to the pitch, still not quite sure if we should phone for an ambulance or the local Asylum to come to the aid of our poor deluded leader.

Thanks to our brethren United compatriots, we had numerous substitutes on the bench which the Gaffer, in his new found spirit of friendliness, had instructed to rotate freely through the game. The old Gaffer however, was still lurking, hidden in the shadows, as his final instruction to the bench was that we will, without question, start and finish the game with our strongest 11 on the pitch!

The game started at an inspired pace as if the shackles of Damocles had been released after a life time of oppression. This fun stuff was great! The passes were crisp and accurate, there were even players running off the ball and creating options. B1 and B2 (Biskic & Bogdan) were being controlled in the centre of the park while the marauding Ivan was being terrible, corralled on the wing.

Eventually the breakthrough came with a fine through ball from Paul E to the on running Jim, slotting the ball in from close range off the post … 1 – 0 to City. 

The response from Masters was predictable trying to increase the pressure as they probed the channels, as Eric would say, “just like one of our strip searches”! We could tell that the email about the game being a “Friendly” had not quite reached the Masters’ dressing room as the Gaffer and his gallant Thespian team mate attempted to hinder the on rushing Ivan, only to be trampled in a heap by the impact. We all feared a terrible decision by the Gaffer as he lay motionless on the floor but in the true spirit of friendship, when told that he needed to go off, the Gaffer mustered what little breath he had left to say “not f*#king likely, f*#k the lot of them”.

With the first half drawing to a close, City was gifted an opportunity to double our lead following a further example of the Masters’ friendly nature as Paul C was wrestled in a headlock to the floor in the Penalty Box. Up strode the ever confident Exocet Caridi himself to take the penalty. In true fashion, the ball was launched with the print markings struggling to keep up with the leather! Now, for those not versed in military hardware, the Exocet is made in France and clearly has a homing function, so if anyone in France is reading this – can we have our ball back please!

Half time 1 – 0 City!

The second half started much as the first had finished with the rotations from the bench having little effect on game with each new player slotting effortlessly into their assigned positions. Maybe all the training is paying off??? Well that was until B1 weaved a mesmerising spell over the ever willing Goughy. So much so that poor old Goughy didn’t know which way to turn and decided to have a lie down, taking B1 with him! Penalty!!! City 1 – Masters 1

This spurred Masters on but the defence held on superbly under the onslaught, sending raiding parties back up the pitch to play on the counter, our strikers sending fear into the hearts of the Juventus defenders. On one such raid, Jimmy found himself sandwiched between the keeper and a desperate Masters defender and with a swift tug on his shirt, down he went – penalty. Not to be outdone by Exocet Caridi, Steve (Harry – give me the ball, I take all the penalties) Harrison calmly sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 2 – 1 to City.

The counter attacking was relentless with Exocet Caridi again facing a 1 on 1 with the keeper but this time in open play from a long range Rick assist. Confident following his sighting exercise earlier in the game, this time Exocet Caridi was determined to take no prisoners and sink the keeper once and for all. Unfortunately the keeper moved at the last minute and the ball struck him a fearsome glancing blow and deflected up onto the crossbar. Still able to move but listing badly, the keeper thwarted Exocet’s efforts to regain control of the ball after re-entry from orbit. His stylish pirouettes and synchronised dance with the keeper were in vain as he also failed to see or hear Eric L, who had just finished his second cup of tea whilst waiting expectantly for the killer pass.

Such was the clinical nature of the City counter attacks that again a rampaging Paul C was even more determined to get onto the score sheet and with new found vigour he dispossessed a Masters defence before tapping in to make it City 3 – Masters 1.

This was all too much for B1 as the Biscuit finally crumbled and he stormed off the pitch in a barrage of friendly abuse at the Referee, coping a 10 minute sin bin for his efforts. Masters played out the majority of the final minutes with 10 men, unable to breakdown the resolute City.

Final Score City 3 – Masters 1

M.O.M A complete team effort all round – with special thanks to our United Brothers in arms.

M.M Goughy for having a kip in the penalty box but best of all the man himself Mr Exocet for his tireless efforts to launch the first football into space!

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