Match Report - 13 Sep 2020, Clapham Rovers Clapham Rovers beat Parklife
Sunday saw Rovers second game of the season upon us. It was another glorious day, this time at the pitch with two first names, Edward Allan in Dulwich.
As middle class infant children learnt to play cricket on the neighbouring pitch, the Rovers warm up commenced with an air of nonchalance. G was seen lofting numerous high balls into Pybus for him to catch, warming up his right leg muscles for multiple big kicks over the top to Seb when the game began. A gaggle of other Rovers were seen attempting the hallmark of all professional football club warmups, the Guardiola ‘rondo’, whereby a hapless player is put in the middle of a circle and made to chase the ball. Lastly, Nath, a student of the intricacies of sport science, orchestrated a mini HIIT session whereby Rovers players were made to jog back and forth (no more than 15 yards on one stretch) and periodically perform actions such as ‘knees up at the front’, and ‘legs up and the back’. The more explosive ‘get up for the header’ was left until the very end to release the most testosterone closer to kick off.
As 10:30 approached and the referee blew his whistle to signal to both teams to cease their warm up and get ready to start the game, Nath was seen remonstrating with Kewy to announce the lineup and Sun Tzu Art of War tactics. Kewy duly obliged and hurriedly huddled the Rovers 15 players together on the side of the pitch. As the referee grew more agitated and asked again to hurry up, Kewy gave him the universal ‘1 index finger’ sign (bottom of finger side facing referee) to inform him that just 1 more minute was required. Kewy proceeded to announce a 3-5-2 and proclaim “they’re some big lads, organised. Let’s get up at them”.
As the game began, Rovers were in control for a good 20-25 minutes. Shaf was causing havoc down the left-hand side and frequently drew the foul in a dangerous area, or was able to beat his man and whip in a ball from the edge of the area. The two midfield anchors of Fordy and Tim Louis were providing a shield to the defence not seen since the heady days of Lucas and Spearing circa 2011 for Dalglish’s second-coming at Liverpool.
As the half wore on, Parklife grew in confidence and began to dominate possession, albeit with minimal penetration. As Parklife’s midfield attempted to break away on swift counter attacks and expose the ageing Rovers defence, Swindon-born West Ham fan Fordy, not to be mistaken for previous Rover ‘Tanned Howard’, ensured that the Rovers ‘tactical foul’ strategy was in full force.
Nevertheless, the Rovers continued to have glimpses of goal and had the best chance of the half to score as half time rapidly approached. Shaf and Bernard, much like the Sunday before, were managing to scurry past their markers on the left-hand flank. On one such occasion, Bernard got to the byline and whipped across a delicious ball to strike partner Mckee. Fresh from his inexcusable miss in Matchday #1, Mckee’s confidence was low. As the ball sped across to him, all that was required from a confident striker was an outstretched toe or boot into the gaping net and Rovers would have been 1-0 up. Rather, Mckee lunged at the cross and the ball careered high and wide. Cries of “unlucky mate” and “bad luck pal” were heard, in a rousing attempt to mask the contempt fellow Rovers were feeling.
The referee blew his half time whistle and both teams trudged off. As each player went to his respective sports bag to collect their Covid compliant individual water bottle, Kewy and Nath delivered a tactical run down of the half’s events as each player looked emptily at their feet or into the distance.
Moreover, in what Oliver Holt from the Daily Mail described as ‘swearing to try to impress the older children’ when referring to Mourinho’s team talks in the Amazon ‘All or Nothing’ documentary, Mckee was seen trying to emulate his Spurs managerial hero by yelling “f*ckin hell yeah”, directed at everyone but no one in equal measure.
The second half began, and having not injected any fresh legs into the proceedings, Rovers restarted sluggishly, in stark contrast to one week ago. Parklife quickly took ownership of the half, and within 10 mins, after a bit of pinball in the box, managed to fire past Pybus at point blank range to go 1-0 up.
The Rovers response was positive with more lofty balls to Bernard over the top. Within a quarter of an hour, Rovers had equalised, Bernard adding to his brace from Matchday 1 with another here. Brother Seb was busy beavering away at the tip of the Fordy-Louis dual-quarterback midfield, and on one such occasion, the Rovers sprayed the ball out to the right and as the cross came in and was half cleared, like all good strikers, Bernard was lurking to hammer home.
