Convocation (4-5-1): Welsh J; Kaye, Farrell, Irakiza, Welsh A; Huws, Bloor, Crockett, Walters, Parsons; Salgado; Subs: McNally, Kent, Williams, Round
[JF] Firsts got beat 4-3 by Jaguar at Simpson Ground. Kent, Welsh and Si Williams were the scorers, Divin a los bagged, but into the wrong net....
Convocation (4-5-1): Round, Byatt, Welsh J, Halliday, Galy, Williams, Russell, Kent, Long J, Irakiza, Lewis; Subs: Farrell, McNally
Well, Happy New Year to you all! That message carries greater weight than ever, coming as it does in the aftermath of what can simply be described as 2020! Not only was it a year that saw great upheaval globally with the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, it was also a far from classic year for the University of Liverpool’s finest. With the Coronavirus and its associated lockdowns and Tiers for Fears bringing the 2019/20 LOBAL season to an early postponement and, ultimately, cancellation, so it was set that the 2020/21 season would start later than usual. And to further dampen Convo 200 spirits, it had been as far away as vintage a start as could be imagined. Unless ”Vintage Convo” is to be on the wrong side of weekly Saturday results, in which case, that may ring true …
As it was, the first half of the season had not gone well. A record of 0 wins, 3 draws and 6 defeats from 9 league games, in addition to a game abandonment saw us propping up the bottom of the league, above only Jaguar Rovers but below everyone else. There had been a couple of maulings in that period (step forward away trips to Sacre Coeur and Huyton Stanley) and a couple of late heartbreaks (most notably the last minute winner for MSB Woolton at Wyncote following THAT own goal!), but all in all Convo had tended to be on the wrong end of a few close encounters. Yet, we had only 3 points to show from 9 games. To further compound the pain, the final game of the year at ACOL seemed to sum up the year, with the game ending in abandonment following a poor challenge on Prendergast leading to a nasty injury for our resident Yorkshireman. Get well soon young man!
So, all in all, 2020 could politely get to f**k. Roll on 2021, with an unusually early game in January to welcome the boys back to the fray. With Liverpool being dropped into Tier 3, fears were that the game wouldn’t be allowed to go ahead. But after all of that was resolved, the attention soon turned to whether the pitch at Liobians would be fit for play. The age old summer problem of being devoured by the Mersey Road pitch midgies wouldn’t be an issue on a cold January morning, but the rain and snow that had hit Liverpool the preceding week. But, nevertheless, the game was declared on the night before. 2021 was going to get off to an early start!
It seemed as though 2020 had followed us into the New Year though, with both Byatt and Russell having to drop out prior to kick off with Covid-related reasons. That left McNally with 14 men to go into battle with. On the freezing cold sideline, which saw an exasperated Galy lament his inexplicable decision to get changed into his full kit at the venue rather than in the warmth of his flat, the skipper named his team. Vice-Captain Welsh would once again don the gloves, no mean feat on such a chilly afternoon. He would be protected by a back four of Galy and Farrell playing either side of yet another new CB pairing of Divin and the returning Railton, always good to see the big fella back for an appearance. A four man midfield of J Long, Lewis, C Barlow and Parsons would be tasked with going into battle in the middle of what would soon become a quagmire. Kent and Williams would form their much vaunted “from our younger days” strike partnership, leaving McNally, Marcel and Kaye to run the line on this coldest of days.
With the teams readied, the game kicked off, with both sets of players feeling each other out for the opening 20 minutes, no real chances of note being created. Liobians went close first, with their somewhat giant of a centre mid evading his marker at a corner, but heading well over Welsh’s crossbar. A first shot across the Convo bows, but nothing to worry too much about, other than to instigate some more organisation in the away backline at set pieces. Indeed, the most notable event of the first half hour or so came in the way of a seasonal snowstorm that made all present question just exactly why they thought it would be a good idea to play football in such inclement weather conditions.
Bu t the cold seemed to instigate a cold blooded approach from Convo, who started to move the ball with some more zip on what was a rapidly diminishing pitch. The opening exchanges had been characterised by some overplaying of the ball in our half, leading to possession being cheaply lost and giving the home side several chances to run at the Convo backline. Railton and Farrell in particular were somewhat fortunate to escape a caution each for tackles that were in the ‘professional foul’ ballpark when the ball had been cheaply lost to our hosts. These breaks became rarer as the half progressed though, with Convo starting to carve out some of their own chances. Long was the first up, with a drive from range fizzed at the home keeper, who unconvincingly parried it over his crossbar. The resulting corner would come to nothing, but chances still came. Lewis would see a header from a corner dip agonizingly wide from a few yards out, and the same man would completely miscue a chance from a short free kick from Parsons on the edge of the box when a ball into the box to test the dubious handling of the home keeper would have perhaps been more sensible.
Despite having passed up a presentable opportunity though, you can’t keep a good man down, and Lewis would soon turn provider. An excellent pass out of the Convo half fed Kent, who bearing down on the home goal, albeit being chaperoned wide by the Liobians centre back. No matter for the team’s top scorer of the campaign however, who from the acutest of angles, delivered an absolutely sensational chip, over the head of the keeper and into the far bottom corner. Relief all around, and Convo had that rarest of things this season: a lead. 0-1.
Convo actually responded well to going ahead. Whilst we have in the past been guilty of switching off and inviting pressure, the team looked to build further attacks, with Long and Parsons particularly looking dangerous on the wings and causing Liobians’ full backs all manner of problems. However, as the pitch deteriorated further, with the halfway line now being unrecognisable, mistakes on both sides crept into the game. The further along the half went, it became obvious that the team who made the least mistakes would probably get the next goal. Liobians started to take advantage of a couple of mistakes from away players, with Farrell, Divin and Railton all having to clear balls played into the box following mistakes. Eventually however, the Convo defences would be broken. A ball played into the box wasn’t cleared despite a couple of chances to hack it away from danger, a green shirt wrestled control of it and finshed well into the bottom left corner, beyond the despairing dive of a hapless Welsh. 1-1, and Convo seemingly back to square 1.
HT Liobians 1-1 Convocation
Despite the late setback, the half time team talk was upbeat, with the skipper and team content with how the game had gone, and how we had dealt with the boggy conditions. Despite the home sides relatively heady position of 5th in the league compared to the plight that Convo found themselves in, this was game that was there to be won, a message that was conveyed across the squad. The players got themselves back onto the pitch, with the snow having now abated, but the damage more than done to the pitch. The bottom end of the pitch in particular was now a sunken bog, and just so happened to be the end that Convo were to defend. Oh joy of joys, considering two of the backline hadn’t completed 90 minutes in several months. That said, those two players, namely Railton and Farrell, had acquitted themselves well in the opening 45, despite both flirting with the danger of a yellow card from a ref who seemed happy to see play go on rather than take names in the book. In truth, the entire team had played well, with Lewis and Barlow in particular battling well in the centre, and the duo of Williams and Kent giving a good account of themselves as a slightly (only slightly) more mobile version of Quinn and Phillips. But the hard graft to secure that elusive win of the campaign would start now.
And what a start, as with barely seconds on the clock, Long hooked it first time with his left foot from about 20 yards out on the left wing. The dipping effort evaded the hapless goalkeeper and nestled into the bottom corner. I say effort, as whether this was a shot reminiscent of Papiss Cisse vs Chelsea for Newcastle several years ago or a misplaced cross that evaded the stranded man in nets, is only for the goalscorer to truly know. At this point though, who cared, Convo were back in the lead and once again had something to build upon. 1-2.
And build on it Convo did. Admittedly the game became more stretched at this point, with the now bog-like status of the pitch making a more nuanced passing game nigh on impossible. This resulted in long balls being played by both teams to alleviate this problem, and some dubious offside calls from the referee for both teams reduced the number of runs through on goal for both sets of players. Yet the away side did create, and subsequently waste several golden opportunities. Substitute Kaye missed a relatively simple chance by his standards when through with only the keeper to beat, and his assertion after the game that he “literally couldn’t feel my feet” didn’t wash with his teammates, Long concluding that “People don’t forget” such squandered opportunities. Indeed they don’t, but it was good to see Kaye for another runout in absence of Vets duty this weekend!
Elsewhere, Parsons was really in the thick of the action, as he would be for the rest of the game. A great effort form the left winger would hit the bar, whilst he was also well charged down by a home defender with an open goal at his mercy. Skipper McNally, introduced for Williams after a hardworking performance, would then give his own unique take on the Niall Quinn role, with some bundling leggy runs through the mud, but to no avail. With Convo spurning some gilt edged chances, and nothing left to lose, it was understandable that Liobians would soon carve out chances of their own. The warning signs were there when a misplaced Galy header into the centre of the pitch just in front of the Convo box was subsequently miscontrolled by Farrell, leading to an effort from the home left winger. No surprise about the mistake then, but also no surprise in the fine save that Welsh made, turning the rasping drive over and away in the direction of the allotments behind the pitch. Unfortunately, no budding gardeners were there to appreciate the quality of the save, though his teammates were quick to applaud the vice-captain for his intervention. Shortly after though, the home side broke again. With Farrell running alongside the No. 6 who he had kept relatively quiet since his switch out there earlier in the half, it seemed as though he would be able to usher the winger out again. But to the right of the sprinting pair came the stampede of a third man: enter Divin, who dived into a challenge on the man in green. It appeared a tough one to call, as he did take the ball, but the man in the middle had two calls to make. Firstly, was it a foul? From the blow of the whistle, it appeared that he certainly thought so/ the second decision, whether or not it was a penalty, was more difficult, as the line had now all but disappeared from view. Ultimately though, he pointed to the spot (again, now a distant memory). The felled man stepped up and dispatched the penalty low to Welsh’s left. The Convo cat did get a hand to it, but the power of the shot took it past him. 2-2, and it looked like yet another “2020 afternoon” for the exasperated away team.
