Bobby Mimms does a little end-of-hostilities reporting
Farewell 2016-17, you shan’t be missed. Seasons at Convocation will never be judged on results, but even so this one was crap. On Saturday, defeat condemned the Seconds to a straight flush, bottom-placed finish in their Sealand Cup group, and beyond that a ninth reversal on the run – an impressive losing streak that may be stable, but is hardly strong.
Still, while they were once again beaten and played poorly the culmination of the campaign could have been worse seeing as how they’d been pencilled in to face old foes Woolton Vets, formally part of Convo’s Axis of Evil alongside Wirral Masters and Waterside (it was all the ‘W’s, if you remember). In the decade since the two clubs last met though, the visitors from L25 appear to have undergone some sort of Damascene conversion, as throughout this reunion they were perfectly decent guests even if they did let themselves down by dishing out a bit of a reconciliatory shoeing. With referee Phil Webster also behaving himself, and the club’s website thankfully too decrepit to fall victim to this week’s ransomware attacks, there’s an argument to be made that the season’s denouement did have a sliver of a silver lining.
Although the final scoreline looks a little one-sided it was actually still goalless at the interval following a first half so mind numbing that surely none of its participants now fear death. There was barely any flow to the game, even after the break, and at times you started to wonder whether the two goalkeepers were obsolete, especially as the orange-shirted home side just about stopped short of taking beach towels onto the pitch with them. They had nothing to play for but pride, but their almost boundless apathy quickly put a damper on even that and also contributed towards what turned out to be a recurring theme for them – an absolutely dreadful approach to defending corners, which led directly to two of their concessions and could easily have cost them more.
Captain Andy McLaren had sixteen players (including himself) at his disposal, although due to your correspondent turning up late and no one bothering to answer subsequent enquiries the actual starting line-up will forever remain unrecorded. All the usual seasonal suspects were there on the old tennis court pitch though, with Vice-captain Ben Prince, former captain Paul Dickson, former First Team captain Billy Lamb and club secretary John Farrell amongst those who put in a defensive shift during the game, and Chris McNally, Colin Knox and Craig Kaye showing their faces up front at various times or other; the less said about the zombified inhabitants of the midfield…
Things started falling apart for Convocation pretty quickly after the interval, as their guests – donning pale-blue apparel – took the lead using a tactic they’d attempted unsuccessfully on a number of occasions before it. Finally managing to get the ball past the first man, they lofted it into the box as their opponents made a laughable attempt to push out, and when the loitering Jay Railton just failed to intercept the cross with a header an unmarked striker ran in behind him and slotted home from close range.
Shortly after that Farrell recommenced his phenomenally impressive late-season audition to play permanently for the Seconds when he let the visitors in by standing on the ball, and as the opponent who took advantage of his slapstick ran on with it into the Convo penalty area Railton – who’d been one of the few in orange to look close to decent before the break – continued undoing all his good work by clattering him to concede a spot kick. From twelve yards out Woolton doubled their lead.
Although goalkeeper Jack Morgan – wearing a lime green vest over his usual jersey, for some reason – had started conceding at a worrying rate there was little he could have done with any of the Woolton notches, and he did actually make a number of good saves during the match to preserve a little dignity for his team and colleagues. At the other end of the pitch the visitors’ #1 also made a couple of necessary stops and was equally faultless when, midway through the second half, a (rare) Geoff Poole header made it 2-1, the former Convo secretary having expertly directed his effort across the goal and into the bottom corner from a position at the back post, after Knox had flicked on the initial cross from the front.
Any surge of hope that Poole’s execution may have generated didn’t last too long as Woolton scored a couple of replies in quick succession with a little over ten minutes remaining, both being almost identical headers at corners, the marking for which beggared belief the first time, never mind the second when the Convo defence had had some warning (although, as they’d already got away with similar set-piece slovenliness earlier in the game, the concessions were more like at the fourth and fifth times of asking). After that, with the tie beyond the hosts and their guests showing no inclination to bolster their goal difference, what had been a typical end-of-season encounter fizzled out completely, to the point that you could no longer notice just how scrappy and directionless it (probably still) was.
Had Dianne Abbott been keeping score then maybe Convo would have been in with a chance, but as it was perhaps their performance was fate’s way of telling the them that 2016-17 should have been abandoned long ago so that everyone could have a long, hard think about what they’d been part of. They’ve been especially poor since the turn of the year, although incredibly good at making mediocre opponents look like world beaters, something they did once again on Saturday; on a related note, and on the evidence of this game, Woolton would be welcomed back if they made it onto the Second’s fixture list next season. Thankfully this incarnation is now over.
Man Of The Match: There’s really not much to work with. Morgan didn’t do anything wrong that sticks in the mind, while Railton had a fairly decent first half even if he made up for lost time after the break when he dragged himself down to his team mates’ level. Geoff Poole seemed a popular choice when your correspondent canvassed for thoughts, and his goal didn’t get the credit it deserved at the time, so he’s the final MOTM of the season.
Convocation (from): Morgan, Lamb B, Railton, Madeloso, Prince, Houston, Poole I, Poole G, Knox, Schofield R, Kaye, Holder, Farrell, McNally, McLaren, Dickson
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Poole G, Railton, Byatt, Lamb B; Kent, Houston, Poole I, McNally; Holder, Kaye; Subs: Prince, McLaren
Bobby Mimms reports
And with barely a whimper Convocation exited this season’s Sealand Cup (well, their chances of progressing did) and checked in for their annual stay at that guesthouse rooted to the foot of whatever group they get drawn in. Due to unknown quantities Gresford unexpectedly and suddenly withdrawing from the competition only victories against tips-for-the-top Wirral Vets and old foes Woolton Vets will prevent the Wyncote side finishing with the wooden spoon once again, but based on the evidence of recent results (going back as far as Christmas) that would seem to be highly unlikely. Perhaps with the situation going on between America and North Korea imminent nuclear war might save them from such a depressing fate, but as the Convo Doomsday Clock is actually closer to midnight than the legitimate one even world annihilation doesn’t look like coming to the rescue.
They were quite hopeless against Ramblers on Wednesday evening and must have left the field at full time wondering how they’d managed to keep the result so relatively close. Astonishingly they actually drew the second half having been utterly wretched in the first, but even if there hadn’t been such a post-interval improvement the final scoreline would have flattered Convo immensely; that the outcome wasn’t (deservedly) worse was mainly down to striker Craig Kaye – the only one in orange not as potent as a Kaliber shandy – who managed to net a hat trick despite his performance still being rather more miss than hit.
It’s a little unfair to even mention that the Convo paladin had faults though, considering that his associates had nothing but, and that by the end they owed him so much; from the opposite side of the fence Ramblers would probably have seen him as an irritant, buzzing around and occasionally stinging them as they attempted to make hay while the sun was (hypothetically) shining. If anything their forwards will look back on this match as an opportunity missed because they should really have been much more prolific against the visitors’ shambolic back line, while their own defence was almost always in control of their opponents’ rather toothless performance on the front foot, Kaye’s endeavours aside. On top of all that the home side completely bossed the middle third of the pitch from start to finish, although once again they didn’t really have much to compete against.
The game had been moved forward several days from Saturday – did someone want to watch the racing on tele? – and the kick-off was set for 6 p.m. so as not to clash with the evening’s Champions League fixtures, as UEFA demands. It was a cool and overcast evening in Liverpool and it felt as though the conditions were constantly just on the verge of spitting; every so often you’d feel the odd drop of rain but nothing more ever came of the threat. The Crosby rush hour traffic on Moor Lane seemed infused with an impatient menace, the drivers apparently oblivious that they were edging past what is always a treat when Ramblers (as ever in their blue-and-yellow halved shirts) and Convocation take each other on.
It was the visitors who (literally) got the ball rolling on the pitch nearest the clubhouse, but at kick off they only had the bare eleven combatants; the plan of starting at six instead of half-two in order to get Simon Holder to turn up on time clearly hadn’t worked. Instead, until he arrived, Paul Dickson began the game on the right-hand side of a four-man back line that also incorporated Jamie Southern, Jay Railton and Andy Willis (on the left), with Jack Morgan once again in the nets behind them. Just as quaternary was the midfield, as Ben Prince and John Farrell sandwiched Ian Poole and Paul Fairclough between them, while up front were Kaye and Richy Schofield.
By the time Holder turned up (he was sent straight into the thick of the action, on the right flank, as Farrell dropped to full back to make way and Dickson called it a day, never to return) Convo were already adrift. The two sides had spent the first five minutes-or-so feeling each other out, but then with the ball deep in the visitors’ territory Willis suffered a bit of a brain fart and attempted a ridiculous pass inside from out on the flank, which was intercepted by an opponent who ran on and slotted past Morgan. Things would go from bad to worse for the defender as it became all too clear that he was actually suffering from a swarm of wasps in his head, and a similar amount of time after his first cock-up he executed another that also led to a goal.
Little more than three weeks after a Ramblers side had rolled up at Wyncote and dished out the mother of all kickings there must have been a sense of dread amongst those in orange that history was looking like repeating itself, and so soon, which was made even worse when the hosts made it three before the midpoint of the half had been reached. For a change the concession had nothing to do with the Convo left back, rather that their midfield had more-or-less evaporated; one of the halved shirts knocked the ball forward to a colleague standing with his back to goal just inside the visitors’ penalty area, and when his use of an arm to control it was overlooked by the referee – who by the look of it had been unearthed when someone had been out looking for fossils – he took advantage of his boon to swivel on the spot and whack a great shot into the net.
By then Schofield had been on the sideline for a couple of minutes, a twisted ankle forcing him to take a breather (he’d been replaced by the just-as-tardy-as-Holder Chris McNally) whilst giving him the perfect lofty view to pass comment on the third goal: “We need to play as a team.” It was one of those days, but the thing is he did have a point: the eleven individuals on the pitch at any given moment looked as alien and disjointed with each other as at any time this season – even when they were on the verge of civil war – and the lack of co-ordination was resulting in more passes being misplaced than completed, players being regularly caught out of position, and of course their opponents riding roughshod over the whole sorry mess.
But then, ten minutes before the break and completely out of the blue, Convo went and snuck a goal back. A brief spell of pinball in the shadow of the pitchside trees finally ended when the advanced Farrell gained possession and pinged a low cross into the Ramblers box, and with the nearest defender oblivious to the fact that he was in any danger Kaye sped towards the ball from the far side of the barely occupied area and drilled it into the bottom corner of the goal a split second before his opponent would have done whatever was his thing.
The Convo forward had another couple of opportunities to score before the interval, both foraged down the inside-left channel and both fluffed in different, listless fashions. The first came about after the visitors broke out from a spell of heavy Ramblers pressure and, following a good bit of build-up involving Railton, Poole and Holder, Kaye was slipped through one-on-one with the ‘keeper, although he bottled the chance by shooting straight at his opponents’ legs. Several minutes later he was given a less clear-cut (and less unaccompanied) opening but made a real dog’s dinner of that attempted finish and whacked it miles wide from about ten yards out.
In the long run those missed chances will have really hurt, not only because they would have (somehow) drawn Convo level had he taken them but also because several minutes before the turnaround their opponents re-established their own superiority and scored a fourth. They won a corner that was punted into the visitors’ box and cleared without much enthusiasm, but then from the middle of the half an unmarked Ramblers man ran onto the loose ball and unleased an Exocet of a shot that (taking a slight deflection) arrowed into the top corner of the goal.
There was clearly a lot for Convocation to think about during the interval but they were going to have to do so without any water; once again the absence of the Captain coincided with the absence of much forethought or logistics. Nevertheless, the lack of any (not-so-vital under the circumstances) refreshment had little bearing on the visitors’ performance at the start of the second half as for the ensuing quarter-of-an-hour they undoubtedly enjoyed their best spell of the game, although obviously they only had a low bar to hurdle.