As time ticked on by and with Rovers looking to maintain their 100% start to the season, Kewy was increasingly becoming agitated on the sidelines at the lack of creative flair or invention being seen. In a bold move, Kewy, in what is a rare sight event even in Sunday League, decided on a Triple substitution. On came Charlie, Godders and Drew.
The game was immediately changed and became an open, entertaining affair that the spectators had been crying out for for 70 minutes.
Godwin, brought on by Kewy to not be afraid to ‘try things’ used his changing room influence to take ownership of a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the Parklife box. With manager Kewy’s permission to take risks, Godwin attempted an Argentina vs England 1998 style free kick to Shaf who had peeled away on his right-hand side (the blind side to the cross). Shaf, having not angled his run correctly was unable to receive the pass and the defender simply intercepted the pass.
Rovers were understandably now beginning to pull the strings in the twilight period of the game with the fresh, technical impetus brought about by Kewy’s triple substitution.
However, with the Rovers centre backs G and Nath tiring, mistakes were inevitable. Fearful of having their lack of pace exposed, G and Nath did what any ageing centre back pairing would do and began to retreat deeper and deeper. This enabled Parklife to gain a momentary foothold deep into Rovers half, and as they squeezed in a cross, Fordy flailed through the back of their onrushing central midfielder and the referee pointed vociferously towards the spot. It was minute 85 and the Rovers were staring down the barrel of a loss.
Cue Rovers indignation.
G, having seen such a tackle commonplace in the 80s and 90s, was hear hollering ‘No!’. Nath, trying to remain calm and hide his fury tried to explain the science behind the tackle to the referee, pointing out that the ball travelled in the same direction of Fordy’s leg movement, meaning he must have taken the ball cleanly. Mckee was simply witnessed shouting ‘Embarrassing!’.
As the Parklike player lined up to take the penalty, Nath then commenced a series of unsavoury remarks in an attempt to get into his head. One week on from his ‘always late, get a watch’ dig, Nath was conscious of fellow Rovers hearing another poor one-liner, so simply reverted to going “Gump’s gonna miss” repeatedly.
It indeed worked, and the Parklife penalty taker blazed his penalty down the middle, with Pybus getting his body in the way and the ball rebounding high and wide out towards the corner flag. Fresh from a double-save 20 minutes earlier, and scrapping opponents on Matchday 1 when barged into from a cross, Pybus has been in inspired fighting mood at the start of the 2020/21 season. As the ball motored out for a throw in, numerous Rovers embraced Pybus, who did the only acceptable thing a goalkeeper can do in such a situation and refuse to celebrate the moment, instead throwing off his teammates and gesticulating wildly towards where the ball went out. The future Grant Thornton partner would later pick up MOM for what, at that point, was the defining moment of the game.
In reality, the game’s most special moment was still to come. As the match entered injury time, one final Rovers foray into the opposition half began. A desperate lofty ball was hoofed over to the left hand flank which Shaf latched onto. Shaf advanced up the field and with minimal movement from the Rovers target man Mckee, did the only thing he could do and checked back inside.
Having been deployed to play a post-modern, deep lying quarterback role, Godwin, a striker by trade, sensed his opportunity. Seeing the space on the edge of the Parklife box, Shaf spotted Godwin surging from the midfield depths. It was a telepathic connection to be expected by two technicians of the game. Shaf looked up, and sprayed the ball into the space for the onrushing Godwin, similar to Neil Mellor to Gerrard vs Olympiakos in 2004. As Godwin came towards the ball ready to strike, the ball began to fall victim to the summer pitch and weave and bobble uncontrollably. In what can only be put down to instinct, Godwin adjusted the pace of his run and the angle by which he came onto the ball in an instant. With two onrushing defenders in his way, the only place Godwin could put the bobbling, fizzing ball from 30 yards out was towards the Goalkeeper’s bottom left. He duly obliged and with a ‘banana-kick’ technique fired the ball cleanly towards goal, hitting the post and rebounding to the always predatory Bernard to tap home into an open net.
As Bernard wheeled away to the squeals of delight being heard from all on and off-field Rovers, he was left to celebrate alone with strike partner Mckee as Rovers players flocked to the assister, Godwin, with Fordy repeatedly proclaiming “that was a hard one that, it was bobbling”.
There was little time for Parklife to summon a response, and the referee soon after blew his whistle for a 2-1 Rovers victory and a 100% record maintained.
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