Less than 10 minutes to go then, and the game needing to be won for the third time. McNally wasted a glorious opportunity with a header that he somehow diverted wide when it seemed easier to score, having been joined by a new strike partner in the form of Marcel, donning a rather eye-catching pair of tracksuit bottoms in the absence of any shorts. To be fair, it was cold! The dubious handling of the home keeper was also absent for a fine full stretch save that he made from a blue shirt, although this onlooker couldn’t see exactly who it was from. Welsh was forced into acrobatics of his own as Liobians sent in a couple of cross/shots that were a little too close for comfort. But remember how I said that how Parsons was in the thick of it for the rest of the game? Well, when Long sent in another cross from the left wing, his teammate on the opposite flank met the ball with a sumptuous volley that nestled in the home goal with just minutes left. 2-3, and Convo now surely on the edge of their first 3 points of the season.
There was still time for Parsons to get involved in the game’s final flashpoint. A Liobians corner was cleared to the edge of the box for the waiting Parsons, when he was met with a bad tackle from an opposing player. To make it worse, the offending player then pushed the goalscorer to the ground in anger, leading to a minor melee at the end of what had been a respectfully played game. The referee gave the guilty party a yellow card apiece for the two offences, and off he marched, with Liobians seeing the game out with 10 men.
The next whistle signalled the end of the game, and Convo were left to warm themselves on this most glacial of afternoons with the knowledge that the first win of the season had been picked up, and the confidence boost that goes along with such a result. Too many times this season, Convo have come out on the wrong side of a closely fought game, so it was pleasing to see the hard work pay off this time. In true Convo style, it had been achieved the hard way, with yet another penalty having been given away to nearly spoil the result, coupled with the late withdrawal of two key players earlier in the day. But all in all, a good day. Next up, a clash against Jaguar in an absolute 6-pointer of a game!
MOTM – Really hard to give this award this week, but for all the good reasons. Every man to a tee stepped up and played well. The backline, whilst not the quickest in the world, were able to deal with a lot of the many balls over the top that were played and the resulting runs. Special praise to Railton for his first appearance of the year. The strikers worked tirelessly, and Kent managed to get a goal for his efforts, whilst Messrs Long, Barlow and Lewis were superb in the middle of the park, breaking with intent to cause the home side all kinds of problems, whilst also being snappy in the tackle in difficult conditions. Shout out to Welsh as well for a couple of superb saves that kept the teams position intact. But the award this week goes to Parsons. Superb up and down the right wing all afternoon and putting in some sensational deliveries, on another day he could have bagged 3. As it was, he had to settle for one, but what a goal it was. Well done sir!
[AW] Sam P had his leg broken in a reckless challenge.
Convocation (4-4-2): Welsh J; Galy, Byatt, Prendergast, Irakiza; Parsons, Lewis, Barlow C, Long J; Kaye, Williams; Subs: Farrell, McNally, Crockett
Convocation (4-5-1): McNally; Galy, Welsh J, Irakiza, 'Peter'; Bloor, Walter, Lewis, Kent, Williams; Huws; Subs: Kaye, 'Marcel'
Bobby Mimms reports
Oh, how cruel! After five weeks without football the Convocationistas had been chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch, but fate was not kind to them on their return and despite playing rather well (overall) and certainly not deserving to lose they were undone by a peach of a winner at the death, having already fallen foul to a daft penalty and a rather wonderful own goal. The scorer of that, Divin De Buffalo Irakiza, must have wished that Lockdown 2.0 was still in force as on top of his date with the wrong net he had a bit of a stinker all round, and yet, unlike his team mates, at least when the dust settled he could take solace from his deeds – well, one of them – earning him entry into the pantheon of Convo martyrs.
Readers of a certain age will remember that the Firsts weren’t exactly pulling up trees before the government-enforced hiatus, but the break appeared to have done them good when, on Saturday, at the end of their birthday week, they entertained MSB Woolton at Wyncote, the same team they had faced the last time they tasted victory, in the South Liverpool Cup back at the start of September. With that in mind it probably goes without saying that the guys from L25 are not one of the better outfits in the league and so this was a golden opportunity for Convo that went begging; a win would have seen them leapfrog their guests in the table.
It would be an exaggeration to suggest that the game was end-to-end for ninety minutes, but possession was fairly evenly shared throughout and both penalty areas saw roughly the same amount of action, although during the opening quarter-of-an-hour Convocation created the best (and only) chances. They’d got things going with the sun – shining out of a clear blue sky in which there were occasional whisps of cloud – low to the right of them as they attacked and it didn’t take long for Jay Russell to try his luck from about twenty-five yards out, his shot taken with wild hair and wilder accuracy, clearing the crossbar as it did.
The home side, decked out once again in black-and-white stripes (for those of you reading in colour, Woolton were in dark-blue shirts with pale-blue sleeves), had started with Chris Barlow and Mike Kent joining Russell in the centre of midfield, while Jamie Long (l) and Andy Parsons (r) were on its love handles. Up front on his own was Simon Williams, at the other end of the team Jon Welsh was in goal, and the back four comprised of Sam Prendergast and Andy Welsh, flanked by Jerome Galy and Irakiza, for whom infamy beckoned. Also present, spectating (thus incurring the cavilling of Chris McNally), was what at first appeared to be President-elect Joe Biden, although upon closer inspection it turned out to be Parsons’ dad in baseball cap, dark glasses and a scarf pulled up over his face against the chill.
Parsons Jnr had Convo’s next chance, firing high and not so handsome from twenty-five yards out to the accompaniment of a cacophony of seagull screeches, but while the avian legions soon cleared off the human visitors to Wyncote began to ramp up the tension as though it were Bodega Bay and before long took the lead. On the quarter-hour their #8 streaked down his left flank and put a lovely cross into the box, but despite a colleague in the middle being unbothered by defenders marking as though they were in the middle of a pandemic he missed making a headed contact by millimetres. There was no need for Woolton to rue the missed opportunity for long though, as several minutes later the same alacritous winger was sent darting through again by a good pass from the centre circle, and with Irakiza nowhere to be seen Welsh (A) attempted to cover but – and you could see it coming a mile off – only succeeded in sending the speedster sprawling inside the penalty area. The subsequent spot kick was converted with the minimum of fuss.
It wasn’t exactly against the run of play and yet the concession was still a bit of a sucker punch because Convo had been more than holding their own. Williams was lively up front and as involved as any lone forward ever is in the Firsts’ 4-5-1 formation, but it was Parsons who next went close for the stripes when he only just missed the target with what looked like a waist-high cross into the goalmouth from the corner of the penalty area but which may have been a deliberate shot. On the other side of the pitch Long was also causing the visitors some headaches, even if the nearest he’d come to scoring was through a low effort that was well wide and hit with all the force of a fly’s fart; moments beforehand he’d shown his true worth to the team when, after good work down the left-hand flank, he’d knocked the ball back to the edge of the eighteen-yard box from near the flag and Barlow’s elegant strike drifted just over the angle of the crossbar and upright. It would have been a thing of beauty had he converted it.
Like their guests before them though, Convocation didn’t have to wonder what might have been for too long. With the half-hour mark on the horizon and Woolton unable to get out of their final third, Kent pulled rank over Williams when a loose ball came towards them and played a lovely low defence-splitting pass forward that Barlow read to perfection, and as the opposition ‘keeper advanced to narrow the angle the midfielder slotted past him for his first goal for the club.
Before the game could recommence referee Ste Turton growled at the players, “No more ‘let it go’s”, not that anyone on the Convocation sideline had been aware that that was a problem, but then again they were all still dumbfounded that McNally had been able to return a spare ball across the pitch to the Woolton bench with absolute pinpoint precision; as the man himself put it, presumably in just as much a state of shock as everybody else: “I might as well go home now.” What made his feat all the more remarkable was that it was becoming quite difficult to see anything other than silhouettes if you were facing in that direction due to the December sun getting even lower in the sky, but even so one player’s ‘boots too tight’ performance was beginning to get noticed.
As a unit the Convocation defence was coping as well as could be expected – clumsy penalty concessions aside – but at right back Irakiza wasn’t so much struggling to get out of second gear as repeatedly failing a hill start whilst in it. It was like he’d forgotten how to run, and every time that Woolton attacked down his flank, particularly through their troublesome #8, it was hearts-in-mouth time for those on the striped-shirted sideline. Thankfully Welsh (A) and Prendergast had his back, while Galy was putting in another fine showing on the left, including executing a lovely crunching tackle inside his own area at one point that had to be timed to perfection; not long after that he also gave one of the visitors enough hassle to cause him to scoop an effort over the bar rather than under it.
