Well, we may have been away for a few months, but Convo truly have returned! Though not particularly impressively …
Following two 4-1 reverses to start the season, losing to Wood Street and Collegiate respectively, we then were able to overcome Old Istonians 6-4. Hurrah I hear you yell, they’re off the mark for the season! Well, no, the no-show of the referee leading to the game being reduced an exhibition. Which brings us onto this weekend …
We lined up against Rhein for the first time in two years, having spent last season in separate divisions. The last two encounters we did have with the opposition ended in a 10-2 away win for Convo, followed two weeks later by a 2-0 home capitulation. The most Convo of things. Since then, we had been informed that Rhein had strengthened well, and that was certainly in evidence this weekend. Helping themselves to 4 goals in the first half, they attacked well and certainly seemed to be a more formidable side than previous years. Yet, as well as the away side played, Convo were poor. To paraphrase an old saying, you can’t win a game in the first half hour, but you can certainly lose it!
After going a goal down early in the game, Byatt rose like a salmon at the back post to nod in an equaliser for the home side. But then this happened:
22 mins: 1-2
24 mins: 1-3
28 mins: 1-4
Conceding 3 goals in little over 5 minutes was particularly galling, the manner of them even worse, as we contributed to our downfall each time. Taha pulled one back on the stroke of half time to make the score 2-4 and give us a fighting chance, and the last 15 mins saw us play with more aggression, but all in all it was always going to be a stern HT team talk.
Team talk delivered by Welsh, Convo entered the fray, and battled well. Taha and Parsons had a couple of chances apiece, the away keeper making a couple of fine saves, before Rhein hit us on the counter after possession was cheaply lost. 5-2, and the game all but gone. We battled hard, and there was no lack of desire, but the error strewn first half always meant that we were playing catch up. Still though, it's early in the season, and we've got more than enough quality in the squad to start climbing the table sooner rather than later!
Anyway, onwards and upwards. Wavertree West Derby Old Boys up next on Saturday. Lets get this season started! Captain McNally should be back to lead his troops for this one!
MOTM: Nawrocki, who had the good grace to enter the fray for two minutes, become aghast with the performance he’d walked into, and get himself injured so he no longer had to partake in it all!
Convocation (4-4-2): Scalabrin; Long J, Roberts, Welsh J, Byatt; Parsons, Long M, Shaw, Ahmed; Lewis, Abussnena; Subs: Kaye, Nawrocki, Salgado
[We] played a friendly on place of official league fixture because of a lack of a referee. In true convo style we therefore won 6-4.
Convocation (4-5-1): Scalabrin; Long J, Byatt, Roberts, Welsh J; Parsons, Shaw, Long M, Ahmed, Lewis; Abussnena; Subs: McNally, Williams, Irakiza, Salgado
Convocation (from): Scalabrin, Galy, Byatt, Railton, Farrell, Round, Shaw, Salgado, Nawrocki, Lewis, Kent; Subs: McNally, Long M
Convocation (from): Hendry, Round, Roberts, Byatt, Railton, Long M, Kent, Lewis, Galy, Kaye, Williams, McNally, Irakiza, Long J
With Convo already trailing two-nil Craig Kaye scored by poking the ball through the opposition #1's legs when he refused to pick the ball up in his own area. Woodstreet complaints of foul play inevitably ensued, but the referee waved them all away on the basis that it was the 'keeper's own fault if his cat-and-mouse ploy had backfired.
Convocation (4-5-1): Hendry; Farrell, Byatt, Prendergast, Galy; Ross, Salgado, Long M, Lewis, Kent; Kaye; Subs: McNally, Williams, Houston
1-0 to Liobians at half time.
Convocation (from): Hendry, Welsh J, Prendergast, Byatt, Long J, Parsons, Long M, Irakiza, Ahmed, Kaye, Williams; Subs: McNally, Ross
Started with only ten men. Played on 4G pitch. 3-2 to the visitors at the interval.
Convocation (from): Welsh J, Ross, Prendergast, Welsh A, Long J, Kent, Long M, Salgado, Ahmed, Kaye; Subs: Sawyer, Byatt
Bobby Mimms reports
The Amazon may be disappearing at an alarming rate, and the jungle destruction of South-east Asia isn’t far behind, but rest assured that deforestation hasn’t yet reached Mersey Road, or its so-called sward. Tuesday evening’s opening fixtures in this year’s South Liverpool Cup were played on pitches that would have caused disquiet to grazing cattle, with Convocation’s game in particular blighted by ridiculously long grass and all manner of exotic fungi in and around the centre circle.