Within four minutes of the restart they’d pulled a second goal back, something that mere moments earlier had seemed about as likely as a snap general election. As they had for the majority of the first period Ramblers were still hunting in packs, but when the Convo back line took advantage of having finally awoken from their early-evening nap and broke down one opposition attack their colleagues further up the field then pinged the ball around quickly themselves, spreading it back and forth across the pitch until it ended up with Kaye out on the right, and he ran on into the penalty area and smashed a shot past the #1.
Briefly the home side looked wobbly, allowing their guests to occasionally work themselves into dangerous positions, although in typical Convocation fashion they then quickly worked themselves out of them again. Up front McNally’s nadir, for this week at least, saw him take a throw-in high up the right flank but just hurl the ball straight out of play for a Ramblers goal kick, while shortly after that there followed a bizarre spell when the thing was hoofed onto the adjacent vacant pitch half-a-dozen times in about ninety seconds, with everyone on the shared sideline taking it in turns to retrieve it from across the ditch (the watching Dickson commented that there was “a plethora of ball boys… and girl”).
Just before the hour mark the game took a further unexpected turn when the side in orange pulled a third goal back, although even in the process of doing that they still some managed to engage in some mild boobery. Ramblers hoofed a high ball into their opponents half of the pitch and despite defending on the edge of the centre circle the Convo back line let it bounce under pressure not once, not twice, but three times, to quite audible and understandable groans from colleagues watching on through their fingers. In a sign that emphasised a (brief) change in their luck they got away with such schoolboy antics and Southern eventually pumped it back up the pitch, giving Kaye the chance to do what the yellow-and-blue shirted forwards had been unable to seconds earlier, by taking advantage of defensive dithering to run on and lob the advancing ‘keeper from just outside the penalty area. Amazingly, considering they’d been utter gash for the majority of the game, thanks to the lad’s hat trick the visitors found themselves only one adrift.
Any hope of a full comeback was quickly nipped in the bud though, as Ramblers then went and scored two more of their own in as many minutes. The first of those, their fifth, showcased a return to classic Convo backline debacle as everyone just stood around at a corner and watched a colossus bullet a header into the top corner of the goal almost in slow motion; between the sticks Morgan didn’t move, and while there wouldn’t have been any point in doing so, such was the accuracy and ferocity of the effort, it’s also possible that he was trying to work out how the tallest guy on the pitch had been left unmarked and given a run at such a set piece.
They wouldn’t have known it but the clock was already ticking down to concession number six from the moment Convo restarted, and even though they immediately made a half-arsed attempt at attacking, when possession ended up in the hands of the opposition goalkeeper their defence was on borrowed time (you could almost hear the Countdown music). A long kick up the pitch reached the Ramblers right winger and when he hoofed a first-time cross into the visitors’ box such was the speed with which the ball had travelled from one end of the pitch to the other the only outfield player anywhere near it was Farrell. He had time to bring the thing down, or even head it back in the direction it had come from, but instead, for reasons only known to himself, he attempted a clearance on the volley. Unsurprisingly this ill-advised effort was sliced horribly, although perfectly for an opponent who’d come steaming into the scene from nowhere and unnoticed, and from the edge of the penalty area he wellied a shot back across Morgan and into the nets.
He may only have played for the Seconds on a couple of occasions but already there are signs from the Convo club secretary that he is right at home (that’s not necessarily a compliment) and that the long slide into total buffoonery has begun, and several minutes after his gaffe he was joined in the back line by Fairclough, a man whose had his own fair share of blunders over the years; he replaced Willis for the final quarter of the game having been on the bench since half time ( from where he’d identified a flock of circling herons). In between the two full backs Southern and Railton were having meh games, never succumbing to costly individual mistakes but hardly covering themselves in glory with their regular bouts of indifference either. Further up the pitch the midfield had relapsed into its earlier anonymity, the two quick concessions knocking any sense of recovery and therefore purpose out of them; Prince and Holder on the wings were particularly directionless.
But then, not for the first time on the evening, the visitors confounded expectations and pulled yet another goal back. They’d gone close a quarter-of-an-hour from the end when Kaye and McNally had combined with a succession of one-twos down the inside-left channel before the latter had blasted an effort over the opposition crossbar from about fifteen yards out. Several minutes later though, the First Team Captain was again sent clear through the Ramblers defence (their players were aghast, claiming he was miles offside – the ancient referee had been guilty of many poor decisions throughout the match) and having run on he shot low past the #1, finding the back of the net via the inside of one of the uprights.
It was, of course, too little too late, and Convocation never got near their hosts’ eighteen-yard box again. At the other end of the pitch Poole received a yellow card for a deliberate trip on an opponent just outside the penalty area, the free kick from which was almost Convo-esque in its ineptitude, but Ramblers did go closer when they sent a couple of efforts over the visitors’ horizontal, although the second of those was so gloriously miscued that had there been a goal on top of the goal the shot would still have been too high.
They did manage to score again though, with the last kick of the game, after they advanced along their left and a half-arsed Railton challenge left one of their players going clear through on Morgan. On the sideline the Ramblers bench implored Methuselah to blow up for full time, but they needn’t have worried about the guy in possession scoring as he rather unselfishly squared the ball to a colleague running in from the other side of the pitch, and with the ‘keeper stranded in no-man’s land all the recipient had to do was tap the thing into the empty net.
This Ramblers side were nothing special and were made to look so by the general incompetence of their guests, so you really do fear for what will happen in Convocation’s last two games when they come up against Wirral and Woolton (although as it’s nearly ten years since they faced the latter of those it isn’t a given they will still be as oppressive as they used to be). The end of this awful season can’t come quickly enough, especially as it’s ending awfully, but if they can pull something out of the bag and find a way to quit their worrying losing streak in the time that’s left it will at least give them something to be optimistic about – optimism to carry over the summer and take into next season.
Although that of course depends what time it is on the Doomsday Clock – Convo’s or otherwise.
Man Of The Match: Kaye. He may not have dazzled exactly, but he still outshone everyone else in orange by a country mile.
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Willis, Railton, Shanahan, Dickson; Prince, Poole I, Fairclough, Farrell; Schofield R, Kaye; Subs: Holder, McNally
The excitement of the Grand National may have averted your gaze this weekend, but if you weren’t aware …. The Sealand Cup played out its second round of matches, with Convocation happy to be back on home turf after last week’s trip to Chester to play the Nomads.
On a beautiful sunny afternoon at Wyncote, we welcomed Halkyn Vets to our beloved home ground, looking for a result that would put us back in the mix for qualification from Group B. However, as we were up against one of the favourites for the Cup outright, it was always going to prove to be a tall order ….
Happily though, the goings on at Aintree hadn’t stopped us from being able to put together a pretty capable team from across the clubs squad. Morgan started in goal, protected by a backline of Farrell and Prince at full back either side of a partnership of J Welsh and an injured Railton. A five man midfield of I Poole, Schofield, Nawrocki, Kaye and Kent was instructed to give the team some balance (although judging by Nawrocki’s general demeanour and alcohol infused breathing, balance wasn’t going to come easy to him). This left Round with the thankless task of having to hold up play up top on his own in the first half, with Holder and McNally waiting in the wings on the bench on what was a gloriously sunny afternoon in Allerton.
The skies wouldn’t remain blue for long, at least on the footballing side. Apparently not heeding the lessons of last week’s early deficit in the 4-1 defeat to Nomads, Convo went behind within a matter of minutes. A haphazardly cleared ball from Morgan fell right to the feet of the Halkyn striker who took the ball in his stride. His resultant shot went back across goal, though Morgan will perhaps feel disappointed to see the ball fly past him. Early doors again then, and Convo were a goal down …
Convo were industrious in the first half, working hard to try to make things happen, but all too often we were unable to make the ball stick, with passes going awry and a few too many long balls coming straight back at us. As Round called for more help up top, things were about to get worse. A long, awkward ball from the Halkyn backline had the Convo defence backtracking. Stretching as he was, Welsh was only able to flick the ball on for the chasing striker, and with Morgan somewhat slow to come off his line, the result was inevitable. 2-0, much to Welshs chagrin.
You’re thinking it couldn’t get any worse aren’t you? Two cheap goals down at home to one of the tournament favourites, and presenting no particular threat at the other end? Well, you’d be wrong. Little more than 2 minutes had passed when Halkyn broke again, the right winger escaping Prince’s attentions and whipping a curling ball into the box. Now, let’s get this straight. Farrell’s marking for this goal was …. Well, lax, and that’s being polite. But what a strike it was! With the ball evading both Railton and a narrow Farrell, the ball was met sumptuously with a volley from the Halkyn left winger that flew into the top corner of the net, reducing Morgan to the role of bemused onlooker, and prompting Railton to congratulate the goalscorer. His reaction was in stark contrast to his annoyed fellow centre half.
The first half ended with Convo growing slowly in to the game, with Kent having driving a shot wide following good link up play with Round, and Schofield sending a couple of decent balls into the box, but to no avail. A sombre half time team talk saw us changing to 3 at the back (noooo, not that again, it never works!). Farrell would go central with Railton and Welsh. McNally and Holder entered the fray for Nawrocki and Prince, with the Firsts skipper having to sample some of his own ‘get-up-and-down-the-entire-pitch-all-day-you-lazy-git’ medicine as RWB, with Kent on the opposing flank. Poole, Schofield and Holder in the middle supporting Round and Kaye in attack.
An encouraging start to the second half saw us have a couple of decent attempts at the Halkyn goal without causing any real danger, but worrying Halkyn enough to increase the volume of their manager, who had to cajole his team into action. Then it happened! McNally was scythed down in the box, and after a delayed reaction, the referee pointed to the spot. And thankfully it was the spot, as the fouled skipper had just proclaimed upon returning to his feet ‘I’m on the free kick’. Good job the ref didn’t hear that one! Kaye took the ball though, and a great pen it was too, sending the keeper the wrong way. 3-1. Halkyn nearly replied instantaneously, but a fine block from Farrell in the box ensured Convo remained in the game, albeit precariously.
Taking to getting involved heavily in the action, we were then treated to ‘McNally Time’. and it was a tale of two headers. Firstly, a long ball played up from the Halkyn backline was apparently there for the big man to send back where it had came from. Inexplicably however, he flicked it on, leaving the backline in all sorts of trouble. The resulting attack came to nothing, with a shot flying wide, and a sheepish McNally apologising to his comrades. Morgan then made a fine save froma counter attack that saw one of Halkyn’s striker ghost in behind the newly formed back 3.
But then, THE HEADER! Awarded a corner, Convo packed the box, definitely now in the realms of chasing the game. And as the ball curled in, with time seemingly standing still, McNally didn’t. a towering header nestled in the top corner of the away net, and roars of delight could be heard from the Convo bench, where Prince and a shirtless Crockett celebrated, whilst Nawrocki still seemed to have no clue as to what was going on.
The match became stretched at this point, with efforts from Welsh, Schofield and Kent all coming and passing us by, whilst Halkyn, urged on by their side-line contingent continued to look dangerous on the attack. On such attack was cut out by a Farrell header, to the genuine shock of all of his teammates, whilst Holder, Poole and Schofield were giving us the bite we had somewhat lacked in the middle of the park in the first half. The next goal was always going to be crucial, and ultimately, it went the way of the visitors. In the final minute, with Convo pouring tired bodies forward, Halkyn broke down their right wing. The ball across the box eluded both the diving Morgan and sliding Farrell, with the away striker on hand to add his second of the game and gloss to what had turned out to be a close game.
4-2 then, and another disappointing defeat. However, the spirit showed by the lads to give one of the pre-tournament favourites (according to regular opponents) a real run for their money. 3 at the back also seemed to work for once! Next week we’re away to Gresford, and no more excuses will do. A win is a must!
Convocation (4-5-1): Morgan; Prince, Welsh J, Railton, Farrell; Kaye, Poole I, Schofield R, Nawrocki, Kent; Round; Subs: Holder, McNally
So the Sealand Cup has started in earnest!
Unfortunately however, there appeared to be a ‘perfect storm’ present to dampen Convo (Vet) spirits even before a ball had been kicked in anger. A lengthy injury list coupled with an early start for the Merseyside derby seemed to have an impact on numbers (doesn’t everyone know that Convo away at Nomads is one of the biggest fixtures in the English game?).
