[BP] Starting to think we might not be competitive in the Garrison Cup!
The Liverpool match decimated the squad, and the "Geoff Poole 4" [Mark Kerry, Andy Russell, Andy Morris, Mark Houston] meant we could at least get a game, so many thanks to them for that. Unfortunately, a scratch team against a much younger, fitter and faster side that clearly play together regularly, was never going to give us much of a chance, although, despite the score it wasn't totally one way traffic!
In other news Willo got lost, and Chris Mac was about an hour late!
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; Kerry, Bastow, Prince, Kearney; Poole G, Poole I, Morris, Russell; Houston M, Willis; Sub: McNally
Bobby Mimms reports
Dog shit. No, not Convocation’s performance on Saturday, nor the awful tackle by a Chester player in the dying seconds that led to a sixteen-man brawl. Certainly not the sausage roll, chips and beans in the Nomads clubhouse after the match, and not even its manager informing the chaps that they would have to leave (admittedly “before quarter-to-six”, which was half-an-hour away). No, it was the psychosomatic discomfort that plagued the participants throughout this game after a pile of the stuff was discovered on the pitch shortly before kick-off and Craig Kaye had to perform that most ancient of footballing rituals, the ceremonial removal of the turd – it’s been too long. After that, with everyone paranoid to hell about there being more of the stuff about, they kept getting occasional faecal whiffs even though it was (probably) all in their heads.
It was a wonder anybody could smell anything though, as it was extremely windy, and odourless, fresh air was in abundance. The conditions in Chester were as autumnal as could be for the last weekend in September and dead leaves bestrew the pitch, the pitch that was only marginally less steep than Brownlow Hill; the ‘fresh air’ was blowing down the incline, and buffeted the ball all over the place whenever it was above head height, which was fairly often (it was forever disappearing into the bordering back gardens, although they all had gates so that it could be retrieved easily enough – or so that the home owners could let their dogs out for a shit), while whenever the sun briefly made an appearance it would also glare into the eyes of those playing towards the summit. At least it was mainly dry and the sward was in decent nick, despite it having been as wet as an otter’s pocket of late; there was the occasional moment of very light rain during the game, although it had tipped down overnight and earlier in the morning.
Convo had turned up at Boughton Hall with (eventually) thirteen men at their disposal, but Captain Andy McLaren decided to sit the first half out in the company of the tardy Steve Ross. On the pitch Keith Purcell was in goal behind a back four of (l to r) Billy Lamb, Justin Shanahan, Dave Bastow – who scored “a worldie” last week, apparently – and Paul Fairclough. Up front Ben Prince partnered Kaye, and in midfield Geoff Poole started on the left, Simon Holder and Ian Poole were in the middle, and on the right flank was (cousin of the Pooles) Mark Kerry.
Decked out in orange-and-white Convocation got the game underway – Prince having lost the toss: quelle surprise – facing up the incline, and into the capricious bluster and sun: thankyou very much Mr Vice-captain. Unsurprisingly under such circumstances, the Nomads were well on top during the opening quarter-of-an-hour and at times it looked as if they might overwhelm their guests with their fervour, but it was certainly not one-way traffic: Convo had a great chance to take the lead when Poole (G) was played in down the inside-left channel, but he cracked his subsequent shot against the nearest upright and the rebound was hoofed to safety. The former club secretary vexed his opponents again some minutes later, albeit inadvertently, when he put a looping cross into the Chester box and got it much closer to the goal than he'd intended, so close in fact that a number of visitors in the vicinity were of the opinion that the ball had crossed the line before it was cleared and he’d scored. The referee was unimpressed though, and waved away their appeals – he’d obviously left his special vibrating watch in the changies.
Unfortunately for Convocation though, by then, back down in base camp, they’d already conceded themselves. Chester too had hit the woodwork in the opening stages, a screamer of an effort that may well have been round a particle accelerator a few times beforehand, but then with about ten minutes on the clock they attacked down their left and put a low cross in towards the near post that caused the visitors no end of trouble. After what felt like an eternity of Bastow and Fairclough trying to block the gold-shirted player who received the ball and shepherd him away from goal he squared the thing to a colleague on the other side of the target, and from about six yards out he took advantage of being unmarked to slot past Purcell’s desperate lunge.
In fairness, taking the lead was no more than Chester deserved for their general superiority in the early part of the game, but when they scored again several minutes later it was only because they benefitted from a huge dollop of good luck. Convocation would go on to dominate the centre of midfield for long periods of the contest, but even when they were definitely second best at the start of proceedings their hosts were still strangely unambitious there, although on the one occasion that they did put a decent couple of passes together in that part of the pitch the ball ended up with one of their midfielders just outside the corner of the Convo penalty area and he let fly with a shot that appeared to be pretty much straight at Purcell. The #1 later admitted that he’d realised straight away something wasn’t right as the effort seemed to be wobbling in mid-flight, and sure enough, just as he was about to get his hands on the thing the wind blasted it away to his left and into the net, leaving him with more than a bit of egg on his face; he was the first to accept that he’d hardly covered himself in glory, but his embarrassment was compounded by him also doing the full Wheller and making an untimely mishap look like a Frank Spencer special.