In the closing stages of the first period the game did become rather end-to-end, although it was only Woolton who went close to scoring again, and they probably should have. Parsons was penalised by a rather dubious offside call and the resulting free kick was launched long and flicked on into the Convo penalty area, where Welsh (A), doing two men’s jobs, attempted to clear his lines but basically passed the ball straight to a blue shirt on the opposite side of the goal, and from about ten yards out he volleyed wide from thigh height when it seemed easier to get his shot on target.
Not long after that the club secretary went all Jordan Pickford and scissored an opponent on the edge of the centre circle, earning himself a yellow card to go with his conceded penalty – not a bad half’s work considering he’s no one’s idea of a hatchet man. The free kick was pumped into the Convo eighteen-yard box, once again in the general direction of where Irakiza was being conspicuous by his inertia, and as moments earlier whichever covering defender it was who attempted a clearance just hooked it straight across the goal to a lurking Woolton player, who then cleared the crossbar on the volley. The home side weren’t exactly hanging on at the end of the first period, but they’d certainly rode their luck in its final few minutes.
The second half began with the watching John Farrell imploring his team mates to, “Hunt in pairs”, and yet no one around him bothered to ask ‘why?’ or even what he meant. Almost immediately the huge Woolton #65 playing up front began to grab people’s attention, not so much for what he was doing but just because of how cumbersome he seemed to be. Was he on the pitch before the break? It seems inconceivable that your correspondent could have missed him, but whatever the case the less charitable might suggest that from Convo’s point of view he seemed a perfect foil to their right back’s less than stellar performance.
Nearly ten minutes into the half Lincolnshire’s James Walter entered the fray for the home side in place of Williams, who’d been a bit of a pest for the Woolton back line without ever looking like scoring – Damn that Kent – but shortly before that, down the other end of the pitch, the blue shirts went as close to netting again as is possible without doing so. They won a free kick out near the Convocation bench that was punted diagonally into the box, where another of their ilk bulleted a header towards the postage-stamp region of the goal from about six yards out, only for Welsh (J) – who played the role of sweeper-keeper superbly throughout the game – to make a brilliant reflex save and tip the ball over his crossbar, conceding a corner that came to nothing.
It was becoming more-and-more obvious that the black-gloved referee was giving the benefit of the doubt to the defenders (of both teams) in his offside calls, rather than the other way around as you might expect, but nevertheless either side of the hour mark Convocation conjured up a number of chances to score despite the whistler’s unorthodoxy. Russell was the first to try his luck when he fired off a shot from the edge of the opposition area, but his effort was straight at their ‘keeper, who appeared to be wearing a dark army-style beret against the sun (?).
Shortly after that Russell and Parsons were both sent through from the halfway line by a long Long clearance, with just one outfield opponent and the #1 back to contend with. The latter of that attacking pair reached the ball first and attempted to knock it past the advancing glover just outside the penalty area, but he got a slight touch on the thing (possibly with his arm, although it was down by his side) deflecting it into the path of the other striped shirt, who probably couldn’t believe his luck at the open goal in front of him . Not scoring didn’t appear to be an option, but just as the Convo midfielder fired off a shot from inside the ‘D’ the other Woolton player (who everyone seemed to have forgotten about) had the temerity to do his job properly and made a last-gasp lunge in its direction to pull off a fantastic (and quite improbable) block. It was excellent defending.
Unperturbed, Convocation continued to force their guests onto the back foot, and shortly after that close shave the Woolton ‘keeper made a great intervention when he pushed a fifteen-yard shot from Walter onto his right-hand upright and out, while Barlow fired wide from close range at the resultant corner. The latter was also thwarted by the #1 just after that, when Irakiza momentarily forgot himself and played him clear through with a semi-decent low pass forward (which Walter touched on accidentally as he tried to get out of its way), although the subsequent gloved block on the edge of the penalty area did look for all the world as if it was intended to protect good looks rather than goal nets.
In amongst those Convo efforts the visitors appealed for another penalty down the opposite end of the pitch when the ball struck the arm of Welsh (A) as he fell on the edge of his six-yard box, but it would have been incredibly harsh had one been given as he had no idea where the thing was [insert own joke here]. The centre half was regularly heard giving instruction to nearby colleagues, including a panicked, “Parsons drop” – which sounds like something you’d go to the doctors with – but he and his fellow defenders were briefly enjoying a mini-lull at the back, in no small part due to the big Woolton #65 being something of a galoot and regularly breaking up his own side’s attacks.
From near the Woolton bench Kent went on a mazy dribble past several opponents before he was finally stopped in his tracks on the edge of their ‘D’ (a poor tribute to the late Maradona, to be honest), while Long went close with a shot from the corner of the visitors’ penalty area after a brief spell of jiggery-pokery down its side, but again his effort was straight at the #1. With a little over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining though, Convo did take the lead, but only after a scare at the other end of the pitch when Welsh (J) nearly got dispossessed in the process of moseying around his own eighteen-yard box as though he were Jordan Pickford (it must be a Welsh thing). Having gotten away with his mucking about the Vice-captain launched a long punt forward that Russell eventually passed on inside the opposition half, to murmurs of appreciation from the sideline, and Walter timed his run onto the ball to perfection and walloped a confident shot across the ‘keeper to register his first goal for the club.
If there were any thoughts of the elusive ‘first win of the season’ no one vocalised them, and with good reason – anything was still possible in the time that was left, although if anybody had guessed what would happen next then their lottery numbers would have been worth knowing. Not even three minutes had passed after Convo had taken the lead when they conceded a corner that was flicked on by a blue shirt when it was launched into the box, and at the back of the pack Irakiza, facing his own goal, presumably attempted to put the ball out of play. There was barely enough space to flick a marble into the net, never mind a football, and yet somehow the right-back absolutely leathered it home from four-or-five yards out; it was a clinical finish, reminiscent of the great Tim Jago. Guarding the post had been Parsons, who upon being substituted with McNally towards the end of the game revealed to his colleagues on the bench that the ‘shot’ had actually gone through his legs on the line, but went to great lengths to point out that it hadn’t touched him – doesn’t he realise that oggies hold great currency within the club?
Very little happened in the match in the ten minutes-or-so after that, almost as though, like after McNally’s bench-to-bench pass in the first half, everyone thought ‘well, we can’t top that’. The temperature fell quite noticeably as the sun dipped behind the houses on Pitville Avenue, while what appeared to be Gandalf turned up pitchside, although it turned out to be the substituted Williams filming proceedings on his phone, which was secured up high aloft a long pole. Sadly, he would only capture Convo heartbreak. There can’t have been more than ninety seconds remaining when Woolton broke at speed along their left and, level with the eighteen-yard line, their impish winger turned inside past Irakiza – who’d actually been half-competent since scoring, having switched from malfunction mode to reparation mode – and then from the corner of the penalty area curled the sweetest of shots over the despairing dive of Welsh (J) and into the net at the far top corner. It was a lovely finish.
It was a lousy finish, in that it robbed Convocation of at least a point after arguably their best performance of the campaign to date. Woolton left Wyncote with all the spoils, and while their plundering was hardly a case of smash and grab, the best team lost, an outcome that would have left Saint & Greavsie nodding sagely: football is indeed a funny old game. They won’t get many better chances of winning this season, and they’ve only got two left to do so before Christmas – with the first of those away to the league leaders in Two Dogs next week there isn’t great hope of any early presents. Won’t somebody think of the children?
Man Of The Match: Well it isn’t Irakiza, bless him, although Farrell sang his praises in the process of trying to determine how he’d scored, by describing him as, “such a deliberate swinger.” I say! At the correct end of the pitch there were a couple of cherry-popping goals, and the first of those was part of a fine ninety-minute performance from Barlow, so he get’s the nod this week – his contribution to Convo’s cause was as substantial as a Scotch egg, so he’s earned himself a pint. Lucky bugger.
Convocation (4-5-1): Welsh J; Galy, Prendergast, Welsh A, Irakiza; Long J, Barlow C, Russell, Kent, Parsons; Williams; Subs: Walter, McNally, Farrell (unused)
Well, it’s been confirmed – Lockdown 2.0 I is here and upon us, with football being a casualty to the temporary ban on ‘normal’ life once again. That said it’s been so long since ‘normal life’ was normal, that it’s viable to ask … what exactly is normal anymore?
Unfortunately, ‘normal’ for the men of Convocation FC at the moment is a lot of effort for not much end result! The University of Liverpool’s finest went into what would be their final game before the midseason break (it’s a sign of the times that 7 games in can actually be termed ‘mid-season’) sitting only two places off the bottom of LOBAL’s division 2, with 3 draws and 3 defeats to show from their opening half dozen games. 3 points from a possible 18 seemed harsh on the team, especially as there had only been one truly bad game in that run. And the less said about THAT day at Sacre Coeur the better! That said, one of the key issues that has reared its head this season is the lack of goals that have been scored; 9 goals in 6 games is a relatively low return, especially against 19 strikes in the “Goals Against” column. An unexpected promotion to Div 2 may be playing a decisive role in this, but surely the lack of 4 of last season’s 6 top scorers available is also playing a part in what has been a peculiarly goal shy start for Convo. With Matthews Long and Shore having left for pastures new in the summer, and Taha and Huws out with longstanding injuries, an impressive 37 goals from last seasons shortened campaign were missing from the starting line up against Knowsley Community College.