As it was, 10 plucky individuals, drawn from both Firsts and Vets squads, made the short trip to Cestrian shores to take on the Nomads, with whom we’d shared a win and a loss with so far this season. It was only in the home team clubhouse whilst watching some fella called Origi rifle a shot past another fella called Joel that we actually found out that we would be playing the game a man short, stand in skipper Prince notifying his beleaguered charges. A long afternoon surely beckoned ….
BUT NO! Si Holder took things into his own hands and successfully recruited a player from a game currently going on at the time to ensure that, to the relief of those looking on, Convo would start with a full compliment of 11! As it was we started with Jack in goal, a backline of Farrell, Prince, Lamb and MacDonald. Jelen sat at the base of a midfield diamond, with Kaye and Holder either side, Lewis occupying the final midfield slot behind our newest recruit Omar and first team captain McNally, both providing a kind of Phillips and Quinn/Keegan and Toshack double act. Kind of …
It was a relatively even first half on what was a strangely playable but waterlogged pitch, Convo responding well to going 1 nil down in the first few minutes. A very dubious offside call not given (ok, basically the fella was about 5 yards offside) led to a Nomad corner which was nodded in with barely 5 minutes on the clock. Yet the Convo rallied, and despite being a team cobbled together in the period of 24 hours (or 10 minutes, given the inclusion of Omar, fresh from his other game). A couple of drives from distance kept the home keeper on his toes, and an acrobatic attempt from Kaye following a wonderful cross from Holder nearly had the travelling side level. Yet for all of the good passages of play, and willing running, an equaliser didn’t come, and Nomads took full advantage just before the break. From a throw out from Jack, the ball soon ended up in home possession, with the Nomad winger putting in a cross that eluded the backtracking Prince and Farrell, to be met by a bit of a lucky finish in all honesty, the striker slicing his attempt and looping over the unfortunate Jack.
Needless to say within 15 minutes of the restart, we were 4 nil down. Now, this observer cant seem to remember the third goal, but can inform you of the 4th. Poor marking from another corner saw a Nomad player dispatch a fine volley past Jack, who was quite correct to ask exactly WHO WAS PICKING HIM UP! Yet heads never dropped, and we did keep battling. It could have been 5 but for a superb tackle from Prince, the vice-captain denying a goal scoring opportunity with a sliding tackle that, owing to the conditions, saw him on his a**e for a good 10 yards or so (Farrell would repeat a similar trick later on in the game). As legs tired, Convos influence on the game lessened somewhat, but with 5 minutes left on the clock, we finally got the goal that our efforts merited. A fine free kick from Omar was parried by the home keeper but Prince was on hand to sweep in the rebound.
Ultimately a 4-1 defeat leaves Convo with plenty of work to turnaround their fortunes in the Cup, but with 5 games left to play it’s still very much in our hands. It was a harsh scoreline on the away team, who had several chances in the first half, but we were left to rue them and consider what might have been. Anyway, no worries, next weekend it’s a home game at Fortress Wyncote against Halkyn, 3-0 winners this week over Wirral Vets. Who’s with us?
Convocation (4-3-1-2): Morgan; MacDonald, Lamb B, Prince, Farrell; Lewis, Holder, Jelen; 'Omar'; Kaye, McNally
Convocation (4-4-2): Lamb; Poole G, Prince, Southern, Edwards; Jelen, Poole I, Fairclough, Murphy; Schofield, Knox; Sub: Dickson
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Willis, Lamb B, Railton, Fairclough; Kaye, Schofield R, Poole I, Houston; Holder, Knox; Subs: Kearney, McLaren
A humdinger of a game. Quite feisty. Several injuries and a shocking decision that cost us a well deserved draw.
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Willis, Prince, Madeloso, Lamb B; Murphy, Schofield R, Poole I, Holder; Round, Knox; Subs: McLaren, Houston
Played a youthful Ramblers team. Mostly first and second teamers!
Convocation (4-5-1): Morgan; Willis, Shanahan, Madeloso, McLaren; Poole G, Poole I, Fairclough, Holder, Prince; Schofield R; Subs: Ponting, Dickson
Bobby Mimms reports
It was midway through the second half of this match, during a rare lull in its tempo, that Paul Dickson turned your correspondent on the sideline and pointed out a leashed Weimaraner dog defecating near one of the corner flags. Its indifferent owner, having just finished chatting with friends amongst the St Martin’s support on the opposite side of the pitch, had been trying to depart the scene when his pet had decided to take care of its own business, risking the wrath of any nearby snoops in the process: “Get your phone out and take its picture” was the former Convocation Chairman’s initially baffling demand, although it made more sense when you remembered that Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson had this week offered a year’s exemption from council tax to anyone who provided evidence of such anti-social shenanigans. On a different day the episode could have been a decent metaphor for a shit and muddled game, but not on Saturday.
Played in predominantly bright and relatively warm conditions, this was quite a decent, evenly balanced ninety minutes of football (well eighty-five-ish – the official blew up early in both halves), with numerous good chances shared around. Convo twice came from behind (with two goals in the second period) and either side could have won the game late on, although the draw was a fair result and not even the swarm of midges that suddenly manifested on the visitors’ sideline during the interval and continually bit its inhabitants thereafter, nor the calling of the much more irritating Tony Blair (one of the St Martin’s players implored a team mate to “rise up” at one point – fortunately no one had drawn a pentagram on the pitch), could spoil what was an enjoyable encounter.
After a minute’s silence in memory of Convocation legend Graham Moore, who died on Tuesday, the away side had gotten the game underway decked out in orange and with the old lunatic asylum to their left, its clock stopped as if even time had stood still in tribute. For a while there seemed to be a solemnity about events on the pitch and nothing resembling creativity was apparent during an opening spell in which both teams did little more than feel each other out. That period of inactivity came to an end though, when a Convocation goal kick was flicked on in the centre circle sending Billy Lamb clear of the St Martin’s back line, but his eventual shot from the edge of their penalty area drifted just off-target.
The veteran had wandered infield from his starting position on the right-hand side of a five-man midfield – yes, you’ve read that correctly: a five-man midfield – that also saw Geoff Poole on the opposite flank and the trio of Ian Poole and Richys Houston and Schofield in between. Colin Knox was the lone frontman, while the much more conventional back four comprised of Andy Willis (left), Lee Madeloso, Ben Prince, and Paul Fairclough (right); Jack Morgan was once again in goal, and Mike Edwards, Captain Andy McLaren, and Dickson were on the metaphorical bench.
That early Lamb chance acted as something of a kick up the arse+ for his team mates and during the following quarter of an hour they created a number of further opportunities to open the scoring. Having played a one-two with Houston (the ‘one’ being a throw-in), Fairclough hoofed a great (although accidental) defence-neutralising pass forward for Poole (G) to run onto, but having got as near to the opposition goal as the penalty spot the winger then scuffed his shot thus giving the #1 a chance to paw the ball away around one of his uprights.
Shortly after that Houston decided to get in on the act and tried his luck from a little outside the opposition ‘D’, although the attempt was always rising and ultimately cleared the crossbar. It was Knox who had Convo’s two best chances to trouble the scoresheet during that purple patch, the first of which came about after Lamb had attacked down the right and pulled a low cross back from near the byline, setting up Poole (I) to welly a shot goalward from about twelve yards out that his loitering colleague [Knox] couldn’t get out of the way of. The resultant deflection forced the #1 into making a good low stop to his left, but the forward seemed determined he was going to score at that point and having followed the ball in he booted it into the net from out of his grounded opponent’s hands. Quite rightly, the referee (who was one of the St Martin’s players) deemed his actions to be illegal and disallowed the strike.
Undeterred, the Convo man went close again a couple of minutes later. His side won a throw-in after the ball had been emptied over the nuthouse wall, and from it a deep cross was knocked into the St Martin’s goalmouth perfectly for Knox to power a header down towards the furthest reaches of the target, but once again the opposition #1 foiled him, this time with a fingertip save that turned the effort around a post. Assessing the outcome the forward looked perplexed at not having found the back of the net, but nonetheless it did feel as if it was only a matter of time before the side in orange scored.
Naturally then, it was to nobody’s surprise that St Martin’s went and did so first. From out on their right flank they punted a cross into the visitors’ box that was far too deep and evaded everyone, but which another player in dark blue chased to retrieve as it trundled slowly in the direction of the corner flag. He was clearly going nowhere and the pursuing Fairclough surely only had shepherd him and the ball out of play to avert any danger; if there was any doubt about that though, then the Convo man wasn’t going to die wondering and right on the edge of the penalty area he hacked his opponent down from behind. It was as stonewall a foul as you could get and the spot kick that followed was sent low to Morgan’s right, as he dived the other way.
The goal seemed to disrupt the burgeoning rhythm of the game and during the next ten minutes or so the most interesting thing to happen was Convocation making a substitution. Having spent proceedings to that point regaling the bench with tales of his amateur dramatics days alongside Danny McGill, one of the St Martin’s johnnies, Edwards was sent on to play directly against him, with Poole (G) making way and complaining as he came off that “Charlie doesn’t know the system”, which overlooked the fact that even if he had he’d have probably just ignored it.
Boosted by their goal it was the hosts who finished the half the strongest, and Prince gifted them a great chance to double their lead when he was suckered out of position on the halfway line (in almost the exact spot he’d performed some sort of Irish jig seconds earlier), thus allowing the St Martin’s #10 to streak away in possession, although the man in question never looked at ease during his showdown with Morgan and blasted an eventual shot at the young ‘keeper’s legs. Barely two minutes later the blue shirts went close again after having dinked the ball around the Convo half for what felt like an eternity, but when a one-two on the edge of the penalty area coincided with the visitors’ defence stopping to appeal for an offside that wasn’t given (correctly) the runner who was played in then curled a wasteful effort wide of the furthest post with only the #1 to beat.
Convo were suddenly on the ropes and within sixty seconds the home side had forged another gilt-edged chance to net when one of their ilk dispossessed Schofield on the corner of his own penalty area – the former First Team captain’s retaliatory attempt to then boot his opponent from the floor suggested that he hasn’t learnt any lesson from his recent dismissal for violent conduct at Rossett – and then pulled the ball back to a colleague from near the byline, but the recipient blasted a shot way over the crossbar from more-or-less on the penalty spot. Several minutes later the referee blew for the interval, far too early as he wasn’t wearing a watch (apparently his was “a present off me bird” and he wasn’t going to risk breaking it) and had been relying on what were looking like less-than-accurate prompts from the St Martin’s bench.
Convocation made two changes for the restart: Poole (G) returned in a straight swap on the right flank with Lamb, while McLaren replaced Willis at left back having already made a notable contribution to the first half by playing mind games with one of the St Martin’s attackers and accusing him of having “a fat belly” – who says irony’s dead? The Captain’s first undertaking whilst actually on the pitch was to use all of his experience to thwart a potential opposition through ball on the halfway line when a blue shirt would otherwise have been clean through on goal, although ‘experience’ in this case should be read as a synonym for ‘girth’ as the interception was made by his own fat belly.
Before that though, Convo had nearly equalised in the third minute of the second period when they won a free kick just outside the corner of their hosts’ penalty area, but with everyone waiting at the far side of the box for a decent delivery Houston simply ‘crossed’ it straight to the ‘keeper at his near post. The collective groan at such a wasteful episode was loud but extremely short-lived, as while the #1 should have held the ball easily under no pressure whatsoever he opted for excitement instead and almost fumbled the thing between his legs; only the unorthodox grip of a sturdy pair of knees prevented him conceding a right old howler.
That spot of clowning may have offered the visitors a momentary glimpse of parity but it was the initial free kick that spoke volumes, because on Saturday… Houston, he had a problem. Usually so assured in possession, he probably squandered it more in just this one encounter than in every other he’s played since rolling up at Wyncote, and at times it looked as though he couldn’t have made a decent pass if he’d been horny, three sheets to the wind and abstinent for a year. More worryingly, it also seemed to affect those around him and for a while proceedings became disjointed, with the game losing a bit of zip as well as its way. And as is so often the case when that happens, “a festival of clichés” (as one observer from the Convo bench put it) ensued.
