After an unexpected loss to a 10-man Chemfica at home earlier in the season it’s fair to say Novos had a point to prove going into this game.
The game didn’t start well however with CB Sinawi pulling out of the starting line up pre-warm up with a pulled back. We’re not joking. Luckily, Novos stalwart Coleman stepped off the bench and into the fold with ease.
The game had the feel of an old school rivalry with scores to settle and both teams flying out of the blocks to get that oh so important first goal and the lead. Unfortunately the first goal was scored by Chemfica and then closely followed by a second to deflate the Novos sails somewhat. 2-0 Chemfica.
The new strike partnership of Haigh & debutant Duckworth provided constant thorns in the Chemfica defence’s side with endless running and dogged tenacity in the press. Finally, their persistence paid off and Duckworth scores his first goal for the club on his debut and is no less than he deserves. 2-1 Chemfica.
Half time score: Chemfica FC 2 – 1 Old Novocastrians
After quite a clear and brief team talk from stand in manager Sinawi the players knew what was needed if there was any pride to be taken from the game in the second half. The lads came out with fire in their veins (or was it the booze wearing off?) and continued their relentless pressure on the opposing team members, with quite a few tough but fair tackles going in across the pitch.
Mr Dependable Charlie Young was a man possessed in his favoured CDM role and showed why he’s the Cramlington Sunday League’s Check Tiote with a stunning Pro Plus fuelled performance. All this after being a potential injury doubt before the game after picking up an ankle knock the day before captaining Jesmond FC.
With C. Young breaking up everything in our own half it allowed Josh Spurling and Veteran Phil Miller to take complete control in the centre of the park. Their dominance started to really show (at least from the sidelines anyway), with Oli Young, Haigh & Duckworth getting chance after chance; but the trio showing uncharacteristic profligacy in front of goal.
The opposition players couldn’t handle the skill and trickery of Spurling that Novos fans have come to expect from him and within minutes of the second half he recorded yet another megs on route to scoring a sublime finish after a one-two with flying wingback Jack Stokle. Alas, that would be Spurling’s last major contribution to the game after feeling a tight hamstring and being subbed for midfield general Greg Applegarth. 2-2.
The lads’ tails were up and they smelled a comeback on the cards. However the feeling didn’t last long as they received a sucker-punch and conceded due to miscommunication & tired legs at the back. 3-2 Chemfica.
Shortly after conceding Sinawi made a substitution and brought off a tired Dom Thomas to allow Andy Carling to enter the field for a much needed injection of energy going forward. To accommodate the attacker required some tactical changes and so Miller was moved to LB in what would be a real test of stamina (and pace).
This tactical switch provided players and spectators alike with one of the highlights of the season as Miller enters a foot race with the heaviest player on the pitch to much enjoyment from both sides. Expect an update on who wins when they eventually finish…
As we neared the final period of the game Novos win a penalty, much to the join of Duckworth who stepped up and confidently despatched the penalty with ease to confirm his debut brace. There was some unease pre-penalty however as usual penalty taker Applegarth and Duckworth both showed their desire to take the responsibility but ending amicably with great relief when the ball hit the back of the net. 3-3 with only minutes left. They couldn’t… Could they?
With only minutes left Sinawi took the final roll of the dice and replaced the exhausted Haigh with target man forward Jamie Ridley-Smith. JRS made his presence known immediately and the already tired Chemfica defence just couldn’t deal with his strength and determination in chasing (and winning) every ball.
With only seconds on the clock the unbelievable happened! Andy Carling gets on the end of a through ball behind the tired Chemfica defence, beats one before chipping the goalkeeper with aplomb. Queue absolute SCENES and every member of the club’s travelling party surrounding and piling on Andy Carling in jubilant celebrations.
Some controversy surrounds the goal however, as Ridley-Smith did what every striker is taught and followed the ball in, with doubts over who got the final touch before it crossed the line. Dubious goals panel yet to fully convene on this one.
And with that the final whistle sounds to huge roars from the Novos bench and squad.
Final score 3-4 Old Novocastrians and reputation restored.