Making the short trip down Mather Avenue to Heron Eccles (I know, that’s not in Knowsley … I did say these are strange times!), Convo headed into this game knowing that a good performance could yet yield that first elusive win of the season, following on from the 2-2 draw that the two teams had shared at Wyncote earlier in the season. Indeed, on another day, that could have been a win for Convo with a bit more conviction in front of goal and a bit more calmness at the back. Now where have we heard that before …
Lining up once again in between the sticks was Round, making his obligatory late-but-somehow-still-on-time appearance just before kick off. Prendergast and J Welsh would keep their CB pairing going, flanked by Galy on the left and J Barlow on the right. The right back's brother, Chris, would line up in central midfield again tasked with the job of shielding the back line, with Lewis and top scorer Kent (2 league goals this season) either side of the taller Barlow brother. Parsons and Long took to the flanks with Cromie being the starter in this weeks round of “Who’ll be most cut adrift up front?”. All in all though, not a bad starting XI. Farrell, A Welsh, Greene, Divin and McNally made up a full, but rather defensive looking bench. Although what a place to be on the bench, as an actual bench was there in an actual dugout, a luxury that was not wasted on the spare men. KCC were clearly used to this comfort and happily took advantage of the bench space as they appeared with a squad of about 23 players (a strength they made the most of throughout the game).
The enthusiasm on the bench seemingly transferred onto the pitch too, with the 2020/21 shot shy Convo starting strongly. Not for the last time on the day, a Convo midfielder was scythed down in the middle of the park by a boisterous challenge from KCC. From a pretty non-threatening position, on field skipper Welsh clipped the ball into the box for Convo to attack. A seemingly straight ball into the box however seemed to cause pandemonium in the home ranks, with a KCC player rising to head the ball but somehow conceiving to miss it. Kent was the lucky beneficiary, being on hand to tuck away his 3rd league goal of the campaign. Whilst his team may be struggling to find the net this season, he certainly isn’t, and it gave Convo something to hold onto, and relieved any pre-match nerves, not that there had been evidence of any of them regardless.
The next 20 minutes saw both sides scrapping for the ball in midfield. Convo were actually able to force the opposition keeper into 3 or 4 very smart saves that soon proved vital. KCC, meanwhile, were reduced to a couple of speculative efforts from range that gave Round little to worry about. Indeed the only worry that the home side posed was the electric pace of the right winger that had Galy feeling every single hour of every single day of every single year of his 37 years of age, as he sprinted past the Convo full back several times. Not that our resident Frenchman could do much about it, this lad was THAT quick. At the other end, Cromie was working his socks off to try and muster some openings for Convo, and worked himself a chance on the edge of the box, but it was an opportunity that was skied well over. High wide and not particularly handsome this time around.
Come the half hour mark though, and KCC were level. The preceding few minutes had seen Convo giving some cheap possession away, and the home goal came from such a source. The ball was lost in the air in midfield, with “that rapid lad” free to chase the ball down in a race with Round. Not even 20 years ago would the Convo keeper had won this foot race (again, he was THAT quick!), though he put up a noble effort by meeting the ball with the advancing striker. The attacker though was able to collect the ball past the stranded keeper and stroke it home into an empty net. 1-1
Long shortly put Convo back onto an attacking foot of sorts, sending a dipping shot narrowly over from range, but by then the home side were very much in the ascendency. KCC wanted a penalty for a trip from Lewis in the box, and may have been entitled to one as it looked like the midfielder had upended the man in orange, but the ref waved away appeals. In all honesty, it wasn’t the official’s finest game, with several challenges falling distinctly in the ‘over-zealous’ category failing to go punished. Indeed, both A Welsh and Galy could point to torn kit and bloodied noses as evidence that the man in the middle had let too much go unnoticed. 2 minutes before the break and KCC made it 2-1 in very "Convocation" fashion. The boys in blue had a free kick in a dangerous area just outside the KCC box. Parsons whipped in a menacing ball into "the corridor of uncertainty" but the only real uncertainty was why no Convo players attacked the cross. The home team promptly counter-attacked and despite Convo's best efforts to scramble a defence, KCC seized on a panicked clearance and slid a throughball past fullback Galy into the feet of their dangerman who worked his way into the box and dug out a cross for his strike partner to control and slot past Round. Another late first half goal against, and a familiar feeling for the travelling men in blue and white.
HT: KCC 2-1 Convo
A Welsh entered the fray at half time for goalscorer Kent, and immediately found himself on the receiving end of an elbow to the face. This wouldn’t be the last time that he’d find himself on the end of such rough treatment. He would also be subjected to a shout of being a “wool” from the home bench, harsh words indeed for a proud local lad to take! Especially one who was born and raised closer to the pitch than the home side!
Not long into the 2nd period the game had become disjointed and somewhat erratic and the Convo boys lost their structural discipline. Goal number 3 would soon follow with a heavy touch from Prendergast falling between himself A Welsh being ceased upon by the home side midfield. The ball was promptly slid into the path of "that fast lad" again who subsequently slotted the ball past Round. A clinical counter for the home side and a death nail for the visitors. As heads dropped the game became even more stretched, suiting the speed of a much younger looking and fuller squadded KCC.
A raft of changes were made following the 3rd goal, with Divin, McNally and Farrell all entering the fray over the next 10 minutes. Convo to their credit weren’t going down without a fight, with a series of one on ones with the KCC keeper spurned, Lewis missing probably the best opportunity of the lot.
If there was one positive from the 2nd half, it was the rarest of sights in that only one player managed to keep up with him during the game. Step forward Farrell, who used up all of his seasons pace and stamina in a lung busting chase back down the opposition left wing to quell an attack. It was met with gasps of disbelief from both benches, and begged the question: if Farrell could keep pace with the elusive winger, well, was he really THAT quick? One can only speculate, but it's this commentators that their lad was fast but out chairman is FAZter.
After that rare bit of joy a 4th KCC goal soon followed. The afternoon got slightly worse for the other Welsh brother (Welsh as in surname, not being from Wales, so not a wool …. You get the picture …). A straight punt would float over Jonny's head and the defender was too easily out muscled by the opposition striker, though there looked to be shades of a foul. Yet with the ball at the feet of the attacker, he drove towards goal and finished past the now cap-wearing Round, who couldn’t have done much more in his efforts to save the effort in the dipping winter sunlight.
All in all, it was an industrious if not illustrious performance from the away team. Long and Parsons worked hard but struggled to get into the game, though this was not really their fault with a lot of the possession played out in front of the KCC defence, a lack of movement on Convos part nullifying any threat they may have posed. Lewis will want to forget the one on one chance he spurned, whilst Cromie worked hard up top on his own. But he too found the role to be a similar struggle that has beset Convo No. 9s this season. We seem to deploy the falsest of 9s it seems. Revolutionary.
So there you have it, we head into another lockdown with not many points on the board to show for our efforts this season. More goals will be the order of the day when the season (hopefully) resumes in December, hopefully by then we’ll be able to welcome back a couple of forwards like Huws to get us back in the goals where we belong.
And in the meantime, if there’s any budding attackers out there who fancy spearheading a second half of the season charge up, you know where to find us ……
MOTM: This week goes to C Barlow, although it could also have been his brother at right back. Both put in solid performances, with Jon patrolling the right hand side well. But Chris gets it this week with a battling performance in the middle of the park, refusing to lie down in the face of some rough treatment from his opposite numbers. Well played!
It wasn’t just the Merseyside derby that had the local footballing public whipped into a frenzy this weekend, as the first of the biannual clashes between the two footballing giants of the Premier League was overshadowed by a meeting of two sides with two starkly different runs of form at Wyncote on Saturday. Yes, that’s right, Convo were back in action on an overcast weekend afternoon on Mather Avenue. They headed into the fixture with the odds stacked against them. After an indifferent (winless) start to the season that had produced 2 draws and 3 defeats, we welcomed one of our old rivals to the pitches of L18 in the shape of Collegiate. Games between the two sides usually produce an entertaining spectacle, and this promised more of the same. Yet, in the pre-match air, the meeting of league leaders against current basement boys indicated that this could turn into a long afternoon for the men in blue and white…
Not that even the ongoing events at Goodison Park could stop the lads from brimming with enthusiasm going into their 6th league game of the campaign, with all outfielders on the pitch in good time to get in a much needed warm up in the cool air of an autumnal October day. An early scare was avoided when Round did his customary ‘leap over the fence to the Field of Dreams’ manoeuvre moments before kick-off. This spared the home side from an opening with McNally in goal and the rare sight of Farrell … yes, Farrell, doing his headless chicken performance up front for a few fleeting moments in the opening of the match.