The (relative) tedium was brought to an end a little after the hour mark when, with Fazakerley bathed once again in bright sunshine, the visitors finally equalised. They gained possession in the middle of the pitch and Poole (I) knocked the ball through for Knox (the rescue dogs having located his whereabouts – he’d been missing since his headed effort in the first half), who ran on and slotted low past the opposition ‘keeper to howls of protest from the blue-shirted defenders. Their gripe was that the previously-anonymous cove had been beyond the last man when the pass to him was made, and they did have a point: he hadn’t been just shades of offside, but bright-neon-adverts-in-Times-Square offside. The ‘well upholstered’ referee was unimpressed by their complaints and saw no reason to review his initial (lack of a) decision, although in reference to everyone’s favourite erratic whistle blower he then suggested that he would be “flying out to Saudi Arabia after the game”.
Within a couple of minutes all was rosy in the home side’s garden again, as possibly under the impression that their job was done the Convo players downed tools once more, allowing their opponents to retake the lead. A St Martin’s goal kick was flicked on in the centre circle beyond the ridiculously-high back line of their guests, and with Fairclough incapable of intercepting the ball by inches one of the blue shirts ran through and blasted a shot past Morgan from just inside his penalty area.
Convo’s (almost) immediate reaction to falling behind again was to make more substitutions. Having completed a critique of the late Peter Skellern being deflowered (and observations on canine scatology) Dickson went on at right back in a straight swap with Fairclough, while McLaren had decided that a quarter of the game defending on the halfway line was quite enough thank you very much, and was glad to be relieved by Willis; the incomer went to left wing with Edwards dropping back to fill the vacated full-back berth. Barely any time had passed before further change was required when Knox pulled up lame (hamstring problems), so Lamb returned to matters as the third orange-shirted left back in as many minutes, the club treasurer pushed forward again to re-join the anti-passing brigade of the midfield, and Schofield was shoved up front (there’s a gag in there somewhere…).
St Martin’s should really have increased their lead when Poole (G) only half cleared a poor cross into the Convo box and a second man in blue blasted the loose ball inches wide of the target from about fifteen yards out, while at the other end of the pitch Houston – who was regularly being called “Chubbs” by McLaren; who said irony’s dead? – walloped a shot just over the home side’s crossbar from a little outside their penalty area. Within sixty seconds though, he skinned the opposition left winger (who seemed to be called ‘Jonah’), attempted the novel trick of passing to one of his own players, and having received possession back knocked a deep punt towards the back post, where Schofield bulleted a header on target. The #1 made a fine save down to his left, but unfortunately for him this only palmed a gift of a chance right into the path of Willis, and from a stride-or-two out he couldn’t miss (which admittedly hasn’t stopped him in the past). And get this: he scored using his right foot! What a time to be alive.
Both sides had an opportunity to score again in the final few minutes, either of which would almost certainly have been a winner. The hosts were the first to go close when they played the ball out from the back and after a series of good flicks around the centre circle then slipped a pass through to one of their forwards, but to screams of offside from the visitors’ back line his one-on-one with Morgan ended in the ‘keeper’s favour, a fine save resulting in a corner that came to nothing.
Not long after that it was Convo who had the last chance of the afternoon when they advanced up the middle of the pitch before punting the ball into the St Martin’s penalty area, whereupon Willis chested it down to the nearby Poole (I), but from the eighteen-yard line he couldn’t keep his snap shot down and it whistled just over the crossbar he was facing. Within a couple of minutes the referee got the sign from the sideline and, a little bit early once again, that was the end of the half and the game.
It had been a decent enough affair and the draw was probably the fairest result; St Martin’s were marginally the better side but Convo looked the more dangerous in the final third. Alas, it wasn’t only the better chances that the boys from Wyncote created though, it was also a lot of hot air, and it seems that the culture of blame that has riddled the Second Team for so long has not lessened in the few months since your correspondent last watched them play. It’s a shame, because it is just a noisy minority (who don’t even believe they’re doing anything wrong) turning Saturday afternoons into a chore for the rest, and short of a bit of personnel pruning there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable solution to the situation. If Joe Anderson could solve this shitty problem then he really would be worth voting for.
Man Of The Match: Christ, now you’re asking. In general, the defence was wobbly, the midfield couldn’t pass and the front line was only noticeable for about three minutes during the game. Morgan couldn’t be faulted for either of the concessions, but it was probably Convo’s Jack Of All Trades on Saturday, Edwards, who did the best with the tools he had to play with, so to speak, so he just pips the ‘keeper to the gong.
Convocation (4-5-1): Morgan; Willis, Madeloso, Prince, Fairclough; Poole G, Schofield R, Poole I, Houston, Lamb B; Knox; Subs: Edwards, McLaren, Dickson
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Fairclough, Madeloso, Lamb B, Jago; Poole G, Holder, Schofield R, Poole I; Knox, Willis; Subs: McLaren, Edwards, Round
Moaning and magic,
Our Corinthian kin.
Always a pleasure
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Jago, Maseloso, Lamb B, Kearney; Hoban, Houston, Poole I, Schofield R; Willis and Holder; Subs: McLaren, Edwards
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Hoban, Shanahan, Madeloso, MacDonald; Schofield R, Fairclough, Houston, Holder; Prince, Kaye; Subs: McLaren, Dickson
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Fairclough, Lamb B, Madeloso, Nimmo; Hoban, Poole I, Houston, Schofield R; Round, Holder; Subs: McLaren, Poole G
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Nimmo, Railton, Madeloso, Lamb B; Holder, Poole I, Houston, Shanahan; Poole G, Kaye; Subs: Prince, McLaren, Dickson (not used)
We lost 4-2 after being 2-0 up.
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Railton, Madeloso, Lamb B, Kearney; Prince, Poole I, Houston, Schofield R; Holder, Kaye; Subs: Jago, McLaren, Dickson
Bobby Mimms reports
Well, well, well, what an enjoyable game – that’s two the Second Team have had now this season, so maybe there is hope for them after all. This one was a good old-fashioned Convocation encounter with players sourced from all over the place, including the league side who had no fixture, and everyone who took the Captain’s shilling did themselves and the club proud even if they were slightly unlucky to miss out on (what would have been a deserved) victory. Such was the pleasant atmosphere around proceedings though, it still sort of felt like a victory, especially as of all the possible occasions for the feel-good experience to finally return you wouldn’t have bet on it being against Rockville, opponents who the boys from Wyncote have had plenty of trouble with in years gone by. But maybe there’s some sort of moral tale there, about water under the bridge and all that…
On the day that Cuba – another blast from Convo’s past – started a period of mourning for its departed icon Fidel Castro, the Seconds were without their own tyrant, Andy McLaren, who was off watching pseudo-football at Anfield, although initial, mischievous reports were that he was missing due to ‘a broken toe… nail’. That left VC Ben Prince to try and fill the sheepskin coat, and he opted to continue last week’s (apparent) experiment with wing-backs – formational witchcraft, no less – with Jon Kearney and Craig Kaye drawing the short straws: Godspeed, brave boys. Between them there was a central-midfield trio of Richy Houston, Mike Edwards and Simon Holder, while the First Team striking duo of Chris McNally and Taha Abussnena, and a seasoned defensive threesome of Liam Byatt, Jay Railton and Prince himself, made up the remainder of the starting outfield ten. Behind them all, and making a first appearance since he punched the ball into his own net against Essemmay, Keith Purcell returned to don the gloves, while Graham Roberts was the lone substitute at kick off (or rather, several minutes after kick off, as he was late).
All in all it was a fairly sociable and egalitarian line-up for the home side – or ‘no dickheads’ as one person put it – and they certainly displayed a form of footballing ‘socialism’ during the game, sharing possession and responsibility like your correspondent hasn’t seen during a Second Team encounter for some time. Once again the powers that be at Wyncote had condemned Convo’s fixture to the 3G pitch – something a cynic might suggest is going to happen even when there is no need – but perhaps it was to everybody’s advantage as the ball was knocked around by both sides as though it were a puck on an air-hockey table and without fear of an undulating surface sending passes off-kilter. Sometimes the lesser option is the best.
There was certainly no fear of anyone not joining in with the flow of the game as the perishing temperature made sure that shirkers would suffer. Perhaps the least dynamic man on the pitch (other than the two goalkeepers) was the referee, but this man in black can always make up for a lack of warmth with the amount of hot air he puffs out when he officiates, for it was none other than Mr Phil Webster. In fairness he did have a fairly sane and sensible match by his own standards, although that didn’t stop him lecturing one of the blue-shirted visitors inside the opening ten minutes over some sort of perceived lack of respect; smart guy that he obviously was, the chastised player must have realised pretty quickly that he would have more chance of winning an argument against gravity than if he answered back, so he took his medicine without a word, and that was as close as anyone on Saturday got to an (involuntary) early bath.
There was no doubting Rockville’s willingness to take a chance on shooting from distance though, and on a regular basis throughout the first period they fired off efforts from the peripheries of the Convocation penalty area that were either directly at Purcell or off target (although seldom by much). The frequency of their pot shots was undoubtedly helped by their #1’s frighteningly long kicks (out of his hands), which would always land well into the other half of the pitch, but while the home side couldn’t rely on a similar route-one approach they were able to get in a couple of attempts on target of their own, both from Edwards with one set up by Prince.
For the Convo Treasurer the collective performance must have felt like the years had rolled back because, with the game on the floor, the hosts were the masters of all they surveyed. Your correspondent cannot remember an occasion before in which the boys from Wyncote have played the ball with such composure and efficiency, as well as so successfully, and for the vast majority of the ninety minutes they gave their guests the runaround; there was no (well, little) route one from them and they were damn well going to tiki taka the life out of Rockville. Houston, Holder and Edwards (and Roberts when he replaced the latter midway through the first period) were instrumental in this loom of metronomic, orange redistribution, although it was obvious that everybody had been in on the memo to pass and move, and it was especially pleasing to see that Kearney and Kaye were taking part in this second coming of the Liverpool Groove.
Rockville weren’t afraid of a bit of tippy-tappy possession of their own, only too aware that the opposition can’t score if you’ve got the ball, but they didn’t seem to have the resolve to persist with the ploy. As such it was Convo – attacking in the general direction of Rose Lane – who took the lead shortly before the midpoint of the half, when Holder put a lovely cross into the visitors’ box from out on the right flank and Abussnena got on the end of the thing to redirect it into the roof of the net.
The lead lasted a little over five minutes until one of the visitors won a second-ball in the middle of the Convo half and advanced as everyone in orange seemed to back off him, and from not quite ten yards outside the penalty area he blasted a rocket of a shot into the top corner of the impotent Purcell’s nets. With all of Rockville’s earlier attempts from range it wasn’t as if the hosts hadn’t been warned.
Being pegged back didn’t cause them to alter their game plan (assuming it was one) though, and they continued with their tactic of death by a thousand passes; at times, watching the ball ping around in the middle third of the pitch without a hint of a Hollywood hoof, you had to pinch yourself to make sure you were awake and not dreaming (and were ready for a pass). There can’t have been much more than five minutes to go until the interval when their patience paid off after Houston punted a cross into the Rockville goalmouth from about the same position that Holder had set up the opener, right onto the head of McNally, who bulleted the old pig’s bladder into the net despite the opposition ‘keeper getting a hand to it. Later on, back at the APH, the scorer was celebrated as “a man who keeps tropical fish – what more can you say?”, although it was difficult to tell whether that was meant as a compliment or a pejorative.
As the already-Baltic temperature continued to drop the second period got underway with Edwards returning to the playing eleven, taking up patrol on the left flank in place of Kearney, and with Abussnena having to depart even though – goal aside – he’d never really turned up. He was relieved by Mike Kent, who’d only just arrived pitchside seconds before the turnaround, and though they seldom play two up front in the First Team the incomer’s striking partnership with McNally seemed understandably coordinated and the two of them kept the Rockville back line on their toes for the remainder of the game. Indeed, the Mancunian should really have won the match for Convo inside the final ten minutes when he slid in at a low cross through the opposition six-yard box and would’ve only had to touch the ball to put it into the net, yet somehow missed the thing – he was subbed immediately, with Kearney replacing him up top for the time that was left.
