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