And so it was, that the home side lined up with Round once again in between the sticks, now setting what must surely be a record in recent seasons for consecutive appearances in goal for the club. He was shielded by a backline consisting of J Welsh and Prendergast in the centre, with Divin and Galy continuing their disagreements over the merits of Ligue 1 as a quality/farmers league, but more importantly, continuing their patrol of the full back areas. A midfield three of C Barlow, Bloor and Lewis were flanked either side by Kent and Parsons, with Captain McNally leading theline up top. Farrell would take a lonely place on the bench, though he was soon joined by A Welsh in a coaching capacity and Joe.
The form books going into the game may have suggested to the untrained eye that this would be a walk in the proverbial park for our opposition, clad in their traditional yellow and blue kits. They headed int the fixture top of the league, having dispatched of three teams in their earlier 5 games, but with a defeat in their previous outing prior to their arrival at Wyncote. They would have been expecting to get a response of their own after that defeat, but it was Convo who started more threateningly. The opening exchanges saw the home backline start confidently, knocking it around well and getting some good passages of play going with the midfield. And mirroring the events in the derby, there was an early goal to show for all the effort. Kent played a simply delicious pass through to the sprinting Parsons, who was clattered by the away keeper. But, more importantly, he had managed to square the ball to the onrushing McNally, with ‘El Capitan’ rolling back the years to sweep home into an empty net. 1-0 to Convocation, with Farrell, the sole man on the bench at this point, left raise a cacophony of noise in the stand in place of a Covid-enforced ban on fans. As, let’s be honest, on any other derby Saturday, Wyncote would have been packed to the rafters …
Now, the records show that, at the moment, Convo have been shorn of their three top scorers from the shortened 2019/20 season, with Taha and Huws currently injured, and Shore having transferred onto pastures new (you’re always welcome back, my friend!). This has been reflected in the last couple of weeks with the side unable to replicate the goal scoring form or prowess that they have shown in season past. With goals hard to come by at the moment (a situation that will be remedied almost immediately when the aforementioned duo return from their layoffs), it was important that Convo didn’t go “Full Convo” and give away cheap goals. 1 nil up and that was the message. Clear as day. Don’t go Full Convo. Never go Full Co….
And then it happened. After 20 minutes of calm and control from those in blue and white, and with some good football being played, a long punt was sent down the pitch from those in yellow for the striker to chase. Welsh looked to have the situation in control and was poised to clear when the call came from Round, to leave the ball for him to collect. Unfortunately, the man with the shortest commute to Wyncote was left bamboozled by the turn of pace from the away marksman, who nicked the ball away from Convos No.1 and slotted into an empty net. 1-1, and with it all to do again.
The rest of the half was played out with some chances for either side. Lewis had earlier struck the side netting from a cutely worked corner that had Farrell on the side-line wondering whether it had gone in or not. Divin also pinged a long range effort wide after being given and entire postcode to run into by the visitors. At the end, Round had atoned for his earlier lapse with several smart saves from the counterattacking opposition, and saved several goal bound shots from nestling in the net.
HT – Convo 1-1 Collegiate O.B
With the half time advice dished out from El Capitan McNally and El Vice Capitan Welsh, the lads re-entered the fray with the same line up that had finished the opening 45 minutes. The second half started in much the same vein as the first had concluded with both sides making some half chances. Collegiate called for a freekick to be award in the box in the opening few minutes, as a short back pass to Round was dealt with culturally by the keeper, sliding out at the oncoming striker’s feet to somehow chest the ball under control whilst sliding on the astro turf. Well, what can I say, this is Convo, and it was keeping that the likes of Chilavert and Higuaita would have been proud of. Down the other end, Collegiate were forced into a goalkeeping change of their own, when their starting keeper was clocked in the face with the ball at a corner, breaking the unfortunate mans glasses. Yes you saw that right (no eyesight puns intended). The away keeper had to make way for a deputy to enter the game, changing into the starting mans jersey which was clearly far too big for him. It looked a bit like David Price in THAT coat …
The hour mark saw a couple of changes made. McNally, who had put in industrious shift up top and had been rewarded with a goal, was replaced by Joe, with the skipper also feeling the effects of a blow to the head that left him looking like he’d done a couple of rounds in the ring as opposed to a Saturday gallop around the field of Mather Ave. Another injury saw Barlow, need to be replaced. This was rather cruel on the weekend sole present Barlow brother, who had put in a fine shift in an unfamiliar position of CM. Divin was shifted into this position, with Farrell being relieved of his line duties and entering the fray.
The changes seemed to take a little time for the home men to get used to, and Collegiate used this time to pounce. Well, when I say pounce, more gifted an opportunity. But this time we didn’t go Full Convo. The away No. 10, who had been well marshalled all afternoon but for the earlier goal he took for himself, found himself in the box up against Welsh. He attempted to past the vice captain, only to be on the receiving end of a relatively gentle tap from the home man. A couple of steps later he ended up on the deck after a not so convincing stumble. Yet, to the incredulity of the home side, and bemusement to a couple of the Collegiate players, the referee pointed to the spot. Not the first or last piece of dubious refereeing seen on Merseyside on the day. Our own man in the VAR suite Williams, who had turned up to achieve his own hat trick of sorts (return last weeks kit, coach and film the game, bravo sir!) would later share his footage of the game on the teams WhatsApp group and illustrate that it certainly was a harsh call on Welsh.
As it was, the away striker, finding himself in a sea of calm in what would usually be a cauldron of home support (again, thank you Covid!) confidently stroked the penalty past the despairing dive of Round into the bottom right of the net. 70 minutes gone, Convo 1-2 Collegiate.
The score line was harsh on Convo, who had genuinely played well, limiting the opposition to rare opportunities on goal, and forcing some of their own opportunities. It looked like it may be another week with a good performance that doesn’t get the result that it quite deserves, the gloomy skies over Wyncote seeming to match the mood after that goal had gone in. But this team is made of stronger stuff, even if results haven’t quite shown it yet this season. A free kick whipped in by Parsons found itself at the back post, having somehow managed to part the waves of yellow, blue and white on its way over. It found its way to our new resident Londoner, Bloor, who duly fired the equaliser past the stricken stand in keeper. Convo 2-2 Collegiate.
The final ten minutes saw each team pushing for a winner, with Convo more in the ascendency. But for all their huff and puff, neither team looked like they would create too much in the final third, and so it was that the referee called time on a game that was free of the “handbags at dawn” nonsense that we’ve seen in the last few weeks with Convo being on the end of some over-zealous challenges. Fist bumps and ‘well played’ shouts all around as both sides had to settle for a point. Convo could actually feel disappointed not to have won the game, but for a bit of extra quality in the final third and luck with the officiating.
A point picked up then, and with results elsewhere going in our favour, enough to lift Convo off the bottom of the table. The great philosopher Yazz once said in 1988 “The only way is up (Babbbbyyyy!!)” and how profound those words may prove to be in the context of the season. Of course, there’s still a lot of work to do, with sights now keenly set on that elusive first win of the campaign. Performances like this however will certainly bring that first journey to Victory Lane sooner rather than later.
MOTM: Always a pleasure to write these reports when there’s been a few players in the running for this award – echoing last week’s sentiments, the award for being least shite! Welsh and Prendergast were superb in the centre of the backline, marshalling the defensive efforts superbly. McNally led the line well and got the goal his efforts deserved, the midfield and full backs were all excellent and tidy on the ball. In fact, Parsons can feel slightly aggrieved to have miss out on this award owing to the fact that he got two assists and was excellent up and down the right flank, ably assisted by Divin clipping “the Divin ball” down the wing for him to chase seemingly every minute of the first half. But the award this week goes to Bloor, who not only capped off the home recovery with the equaliser, but was integral to all of the good play that came through the Convo team. Well played young man!
Convocation: Round, Galy, Welsh J, Prendergast, Irakiza, Kent, Bloor, Lewis, Barlow C, Parsons, McNally. Subs – Farrell, Round J
The sanitiser-drinking Bobby Mimms reports
After a couple of decent draws in the opening weeks of the season life in Division Two has got a little bit ‘real’ for Convocation since, and on Saturday they suffered their third successive defeat to slump to the bottom of the table. It might not have been as brutal as the recent 7-1 mauling by Sacre Coeur (of all teams), but their performance, in general, left a fair bit to be desired, although to be fair the game as a whole was rather humdrum and will only be remembered in the future, if at all, for the torrential downpour towards its end.
‘Ten, ten, twenty-twenty’ may sound like one of those dates that are just an arbitrary set of numbers yet which nutters regularly decide must mean the end of the world (although Everton are top of the league, so…), but for those actually on planet Earth, and playing for Convocation, it meant little more than this year’s visit of those maroon-and-blues from Woolton, Old Xaverians. The game was played on Wyncote’s 4G pitch (the Seconds were on the adjacent grass sward and collapsed to a bit of a mullering from Ramblers) and as is now the norm in these strange times the changing facilities once again had a distinctly alfresco feel to them, although Mother Nature would at least supply showering facilities for the combatants.