It’s probably a little bit ungrateful to moan about such things though, considering that the boys from Wyncote eventually ran out comfortable winners, even if it is difficult to know exactly how much of that was down to them playing well, or their opponents – apparently a breakaway Cardinal Newman side that have reinvented themselves as Mossley Hill – being poor. As is so often the case it was probably somewhere in the middle, and yet by the end it was incontrovertible that the losers had also been desperately unlucky: they must have all received the black spot in the post on Tuesday morning as, almost from kick off, they proceeded to hit the woodwork like Ipswich in the ’78 cup final.
Convocation Captain Chris McNally sent his charges out in an experimental 3-5-2 formation, explaining that he’d decided it was necessary to have a plan B for when plan A wasn’t working – having been at the helm for five years now it’s surely only a matter of time until he becomes enthusiastic about this new-fangled ‘substitutions’ malarkey. He began the game himself, up front alongside the rediscovered Breno Salgado, while the midfield five that must have considered taking machetes out with them once they saw the state of the pitch consisted of (from left to right) Andy ‘Pub in the’ Parsons, Adel Ahmed, Divin De Buffalo Irakiza, Mike Nawrocki, and Mike Kent, the latter being described before kick-off as “knee-high to nettles” and for whom the game must have seemed like being on the set of Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Behind them the rearguard trio comprised of new Vice-captain Jon Welsh (whose comment on hearing the tactics was “it’s a bit random this”), Jay Railton and Graham Roberts, and donning the gloves for the first time this season was Alex Hendry.
The sun, shining diagonally across the pitch from out of a cloudless sky, was more-or-less in the Convo goalie’s eye-line during the first half, but instances when it might have had an effect on his performance were few and far between. For the opening ten minutes there was little to suggest that either team had the upper hand, but then from seemingly nothing Ahmed received a throw-in from Parsons and ran on along the inside-left channel and into the opposition penalty area whereupon he fired off a low shot that snuck in at the foot of the near post past the #1, who could probably have made a better attempt at keeping it out.
For the majority of the first period the Mossley Hill players – decked out in all red, apart from white sleeves – took it in turns to give the referee a hard time, which surprisingly continued long after he’d booked a pair of them in quick succession, shortly after Convo had taken the lead, for what we shall call ‘making observations’: the first of those, a young scally called ‘Jack’, was lucky not to get his marching orders for refusing to supply the official with his surname, repeatedly insisting that it was ‘The Lad’ until his captain ordered him to stop acting the goat. Around about that time the game also went through a phase where balls kept getting lost in the thicket of brambles at the allotments end of the pitch, although that didn’t prevent Convocation from doubling their lead when Irakiza spotted the opposition ‘keeper off his line and lobbed him from about thirty yards out on the wing; the alternative viewpoint – and let’s just say that it might be the correct one – was that the midfielder attempted to put a cross into the box but got the ball much closer to the goal than he’d intended and it dropped in at the back post, a total fluke.
It was not long after that that Mossley Hill’s rotten luck with regards to the Convocation goal frame began: firstly one of their players attacked down the right and, despite the best efforts of Railton, put a low cross into the six-yard box that evaded everyone but struck the back post; five-or-so minutes later they won a free kick on the edge of their opponents’ penalty area from which, again, they hit the foot of one of the uprights. Such near misses weren’t the reserve of theirs though, and shortly before the break Ahmed crashed a shot against the (not so wooden) woodwork from a dead ball of his own, but Salgado’d had no such luckless excuse for not scoring just prior to that when he’d been sent clear of the red-shirted back line, rounded their ‘keeper and then inexplicably fired wide of the resultant open goal. That, however, wasn’t the most bizarre sight of that closing period of the half, as it did look for all the world as though McNally was managing to stay onside whenever he and his troops attacked – mind you, the sun had been shining into the eyes of everyone on the Convo bench since the start, so…
The second half began with a raft of Convocation substitutions as Jamie and Matt Long, Sam Prendergast and Andy Welsh all entered the fray in place of Railton, McNally, Nawrocki and Kent, but the changes had little impact on the overall flow of the game, in that the red shirts continued to go close – in the first few minutes after the restart they had yet another shot that failed to beat the frame of their opponents’ goal – but it was their hooped adversaries who kept on finding the back of the net. Convo scored number three when one of their (unrecorded) ilk advanced into the Mossley Hill penalty area and almost rounded the #1, but in the end squared the ball to Parsons, and from about eighteen yards out he blasted past a couple of partially-covering defenders to notch his third from the last two matches.