No matter whether or not McNally should have scored though, it was Roberts who actually went the closest without doing so when he thumped a shot from way out that smashed against the face of the Rockville crossbar. Aside from that, the recidivistic penalty conceder had slotted effortlessly into the inexhaustible passing machine that the home side’s midfield had become, and with old hands Houston and Holder dictating pace around him he was free to spend some special time engaging in his favoured pursuit of man-handling opponents. And if those three greased the cogs of the whole Convo enterprise, it was the forward dashes of Edwards and Kaye on the wings that regularly stressed Rockville’s formational discipline to breaking point, with the elder of the two managing to get off another effort on target during the second half, although with the same lack of success as he’d had in the first.
They weren’t so quick to track back from the wings though, the wing backs, for different reasons admittedly, but nonetheless the rearguard trio of Byatt, Railton and Prince continued to look completely in control and seemed happy to confine the opposition to trying their luck from distance. Having said that they were still always going to be vulnerable to Convo’s perennial Achilles heel, the ball over the top, so when the visitors tried to launch one into their hosts’ penalty area and Railton and Purcell got their wires crossed you didn’t need to be psychic to sense that another goal was in the offing. The former attempted to head a pass back to his ‘keeper, albeit without much power, and while the latter did get his hands to the thing despite being rather slow off his line he never had it under control; once possession was then squandered in a collision with Rockville’s burly centre forward it only need a tap in for the scores to be levelled.
Railton soon made amends for his part in the defensive lapse – how nice not to have to write ‘fiasco’ – when he put the home side back in front with a glancing header at a Kaye corner, the two newcomers demonstrating a well-honed synergy with each other and the latter showing that he can actually take a decent quadrant kick. Once again though, Convo couldn’t hold on to their lead and Rockville equalised for a third time when their #1 hoicked another long ball down the pitch and a blue-shirt got it under control out on the left, drifted inside along the edge of the penalty area and past a surprising (on the day) lack of resistance, and then slotted the thing into the bottom corner of the net as Purcell advanced to narrow the angle.
The Convo ‘keeper made a low save to his left not long after that to prevent the visitors from snatching a late lead in a game that they wouldn’t have deserved to win, but otherwise the back line had no further trouble in keeping their opponents at bay, while at the other end of the pitch McNally’s inches-out-of-reach chance was all the game had left to offer. By the time Mr Webster whistled it a day the gloaming was upon Wyncote and the floodlights had been on for a while, but not a weary soul was going to hang around in the gelidity to admire the allure and peacefulness of the scene.
Once everyone had thawed out and was leaving the changies for a well-deserved tipple a low blueish mist had also descended on the University fields, almost as if someone had lit a rather ratty flare off in the distance, but while it undoubtedly presaged a typically damp, chilly November evening in south Liverpool that was so much more preferable to the filthy atmosphere the Seconds have had to endure of late. In not having oppressive undercurrents suffocating the side on Saturday they were able to nurture crazy notions like team morale, a rare result of which was that this was an enjoyable game played in the right spirit. Credit for that must also be directed at Rockville, the cursed foes of old, and if they can be brought in from the cold – to the cold – then there may be a chance for Convocation yet.
Man Of The Match: Hmmm, difficult, as there’s nothing much to separate the players. If it has to be someone though, it’s got to be one of the central midfielders – your correspondent is quick enough to give them grief when it’s all going tits up, so along the same lines they deserve praise for fine executions of duties, particularly their passing, and Houston just pips Holder, Edwards and Roberts to the top accolade.
Convocation (3-5-2): Purcell; Byatt, Railton, Prince; Kearney, Houston, Edwards, Holder, Kaye; McNally, Abussnena; Subs: Roberts G, Kent
Convocation (4-4-2): Hendry; Hawe, Madeloso, Railton, Fairclough; Ponting, Poole I, Houston, Holder; Schofield R, Abussnena; Subs: Lamb B, McNally, Prince; Subs (not used): McLaren, Dickson
Convocation (4-4-2): Willis; Fairclough, Railton, Madeloso, Lamb B; Holder, Poole I, Houston, Schofield R; Knox, Kaye; Subs: Hoban, Poole G, Jago, McLaren, Dickson
Bobby Mimms reports
It’s a tale of treachery and insurrection, of two-faced agitators and a plot to overthrow the powers that be despite such nefarious shenanigans being popular only in the minds of the few and unwanted by the majority. Sound familiar? That’s right, it’s the goings-on in Westminster, 1605, when Robert Catesby and his troop of malcontents attempted to dispose of the King, and all because (to simplify the situation slightly for the sake of satire) they couldn’t get their own way. The fifth of November – Saturday just gone – is the day that the failure of this self-centred villainy is celebrated annually all over the country, when effigies of the perpetrators are burnt with glee on top of huge bonfires as a reminder that such uprisings will always be thwarted by a government with a bit of nous about it.
If there had been similar seams of unrest and dissent within the ranks of Convocation’s Second Team then on Saturday it would have reflected quite poorly on their opponents, Chester Nomads, as they were incapable of taking advantage of any such (hypothetical) turmoil. Any decent side would have easily picked off an opposition in (hypothetical) disarray, but the side from Cheshireland weren’t a patch on their namesakes who’d visited Wyncote last month; they certainly didn’t lack enthusiasm or support for each other if their continually regurgitated mantra of “take him on” was anything to go by, but they just weren’t at the races and as a result let their opponents off the (hypothetical) hook of discord.
That’s not to take anything away from Convocation, after all you can only beat what’s put in front of you, but they never really had to get out of second gear and their own game probably suffered as a consequence. You could argue that had they been dictating the pace of the game (that’s not to suggest that Chester were, just that no one seemed to be) then they wouldn’t have been dragged down towards their hosts’ flat-lining level, but they did eventually put in enough industry to prevent their performance becoming critical as well, albeit with little artistry to make their eventual victory look as comfortable as it was. However, even if there was next to nothing to savour from an attacking perspective the back line must have been doing something right, as clean sheets seldom lie.
For a long while you would have been forgiven for thinking that the two sides were running the clock down for a blank, and well into the second half talk on the sidelines was of when the Seconds’ last goalless draw was (it was the day Charles and Camilla got married, back in 2005). Another topic of boredom-busting conversation concerned that awful old sitcom Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width, but such dreary (Paul Dickson-initiated) chit-chat probably seemed gloriously exciting compared with the snooze that was the first period, forty-five minutes that no one present will have considered well spent and in which the football and performances were as flat as roadkill. If any spectators reminisce about it years from now their memories will be of twenty-two players walking aimlessly around the pitch – not because they actually were but because, even at the time, that’s just how it felt.
The only really decent chance to score during that period of entertainment barrenness was when Convocation’s Geoff Poole pumped a lovely cross into the Nomads box that almost forced one of them to turn the ball into his own net. Otherwise the vast majority of proceedings were conducted in the middle third of the pitch where creativity and possession were treated like optional extras. Matters weren’t helped by the autumnal conditions, or rather the state of the playing surface caused by the autumnal conditions, and the penalty area that the home side defended in the first half was almost ankle-deep in discarded leaves in places making any football, even the boring kind, rather difficult.
Convo had rolled into town with fourteen potential conspirators at their disposal, one of whom then chose not to play (Dickson), while another only made an appearance for the final seven-or-eight minutes (Andy McLaren). That was still six more than Kenny Nimmo though, who began the game at centre half but lasted only ninety seconds before pulling his hamstring and limping off – presumably he hadn’t not warmed up properly. His incapacitation gave an unexpectedly-early run out to substitute Paul Fairclough, on the left flank, with Poole (G) on the other and Lee Madeloso and Ian Poole in between. Up front Craig Kaye was partnered by Richy Schofield – who only a few weeks ago, if your correspondent’s not mistaken, seemed to think that Convocation was a new circle in Dante’s Hell – while in the rearranged back line Billy Lamb (who’d started at full back) paired up with Jay Railton in the heart of the defence, Tim Jago was on the right and Jon ‘Skol’ Kearney was on the left (having begun on the wing); Ian Mitchell was in goal.
One of those players (who wished to remain anonymous) had revealed before the game that in the past he’d Googled ‘Victoria Coren’s bust size’, and after twenty minutes of aesthetic atrocity on the pitch even those spectators most uninterested in such things must have been wondering what his search had revealed. Excitement was being severely rationed and the closest the game came to being end-to-end was if you didn’t count either final third, as the part in between hosted the vast majority of what wasn’t happening. There were a large amount of hopelessly optimistic shots from distance at the Chester goal, all from the same source (no prizes…), but while their repeated waywardness was nothing but the norm for the rest of those in the green-and-white hoops, it was also an undoubted relief to the opposition #1.
He was a big gangly thing who may have won his spell between the sticks in a church raffle as he seemed ridiculously reluctant to use his hands, something of a handicap to a goalkeeper you’d have thought. He made several saves in the second period, all with his feet (even when it was more difficult to do so), but on the whole looked incredibly awkward, although he had little trouble with Convocation’s corners, which as a rule were crap; Kaye in particular attempted some really rotten ones that will have scraped an F- for attainment on his early-season report card.
Perhaps the forward was under the impression that the gloves he was wearing for no apparent reason would automatically give a touch of class to whatever he attempted, no matter how poor it actually was. Quite why a young lad prepared to run around for ninety minutes in shorts and with sleeves rolled up (to show off his tat) would feel the need to make an extra effort to keep his hands warm is something of a mystery, as it wasn’t as if it was that cold, and if he was then maybe he could have worn a woolly hat and a duffel coat as well, or even stayed at home next to the fireside and under a rug. Could it be that he just wanted to copy what the guys on the tele do…?
Convo continued to make a meal out of being the better side right up until the interval even though the referee – who was one of the Nomads players – appeared to be favouring them whenever there was a 50-50 call; he didn’t appear to be deliberately antagonising those he would traditionally call team mates, or even getting under their skin at all, but nevertheless they were certainly fond of questioning his decisions. There was no danger of him having to point to the centre circle though, a notion validated with almost the last kick of the half when Schofield fired off a shot from distance that should enter Sagittarius later in the month – the (self-appointed and hamstrung) OPTA representative on the sideline deemed it to be shot number seventy-something-or-other of the afternoon from the former First Team captain.
It didn’t take long after the second period got underway to sense that something had changed and that there wouldn’t be the same stagnation as before the break; in amongst the usual smoky scents of the season was a whiff of hope for the game. It was fireworks though, that first livened up proceedings, sparked when, with Chester on the advance, Madeloso launched into a terrible two-footed tackle from behind that would have made an MMA fighter wince. Understandably it caused a fair bit of argy bargy between the two sides, but somewhat bizarrely the result of that was one of the Nomads players getting ‘sent off’ while the Convo man received nary a word from the ref.
Despite the increase in entertainment though, the consensus on the Convo sideline was that the game still had nil-nil written all over it. But this was no royal wedding day and shortly before the hour mark a Chester hand ball out on the flank allowed the visitors to whip the resultant free kick into the loaded box, and Railton was in the perfect position to head home his first goal for the club.
The concession seemed to wake up the home side as much as their guests and not long after falling behind they were almost gifted an equaliser when one of their players was sent through on goal with only Lamb – still fleet of foot despite this being his thirty-ninth season for Convo – capable of hanging onto his coat-tails. The eventual yellow-shirted shot shouldn’t have been any problem for Mitchell to deal with, but he spilled the routine midriff catch to his right and the ball only just bobbled wide of the upright, although the discarded foliage may have made the near miss closer than it would otherwise have been.
