You know it has been a long break when the Mum’s start cheering for the wrong side. But we won’t mention any names (Emma and Vanessa) may have inadvertently roared out come on ???. A mere indiscretion on otherwise dull grey cold drizzling day for a resumption of football where Rocklands were facing Old Catton in the first game of the New Year.
Billy and I were the tea maids for the noon kick off and as it was warm inside it was the place to be for a mug of tea or coffee to prepare you for the conditions outdoors. The lads had been putting the hours and hard graft into their practice periods and Steve and Greg had been getting them to move into space and move the ball into space at speed and coming forward together. The times on a Wednesday night where the astro turf was frozen or the wind was biting and chilling to the bone would it pay off? Although Greg was keen to tell Eliot he had scored four goals during practice which was met with a certain amount of disbelief. Strangely Ewan didn’t appear keen to back Greg up.
Pete was on his second game of the day for referring duties and Kevin was on hand as always to run the line. The dependable duo. Old Catton is higher in the league than Rocklands but Rocklands were keen and had to be up for this game. As the lads lined up after a good warm up I am sure they have grown another inch or so. Matty in goal with the back four of Joe T, Joe S, Luke C and Luke H. Steffen positioned himself in front of the back four with Robbie and Ewan centre mid. Eliot out on the left and Nathan on the right ready to supply Phil up front. Waiting in the wings Joe G, Sam and Jack.
Pete blew to start the game and immediately Rocklands looked composed on the ball looking to move into space and bring the ball up the pitch. The Old Catton team were very vocal in their approach to the game but they seemed to be slightly on the back foot initially. The back four were playing the ball out when they could and putting their foot through it when they had to. Joe S had two yards to catch his opponent but as only Joe S can do he flew down the left side caught his man and nicked the ball off him and promptly found Eliot who again teamed up with Steffen or Robbie and ran the left side really very well twisting and turning his man and pinging the ball quickly across into the danger zone for Phil.
A free kick was awarded to Rocklands just outside of the area, Joe S stepped up and Rocklands mingled around the edge of the box and a sweetly delivered ball skimmed over and dipped for Robbie to get a flick on which just went past the post. An encouraging start by Rocklands. Rocklands were finding their wide players well mixing it with going down the middle. Old Catton were finding it very difficult to handle Eliot and Nathan storming down the outside at every chance they could but the difference was that they were looking up and putting some great balls across into the Old Catton danger zone. They were good committed runs but ran with a purpose and good delivery. This would not be possible without the midfield breaking up play and finding space with the ball or finding the man. It was looking to be a good game of football.
Joe T from one of the frequent attacks found the ball falling to him as he shot from range with the ball skimming just wide of the post. Matty at this stage had not touched the ball at all and must have been getting cold in the damp cold conditions. But the ball eventually made itself to Matty who collected and distributed the ball wide but Rocklands lost the ball and against the run of play Old Catton scored.
17 min: Rocklands 0 – 1 Old Catton.
Old Catton had a bit more bounce now and tried to turn the screw but Matty made another great save from distance. It was a real shame that Old Catton scored as Rocklands were playing very good football and was more than a match for their opponents. How would the lads take it? They restarted and continued to play to the game plan finding space with the ball and the man. Eliot and Phil were linking up really well and the midfield of Robbie and Ewan were there to take the pass back to start again or move the ball swiftly across to the waiting Nathan. Steffen was moving forward and then back to in front of the back four as Steffen can with speed and directness. Eliot had another good run and a super delivery finding Phil but the Old Catton back four were holding firm.
But it was from Eliot’s cross that Rocklands were awarded the corner and Robbie who had already got so very close with previous deliveries stepped up again to take it. Robbie’s corner flew across the box and Nathan came in and hit it first time and the Old Catton keeper had no chance as it rifled past him to level the score line.
29 min: Rocklands 1 – 1 Old Catton.
Old Catton absorbed the pressure but did not take kindly to the goal and began to go on the attack. Matty jumped and punched clear an Old Catton cross. Jack came on for Ewan in the midfield to keep the midfield fresh with legs. Jack was immediately hustling and shutting down players. Once again Eliot put a good run with effort and beating his man and zipping the ball into the box but the centre backs of Old Catton were aware of Phil and his quickness to the ball but Phil is not one to give up and he was pouncing at every opportunity hunting for the goal. And from one of Eliot’s attack with Phil hitting a shot goal ward the ball came out and fell for Joe S as Old Catton tried to clear but Joe S thumped the ball home again past a flat footed keeper on the edge of the area. Two great goals taken just as they are in practice hit it first time.
39 min: Rocklands 2 – 1 Old Catton.
Old Catton were showing some signs of internal frustration amongst themselves and the vocal part of their game was coming to the fore. Some of it not for the public arena but the referee had already spoken to the Old Catton players about their language and eventually a yellow card was produced. It appeared only a small group of Old Catton players were behaving in this manner as the other lads were asking for calm.
