The Soche turned up to a muddy pitch but relatively good conditions, feeling confident in taking the win against opponents they had thrashed 12-2 on aggregate last season, and seemingly down to a bare 11 for the match. Support soon arrived for the Wanderers however in the form of their game-changing linesman, and one of the strangest referees you ever will see. Fresh off the back of what I am told was a bizarre pre-match pep talk last week, the ref continued his odd officiating this week with a number of extremely dodgy calls and petulant card wielding.
While the Soche started brightly enough, playing neat triangles and finding some space down both wings, our early momentum was not rewarded with the goal it deserved. In fact it was Wanderers who took the lead, the ball cannoning off their midfielder into their winger’s path in a textbook display of the offside rule. Unfortunately, the celebrity ref decided to overrule our (admittedly hesitant) linesman’s flag, and allowed Wanderers to take the lead, much to the Soche’s displeasure. The wrath of the Reverend was only enough to earn himself a yellow, but no change of heart from the ref.
It’s fair to say we somewhat lost our way afterwards, and the game became more open with chances at both ends. Silly mistakes were creeping into our game, with set pieces in particular proving trickier than normal, as every decision seemed to go against as. Their linesman disallowing a for-once intelligent run and finish from superstriker Tom Leach only added to the general fury, a feat he repeated in the second half. Tempers frayed further as Wanderer’s introduced an arrogant winger with a penchant for a terrible longshot and a look just made for a kicking, to which Oly duly obliged.
After some much-needed stern words from the Rev at half time, and the customary oranges, the Soche came out motivated, but unable to change the stodgy rhythm of the game. However as the clock ticked on the Soche found some urgency, Oly bursting through the lines to smack a shot from the edge of the area the keeper could only spill, only for the follow up to sail over the bar.
While the Wanderer’s pacey strikers continued to make good runs, the Soche’s defence held firm to allow us to finally and deservedly equalise. A high cross was whipped in from the right, and Leach junior anticipated Leach senior’s customary pretend-header jump, knowing it would put the defender off and the ball would continue uninterrupted to the back post. After what felt like an age waiting for the ball to come down, it was struck firmly in at the near post past the star jumping keeper. Cue much relief, and high praise from the Rev of “that’s different gravy”.
While the Soche pushed on, chances appeared at each end, and it could have gone either way at the last, with a great save from Phil to keep it level, and Leach Senior glancing a diving header wide. It ended an unsatisfactory 1 – 1, meaning the Soche lost ground on their title rivals, all because of the pesky linesmen.