Back down the other end of the pitch the Nomads ‘keeper had become something of an enigma: a flappy disaster-in-waiting one minute, yet David-de-Gea-keeping-his-team-in-the-contest the next. He just about dealt with an unnecessarily-high looping shot from Fairclough, yet still the crossbar had to come to his aid as he tried to push the ball over it but had a bit more trouble with the ‘over’ part than the ‘push’, and a second attempt at putting the thing out of play was needed; several minutes later Kaye also attempted a lob as the glover (the real one) advanced towards him at a one-on-one, but his effort dropped just beyond the horizontal. The Andy Pandy-ness of the #1 came in handy not long after that though, when Poole (G) was played in with a great chance down the side of the hosts’ penalty area but his low drill from about ten yards out was pushed away onto a post by one of his opponent’s outstretched telescopic legs (no hands naturally), although there was some debate in the press box that it may have first hit the upright and then ricocheted out off the limb.
Convocation’s amelioration was not only to do with the fact that theirs was an incredibly low bar to jump, but also because their midfield especially had kicked on from the somnambulistic shambles they’d been before the break. Taking advantage of having played his ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, Madeloso was now on best behaviour and a calmer head was allowing him to pick out passes rather than body parts, while out on the wing Poole (G) had the support alongside him that he had been craving during the first period when he’d been the best man in hoops. Fairclough and the elder Poole were particularly improved though, and had begun to dictate the pace of the game, much to the dismay of their flagging equivalents in yellow who could only hope to try to keep up with it.
The second half couldn’t completely distance itself from its black-sheep sibling of earlier though, and another lull ensued with about twenty minutes remaining, although it was worth the quietude on the pitch if only because it enabled everyone to hear a Chester midfielder tell his left-wing colleague to pass the ball with the instruction ‘Right turn, Clive’. There was also plenty of entertainment to be had from an adjacent match, where another Nomads side were taking on a team from Mostyn and an almighty ruckus erupted when one player took exception to an opponent’s challenge and began to recreate that time when Michael Heseltine tried to off his Alsatian. In amongst all the bitch-slaps and befouling of the air a voice on the sideline was heard to complain about there being children in attendance: ‘Fuck the kids there’s gentlemen over here,’ someone contended.
Back in their own game there was little such ado for the Convocation defence, as their hosts continued to be quite toothless. Whenever asked to Lamb and Railton looked the savvy defenders they obviously are, the long periods of opposition inactivity failing to lull them into false securities, while for the same reason nothing more could be asked of Jago, and he did whatever he had to with the minimum of fuss until he made way for McLaren in the closing minutes. Out on the left Kearney enjoyed a particularly good afternoon and was one of the few people on the pitch that kept himself alert and involved throughout the entire humdrum ordeal, and in not putting a (memorable) foot wrong all match he was pretty much the poster boy for the back line as a whole.
But then, a little over ten minutes from time, all the good defensive work was almost undone when the home side slipped a pass into the Convo penalty area after a short bout of keep ball, and everyone bar the recipient suddenly seemed to be under the impression that they were playing musical statues and the tunes had stopped. Mitchell came out on top in the resultant one-on-one, pulling off a great low save, but at the subsequent corner he and his colleagues again got away with riding their luck when one of the Nomads headed over the bar unopposed.
Within about ninety seconds that missed opportunity would come back to haunt Chester as at the other end of the pitch Me, Me, Charlie took time out from dragging barrels of gunpowder around the Convo cellars to net the goal he’d sacrificed everything else for, and while it was difficult to know for sure how many attempts he’d actually had beforehand someone (hamstrung) on the sideline called out “One hundred and eight-ty!”. He may have finally scored, but Schofield’s unremitting self-interest during the game had done his shots-to-goals ratio no good and further enhanced team disharmony.
Having had a little run-out during the closing minutes McLaren then replenished his winter stores after the match by turning his nose up at the chip butties on offer in the Chester clubhouse and ordering something from the ‘Young Batters’ menu’ instead, but sadly most of the rest of the visitors never bothered fraternising with their colleagues and hosts. There are clearly still problems within the Seconds despite recent revolts having for the time being been overcome, but the way to go forward isn’t in undermining the foundations of the team – there’s no place for axe-grinding zealots in Convocation. It’s probably fair to say that when the atmosphere within the changing room is chillier than the autumnal temperature outside (which wasn’t actually that bad, Craig) then there are better ways to spend an afternoon; turning up though, lets you get to see the whites of the treacherous bastards’ eyes – and appropriately on Saturday, a bonfire of their vanities.
Apropos of nothing, on the journey home Halewood seemed to be burning…
Man Of The Match: Poole (G) and Railton both made an impression on the game, which is more than be said for pretty much everybody else on the pitch (although that was hardly the Convo players’ fault), but it was Kearney who really stood out. He was constantly aware of what was going on (or not), always trying to get involved (in what was not going on), and in all put in premium lager of a performance. And all that after apparently he’d only left the house planning to get a pint of milk.
Convocation (4-4-2): Mitchell; Lamb B, Nimmo, Railton, Jago; Kearney, Madeloso, Poole I, Poole G; Kaye, Schofield R; Subs: Fairclough, McLaren, Dickson (not used)
Convocation (4-4-2): Mitchell; Lamb B, Nimmo, Railton, McLaren; Fairclough, Poole I, Jelen, Kaye; Ponting, McNally; Subs: Holder, Dickson
On a warm sunny autumn day in Childwall, Convocation vets turned out for a competitive battle against a well organised Alsop outfit.
The opposition started the better and we out of the traps fast. Willo and Geoff Poole on the left were beaten to the ball first in a couple of battles with a speedy ‘Chico’ for Alsop.
When Convo did attack, there had been a patient build up play with Paul Ponting in midfield, Ian and Geoff Poole and Fairclough passing it round well to Richie Schofield but no end product.
Shortly later on, with the game still goal-less, a dubious free kick given by referee Ged to Alsop, a very quick free kick was taken and Alsop slotted a finish inside Mitchells near post. The referee allowed it despite not blowing or appearing to know what was going on as he was still chatting himself to other players when the goal was scored.
At half time with the score 1-0 to the opposition, Convo could have no complaints on the balance of play.
2nd half started well, G Poole came into attack and a few early opportunities were carved out. Schofield looking lively and Poole also crossing for Fairclough but the defender did well to get in first and rob him of the ball in the 6 yard box.
Then with Convo edging their way back into the game, Paul in midfield scored a beauty of a goal, from 20 yards, chipping the keeper who was at full stretch, into the top left of the net.
So, with the game evenly balanced, within 5 minutes it turned on its head. Ian Poole won a fair ball against an opposition midfielder who then took a bit of offence to this and wrestled Poole to the ground, not letting go of him until other players intervened. The referee subsequently sent off (or let the opposition sub the player!) despite his protests.
This (or an apparent lack of fitness compared to the opposition) seemed to have an affect on convocation, as they then fizzled out of the game. A tidy finish from Alsop then allowed a bit of mixed up defending in convo’s back line to give them the lead. More further opportunities for the opposition arose and 2 more late goals followed.
Overall, a disappointing result but in patches, Convo did play some good football at times. Just let themselves down in the last 3rd. They did defend well for some periods of the game, Billy Lamb and Mike Edwards not afraid to stick their foot in but overall, Jamie Southern made some crucial challenges at times and was a clear winner for the Man of the Match.
Andy Mac came on for all of 10 seconds at the end.
Convocation (4-4-2): Mitchell; Willis, Southern, Prince, Edwards; Poole G, Poole I, Ponting, Fairclough; Schofield R, Nimmo; Subs: Holder, Lamb B, McLaren
Peter Taylor Reports
It was a gloomy autumn afternoon. Soft going. A lonely Wyncote - too early in the season for University matches, and the far from capacity crowd of 2, seemingly melting into the landscape.
Contrary to the circulating rumours, the Bear’s absence could not be attributed to the recent press sting that had done for big Sam. Our Captain was convalescing following some recent, and essential, re-plumbing work.
So. The vice Captain in charge. 11 players available. Billy Lamb missing - presumably loitering somewhere around Filkins Lane.
Chester are always good opponents. Some new (and younger) faces in their team this time, and they started the more assured. The Convocation back 4 of Southern, Doyle, Kearney and Jago, looked nervous. The unfortunate Doyle being central to 2 of Chester's first half goals; mis-timing a header allowing the centre forward to nip in behind to score, and losing out in a 50-50 on the edge of the box for another.
The third goal was down to the pace of Chester's forward. Carrying the ball half the length of the pitch, past 2 or 3 defenders, and rifling a shot past Mitchell. Not much anyone could have done about that one.
But Convo were not rolling over. Doyle was growing into the game. The midfield were starting to pass the ball well. Jelen and Prince making a nuisance of themselves up front. Ponting was a constant threat on the right. Holder and Poole (I) working hard in the centre, and Poole (G) linking up well with Kearney on the left.
Half time, and Prince swapped attack for defence. Doyle moving up alongside Jelen. The pattern continued. Convocation playing some intricate football. Chester always dangerous.
Then it came. Poole getting a goal back. Then Holder with a smart finish, in off a post. Finally, the best of the lot. A sweet strike from Ponting after an excellent passing move. Was the comeback on? While it has been known, any Convo aficionado would tell you that it would be unlikely at best. And so it was. Nomads kept the home team at arms length. Just. A penalty, so nearly saved by Mitchell. A one on one following a strong tackle to win the ball from Prince. 3-5.
And so it finished. Mistakes, again the downfall for Convocation. But encouraging signs. Good football. Energy. Spirit. Commitment. Goals. Quality Goals. Despite the loss (to a good team) a game to reflect on the positives. Something for the captain to build on, when he returns from his knobectomy rehabilitation.
Man of the match: A player that, according to Mitcho, only plays for Convo once a decade, the m-o-m goes to Ponting. A great goal, never stopped running, and was involved in most of Convocation’s good work going forward. See you in 2026!
Convocation (4-4-2): Mitchell; Kearney, Southern, Doyle, Jago; Poole G, Poole I, Holder, Ponting; Prince, Jelen
Convocation (4-4-2): Round; Willis, Southern, Prince, Lamb B; Hoban, Fairclough, Poole I, O'Brien R; Lamb P, Schofield R; Subs: Holder, Kearney, Madeloso, Berrington, McLaren, Dickson (unused)
Bobby Mimms reports
From one extreme to the other. Just as no one could quite work out how Convocation’s Seconds managed to lose seven-one on the Welsh border last week despite being in with a chance of getting something from the game with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, on Saturday it was a mystery to all involved how they held on for a (relatively) respectable seven-two defeat even though it wouldn’t have been unwarranted had their opponents, Essemmay, burst through the double-figure barrier. The visitors to Wyncote were at times so superior it was almost ridiculous, and for long periods lay siege to their hosts’ goal in a fashion that would have made Rourke’s Drift seem like a tea dance. Were it not for some woeful finishing from them, particularly in the second period, then the final scoreline would have been much more reflective of what actually happened on the pitch.
Amazingly, Convo somehow escaped from the first half only one adrift despite their rearguard manoeuvres for most of that time being a riot of chaos and comedy, and during the interval there was a genuine belief that, so long as they could continue to ride their luck, they might actually be able to get something from the tie. The tongue-in-cheek suggestion as they took their breather, that nobody was able sit down because their arses had been so severely kicked, was an indicator of just how absurd that notion was, although admittedly the absurdity wouldn’t be truly appreciated until hindsight kicked in after the final whistle.
But at least there was a final whistle – there hadn’t been an opening one due to the young referee turning up late, another victim of Convo’s new penchant for kicking off at quarter past two rather than half past (why is this so?). As a result it was left to Andy McLaren to officiate the first couple of minutes, although it was a shame that in doing so he didn’t recreate a previous incarnation as man in the middle when, on a scorching hot day in Heidelberg and without any other way of attracting attention, he’d had to clap his hands to communicate decisions.
