The Marauders march on
With the working week again ending with a torrential downpour it was rather a surprise to hear that the game was still on. Driving through the mist and darkening sky it was a rather calm and almost warm scene which presented itself when David and I arrived at 12.10 (pm not am that is , we are keen but not that keen) at Trentham Memorial Park. The ground itself was pleasingly bereft of any puddles or obvious signs of anyone having used the pitch for some weeks.
With Matt out and some under 19 game exhausting our usual supply of ring ins it was Mike, Matt and Rich who each turned our for their second appearance for the Marauders.
Rather than repeating the passing circle from the previous week we adopted a more usual, passing , corners and shooting warm-up. The only incident of note was a wells truck shot collecting the unaware Casey from close range.
Staying as we were we kicked off with the lineup as follows:
Dave Mike Dempster Nick
Matt Adam Casey Fold
The opposition had a number of players well over 30, including one grey haired chap who looked close to 50 (more on him later).
With early possession a great opportunity was presented for Matt after a through ball left the goalie and defenders largely watching. With a gentle tap in at the back post required it appeared as if Matt misread the speed of the ball and slowed for a ball which didn't. The ball slid past and out for a goal kick. Notwithstanding the pre game talk about starting positively and not conceding a goal, we were soon one nil down after a rather messy piece of defence. A short back pass from Mike to Josh was cleared directly into the leg of their oncoming striker and rebounded into our net from 2 meters out. 0-1 to Trentham. This was very much against the run of play and pleasingly heads did not drop. We were shortly back to even though after a good move from the back. Pushing the ball though the middle it was sent wide to Matt who crossed it in, just beating the head of the defender. Running directly off the defender's shoulder the ball neatly landed on my foot and was gently redirected into the net past an unmoved keeper.1-1. Some great talking (this is no typo Fridge) led to further opportunities with a mixture of short and long passes opening their rather static back four. A few shots went wide (Casey had a well struck effort fly high and right off a good pass from Adam) or hit the last defenders and another goal looked probably more so than just rather than merely possible. A poke through from Casey had me turning and looking to outpace some defenders, unaware of entirely that the grey haired old man was a world masters sprint champion in his age class. The sand shoes, running shorts and medals he wore could perhaps have been more deeply pondered by us during the warm-up. This proved to be a handy feature as others were also beaten to the ball as the game progressed (none took it harder than Fold). Our first injury break was soon upon us as Casey stood his ground and found someone running into his elbow with their gut. Looking rather dismayed that there was no foul their defender seemed to stay down for an awfully long time. Shortly thereafter Josh was back in the mix defusing a half chance and getting low to deflect a one on one for a corner.
A good turnover at the back left Adam with the ball in space. He calmy bombed away down the left to a sprinting dribble who managed to beat his player and leave the defence flat footed as they all stopped claiming offside. Waived away by the referee it was play on as Dribble strolled into the left side of the box, drew the keeper and put an easy pass across to me to tap into the net from 4 or so meters out. A great option and testament to the fact there are no bonus points for hitting the stitching off the ball. 2-1 and the Marauders take the lead.
Shortly after it was Dave who had a great opportunity as a ball was threaded through two defenders from the middle (perhaps by Adam) . With "time" called the ball was switched to his right foot as he moved into the box, on the left side with just the keeper to beat. It wasn't to be however and a well hit shot deflected off the keeper's leg.
The subbing became more frequent with reshuffles every five or so minutes. A missed dive tackle created a half chance at the other end with a well struck shot from near the top right of the box deflected from the top corner by a one handed jumping punch from Josh (one wonders what deflection technique Bolts might have tried to deploy in the same situation). Absent a wayward step ladder a shoulder ride seems the most likely option.
So to half time and 2-1 the score. The talk revolved around the space and time we had and the need to support each other more.
With a slight breeze now against us they kicked off, intent on levelling the scores sooner rather than later. By now their striking combo was bright yellow boots and skins guy and little short angry guy (so often the case) who thought he could beat the entire defence and was furious when he couldn't. Our dominance in the centre of the pitch was waning and they started to take control and get the ball to their strikers. Thankfully Mike's headers, Dempster's lunge tackles and sideline clearances and Rich's body checks restricted them to rather hopeful shots from range.
For no apparent reason the slow build up style of play which served us well in the first half was replaced by rushed long balls up the centre, which the defenders and goal keeper had no problem dealing with. It seemed as if people were either a bit flustered or tyring and not wanting to run with the ball. Either way chances were few and far between for a period of around 30 minutes and we struggled to dominate possession with early passes held off and failing to find their target when eventually let go.
On a slightly greasy track some of the tackles were starting to involve more contact and the referee seemed far from neutral. One comical moment saw their little angry striker and Matt standing face to face post tackle and for a second I thought a headbutt was coming from Matt. At the other end Matt was shortly down again as their grey haired defender dragged another player down (a technique the referee seemed to have no problem with). Not to be outdone Mike left his feet in a mid field tackle and was shortly after given the "the next foul from you is a card" warning after making contact with the keeper on a corner.
On attack the chances were still fairly few and far between until a Dribble special evolved. Receiving the ball near half way Dribble left his defender with a little reverse lob sending him one on one with the keeper after a good run. Pulling the ball to his preferred left he shot left and while well struck, the keeper too was going that way and managed to parry the ball to his right. Perhaps having foreseen this possibility, Casey was charging through in support and knocked the bobbling ball into the bottom left corner for his first "foot goal" for the Marauders. 3-1 to the Marauders.
It was soon back to a one point ball game as a Trentham corner missed a jumping Adam and deflected into the goal off their striker form a meter out. The remainder of the game was fairly scrappy from both sides with lots of turnovers passes which were slightly off target. With a minute to go Dempster dived in on their little striker just outside the box. While he got the ball the referee awarded the foul and it was an awkward last minute or so, but the line managed to hold and it was a solid 3-2 Marauders' win. The league title race is now just between us and and the Raiders.
Post match a giggling "my head just wasn't in it today" Fold was heard to say he hates football.
Casey: foul throw
The Marauders Football Club