On a grey and wet Saturday afternoon, little did we know that 120 minutes of drama would lay ahead of us. After taking a bit of a battering against Real Holmesdale Reserves earlier in the season, spirit was high in the 3’s camp as we welcomed the opposition onto our unbeaten pitch (played 2, won 2). With Stu stepping in to make up the numbers in the back four, JD shifting into centre midfield and TK leading the line, the spine of the team was strong and after a good warm up session we were ready for action.
Despite the gap between the two teams in the league, it was evident early on that one team wanted to get the ball down and play some nice football on a tricky pitch, whilst the other was content lumping it forward to their number 10 who proved a bit of a handful on the day. The Soche went behind quite early on as Real’s left winger cut inside onto his right foot and cut the ball back, the ball found its way into the back of our net after a little bit of pinball. Not a contender for goal of the day let along goal of the season. There was a contender for miss of the season from their forward though who somehow managed to hit the post from barely a yard out! The Soche didn’t let their heads drop and through good work in the middle from JB and JD we were able to create some good chances, the best of which unfortunately fell to Bingham who left his shooting boots at home….or did he? More on that later. First, a ball was flashed across the box which Bingham leapt like a dolphin at SeaWorld to try and divert his header towards the goal but unfortunately was just off target. The next attack saw TK go past his man on the left, who was probably still complaining that he’d hurt his toe, play the ball across for Bingham in centre of goal to slide in to the empty net…..but was more reminiscent of Gazza in Euro 96 and the ball went under his foot and harmlessly away. The Soche were knocking on the door but couldn’t find a way through before the break.
The second half was an even affair with again Merton dominating the ball and winning the majority of challenges with Phil putting in a great challenge on their winger which Real took exception to which led to their goalkeeper making it up to the halfway line to hurl some abuse in our direction. With time running out and Merton still doing the majority of the attacking, the ball fell to Bingham on the edge of the box and, on his right foot, hit a sweet shot straight down the keepers throat who inexplicable managed to spill/throw the ball into his own net. Bingham went off celebrating like he’d won the world cup, Daniel was stood protesting that it should go down as an own goal. With barely a minute on the clock, the referee awarded a penalty to Real for an apparent handball against Stu – very harsh. Up stepped the mouthy number 15, who was lucky to still be on the pitch after a late and high tackle on JD earlier, to place his shot into the corner. Well he would have done, if Tommy P hadn’t sprung to his left like he was the other Dolphin at SeaWorld to turn the ball round the post. Extra time beckoned….
Real and the better of the chances in the first 15 and were denied on two occasions by Tommy P. Firstly a fingertip save onto the crossbar which the ref did well to spot – much to TK’s annoyance who thought I hadn’t touched it…ye of little faith! And then after a corner was half cleared to the edge of the box a shot came through a crowd of bodies and was tipped over the bar. The second period of ET was very stop start. But Real managed to retake the lead midway through the second half. A ball over the top of our back line left the number 10 through on goal and he deftly lifted the ball over Tommy P and into the net. The rest of the game was mainly Tindall/Phil running to get the ball after Real kept booting it as far as they could to kill time. BUT with seconds remaining, Merton won a corner which saw everyone pile into the box searching for the equaliser. TK’s inswinger towards the near post caused confusion and after a couple of touches along the way (possibly one from Daniel so he claimed during the post-match pints) the ball was grasped by the keeper, or should have been, as he once again seemed to spill the ball over the goal line. 2-2 and there was no time for a restart. Penalties it was….
Real went first and ballooned their penalty over the bar. 0-0
TK stepped up, saved (despite some good practise in the warm up!) 0-0
Real scored 1-0
JD Scored 1-1
Real scored 2-1
Bingham put his over 2-1
Real scored (just!!) 3-1
So it was up to Daniel to score for the shootout continue. He went for power, quite central, and the keeper kept it out. 3-1 to Real on penalties. Heartbreak for The Soche after a great effort from everyone for 120 minutes. But it shows we can mix it with the top teams in our league and we can give them another good game when we travel to their ground later in the season. Over to the dubious goals panel for their verdict on both of our goalscorers……