With the league really starting to get going, the Reservoir Badgers were seeking to build on their largely positive start to the season. Their opponents were Ph.D Eindhoven, a team who had beaten the Badgers the previous season in a hard fought game.
The Badgers were overflowing with desire to right the wrongs of that game, where many chances were wasted before Ph.D nicked a last minute goal.
Tensions flared up before the game, with a scuffle between Badgers defender George Tomlin and the Ph.D striker regarding Tomlin's unfortunate own goal in the previous fixture. Tomlin, rightly, took offence to the claims that he was the sole reason that the Badgers had lost that day, and took his frustrations out on the Ph.D player while the Badgers' technical staff looked on. The battered and bruised Ph.D player had to leave the field, as the non-existent referee did not see the incident in question, and Tomlin took his place in the starting line-up, determined to wreak more havoc amongst his opponents.
There was no need for inspirational team talks after this, as the heroic display by Tomlin had already galvanised the Badgers players in to a state of hysteria usually associated with rabies. The only change to the starting line up was Dan Roberts replacing Pedro Badger in goal. Pedro had apparently been struggling to cope with the cold weather conditions, and so was granted a week off to hibernate.
The game started incredibly brightly for the Badgers. Going forward, the team played with the fluency that has started to emerge this season, and at the back the Badgers were professional and frugal. This soon to be trademark strong defence was led expertly by Tomlin, who's desire to make Ph.D Eindhoven pay for what they did to him (and his credibility) was more obvious than the inevitable overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the righteous proletariat. Tomlin hastled and harried opponents at every opportunity, kicking bloody great chunks out of the Ph.D players. When fellow defender Tom Marshall accidentaly strode across Tomlin's path, he too fell foul of Tomlin's anger, and he had to be substituted in favour of Ben Brazier.
Chances flowed for the Badgers. An early long ball from Roberts found its way to Charlie Dutton, who threaded a through ball to the gallumphing Wheatland. Wheatland took the ball in his stride expertly, outmuscled a defender with ease, and with the goal at his mercy he fired harmlessly wide. Despite Wheatland's patchy recent form, the fans of the Reservoir Badgers have remained largely supportive of the striker. The same cannot be said of Ben Himpe however, as he let his manager know in no uncertain terms that if Wheatland didn't start putting some chances away soon, he would be dropped. Dumbstruck by this show of petulence, Wheatland descended in to a fog of malaise and depression, and soon after James McHardname substituted off his beleagured manager.
This swap proved to be pivotal in pressing home the Badgers' advantage. Macca, Dutton and Himpe all combined well in the final third, leading to a lots of chances being created. Will Downs, on an all too rare foray in to opposition territory, slotted wide from an angle. Macca and Dutton had shots comfortably saved by the Ph.D keeper. But finally, good work down the left flank saw the ball squared across the box to Himpe. With relish, Himpe slammed home his second of the season. In contrast to the mini feud with his manager, Himpe ran to Wheatland and the pair embraced, showing the mutual respect that these two magnificent professionals have for each other and their team.
The Badgers continued to press for the rest of the half, with little action to trouble stand-in 'keeper Dan Roberts, although he was proving an effective outlet from which to start off Badgers attacks.
Half time saw calls for more of the same from all areas of the team, and with the late arrival (due to a technical error) of Dan Buchanan, the team had high spirits.
The second half was much the same as the first, with almost total dominance of the game by the Badgers. Despite this, the players seemed to have taken their foot off of the pedal (as this breed of complacent Badgers are wont to do) and the Drs were able to fashion a few chances of their own. They drew a number of fine saves from Roberts in the Badgers' goal, and he seemed at points to be channelling the spirit of Pedro, such was his commitment and skill.
Most memorable of all was a stunning save towards the end of the game. With the Badgers dropping deeper and deeper, the Ph.D players were finally making a mark on the game. The only real danger, however, came when a defence splitting pass found a Dr on the edge of the box. Before the despairing Himpe could connect with a sliding tackle, and with Roberts already diving to his left to make the obvious save, the Dr mis-hit his shot, scuffing the ball to the right of Roberts. Desperate to play his way in to contention for the goalkeeping jersey in the future, Roberts managed to keep his sheet clean (for the most part). His trailing foot rose majestically through the air, and amazingly, improbably, inconceivably, he swept the ball over the cross bar. Emotion overcame the Badgers, who all mobbed Roberts immediately, believing him to have saved a precious three points for the team.
However, the win was not to be, as moments later (and almost immediately following Ben Wheatland's miss of a one-on-one opportunity at the other end) a stray Ph.D Eindhoven player was in the right place at the right time to skip past three Badgers defenders, turn confidently, wink to his adoring fans, before finally slotting home.
The Badgers attacked in anger, desperate to not let Ph.D Eindhoven steal another undeserved result. Buchanan set up Wheatland, but he fired straight at the keeper. Himpe too had an effort narrowly saved.
In the end, the Badgers had to settle for the draw, but this was a highly encouraging performance. The Badgers now need to marry attacking flair with an ability to take their chances, and need to see out the final few minutes of their games. If they are able to raise their game by just a fraction, then the draws will begin to turn in to wins!