Convo actually began the game reasonably well, and for the first ten minutes were arguably the better side. On the flanks Jamie Long (left) and Mike Kent (not left) looked lively, the latter in particular galloping up and down with what passes for panache in the Old Boys League, a number of inviting balls from the feet of Callum Bloor often providing the impetus for his endeavour. Joining those three in the midfield were Divin De Buffalo Irakiza and Chris Barlow, and they too seemed to have menace on their minds in the early stages, although their execution struggled to live up to their intentions. Alas, up front, a somewhat chunky-looking Craig Kaye was not so much a lone forward as a lonely forward and was marshalled expertly out of the tie by the Old Xavs defence, right up until he was substituted in the second half.
Facing into a light rain being driven down the pitch by a lively wind, Wyncote’s finest had got proceedings going ten minutes after the advertised kick-off time of two o’clock, decked out in pale-blue-and-white-stripes, but by the time the visitors had wasted the afternoon’s first chance to score the elements had agreed to play nicely (temporarily) and the sun was out, shining across the playing surface and dazzling everyone on the Convocation sideline. After a sluggish start Old Xavs had gradually ratcheted up the pressure on their hosts’ rearguard until, eventually, one of their ilk dribbled into the area past a couple of ineffectual opponents and then placed a low effort across Matt Round in the goal, but also just wide of the furthest post.
After a pleasant enough start to the game it was a wake-up call for Convo, but one they didn’t heed, and several minutes later they did indeed fall behind. That said, it was a peculiar goal that they conceded, as until the ball actually hit the net surely nobody saw it coming: Old Xavs partook in a spot of keepsies in the middle of the home side’s half, pinging passes around amongst themselves without ever going anywhere, until one player in maroon decided to have a pop from thirty-something yards out and found the target just inside the right-hand post (as he would have seen it) without Round moving a muscle. It actually took a few seconds before it became clear that he’d scored and not missed, such was the complete lack of a reaction from anyone, and despite the blustery conditions the notch didn’t appear to have been wind assisted.
It didn’t appear, either, to have any immediate adverse effect on Convocation and for a while they continued to play football of an acceptable standard, going close to what would have been an equaliser-and-a-half several minutes after falling behind when Long J latched onto a loose ball near the corner of the Old Xavs penalty area and smashed a shot that bent away from goal but which Kent only just missed getting on the end of when he hurled himself at it like a man being fired from a cannon; had he managed to get his eyebrows to the thing it would have been some spectacle, even if he’d missed the target. The diminutive winger turned provider shortly after that when he set up Irakiza, but his singeing effort from twenty yards out was inches wide of the upright, while both players were given a telling off by referee Ken Jones at about the same time, the former with more than a hint of tongue-in-cheek when he swore at himself right in front of the whistler (“Language, thank you!”), and the latter for getting involved in a peculiar contretemps with team mate Sam Prendergast that required the game to be held up while they had their heads banged together.
That internecine spat heralded a period of over half an hour in which Convocation never got near their guests’ goal, at least in a scoring capacity, as they went right off the boil and were a little lucky not to concede more themselves. Round went through a peculiar patch just after the midpoint of the half when he kept throwing the ball out to opposition players lurking outside his penalty area, but continually got away with his errors as their subsequent attempts to set up team mates were always hopelessly erratic and easy meat for the #1; it was like a bizarre take on keepers’ one-twos with their defenders before the back-pass law was brought in.
The Convo #1 and his back line were also slightly fortunate that their guests were making a bit of a dog’s dinner of the opportunities being afforded to them: they found the back of the net again at one point but the notch was correctly determined to have been offside, the scorer-cum-offender only being seven or eight yards beyond the last man, while when they won a free kick out on their right flank (after a foul by Barlow C) the taker made a big deal of calling out some names and getting his colleagues to wave their hands, and then simply twatted a shot miles high and wide of the target. It would have been a terrible effort at the best of times, but with the wind also behind it the ball sailed off towards the Storrsdale, and yet someone in maroon decided that the taker should be consoled for his part in such an egregious act: “Head up, Spunky.” Well, quite.
About ten minutes before the break they had another chance to increase their lead when one of their players tried his luck from roughly twenty-five yards out – a classic case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ – but it was easy pickings for Round who caught and clutched the ball above his head on his goal line. Within sixty seconds the ‘keeper was called into action again when he pushed a first-time snap-shot over the bar, after the visitors had attacked down their left and put a low cross into the area – the resultant corner wasn’t dealt with nearly so well, Prendergast making a right hash of a headed clearance allowing an opponent to fire into the side netting from close range.
The big defender lined-up alongside Vice-captain Jon Welsh in the centre of defence and it’s probably fair to suggest that the pair have had better afternoons in Convocation colours; they looked jittery throughout the game, certainly not the reassuring presences they so often are, and both would leave fingerprints on Old Xavs’ second-half goals. Liam Byatt was at left back and, while not making any out-and-out blunders, he seemed to sense the nervousness of his nearby colleagues and followed suit, although on the opposite side of the rear quartet Jerome Galy looked perfectly at ease and was one of the few players in stripes who would have had no reason for regret on Saturday evening. That being said, there was one peculiar moment midway through the first period when he had to be continually told by the official not to take a throw-in, as everyone waited an eternity for Irakiza to tie up his boot laces in the middle of the pitch. It’s difficult to remember seeing someone so impatient and determined to play with only ten men.
By the latter stages of the first period Convocation had faded badly from how they’d played in the opening twenty minutes – which, let’s be realistic, wasn’t exactly of Aston Villa standards in any case – and in their opponents’ half they looked TCP sterile, although fortunately for them Old Xavs’ attacks kept breaking down due to one of their forwards being a firm believer in the principle of ‘it’s not called feet ball’ and refusing to use his right peg. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, as Bloor’s anticipation and vision shone, even if no one else in stripes seemed capable of reading his thoughts, and he regularly showed the opposition stymier-in-chief how to be ‘omni-footness’ (as Chris McNally described him, presumably meaning bipedal).
God knows what happened to the midfielder during the interval because he was nigh-on AWOL during the second half, and Convo’s flagging intensity dropped even further. Also in freefall was the visitors’ sportsmanship, as after seeming in good spirits before the break they never stopped moaning after it, despite probably playing better and (eventually) gaining a stranglehold on proceedings. Several of their crew got a right funk on when it started raining again and Long J ran off the pitch to help his daughter cover up, with referee Jones holding play up for thirty seconds-or-so while he did so; sick of the hysterical complaints coming from the maroon-and-blue quarters that he was exceeding his authority the official snapped: “I can do what I want.”
Not long after that, and by then playing into the wind, the away side went close with a delicate, dinked effort from the edge of the Convo penalty area that dropped just behind the crossbar, but then up the other end of the pitch and completely against the run of play Kent forced the Old Xavs #1 into making a good save at his near post with a stinging effort from a tight angle, his side’s first shot on target of the afternoon (assuming it was on target and not already going wide). Matty Long made an entrance for the visitors shortly before the hour mark, taking up position in a central midfield that was becoming more and more the domain of the team he was representing, and within a couple of minutes it was 2-0. They attacked down their left and as Galy was sucked wide to try and intervene, a pass was slipped into the Convo penalty area where Prendergast and Welsh were all over the place, except the places they should have been, and the recipient of the ball put Round on his derriere with a clever shimmy before rounding him (no pun intended) and slotting into the empty net.
Long J went close after a bit of a mosey around the peripheries of the Old Xavs penalty area ended with him chipping an effort onto the roof of the net, but otherwise the hosts were posing very little threat to their opponents. Kaye, the Chris Lamb de nos jours – and you can take that description any way you want – was completely frozen out and it was only when the referee penalised Convo for offside, realised he’d made a mistake, and awarded them a drop ball, that the forward got anywhere near the thing; needless to say that oddity of officialdom kicked the visitors off again.
The forward only lasted a couple more minutes and then it was substitutions o’clock – time to play McNally-ball. Having spent the previous sixty seconds warming up along the sideline like Michael Palin in the Life of Brian (“Spare a talent for an old ex-leper?”) the Captain swapped destitutions with Kaye, while Byatt was also replaced, by John Barlow, whose almost-immediate first contribution came straight from the land of magical free kicks, not, lumping one from a fair way out straight into the arms of the Old Xavs ‘keeper.
By the time the game entered its final twenty the sun had reappeared, once again dazzling everyone facing it, both directly and via the shine off the glistening pitch. Convo were in that awkward position often encountered when two-nil down and not playing well of whether to stick or twist; settle for not getting walloped or try and retrieve the situation. Par for the course, they did neither. Prendergast was outmuscled for the ball in midfield – don’t ask – near the halfway line, and his adversary then played a simple defence-nullifying pass through the chasm where Welsh J wasn’t covering his partner, and the recipient ran on and shot low from the edge of the penalty area – Round almost saved the effort but, alas, he needed a bit more glove on the thing. 3-0.
There was about a quarter-of-an-hour remaining and both sides knew that Old Xavs had done enough; the visitors were content with their lot, while Convo had all the cutting edge of a cucumber, so the game pretty much fizzled out. Up front McNally seemed to be shedding rust as he creaked fruitlessly around the pitch – you could almost see the flakes coming off him – while in the midfield, which had become less and less ambulant as the half had progressed, Irakiza had to call it a day due to what he described as “runners’ knee”. Byatt went back on in his place (he returned to left back, while Barlow J pushed up into the middle) and caused more uproar from the opposition as he just wandered on without waiting for permission; once again Mr Jones told them where to get off.