By the time the Convo Captain was able to return to his usual haunt on the sideline alongside fellow substitute Paul Dickson it was already clear that it was going to be a long afternoon for his charges. They’d lined-up in the usual 4-4-2 formation, with Keith Purcell retaining his place in goal despite suffering the effects of a pre-match tongue lashing from the Storrsdale’s Sandra Lund regarding the club’s moonlight flit to the APH; ahead of him in defence Andy Willis and Billy Lamb were flanked by Phil Moss (l) and Tim Jago (r), in midfield Mike Edwards and Ian Poole formed the central partnership with Dave Hoban on the left wing and Richy O’Brien the other, while the vanguard of the side was led (if that’s the right word – it wouldn’t get a chance to ‘advance’ very much) by Richy Schofield and Joel Jelen.
None of them played particularly well, but at the same time Essemmay were an excellently drilled unit that didn’t let them play well. In the first half, at least, the visitors’ quick passing was more than their hosts could handle, especially as the concomitant movement off the ball was dragging Convo’s harassed two banks of four into eight zigzagged banks of one. About the only thing that the orange-shirted rearguard (which was pretty much everyone in that hue) did just about cope with in the opening quarter of the game, before the uncomfortably warm conditions started taking a toll on their tormented bodies, was last-ditch defending, with numerous shots being blocked by heroes/idiots (take your pick) throwing themselves in the way; many more attempts were either narrowly off target or straight down Purcell’s throat.
Willis momentarily forgot that he was playing football and not Jackass at one point, attempting an overhead-kicked clearance several feet above the edge of his own six-yard box and then landing with the sort of quite audible “ooofff” that never sounds reassuring when forced from freefalling folk in their mid-fifties. Convo’s ragtag resistance couldn’t last forever though, and Essemmay finally broke the deadlock shortly before the twentieth minute, although somewhat ironically it was actually one of their opponents who did the honours for them. They swung one of their many corners into the home side’s penalty area and, not for the first or last time, a red-and-black-shirted player attacked it the most determinedly. He powered a header on target that Purcell blocked instinctively, shoving the ball high into the air, but as it returned back to earth and the #1 attempted to knock the thing over his crossbar to safety (under the mistaken impression that an opponent was about to challenge him), with wrists of rubber he simply punched it into the roof of his own net.
Now and again when a team under so much pressure finally concedes it can act as a release and they are able to compose themselves before kicking on to greater things. Not on this occasion though, as Convo continued to act extremely panicky at the back whenever Essemmay had the ball – and indeed when they themselves did – especially as, at times, the visitors appeared to have more strikers than the junior doctors. They doubled their lead several minutes after scoring the first, again at a corner, although on this occasion a glancing header at the front of the penalty-area pack was all that was required to redirect the drilled delivery across the face of the goal and into the net above the futile jump of Jago at the rear post.
Still they came: Zulus, thousands of them (or so it felt). There was no let-up from Essemmay’s front eight and shortly after their second it looked as though one of them had got another when he stabbed the ball into the home side’s net, although the gimlet-eyed lad in black determined that the final touch had been from an offside position. The Convo defence wasn’t actually doing too much wrong (their headless chickenry aside), they just couldn’t clear the lines for long enough to compose themselves because their midfield counterparts were somewhat AWOL. Lamb in particular was doing his best to show a bit of rearguard spunk, but even so the visitors kept swarming into the Convocation area and its natives were struggling to cope. Perhaps their spirit was being sapped by bad vibes emanating from the sideline, and a Spectre at the Feast – this ghost though, wasn’t haunting the game because he was the victim of an injustice.
After their disallowed effort you did sort of sense a slight abatement in Essemmay’s dynamism, but nonetheless, with half the Convo team having played the part of Ale Knights at Ian Mitchell’s wedding do the previous evening, no one in orange would have held out much hope that they’d gain any advantage from their slight reprieve. It continued to look like a case of peashooters versus cannons, but then on the only occasion that the home side managed to fire off one of the vegetables during the first period they went and scored: a little under ten minutes before the break the official spotted a hand ball in the visitors’ eighteen-yard box – one of the phantom variety – and Schofield netted from the spot to make it 2-1, which remained the case when the teams swapped ends.
Amazingly, Convo could have been level within ninety seconds of the restart, and from there victory would surely have been assured once the minds of the Essemmay players went into meltdown at the incredulity of such a scenario. Despite having had a first half in which you would charitably describe his playing style as ‘languid’, it was Jelen who almost did the business when he wriggled his way down the right-hand edge of the opposition penalty area (as he would have looked at it) and then blasted a shot into the side netting from about eight yards out, the trickery of the ultimately-futile move providing yet another adventure in his eternal game of Good Joel/Bad Joel.
That would turn out to be a rare exception to how the remainder of the match panned out though, and irrespective of playing better in the second forty-five minutes than they had in the first Convo actually ended up worse off, shipping another five goals. What probably accounted for the leveller playing field after the break was that Essemmay’s previously impeccable passing went to the dogs (or to Convocation standard as ‘the dogs’ is otherwise known), although it couldn’t have been any less accurate for either team if everyone on the park had been blindfolded – which, come to think of it, might also have helped the home side with their concessions.
The first of those was several minutes after Jelen’s attempt at the other end of the pitch, and it was debatable just who covered themselves in less glory: the mannequin-esque Convo defence that failed to move with a red-and-black striped opponent running towards them, or the young ref who failed to spot that by the time the killer pass was played the same red-and-black striped recipient was more than just a tad beyond the last man. Having supposedly beaten the offside trap (nobody would have agreed with the official’s non-decision unless they’d necked half-a-dozen bottles of Blue Nun) the guy in question then ran on and rounded Purcell before rolling the ball into the vacated net.
By the time everyone had taken up position for the restart it was obvious that Schofield was in ‘Me, Me Charlie’ mode and was getting ready to shoot directly from the centre spot, although a split-second before he could O’Brien roared at him not to… and astonishingly he didn’t. What a time to be alive! Any resentment the forward may have felt at the unfairness of that though, would have (should have?) been tempered several minutes later when he took time out from his latest bid to tread on every blade of grass on the pitch (he was taking goal kicks at one point) to rifle a free kick into the visitors’ net from just outside the area as they tried to arrange a wall whilst arguing with the official about its award.
It would be stretching it a bit to suggest that the home side deserved the goal, although there’d definitely been an improvement in their overall performance since the break, particularly in midfield. For once they couldn’t use the complaint that Edwards and Poole (for example) were being overrun in the middle by younger opponents because the visitors were just as ancient, if not more so, but nonetheless the two Convo men had found a new lease of life at the start of the second period and were giving a more realistic account of themselves and what they were made of. Out on the flank O’Brien’s perseverance also started to pay off as he too grew more and more into the game (for a while), and on the whole it didn’t seem that the heat was causing the orange-shirted ranks as much of a problem as had initially been feared it might, although the flip side of that argument, of course, was that Essemmay were simply pacing themselves under the September sun.
Not long after Convocation’s second, sometime between the hour mark and the midpoint of the half, Essemmay re-upped the regularity of their shots on goal, although just as earlier the vast majority were off-target and frequently ended up way beyond it (and, due to the direction the visitors were facing after the break, halfway to the distant Mather Avenue). One particular player who wasn’t signing up for such wastefulness though, was the scorer of their fourth, which he arrowed into the top-ish corner of the nets from a couple of paces outside the penalty area, giving Purcell no chance.
For the hosts the final twenty minutes were just one long struggle to keep the scoreline respectable, ish, by any means possible, whether it be by making substitution after substitution, good old-fashioned timewasting or, heaven forbid, defending diligently. There was none of that last one on show when one of the Essemmay players easily skipped past Jago and put a cross into the box that looped over Purcell and looked certain to drop into the goal at the back post, but just as the ‘keeper screamed out a shrill and perfectly clear “You Cunt!” in anticipation of his net bulging once again the ball landed on the top of the crossbar and then bounced out of play.
Moments after that the visitors had another great chance to score again when one of their ilk ghosted into the Convo penalty area and then past the advancing #1, before playing a waist-height cross through the six-yard box that would have been ideal for any colleagues had they been on the same wavelength. The only one rushing in though, was Jago at the back post, and as he took stock of the situation, of the loose ball and the open goal, you could almost see the dollar signs line up in his eyes like a slot machine about to pay out. Alas, he cleared the danger by conceding a corner rather than an oggie, and in doing so robbed everyone of a much needed laugh for the second week in a row.
Chris McNally made a belated appearance not long after that (the First Team game on the adjacent pitch having just finished with a last-minute Convo equaliser) as Hoban and Moss had both had to make early darts, and Jelen had injured himself; Willis was sent up front to make room for the Mancunian in the back line, while Dickson had been forced to leave his sanctuary on the bench and join in the defensive ‘fun’ as well. By the time all that happened though, Essemmay had already scored a fifth with a lob from that vaguest of distances, range, although their cause was undoubtedly helped by Purcell having been glued to the ground.
Essemmay’s sixth arrived with a little over ten minutes remaining after one of their players slipped easily through the phantasmal orange-shirted rearguard and fired off a shot from the edge of the penalty area that Purcell got a hand to but couldn’t keep out, while the cherry on the cake that was number seven was scored when their bulky but humourless centre forward ran on into the Convo box from the right and toed the ball across the ‘keeper from about ten yards out, finding the back of the net via the furthest upright. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the hosts in the closing stages though, as they were also treated to the sight of Dickson picking up possession deep inside his own half and being allowed to drift upfield unmolested like a slow-mo Franz Beckenbauer, much to the annoyance of McLaren who couldn’t believe how much time he was given by the opposition.
The Captain’s ‘schnazzle-frazzle’ Mutley impression should be the lasting memory of a game to otherwise be forgotten because even if Convocation hadn’t played like dopes they would still, in all likelihood, have lost; for most of the contest Essemmay were very good, and sometimes you’ve just got to admit that you’ve been beaten by a better opponent. Ideally it will also be confined to the less-read pages of history because, just as last week, there was an unpleasant atmosphere within the side, fabricated once again by malcontents with no respect for the club’s authority. It’s no secret what they hope to achieve through their unpalatable behaviour, but why they are doing it, and why they think they will succeed, is a mystery to all right-minded folk. The really sad thing about the situation is that even after the Second Team is once and for all exorcised of Banquo’s ghost, the season ahead doesn’t look at all appealing.
Man Of The Match: Now you’re asking. You can rule out everyone involved with the midfield because that’s where most of Convo’s problems originated, and of those that are left probably only Schofield and Lamb did anything that to make them stand out from the pack – they both still had their pros and cons (oh, their cons), so to pick one at random… it’s the hot ball that is the sixty-odd year old.
[If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this match report: Deal with it!]
Convocation (4-4-2): Purcell; Moss, Lamb B, Willis, Jago; Hoban, Edwards, Poole I, O’Brien R; Schofield R, Jelen; Subs: McLaren, Dickson, McNally
Bobby Mimms reports
Oh how great it was to be back. It’s been such a super summer, one in which the fun’s just never stopped, and on Saturday everything got just so much more funner with everyone practically skipping for joy and clicking their heels together in glee as they put on their football boots for the new season’s opener. Everything’s been just so fantastic in the world, in Europe and within Convocation since May that those lucky people who were selected to play in this match must have thought that things couldn’t possibly get any more fan-tastic, but were surely over the moon to be proven wrong after the great British Steel love-in.
On the down side though, Convocation’s Seconds carried on from where they’d left off at the end of last season and succumbed to a bit of a drubbing, the one big difference on Saturday (no not that one) being that they didn’t deserve it; sure, the best team won, but there was never the gulf between the protagonists that the final score suggests. It was still nil-nil at the interval and for a brief moment, a little over a quarter-of-an-hour from time, the home side led by just the odd goal in three and a grandstand finish looked to be on the cards – while that did sort of happen only one side took part. As Tim Jago put it, on the way to the White Bear pub after the match: “It was a strange game, even by Convocation’s standards.”
Retiring to an off-site establishment has never been the done thing when Convo have played at Shotton in the past, but obviously due to the current economic climate and particularly the Tata Steel affair things have changed considerably for the home side. Their old clubhouse lay empty, forsaken and locked up, and indeed the whole complex resembled a ghost town to the extent that you really wouldn’t have been surprised to see a few tumbleweeds blowing around. The changing rooms was the only building still in use but its boiler had been nicked over the summer, although that would turn out to be just the second most brainless occurrence to happen there in recent times after one-or-two of the more self-important visitors attempted their own Peasants’ Revolt on the way out to play and demanded a team meeting – and that was when the fun really hit the fan.
