Gav and I arrived on time for our final game of the season. Full of energy and excited for the match we bounced into the changing room to find no one else had arrived. As we watched the other team warm up, the standard Novos pre match shambles unfolded. ‘Running late’ ‘Where is the pitch?’ ‘Who has the kits?’ ‘Five minutes away’

Once the kits arrived a few of us were able to go out and warm up. This did not fill me with confidence as our engine room in midfield of Josh and Oli were exhibiting signs of considerable hangovers. We only had eleven today and lined up 4-4-2. We had only achieved eleven, thanks to Becky attending to babysit Patty’s kids. She was ably assisted by Kiale who performed the babysitting role with more authority than most of goalkeeping performances.

“As we watched the other team warm up, the standard Novos pre match shambles unfolded. ‘Running late’ ‘Where is the pitch?’ ‘Who has the kits?’ ‘Five minutes away’ – Jamie Hansell, Chairman.”

Despite the sunshine the wind picked up and after winning the coin toss we opted to shoot downhill with the wind. The ball was on the centre circle, the ref & players eager to get underway. Kick off needed to be delayed as we waited for perennial latecomer Andy Carling to put his kit on at the side of the pitch. ‘I don’t know how I’m so late, I’ve been up for ages’ Andy proclaimed. It’s a mystery Andy. The delay meant we nearly lost players, as much like infectious yawning, the team are so in tune that when Charlie declared ‘I need a sh*t’ other players also declared their desire to defecate.

We did eventually get under way, despite having the wind, our first half attacking performance had much be desired. Poor passing and a desire to be too direct meant that we watched the ball drift out for Horton goals kicks far too often. Defensively thankfully we looked solid. No such hangover for the elder Young brother as Charlie ploughed into a couple of 50/50’s that the referee wasn’t happy with. There was some suggestion that he might be still drunk and went into tackle to win both the man, the ball, and the other man he could see as well.  Jack and Gav worked in partnership very well. Patty dealt with any efforts comfortably and with dependable Dom at left back the half seemed to be drifting to a draw. Eventually we managed to create some pressure with Ducky testing the goalkeeper from distance. Through Dom’s throw ins down the line we started to win some corners. It was from such a corner that the only goal of the first half came. An in swinger from Oli beat everyone including the keeper and hit the back of the net. The ref had not blown however and there was a moment where we worried we were to be denied a clear goal. Never fear Gav is here! Adhering to football 1-0-1 he played to the whistle and blasted the ball home so there could be no doubt, 1-0 to the Novos. So it remained till the half with only a good save from Ducky’s shot after I played him in behind the only further clear cut action.

Our half time team talk centred around keeping better possession of the ball and all out defending of our slender lead. Within two minutes of the restart it was out the window. Horton got in behind and the slightest of hesitations from Patty about whether to come or stay cost us. He brought down the forward with minimal contact and they scored the resulting penalty. After that they pressed us consistently resulting in quite a few corners which we defended well. Jack Stokle led by example, at one point having already done three tackles and on the brink of falling over he flung his body at the ball to cut out the attack. This brought back memories of John Gregsons trademark belly tackle. Horton were able to advantage of the wind however and were able to take the lead. As I am writing this almost two months after the game I don’t recall the circumstances of their second goal.  At this point we all feared the worst. Novos are well known for their second half collapses. Throughout this season team spirit has built up well and when Patty made a point blank save we looked to push on. We worked the ball out well from goal kicks. Directing them to the left wing for flick ons and winning the second ball. Our passing also improved dramatically and we were able to create better chances than we did in the first half. After a series of good passing Ducky was able to turn his man in the box before being scythed down just as he was about to pull the trigger. The referee choosing to keep his hand in his pocket for what seemed a clear red card. Ducky stepped up and drove the penalty home against the wind. At 2-2 the mood changed and there was a real belief we could win the game. Through the forwards hold up play Oli and Josh we able to find space to drive forward. Dom whipped some dangerous ball in from the left. Andy was providing a great outlet ball on the right wing, winning corners and throw ins. It was his quick thinking that caught the Horton defence napping. Retrieving the ball himself, he threw the ball quickly to Ducky who turned into the box and shot quickly with his left foot into the bottom corner. 3-2 Novos.

Once Horton had to swap their injured keeper for an outfield player we should have been able to see the game out. It was evident that we aren’t a side in the winning habit as we pressed on for a fourth goal. Too often the defence was left exposed. One fast breakaway with an excellent finish with only a few minutes remaining allowed Horton to draw level. Our attacking endeavour continued but once an effort from myself was tipped over the bar by the stand in keeper the game finished all square. Plenty of positives to take from a completive game.

Written by Jamie Hansell.