Saturday once again saw us travelling to the hallowed turf of Raynes Park, the sprawling waste-ground which has been home to many tough Kiwi FC battles over the past winter. Conditions, however, were not the mud bowl we were familiar with as the onset of yet another baking English summer had seen the ground solidify in the many weeks since our last outing. Perhaps in appreciation of the scorching summer conditions we found ourselves playing in, stand-in manager Finn elected to forgo the usual extended warm-up in favour of a more concentrated version, instructing the players to show up a mere one hour before kick off time.
Confusion around this arrival time was almost certainly the real reason for Shaydon's absence. In spite of this, we still took to the field with a strong line-up and the boys were boosted by the return of Rory to the team after some months out doing finance. Another familiar face, Pete, was also back on hand to solidify our defence and clear any danger. Our opponents, the formerly strong Exeter FC, had already spent some time in the sun by the time the opening whistle blew. This would perhaps come back to haunt them as they had just the one replacement available from the bench.
Kiwi started well in the opening spell, pressing up on our opponents and not giving them a whole lot of time on the ball. Exeter were prepared to be patient, electing mainly to build up from the back before seeking an incisive pass. In spite of a solid defensive showing from our midfield and defence, the opposition began to string their passes together and it was evident that we were up against a team who played and trained together regularly!
Unfortunately the first goal came for The Yellow Scum around the 15 minute mark. One of their players passed the ball to another, who then kicked the ball into the goal. Kiwi didn't let our heads down, however, and looked to create some chances of our own. Kieran was getting some good heat on his goal kicks, and Jev, Rory, Sking, and Robbie were often found on the end of them. They combined to get a ball in behind for Oli to chase, but he took the shot on too early and absolutely fucked it.
Kieran managed to hold the score to 1 for a while with several good saves. The second goal eventually came though, and the boys went for oranges two to the negative.
The second half continued in a similar fashion. Con and Xavi were doing a good job nullifying the threat down the flanks while also charging forward when the situation called for it. All over the pitch the guys were putting in a solid shift, covering big miles in scorching weather which will no doubt see us showing up to the upcoming San Seb exhibition match with having undergone perfect preparations. Eventually Pete was to succumb to heatstroke and went for a well deserved drink as the subs began to roll on.
A crucial moment then went in our favour, as a cross/shot from one of their players floated over Kieran towards the back post. The large supporting contingent that had assembled was suddenly silent. The ball hit the post, went straight across goal, and hit the other post! Keiran grabbed it! Thank fuck.
Our subs brought fresh energy to the field which our opponents were unable to match and suddenly it was all on! More space started opening up! Jamie, Mason, and Rob G were winning balls. Robbie B was still charging up and down the wing and we were still putting pressure on, closing down the ball well. The pressure was to pay off. The Exeter defence had been content to build form the back all match and were playing it between each other with perhaps too much confidence. Their keeper, having taken a touch inside their box, attempted a cross field pass, but managed to play low enough to hit Oli who was shutting him down. The ball went in, 2-1!!
The goal brought yet more out of the team, and we were certainly finishing the stronger of the teams against a tiring opposition. With time running out, and free kick was won on the left side of the box using the age old trick of going down softly and then complaining. Sking stepped up to the stationary ball. The fans rose to their feet, notably including Mrs Wade Randle, who had surely just minutes before been wondering if she'd travelled to zone 6 just for the shit jokes and cheap and 2-4-1 all day breakfast soon to be found at the Raynes Park Tavern. Sking delivered. The ball was perfectly weighted, floating nicely into the path of an on-rushing Wade who gladly powered an unstoppable header past the keeper. 2-2!
Kiwi pushed for the winner, but time was against us! Final score 2-2, but the comeback felt like a win as we enjoyed out post match beers in the sun. It was off to the Tavern, where Kieran received his well deserved piping hot MOM pint.
- Ollie Haanen