Half time: Rocklands 2 -1 Old Catton. Rocklands had the better of the half showing good game management through out and not rising to the bait or challenges. Rocklands really had played some very good football full of movement and total concentration. Stark contrast to the opposition who obviously looked at the table and thought easy six or eight goals here and instead of a push over Rocklands was the better footballing team.
The second half kicked off with Sam replacing Joe T (injury) and Sam was putting his good footwork to play and finding Eliot. Old Catton were looking for a goal to pull themselves back into the game but it wasn’t long before a goal came and it was Nathan moving down the middle latching onto one of Robbie’s passes into space finding Nathan and the centre back bearing down on the Old Catton goal, Nathan stuck the ball with the outside of his foot and slipped at the same time but the ball was on an angle and Nathan had put his laces through it beating the diving keeper for a third goal.
Rocklands 3 – 1 Old Catton.
Could Rocklands keep the pressure up and cause Old Catton to implode as it was becoming imminent?
Jack had to come off injured with a stud cut down the length of his shin, another tasty tackle with afters, Joe G came on in the middle and put himself about closing down and looking to play the ball as the others did into space.
The Old Catton players were becoming incredibly frustrated by this stage and the vocal arena was upped a notch. Rocklands were sticking to the game plan but slightly lost some of the momentum they had earlier on. Old Catton were putting the long shots in but Matty and the back four were up to it. Luke H getting the strong tackles in, Luke C turning his man with his good footwork and clearing his lines as was Sam on the other side. But the ball found its way to an Old Catton player who hit it from range and hit the top corner of the net.
Rocklands 3 – 2 Old Catton.
The game was on but Rocklands did not buckle and were repelling the Old Catton threat but Rocklands had to stay switched on and keep playing into space. It was at this point that Old Catton put a long ball through and Joe S had to deal with the striker as they both chased down the left side of the field of play. They both collided and Joe S turned with the ball and found Eliot who ran with the ball toward the Old Catton corner, eventually the ball went out which the referee blew for.
However the Old Catton manager was incandescent with rage and had been shouting and swearing at the referee who acknowledged him initially signalling with his hand until he blew for the throw in. The referee stopped play and approached the manager of Old Catton who was shouting about the earlier incident saying the last man for Rocklands fouled the Old Catton player and as the referee was calmly attempting to talk with the Old Catton manager he was approached also by the Old Catton players one of who shouted obscenities of words not associated with sporting or social conduct followed by being spat at in the face. The referee red carded the player but as this was not enough the player attempted to hit the referee and was physically restrained by the coaching staff of Old Catton. However not all of the Old Catton players were involved some were trying to calm the others down. Rockland lads stood on the field of play looking astonished at what was unfolding before their eyes.
The referee had no option but to abandon the game and as he walked the Rocklands lads shook most of the Old Catton lad’s hands. As the referee approached the spectator section he explained he was not refereeing a game with such appalling behaviour and one of the first people to shake his hand and apologise was a father from the Old Catton side.
This behaviour has no place in the sporting arena whatsoever let alone in the social arena. The referee was subjected to what amounts to common assault and who knows where it would have ended if the player was not restrained. But this is learned behaviour and as a parent totally unacceptable and inexcusable.
Rocklands played the game as did some of the Old Catton lads with good spirit but and there is always a but, the manager and coaching staff of Old Catton determine the spirit, conduct and manner of their players on the field of play. As do the other managers in the Norwich league. Referees are there to officiate the rules of the game and we would not have any football played without them. They give up their time for the game. Whether we agree with the verdict is immaterial. What we don’t do is abuse the officials at any given time parents and players and managers take a deep breath if you don’t agree with the referee. Take a leaf out of the rugby code, apologise and keep playing the game.
Rocklands should not lose points over a game they were winning with the majority of the game already played by the opposition’s abusive behaviour toward the referee. Let’s hope the Norfolk FA act accordingly and in the spirit of the game and award the points to Rocklands who did not contribute in any way to the abandonment of the game. How they deal with Old Catton is in the Norfolk FA hands but in my opinion they need to set a marker down here to avoid any more unfavourable national headlines. The FA as a unit need to change the supposed attitude that you can abuse or harass officials at any given time, time for education at grass root level for the next generation of footballers coming through to respect the referee as they do in any other team sport rugby, basketball, hockey to name a few. It will pay dividends for the sport of football and society as a whole.
Man of the match was hotly contested with Joe S a front runner for his total concentration and effort about the park resulting in a goal along with Nathan scoring two delightful goals and Eliot for the strong runs and looking up which resulted in some great balls into the box. But Steve decided to go for the team as a whole as they all rose above the opposition and played some great football.