Here’s what you need to know about that new high point for team morale:
As a result of the powwow the British Steel players were kept waiting despite having turned up fifteen minutes late themselves, an inconvenience that was especially irritating seeing as how it was tipping down, although at least they could shelter (if they’d wanted too – few did) in the new dugouts that had been plonked on the sideline nearest the changing rooms – dugouts that looked suspiciously like garden sheds with the fronts removed. Eventually, once everyone had finally found their way onto the pitch, it was the home side who got the season underway, decked out in Crazy Gang blue-and-yellow and on the instruction of the un-mothballed Aidy.
The first period was a fairly evenly-balanced affair and the teams remained on par at the break, but undoubtedly the majority of its chances came at the Convocation end. The visitors had begun the game with Keith Purcell in goal and a back four of Jamie Southern and Ben Prince being flanked by Andy Willis on the left and Billy Lamb on the right, and while they were never overran they certainly had to have their wits about them against opponents who didn’t exactly look ready to start pushing up daisies. Things weren’t helped by the fact that everybody on the pitch was finding it rather difficult to remain upright on what was a wet, slippery surface, and countless free kicks were awarded during the match for upended players accidentally barrelling through nearby opponents’ legs. One such dead ball, awarded to British Steel on the edge of their guests’ penalty area, ten minutes in, almost caught the Convo #1 by surprise as he tried to arrange a wall and he did well to dive away to his left and push the shot out for a corner just as it was about to creep in at the near post.
Shortly after that the ‘keeper had to be on his toes again when an opponent waltzed through a thicket of orange-stockinged legs and fired off a rasping shot from just outside the six-yard box, while the home side did actually bundle the ball into the net at a corner several minutes later, although Aidy agreed with the subsequent howls of the Convo defence that the ‘scorer’ had used his upper arm to do so and disallowed the chancer’s handy work. The most spectacular of British Steel’s attempts on their guests’ goal though (and one that, with hindsight, didn’t bode well), was when one of their players tried his luck from miles out, completely negating Purcell who was off his line, only for his effort to crash back off the crossbar and to Willis on the edge of the penalty area, who then coolly chested possession back to his glove-wearing colleague.
That would be the left back’s last real contribution to the game as before long he was forced to retire from proceedings with some sort of ailment of the arm and was replaced by Andy McLaren, who’d spent the time up until then on the sideline cleverly cloaking his orange kit with a bright orange raincoat. Hmmm? The Captain would play through the pain, suffering as he was with a bad case of knob rot, but his mind was probably taken off such woes during his short spell on the pitch when he misjudged a header as the ball dropped out of the heavens and thus nearly had his nose sheared off. ‘Nearly’ was also the operative word around then when a long British Steel throw-in caused chaos in the Convo goalmouth, with a low Purcell save, a crucial Lamb block, and numerous fluffed attempts at a clearance contributing to what was in general an hysterical approach to defending that the late Gene Wilder would have been proud of; eventually Wat Tyler disposed of the danger having stopped an umpteenth shot whilst covering the goal line.
Convocation did have a few opportunities to score of their own such as when (Unbelievable) Geoff Poole fired over the bar from a tight angle not long after kick off. He’d started on the right side of a four-man midfield for whom the first half was undoubtedly the high point as they held their own against British Steel’s more athletic-looking equivalent. Dave Hoban was on the left and, like his opposite flanker, was always up for chasing passes into spaces that, alas, regularly skidded off the wet sward and away from them. Richy O’Brien and Paul Fairclough started in the middle, the former of that duo being replaced by Mike Edwards midway through the half, and all three were their usual combative selves, breaking down opposition moves if nothing else, while as a whole none of middle tier’s rare mistakes were punished (it would be a different story after the break).
Fairclough played especially well, reading the game as though he’d already had a sneak peek at the script, and it was he who most frequently set up Paul Lamb (up front alongside Richy Schofield) with his many chances to score, most of which he should really have done better with. On numerous occasions the forward gained possession just outside the British Steel area but instead of trying his luck or even laying the ball off he seemed determined to walk the thing into the back of the net through the massed ranks of the opposition, although the one time he did actually get a shot off it was blocked on the line. He was also flattened during one dead-end meander for what was a stonewall penalty, but Aidy, having one of his senior moments, opted not to award it.
Soaked to the skin and having earlier been hectored to within an inch of their lives, the Convocation troops couldn’t have known as the half-time whistle went with the game still goalless that that was as good as the afternoon was going to get for them. Jago replaced McLaren at left back for the restart and it probably only took a few minutes before he realised that he’d drawn the short straw and would have been better staying put on the sideline. There was nothing that he or anyone else in the rearguard could have done though, when British Steel took the lead with a deep lob from thirty yards out, and the scorers’ subsequent proclamation to his team mates that that was the only way they were going to get the ball in the net, while giving slightly too much credit to the visitors, did suggest that Convo’s dogged defending up until then had had its admirers.
To their credit the concession didn’t seem to unsettle the Liverpool side and they continued to trade blows with their opponents on equal terms, although there was a definite feeling (uncorroborated without OPTA stats) that more of the game was being played in the Convo half of the pitch than had been before the break. Their defence appeared to be coping with the extra pressure and was keeping the British Steel forwards at bay, limiting them to nothing more than shots from distance, but then without warning Southern grew tired of such efficient nonsense and made a cock-up on the edge of the centre circle, allowing one of the hosts’ substitutes to run clear through on goal. Having rounded Purcell though, he only just got the ball into the unguarded net, scoring via the underside of the crossbar.
Still the visitors showed no signs of the collapse to come, and in fact the ensuing ten-or-so minutes were probably their best of the game. Having up until then displayed all the positional discipline of a paper bag in the wind, Schofield finally got the ball at his feet inside the British Steel penalty area but could only blast a shot across the face of the target, while Lamb (P) also had a couple of great chances to score, sending one looping lobbed effort from down the side of the box inches wide of the furthest upright and then forcing the opposition ‘keeper into a great save from about ten yards out and central.
A lot of the credit for Convo’s purple patch must go to a resurgence of midfield pressing, in particular from Edwards and Fairclough, but British Steel hadn’t gone away, obviously, and on quick breaks down the other end of the pitch they twice almost capitalised from Convo’s eternal Achilles heel – the own goal. Firstly one of their players did well to wriggle past Lamb (B) and drill a low tempter along the edge of the six-yard box, but while none of the guy’s team mates were on hand to take advantage Jago came steaming in at the back post with a glint in his eye and would have been well within his rights to net – well, by his standards anyway – rather than hook the thing out for a corner as he did. Not long after that, and from the other side of the pitch, one of the hosts attempted to put a cross into the box but only found the mush of Southern, about six yards away, from where the ball looped up with spin towards the furthest upright and was only inches wide of being a fantastically daft oggie.
Still the rain was unrelenting and still everyone kept slipping, although Poole took the accidental fouling to a different level when he attempted to win the ball off an opponent but missed it and nearly decapitated him across his shins, right in front of a thoroughly unimpressed British Steel bench. Despite their squawks of protest Aidy awarded a free kick and nothing else, but throughout the game the official was rather selective with his decision making, missing some quite blatant misdemeanours, including one use of the arm that was so obvious such gratuitous ball-handling hadn’t been seen since Michael Jackson passed away.
Although no one knew it as such at the time, the most decisive minute of the game arrived a little over a quarter-of-an-hour from the end and its evolution began at roughly the same spot where Chopper Poole had been penalised moments earlier. Phil Moss (who’d come on at right back in place of the elder Lamb) gained possession and lumped a delightful, deep cross into the British Steel penalty area that the younger Lamb brought down well, and after taking a step or two to clear a path to goal he then blasted the ball past the #1 from about twelve yards out. Game on.
Ha, ‘Game on.’ This was Convocation, so obviously straight from the restart British Steel were allowed to surge forward to the edge of their guests’ penalty area where one of the boys in blue, held up on its corner by Moss, curled the ball past his opponent, over Purcell and into the top corner at the far post. Barely sixty seconds had passed since the thing was getting picked out of the other net; an almost deathly hush spoke volumes for everyone’s incredulity at what had happened.
After that the final fifteen minutes were a right dog’s dinner from Convo’s perspective, complete with starter and dessert. It was clear that everyone was flagging, first game of the season and all, and when one of the younger British Steel players scored their fourth with a shot into the top corner from just outside the penalty area Purcell’s tired dive – flop? – confirmed as much.
Very much the kings of the collapsing bouncy castle, Convocation’s implosion really started to gather pace after that, and just inside the final ten minutes the home side scored a fifth. They attacked down their left flank and knocked a low cross in towards the penalty spot, from where a player hit a first-time drive down the middle of the goal that Purcell did well to block with an outstretched leg. Stamina levels nearly on empty, no one in orange could clear the rebound properly though, and from about fifteen yards out and left of the target (as Convo would have seen it) a blue-shirted (relative) whipper-snapper curled a shot into the far top corner of the nets.
There a brief respite from the scoring after that to enable Prince to participate in a spot of high farce, when on the edge of his own penalty area he appeared to just overbalance with the ball at his feet and no one near him, almost as if someone had taken an axe to his ankles and shouted “Timber!” (Earlier, on the way to Shotton, the Vice-captain had almost gone aquaplaning whilst driving at 70 mph alongside a bloody great oil tanker on the Weston Point Expressway.) After that though, the previous service resumed and the home side netted again when an unmarked player got on the end of a corner and absolutely wellied a shot into the postage stamp portion of the goal; Jago, guarding the post at which it was scored, claimed that he’d been off-sighted by the redundant dive of Purcell, but due to the strike’s power and precision there’s no way he’d have stopped it even if he could have used his hands.
There was to be one last kick in the teeth for the visitors, and in particular for Purcell, who couldn’t really have done much more at the six concessions to that point. British Steel once again pushed the ball through the flagging Convo ranks until one of their ilk fired off a low skidding shot from about twenty yards out that should have been easy enough for the #1 to turn around his right-hand post, if nothing else. Unfortunately though, one of two things then happened: either the first ever observable interaction with dark matter took place causing the ball to flip up over him and into the net, or out of sheer fatigue he never got his body behind the shot properly causing the ball to flip up over him and into the net. We shall probably never know which…
McLaren replaced Jago in the aftermath of that and the game restarted, whereupon Aidy blew for full time immediately, leaving the Convo captain grumbling about the energy he’d wasted getting into position.
Tin hats donned, everyone retired to the cramped changing room, but after the shenanigans of ninety-odd minutes earlier nobody was in the mood for an inquest into what was little more than an almost-inevitable fatigue-induced collapse; McLaren certainly wasn’t going to bolt the door and lay into his charges, although one British Steel player did manage to get locked in and their manager had to return from the pub to rescue him (having by then revealed to your correspondent that there has only ever been two British Steel teams – so how the hell Convo have been playing their Fourths all these years?). Nonetheless this was still a rather joyless encounter, for a change due to matters off the pitch rather than on it, which is possibly the way of things to come if certain people’s bullying and attempts at poisoning the wells are anything to go by. Understandably the Captain looked thoroughly pissed off at the end, even when savouring the post-match grub and giving it a Four-Star Bear Rating; unfortunately the zero-star atmosphere left you longing for the levity of a Brexit discussion, so maybe Saturday and the summer weren’t so much fun after all.
Man Of The Match: Ignoring the closing quarter-of-an-hour nobody played poorly, but special mentions must go to Prince and Southern for their resolute(ish) defending, and the slightly over-enthusiastic Poole and that fantastically oafish foul in the second half. The award goes to the indefatigable Fairclough though, as he was central to everything good that Convo did during the match and always seemed to be in the thick of the action.
Convocation (4-4-2): Purcell; Willis, Southern, Prince, Lamb B; Hoban, O’Brien R, Fairclough, Poole G; Schofield R, Lamb P; Subs: Edwards, McLaren, Jago, Moss