Match Report - 13 Sep 2009, Clapham Rovers A Clapham Rovers drew with Tooting Cons
After the trials and tribulations of our inaugural year in competition I must say I awoke with a fair degree of cynicism on the opening day of the season. The idea that I had 15 players committed to turning out for Rovers at 10 am on Wandsworth Common seemed a bit too good to be true and I envisioned an inbox overloaded with deplorably poor excuses by the time I'd finished my breakfast...
Oh ye of little faith!!! By the time I'd finished my Cinnamon Grahams (the food of champions) I had club captain Kewy on the phone telling me he was "by the duckpond". Even less plausibly, he informed me that Chris Connolly, presumably having only secured bail earlier that morning, was already at Clapham South, team kitbag in hand. Fortunately for us CC had chosen the London Borough of Wandsworth for his habitual Saturday night skirmish. Impressive planning on his part.
Fresh from our 2-0 friendly win the previous week, we decided to adhere to the old footballing maxim "A winning team's a staying team." In the absence of Dan Harley, the gaffer stepped in to partner CC up front, Kiwi Steve slotted in at left back and Achi returned in central defence having spent the summer mixing Nigerian babies into his protein shakes in an attempt to bulk up his lamentably skinny frame. Otherwise the team remained unchanged:
1. Tom W
2. Andy C 4. Zen 5. Achi 3. Steve
6. Kew (c) 7. Matt W 8. Bunny 11. Tom M
10. Seb 9. Connors
A new team, Tooting Cons had won their 1st game of the season 9-1 and that, coupled with the local FA's general ineptitude at placing new teams in the right division, had led me to believe we might be on the wrong end of a pasting. But such fears were unfounded. After an inauspicious start, Rovers began to take control of the game in the centre of the park. Anything that breached the grafting central midfield pairing of Wright and Warren was dealt with comfortably by our back 4 and Connors was making himself a real nuisance up front with his energy and workrate. In terms of chances, though, there were fairly slim pickings. A couple of corners and long throw ins from our resident Rory Delap at left back were all we had to show for our efforts. Indeed, the best chance of the first half fell to Tooting. A mix up at the back led to their striker having an opportune crack at goal. It was a wonderful effort, rising high and true, its trajectory into the top right hand corner of the net a virtual certainty. Out of nowhere came the flying form of Tom "The Cat" Willing, clawing the ball over the bar with his left fingertips. Gordon Banks, with 2 good eyes, would have struggled to keep it out. It was an extraordinary piece of athleticism and one which those of us who played last season were wholly unaccustomed to seeing from a Rovers custodian. Excellent stuff.
Having gone in at half time 0-0 we started the second half very brightly. The wingers, Kew and Mackean, frustratingly peripheral in the first half through no fault of their own were brought into proceedings with increasing regularity. From one marauding Kew dribble we earned a throw in. In it came from Carswell (what a boon to have 2 fullbacks who can launch in a good long throw), there was general kerfuffle in the box as Conners went up for the header with their keeper and centre backs, the ball sat up beautifully for the well-positioned Matt W and he deftly lobbed it back over the keeper's head and into the net for Rovers' first goal of the season. General delirium ensued from the cerise and french grey quarter.
The remainder of the half will be remembered more for the niggle than the football. Never a purist's delight, the game descended increasingly into midfield tussle. Bunny was putting himself about commendably in midfield and was probably lucky not to be carded after one too many slightly heavy-handed challenges. The opposition, a motley collection of ASBO-toting twentysomethings and fully-fledged, card-carrying ex-cons were easily riled. The most degenerate of their number, their goalkeeper, was a veritable case study in neanderthal backwardness. Fortuntately, for those who were genuinely fascinated in finding out who on earth could have produced such a repellant human being, the answer was standing on the touchline to his left: His dad, the linesman. Having taken a disliking to Pete, Kew and pretty much any other Rover in his eyeline I decided the best way to calm this man down would be to apologise in soothing tones for our captain's audacity in suggesting that he might have been kicked in the face. Of course, of course, it was actually his fault. He had clearly used his face to try and hurt his opponent's foot. When I was told to "F**k off you lanky c**t or I'll cut your face off" I conceded that calm and soothing was perhaps not the best way forward.
Unfortunately we were deprived our first competitive win of all time by an equaliser with around 7 minutes left. Now the dust has settled I would suggest Tooting were probably worthy of a point for their efforts. It could have been worse, were it not for a truly miraculous clearance off the line by substitute Pete Harris in the dying minutes we would have gone home empty-handed. That would have been hard to take.
A special mention to Achi and Zen at the back who were immense for the most part and whose understanding as a partnership will grow with familiarity. Tom Willing now has the distinction of having become the first goalie in the club's history to concede only once in a game. Man of the match for me was Matt Wright for the shift he put in in midfield and the composure he showed for his goal.
Here's a word from the skipper Kewy:
The Good, the Bad and the Bizarre.
The willingness to be first to every ball and battle for possession when on the ground or in the air. I felt the two ‘Man Mountains’ at the back, Zen and Achi, were immense at this. If we can keep this up and improve our ‘football,’ which will come with more game time, we’ll give someone a hammering. No doubt about it.
An absolutely fantastic goal line clearance in the dying minutes from Pete Harris. With a ‘never day die spirit’ and commitment like this we’ll get our rewards this season, as we did on Sunday – Our first league point in two seasons! I felt this typified the spirit of the team. I’m looking forward to see this replicated every week.
A wonder save from Tom Willing in the first half, high to his left. Magic.
We were very quiet in the 1st half. There was a vast improvement in the 2nd half. Let’s begin next week like this.
An unnamed person, who persisted in calling Andy Carswell, ‘Carlsberg,’ throughout the match. This didn’t seem to affect ‘Carlsberg’ as he had a particularly strong match at the back despite only having a can of Tropical Relentless for breakfast. Have a banana next week Carlsberg and see how you get on.
Being consistently thwarted by the unique duo of kamikaze Goalkeeper and cheating psychotic linesman. Unsurprisingly, they were father and son. I haven’t been confronted by an angry, toothless, alcoholic, foaming at the mouth, waving a flag, for quite some time. I have you to thank for that Pete. He didn’t seem to like being called a cheat did he?
Thank you to all those that turned up nice and early. Let's make this a habit.
Special thanks to Tony Payne who ran the line for 75 minutes before finally getting on as a sub.
Onwards and upwards Rovers.
Resa Non Verba
Tooting Cons 1 - 1 Clapham Rovers A Clapham Rovers ()