Match Report - 08 Nov 2009, Clapham Rovers A Clapham Rovers lost to Sporting Santar
It's not often that a result at this level can leave you feeling physically sick but that was the overriding effect of a 88th minute winner on Sunday as we fell to our third consecutive league defeat.
A late flurry of activity in the recruitment department saw us line up with 6 debutants in the starting 11 which in one sense was a delight to behold, and in another, painfully depressing. It is 14 months since this club was created and we can still get no continuity. Indeed, were it not for the efforts of our 6 new faces and a welcome return to the fold of Stanners, we would have turned up on Sunday with the grand total of 5 players.
Introductory handshakes were the order of the day in the changing room before the match as Kewy went round asking everyone what their name was and where they played. The resultant line up looked a little like this:
1. Tom the Cat
3. Steve O'H
4. Jim (c)
Understandably we started a little shakily and were under the cosh for most of the first 10 minutes. Our right back had only recently recovered from a mystery illness that had left him bed-ridden for 2 weeks and was clearly not ready for the physical exertions required by a good old fashioned rough and tumble in the Sportsmans Senior Sunday Football League Division 4. Exhausted and pale he left the field after 10 minutes never to be seen again. Yousef, a comparitive SSSFL veteran better-equipped to deal with the intensity of the battlefield took to the arena in his stead.
From that moment on we put in unarguably the best first half performance of the season so far. Granted we beat someone 8-1 a couple of weeks back and were 4-0 up at H-T but they were total chod. Santar are 2nd in the league. And we completely outclassed them with a team who only knew each others' names by virtue of the fact that everyone's name was 'Tony Payne'. Stanners was imperious in midfield, comfortable in possession, tackling like a terrier. When he had thrown up in the Riverside Lands stairwell at 09:45 that morning, the result of an evening chez Kew, the portents were not good, but he responded remarkably, putting in the best performance of his Rovers career to date.
Charlie Cook, a Rovers 1st team veteran of around a decade's standing (he made his debut when he was about 10) was proving a real handful on the left and with the ever-impressive Steve O'H behind him the management duo on the touchline were minded to remark that Rovers boasted possibly the best left flank in European football.
Up front Connors revelled in a new partnership with the livewire Eni who was a constant menace and they showed some lovely one touch interplay. Connors had had a chance to brush up on his one touch interplay with Kewy's new flatmate a couple of weeks back but had been confronted with a tampon. It showed the measure of the man that this had not put him off his game.
In defence, Graeme grew in stature alongside Captain Jim at centre back and by the end of the half they truly had the oppo in their collective pocket.
Better still, we got a penalty after about 35 mins. If history was anything to go by, this should have been missed. It was Clapham Rovers v Sporting Santar after all. But James Mark clearly had not read the script and he stepped up with an ice cool nerve reminiscent of Davor Suker in his 1998 pomp to casually sidefoot the ball low to the keeper's left. 1-0 Rovers and deservedly so.
Indeed, we were unfortunate not to be 2 up at the break. Just before half time, Jim threw himself at a corner swung in from the left and was unlucky to see his effort cleared off the line by a last-ditch Santar head.
The second half started as the first had ended. Our left flank was a winner. Every time we advanced down the left side we looked like we'd score. Not to say that our right flank was bad either. In fact Si and Rob, 2 of the new faces, were showing great poise on the ball. In short we were bloody brilliant.
And I don't know what went wrong. But football's a funny old game. Chance after chance went begging. Charlie dragged a shot wide, Connors missed a sitter, Charlie had another effort whistle over the bar, even Stanners who by his own admission cannot hit a cow's arse with a banjo, was chancing his luck from distance. We could and should have been out of sight. But, as so often happens in football, we weren't. And they capitalised.
That they equalised was bad enough as it was totally against the run of play. The management, in true cavalier Rovers style, went for the win and threw on Franco for the flagging Connors. At worst we were looking at a point, why not go for all 3, they thought.
And what a substitution it proved to be! Within 5 minutes of coming on, Franco was played through by a slide-rule pass. With an elan unbecoming of a founding member of the Fat Nigerian Baby-Eating Brigade, he was onto it like a flash, advancing at break-neck speed towards the keeper and slotting the ball expertly into the bottom left hand corner. The crowd, all 3 of us, went wild. Until we thought the goal was disallowed. And then again when we realised it wasn't. Surely, at 2-1 up, with 8 minutes to go, we would get the reward our endeavours so justly merited?
But alas, it wasn't to be. I'm not going to go into the goals we gave away. I can't even remember much about them. I think they were both headers. I remember thinking at the time that the Cat could do nothing about either. It was miserable and gut-wrenching and unfair.
When the final whistle went I was expecting an atmosphere reminiscent of Turin 1990, James Mark in tears, Connors urging somone, anyone, to "have a word with him". But in all honesty it wasn't too bad. I think this was borne out of the fact that we knew we were the better team. And so did Santar. Their manager remarked coyly that they hadn't deserved the win. But you get what you deserve in football and we were punished for a couple of brief lapses in concentration, and, more tellingly, our own profligacy in front of goal. We should have been 4-0 up by the time Santar scored their first.
But, heads up dear Rovers. In the past 3 weeks we've lost to the league leaders and the team in 2nd place (twice). There aren't any better teams in the division than the teams we've already faced. We have a run of fixtures against lesser teams coming up and I'm confident we will reap rich dividends from the next couple of months.
A hearty thank you to all the new faces who turned up. Each and every one had a thoroughly good game, as evidenced by the fact I've added them all to the mailing list and urge them to get involved more often. My man of the match is a split decision this week - cannot choose between Stanners and Charlie Cook.
Our next competitive game is not until November 29th. This is a cup match against Invictus who are mid-table in the division above us. It will be another good opportunity to measure ourselves against a competent side.
Until then, Kewy will be in touch about any potential friendlies.
Resa Non Verba Rovers
Clapham Rovers A Clapham Rovers 2 - 3 Sporting Santar ()