There should have been another not long after that when Ahmed – who’d been getting megged at a startling rate throughout the game – was scythed down inside the opposition penalty area (well the tool obviously wasn’t being used to keep the grass short) but Long (M) put his spot kick far too close to the #1, who saved to his right. With the smell of a late-summer barbeque drifting on the air there was a lovely tribute at one point to Convocation legends the Chuckle Brothers when one of the Mossley Hill players implored a colleague for a pass with the call “to me” and the nearby Convo bench responded in the only way possible, but then it did become four-nil when Welsh (A) was hacked down from behind (the new club secretary did not take at all kindly to the foul) and Ahmed’s curling free kick hit the red-shirted defensive wall and looped up over the ‘keeper and into the net – Mossley Hill’s appalling bad luck was becoming painful to watch.
The sun finally dipped behind the nearby trees with about twenty minutes remaining and the local gnats showed up to chomp on the legs of anyone who wasn’t moving fast enough (those on the bench, for example); at about the same time Welsh (A), having calmed down from his earlier loss of composure, performed a lovely evasive pirouette in the centre circle that the watching Kent suggested had a hint of Billy Elliot about it. And then it all got really surreal when McNally, within seconds of returning to the action, got on the end of a drilled cross into the Mossley Hill area to make it 5-0 with one of those slumping headers that he specialises in, but which so often don’t prevail.
He should have made it six several minutes after that when a low cross from out on the Convo right reached him at the back post and on the edge of the six-yard box, but in front of what was a veritable open goal he skewed his shot wide of the target. In fairness to the Captain he may have been put off by Railton’s comical air kick when he had attempted to score a split second earlier.
It was Mossley Hill who had the last two chances to net but on both occasions they only confirmed what everyone watching already knew, namely that they were bewitched: with about five minutes remaining one of their players had a shot from the edge of the Convocation penalty area that was deflected by an attempted block, looped up over Hendry and then… well, a shiny penny for anyone who can guess what happened next. After the ball had hit the back post and rebounded out again – as if you hadn’t worked it out – the players in red seemed quite visibly shocked at just how wretched their luck was getting, but they still had one further chance to prove that they couldn’t score in a knocking shop when Welsh (J) upended one of their men inside the Convo eighteen yard box and another send the subsequent spot kick miles over the crossbar and halfway to the Wirral.
That was the final kick of what was beginning to feel like a never ending affair – both halves seemed to go on as long as that feel good hit of the summer, the Convo AGM – and at the full-time whistle the side from Wyncote will have been pleased with how they’d played. Although it never felt as though they were in any danger of losing control of proceedings the game didn’t have the feel of a 5-0 about it either, and it would have been nigh-on impossible for Mossley Hill’s luck to have been worse; they are clearly a side still in transition – breakaway clubs are seldom a good idea and are frequently filled with shifty characters – so Convocation should take this result with a pinch of salt. However, coupled with Saturday’s victory over the historically difficult F. C. Salle, it bodes well for the season to come, particularly if nobody mows a pitch across Liverpool from now until next May.
Man Of The Match: There was one outstanding defensive performance on Tuesday so it’s only fair then that it gets the recognition it deserves – the frame of Convo’s goal made four or five vital interventions to thwart their opponents, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it get a call up to St George’s Park for the upcoming internationals.
Convocation (3-5-2): Hendry; Welsh J, Railton, Roberts; Parsons, Ahmed, Irakiza, Nawrocki, Kent; McNally, Salgado; Subs: Long M, Long J, Prendergast, Welsh A
Convocation (4-5-1): McNally; Long J, Prendergast, Railton, Welsh J; Ahmed, Kent, Salgado, Nawrocki, Parsons; Williams; Subs: Long M, Unknown, 'Chris'
Convocation (4-5-1): Farrell; Byatt, Roberts, Railton, Unknown; Prendergast, Welsh J, Schofield R, Long M, Kent; Williams