With there being nothing to write home about happening on the pitch there was more entertainment to be had from watching Irakiza on the sideline rummaging through what looked like seven tonnes of personal belongings in a huge plastic bag – all that was missing was the kitchen sink; Kaye wondered whether he’d been kicked out – but then a five-minute downpour that was little short of biblical began, and nobody was amused. Unsurprisingly the game went completely to pieces as no one could keep the deluge from out of their eyes, although at one point Kent somehow hoyed a shot straight at the opposition ‘keeper from about thirty yards out.
In the dying seconds the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and the nerve-slashing cold immediately kicked in. The final whistle was blown moments later, and with no changing rooms or showers available in which to get warm – oh, this is going to be a fun winter – one Old Xavs scallywag spoke for everyone when he grumbled, nasally but in good humour, “Ref, it’s fuckin’ freezin’ lad.”
Convocation can have no complaints about the outcome of the tie (although Old Xavs might suggest that the result flattered them) as, bar the opening twenty minutes, their performance was flat and they displayed no collective libido. Nobody should have been in any doubt that this was going to be a difficult season after the club received an unexpected promotion during the summer, but with them still waiting for their first win and already bottom of the league it already looks ominous that it’s not just going to be a fun winter, but a long one. Supergrass* McNally has got some pondering to do (God help him).
And by the way: did he touch the ball on Saturday?
(* During the summer the First Team Captain threatened to call the police if the club attempted to hold an AGM.)
Man Of The Match: If we were just concerned with the first half then it would be Bloor, as his vision, passing and industry were excellent, but then he all but vanished from the game after the break. Kent and Long J both had several decent spells along the flanks, the latter gaining extra points for good mid-match parenting, but Galy was the most consistent and consistently-decent player on Saturday, and easily the most competent defender, so he’s MOTM.
Convocation (4-5-1): Round; Byatt, Prendergast, Welsh J, Galy; Long J, Bloor, Irakiza, Barlow C, Kent; Kaye; Subs: Barlow J, McNally
Fresh off the back of a truly deserved 7-1 spanking the gentlemen of Convocation had a week of collective soul searching and had to truly ask themselves "how deep is your love" for Convo?
Needless to say the lad's desire and commitment to the cause was undiminished and after a midweek training session more intense than has been seen for a long time - the team was focused and determined to get back into action at fortress Wyncote.
4mins in and this week's opponents, Woodstreet, were 1-0 ahead. Now, it must be said this was genuinely undeserved as Convo had made a bright start and had fallen victim to the new fad of absolutely bollocks handball decisions that are doing the rounds. "I have no choice" said the referee who clearly hadn't received the midweek FA memo of "be more lenient lads - this rule is dogshit."
In this particular instance the first corner of the game was floated into the box by the visitors and a volleyed clearance had struck the arm of a fellow defender at point blank range whilst down by his side.
It was the hardest of lines for the Convo boys as the penalty was calmly despatched.
On other days this would have taken a heavy mental toll and perhaps foreshadowed another battering but the team regrouped and got back to the task at hand.
This week the team were sporting everyone's favourite South American nation's colours as they tried to replicate the great Argentina teams of the past. El capitán McNally had a strong squad of 16 to work with and opted for the in-form Matt Round in goal protected by a centre back pairing of vice-captain Johnny Welsh & politically correct Sam Prendergast. The flanks were protected by Ligue un advocate Divin Irakiza on the right and Ligue un detractor Jerome Galy on the left. The centre midfield comprised of stalwart Anthony Lewis, silent-but-deadly Callum Bloor and long-time Agüero admirer Breno Salgado. The wings were ran by the fertile pairing of Andy Parsons and Mike Kent. Simon Williams, who - with his hairband - resembled a young Marcelo Salas, started as the lone striker. Heavy South American vibes this week.
The men braving the "the flood" on the bench were los hermanos Chris and Jon Barlow, El capitán McNally, new man James (Hamez) Russell and Liam "I shouldn't play" Halliday. Much praise must be afforded to these lads for services to the convo in such conditions but, then again, what else is there to do on a lockdown Saturday in 2020.
So, back to the action and with a 1 goal deficit to make up the boys in blue and white wrestled control of the game. This was no mean feat in the face of the high press game of the all-yellow-but-not-so-mellow opposition.
In this period Convo were able to regain the ball swiftly and work it effectively leaving the opposition back line audibly exasperated. Lewis, Bloor and Salgado were dictating things excellently in the middle of the park. The pressure eventually culminated in an equaliser in the 25th minute when Divin was afforded too much room on the right flank and launched an arching shot which rebounded off the crossbar down into the path of Si Williams. The Salas impersonation hit peak levels as the rebound was fired into the roof of the net. Game on.
Unfortunately, shortly after, Williams afternoon was cut short owing to a dead leg brought about by an unceremonious kick by an opposing player whilst the ball was trapped between the striker’s legs. Remarkably Williams actually feigned feigning injury after regaining his feet and pretending he was fine, even giving a little wink of acknowledgement. He was soon replaced by “Hamez” Russell who himself quickly strained his hamstring but persevered on for the cause.
The last 15mins of the 1st half turned into a scrappy and chaotic affair as the opposition became more direct and assertive in the press. Turnovers in possession were common and few chances were created by either side. To be expected in such trying conditions.
HT Convocation 1-1 Woodstreet.
The 2nd half started with the weather somehow deteriorating and the away side in the ascendancy. They seemed to be finding their attack with more ease but the Convo lads adapted to the game and, to a man, defended resolutely and limited the visitors to few clear chances.
It was hard graft for the Convo midfielders who were pushed deeper and having to cover a lot of ground but that is exactly what they did. It was turning out to be a real arm wrestle of a game with each side giving as good as they got.
Convo's attacks became increasingly sporadic but for a few good passages of play which saw the main attacking outlets of Kent, Parsons and Russell getting into the final 3rd but unable to really test the Woodstreet goalkeeper.
On about 60mins the visitors managed to regain the lead with an attack down Convo’s right side. The ball was slid into the channel between Divin and Welsh and the striker stole in before taking a touch and finishing with aplomb into the far top corner, leaving keeper Round with no chance.
Shortly after going behind, the game was halted for its (seemingly weekly) bout of handbags. The opposition took exception to a challenge by Bloor in midfield that was conspicuously reminiscing to those that Convo had been on the receiving end of. He was subsequently surrounded and shoved to the floor and then the pitch turned into a scene more akin to a mosh pit at a heavy-metal gig. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the anger dissipated and the game resumed.
McNally took this opportunity to freshen things up replacing Breno with Liam “I best rest my leg” Halliday and Prendergast with Chris Barlow – who was hoping cease his chance to “Shine”.
Both subs settled into the frenetic game seamlessly and the contest was nip-tuck once again. Unfortunately Woodstreet managed to extend their lead thanks to another penalty.
Divin attempted one of those “big diagonals” everybody loves however his execution was a bit “Ligue un” and it was easily cut out by the Woodstreet midfield who promptly played it into the space behind the full-back where the attacker took a touch and attempted to round Round. There was a collision and the ref pointed to the spot. The Convo keeper eloquently expressed his suspicion that the attacker has partaken in “simulation” however it wasn’t enough to deter the visitors from making it 3-1 with about 15mins remaining.
Had it been a week earlier perhaps Convo would have imploded to a more heavy defeat however this week the lads were made of sterner stuff. The deficit was reduced with about 10mins to play when a corner was swung in Kent. After a bit of pinball the ball dropped to Halliday who smashed a shot at goal only for it to be blocked by Welsh who was clearly executing his role as a defender indiscriminately, blocking shots with reckless abandon. Luckily the other centre back, Barlow, had a more goal focussed mind as he calmly touched the loose ball into the path of Parsons who smashed a shot first time from 18yards into the net. The ball was past the keeper before he could react – truly the strike of a man who is absolutely shitting himself at the prospect of looking after a new born as well as himself. Bravo, sir.
3-2 to the visitors with 5mins left and Convo were having to take more risks to get back on level terms and they very almost did with one of the last kicks (heads) of the game. Another corner was expertly whipped in by Kent and it looked for all the world like Lewis would meet it unchallenged and grab a late equaliser however he could only glance the header wide of the far post, bouncing agonisingly out of play.
The referee brought an end to proceedings and the visitors, Woodstreet, left with all 3 points but having known they’d been in a tough game.
All in all - a much improved display by Convocation against a strong opposition. A performance to build upon. The boys in blue must have no intention of being glorious losers however and will focus on getting points on the board. Onwards and upwards – up the Convo!
Man of the match:
A host of lads were in with a shout this week and there were votes for Jerome, Callum, Divin & Mike Kent. However the player with the most votes was vice-captain Johnny Welsh with several appraisals being “he didn’t put a foot wrong” – a strong endorsement for not being shite.
