Greshams gathered at Inspire Suffolk for their game against Ipswich Rangers only to find the opposition had not been ‘inspired’ to actually book a pitch. A quick phone call and they were off to Gainsborough and the warm and welcoming surroundings of changing room 9. Once there, it became clear that the stand in Keeper, the Romanian Cat himself, was still suffering from a heavy night and a 4 o'clock return home. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Cat was completely pissed.
There was a strong squad to choose from, and with some trepidation Cashen named the nattily dressed Cat in goals, with a back four of Danny, Groggy (returning from a splendid victory in his fishing competition) Hamblin and Cash; in midfield Ollie, Heady, Matt and Nathan; up front Norfolk and Rob Minns with Sam, Gareth and Dan Mayhew starting on the bench.
During the warm up, the antics of the Greshams keeper became even more alarming, and as the referee questioned his readiness to start the game, Emy decided the appropriate response was to dance around his area, quacking like a duck; surely the most eccentric behaviour seen at Gainsborough since the mysterious bird feeding episode a few seasons ago.
As the game began, with a strong wind blowing across the pitch, it became quickly apparent that this was not going to be a classic. Chances were at a premium, with some of them being gifted to Rangers by the fly hacked kicking of the Greshams keeper; he was later to blame a bobbly pitch, although how the ball can take a bobble at a goal kick is anybody's guess. Emy did however frequently come and collect the ball, calling confidently, and at one stage clattered the giant Rangers forward, who had to leave the pitch.
Going forward, Greshams were getting most success when they got the ball wide. Nathan was getting involved in the game and on one occasion, set free by Cash, he was just unable to pick the final pass. Down the other flank Rob Minns got free but was just beaten to the ball by the Rangers keeper. Steve Norfolk had a half chance on the volley from a corner but could not quite connect right and the ball flew over.
After half an hour, Ollie felt his hamstring go and Gareth replaced him on the right. As the clock ticked towards half time, Gareth made a strong run down the right. He drilled the ball hard and low across the box where it was bundled home from close range by Nathan for a well-deserved goal. This was virtually the last action of the half and Greshams probably just about deserved to go in ahead.
Half Time Ipswich Rangers 0 Greshams 1
With the strong wind now slightly in their favour, Greshams started the second half brightly enough but were unable to get the second that would make the game comfortable. Decent chances fell to Rob, who beat the defence for pace but was unable to get the shot on target; and to Steve Norfolk who just misjudged a header as the ball hung up in the wind. Matt had a half chance as he caught a half volley perfectly from the edge of the box but was just unable to hit the target. Rangers were having a lot of the ball, and Heady and Matt were doing well to disrupt them in midfield, with Heady in particular making some strong tackles and headers. Steve Hamblin and Groggy were strong at the back, with Steve at his resolute best against the imposing Rangers forward who, it was learned after the game, is the leading goal scorer in all divisions. It certainly didn't look that way as he was safely in Hamblin's pocket until he finally limped disconsolately from the fray.
Danny and Gareth were linking neatly down the right and although Gareth made several surging runs Greshams were just unable to create that clear cut opportunity they needed. They also had several opportunities from free kicks but in the strong wind, Matt found it difficult to deliver with his usual pin point accuracy. At the other end, Emy was rarely called upon to make saves, but was effective in claiming the ball at every opportunity. He ran from his goal on one occasion to head clear and Greshams hearts were in their mouths as the ball fell to a Rangers player with the Cat still way off his line. However the striker was unable to get enough elevation on the shot and Emy got back to save comfortably.
Dan replaced Rob Minns and showed some decent touches up front as Greshams continued to press unsuccessfully for a second goal. With time running down there was a little nervousness in Greshams play and at the death Rangers came forward only for Groggy to snuff out the danger with a good interception. Rangers frustration became clear as their number 7 substituted himself in a huff and Greshams held on for the narrowest of victories.
Full time Ipswich Rangers 0 Greshams 1
Man of the Match
This was a scrappy match in difficult conditions and was the very definition of grinding out a victory. While there was no great quality about Greshams display, there was no faulting their work rate or indeed their concentration as they kept the opposition at bay for the full 90 minutes. The back four worked well as a unit and, a couple of fly hacked goal kicks aside, the Romanian Pussy did well in goal. There was hard work from the midfield and although the front two were living off scraps they also did their part in not allowing the Rangers defence to settle. With no outstanding performances, the Man of the match award went to a vote again. Not surprisingly there was a fair spread of votes with Heady, Hamblin and Danny Bond getting honourable mentions. However the winner of the bubbly this week is Nathan, who worked hard and was a constant menace, particularly in the first half, and of course nicked the all-important goal. Well played mate. And finally, thanks to unused substitute Sam for running the line. Thanks mate.