Yes, you’ve read that right. Not a great day at the office for a decidedly out of sorts Convocation XI, and that really is saying something! A poor performance all around, perhaps for everyone bar Mr Round himself, with our man between the sticks helpless to do anything about all 7 goals that our hosts scored. Indeed, a fine save in the 20th minute after Sacre Coeur had waltzed through our team again (and it wouldn’t be for the last time either!) was al for nothing in the end, with the home striker being the first on hand to the parried shot to tuck his side into a 20th minute lead. In truth, it was nothing less than either team deserved at that point, as Sacre Coeur had dominated possession, and Convo had squandered it, throughout the opening exchanges.
That goal opened the floodgates however. Lewis was swapped with Kent to move into CM, with the latter taking his place up top and forced into an afternoon of ploughing the loneliest furrow on Merseyside on this particular gloomy Saturday. When Convo first arrived at the Jeffrey Humble Playing Fields, Farrell was told by the staff that “you’s aren’t meant to be playing here today”. A quick check of the bookings saw this error addressed, but if we’d known then what was yet to unfold, we probably should have made our way back home. Oh if only …
4 further home goals were added by the home side in a ruthless 10 minutes, with Convo mistakes punished mercilessly. The one good move that was put together by the men in black and white, the kit change enforced by the home teams blue attire, was dispatched with aplomb. Great work by Long, who barged past a couple of Sacre Coeur players was completed by Kent, dinking the ball over the home keeper with an audacity that was completely at odds with everything (and I mean everything) that we had serve up until that point. A sixth strike by the hosts took any wind out of the sails just on the stroke of half time, Sacre Coeur 6-1 Convo.
With the game now comfortably out of our reach, and some frank home truths addressed at the interval, Convo took to the pitch to address some of the issues of the first half. And to be fair, the second half performance was better. Far from being any of the best football that this side has ever played, there was at least an intensity and desire that had been missing in the opening 45 minutes, reflected in only 1 goal being shipped, and a few chances being created. Convo could have had a penalty too in the closing stages, but even that would have glossed over what was a truly bad day for Wyncote’s finest.
Anyway, onwards and upwards and all that jazz. MOTM award? Probably the only player who came away with any credit, for the second week in a row this goes to Round. Purely for keeping his head up whilst all around him went to …. Well, you get what I mean. Some good saves too to keep the goals against column down.
Anyway, lets just forget this one and move onto the next one …
Starting XI: Round, Greene, Prendergast, C Barlow, J Barlow, Irakiza, J Welsh, Kent, Galy, J Long, Lewis. Subs: Farrell, Cromie, McNally, Salgado
So, after the shortened experience of the 2019-20 season, and the vastly elongated summer, Convo are back! Unbeaten, but also winless after two games … how very apt for UoL’s finest alumni team.
After the hard fought 2-2 draw with MHS on the first day of the season, we returned to the rolling astro of Mather Ave, for our first home game of the season against KCC, at team who were 4th in Divison 2 when the leagues were cancelled earlier this year. A stern test then for Convo, who had been busy in the transfer window, signing a plethora of new signings who surely hadn’t been warned about what they’ve let themselves in for …
Round would start in goal, following his now obligatory hop over the wall from his home overlooking the pitches, ‘protected’ by a back four of Farrell, Prendergast, and two new signings, Chris and Jon Barlow. You know, Gary’s lads. I’m sure they’ll be in the “Back (4) for Good” …
Familiar faces took the wing in the form of Parsons and Kent, with Lewis and Salgado playing in a midfield 3 with new signing Halliday. Huws would start up front, ploughing the loneliest of furrows on what was an unseasonable warm September day in South Liverpool. Vice Captain Welsh (skipper for the day in place of McNally who was deputising for the Vets, along with our resident Frenchman Galy), Divin, Crombie, and further new signings Russell and Greene would make up the bench. Another new signing (I know, like Chelsea aren’t we, splashing the cash on sign on slips) Callum would miss out, still sporting bruises from the previous weeks Battle of Thomas Lane.
The tropical temperatures that adorned Allerton meant that neither team was going to press too hard early on, with both sides happy to let the other have the ball in the opening stages. In truth, it was a cagey first half, with neither side creating too much. Huws was sent through by Farrell early on, but fluffed his lines and fell in a heap when through on goal, the advancing keepers presence seemingly flooring the Welshman as he soared through on goal. KCC had the best chance of the half, when J Barlow gave away a penalty, the referee adamant that the left back had caught the man before the ball. The men in (light) blue and white asked the ref to show some “Patience”, but instead had to “Pray” for some heroics from the keeper. And, cometh the hour, cometh the man, with Round beating away the spot kick and ball hacked away to safety afterwards. HT – 0-0.
After the team talk was done, the second half was underway, the opening 10 minutes or so being notable for a couple of subs, with Farrell and the injured Huws being withdrawn for Russell and Divin, back from his sojourns around Europe. It had been an industrious showing from the Welshman, who will unfortunately miss the next couple of games after a heavy challenge from the visiting CB. The changes seemed to fit in seamlessly, but shortly after the visitors took the lead, a scrappy goal from a cross that perhaps should have been dealt with, but how many times have we said that over the years hey!
But this seemed to stir Convo into action. The injured Halliday was withdrawn, and Welsh and Crombie entered the fray, with Kent coming off as well. A free kick won well into the opponents half was laid down by Crombie. The telepathic Farrell remarked to Kent “I have a bad feeling about this one”, expecting the set piece to go the way of many down the years at Wyncote, and end up beyond the walls of the astro. Oh how wrong you were, Mr Chairman. Crombie leathered the ball sweetly, and though it was straight at the keeper, the dip deceived the visiting cat, and Convo were level.
But it soon got better, with Convo performing one of those quick fire double-salvos that they have in their locker. A poor clearance by the KCC keeper, who up until this point had rocketed every kick he had down the field into Rounds area, ended up bouncing out 25 yards out to …. Well, who’s this running onto it …. A man of talent and eloquence to strike from midfield … no!!! It’s Welsh, the former GK turned centre back who had deployed himself in centre midfield owing to Halliday’s injury. Yet here he was, stiull with it all to do to haul his team in front. And give the man his due, it was a great connection, sending the ball back towards the opposition goal and nestling in the back of the net. Convo 2-1 up and good value for it too.
However, after this, the heat and early season nature of the game seemed to take its toll on Convo. The last 20 minutes or so saw KCC have a handful of good chances to equalise, with Round pulling off two brilliant saves. Yet Prendergast and C Barlow were leading the line well, and resisting the greater pressure that the visitors were now exerting. Credit too to J Barlow, who did a fine job in marshalling ‘that quick lad’ on the visitors right wing, and Lewis and Salgado were working hard too to give the back 4 some respite. The pace of Parsons, Russell and Crombie kept KCC honest at the back, but it was they who would score the final goal of the match, a shot through the palsm of Round nestling in the corner. FT 2-2.
Overall, not a bad start to our home campaign. Certainly not the “Greatest Day” we’ve ever had (I promise, I’ll stop now) but a point apiece was probably a fair result. Still unbeaten and still winless … would we have it any other way?
MOTM – Round. Could have gone to any number of players this, Jon at LB acquitted himself well against a tricky opponent, the CBs of Prendergast and Chris marshalled the back 4 with authority, and Halliday was superb in the middle at breaking up attacks. But for 2 or 3 fine saves, and a penalty stop to boot, it can only be Round this week. Superb, young man!
Mabon and Mike Kent (penalty) scored.
Convocation (4-5-1): Round; Galy, Prendergast, Greene, Parsons; Salgado, Long J, Bloor, Kent, Lewis; Huws; Subs: Barlow J, Russell, McNally, Farrell (unused)
[JF] Poor game.
Convocation: Dong; Galy, Prendergast, Bloor, Barlow J; Long, Kent, Lewis, Shore, Parsosn; Huws; Subs: Farrell, Irakiza
Convocation: McNally; Barlow J, Greene, Halliday, Farrell; Parsons, Shore, Bloor, Huws, Crockett; Kent; Sub: Galy
[JW] Convo 2 goals to the good inside 15mins from Matty Shore and Andy Parsons. Callum was then sent off on 20mins.
We conceded and OG after about 35mins - free kick es crossed in, lack of communication meant Chris B flicked his header over matt round and Prendy couldnt clear of the line.
60mins Mabon scored a good team goal to make it 3-1 after a Breno assist.
85mins they made it 3-2 from a long range effort that Matt Round couldn't keep out.
Convocation (4-5-1): Round; Barlow J, Barlow C, Prendergast, Farrell; Long J, Bloor, Welsh J, Shore, Parsons; Kaye; Kent, Lewis, Salgado, Crockett, McNally, Huws
Convocation (4-5-1): McNally; Byatt, Barlow C, Prendergast, Barlow J; Long J, Bloor, Halliday, Shore, Parsons; Kaye; Subs: Crockett, Farrell, Welsh J
Convocation (4-5-1): McNally; Byatt, Barlow C, Prendergast, Farrell; Long J, Welsh J, Halliday, Lewis, Kent; Round; Subs: Kaye, Abussnena, Barlow J
[JW] Scorers: none. We got battered.
Convocation (4-5-1): Round M; Ross, Byatt, Welsh J, Barlow J; Cromie, Nawrocki, Long M, Kent, Parsons; Abussnena; Subs: Round J, McNally, Barlow C