It was at that point, with about a quarter-of-an-hour gone, that you feared the worst for Convocation because a rout looked quite possible, but then, without warning, they got one back and Chester completely lost the plot. And the home side had no one to blame but themselves: their #1 played the ball out to one of the full backs and he then, inexplicably, knocked it square through the penalty area for a colleague despite Prince lurking, and when the big Derby supporter easily intercepted the pass in the middle he was faced with opponents all out of position and what was effectively an open goal, and side-footed into the net with ease. Before kick-off McLaren had suggested that the Nomads ‘keeper “can't bend”, but he’d said nothing about him being unable to read the minds of divvy defenders either.
That hadn’t been in the Chester game plan and it was evident almost immediately that they had no contingency procedure for it either because they suddenly didn’t seem to know what they should be doing. Within a couple of minutes however, they did the one thing they must have known they shouldn’t do, handle the ball in the area, and the referee duly pointed to the spot. It was Poole (G) who stepped forward to take the kick, and after presumably eyeing up where he wanted to put it he smashed his effort off towards the Van Allen belt – seriously, it was an awful penalty, and if there’d been another goal on top of the goal it would still have cleared the bar. He should have had a chance to atone later on in the half, when another cross into the box produced not so much a whiff of handball as a stench, but the official wasn’t interested in that one, which for eschewers of high farce was probably just as well.
Shortly after that, with the half reaching its mid-point, McLaren made his first change, sending on Ross in a straight swap with Kerry, and within about thirty seconds the incomer had equalised. Convo won a corner and while the majority of the players in the box did the dance of the damned that accompanies every such set piece the winger kept his distance near the back post and then leapt at the delivery to butt the ball into net and send the visitors into raptures. Within the space of five-ish minutes they’d gone from fearing the worst to fearing nothing.
The twenty minutes leading up to the break weren’t much cop as neither team seemed to know whether to stick or twist, and the highlight was probably a couple of quadrant kicks at either end that can’t have lived long in the memory of anyone present (Chester’s corners were poor all game). Nonetheless Convocation were by then the dominant side and their altitudinal disadvantage had been all but forgotten, especially as the hosts continued to languish when in the middle of the pitch where Poole (I) and Holder were making hay while the sun (occasionally) shined – the former was getting stuck in and had turned the place into his own, while the latter took full advantage of being given too much time and space by the opposition and picked them apart easily with clever passes.
Behind them the rearguard was as serene as it had earlier been ruffled and on the few occasions that Chester threatened Shanahan showed them that he was the scrapper his team mates already knew he was; beside him Bastow was the reassuring (and threatening to the opposition) presence that proved Convo were in control. Out on the flanks Poole (G) could gallivant freely knowing that Lamb had his back, while on the right side Ross had taken over seamlessly from the impressive Kerry and was causing the home side all sorts of trouble (admittedly, without any end result), and Fairclough too got the odd chance to venture forward. All in all Convo looked in good shape as the teams swapped elevations.
Wouldn’t you just know it, but after three-quarters-of-an-hour of Convocation defending at what felt like the wrong end of a wind tunnel the bluster died down considerably once the teams swapped ends, and the visitors couldn’t rely on the Nomads being distracted by face freeze as they had at first. Nonetheless, for twenty-or-so minutes after the restart the chaps from Liverpool were the next best thing to imperious and Chester had trouble keeping up with them; the pressure on the home side’s goal was unrelenting and, surely enough, before you could say ‘can anyone else smell dog shit’ they fell behind: Convo won a throw-in on their right-hand flank near one of their opponents corner flags, which Ross hurled into the area, Poole (I) flicked on, and in the middle his brother swivelled onto the ball just outside the six-yard box and smashed it into the net.
Suddenly it was those in gold who must have feared the worst, and with good cause. For about fifteen minutes the ball barely entered the heights of the Convocation half of the pitch and the visitors concocted chance after chance to run away with the game; Kerry had returned for the start of the second period, at left back in place of Lamb, but he might as well have been on the side line twiddling his thumbs for all the defending he had to do. Kaye nearly scored with a low shot across goal that the Nomads ‘keeper did well to get down to his left and push around the post, while Poole (I) tried his luck from downtown and was only just off-target.
Fairclough got stung to buggery by nettles when he had to crawl into the neighbouring hedges to retrieve the ball at one point – emerging, he looked like something from Wind in the Willows (or The Wool in the Willows) – but his pain was surely nothing compared to Prince’s when he wasted a glorious chance to put some daylight between the sides with about twenty-five minutes remaining: Ross, again, had engaged in a spot of fine work down the right before knocking a lovely cross into the opposition six-yard box that was just perfect for the vice-captain, but with the goal at his mercy he showed it mercy and sent his header over the crossbar. Obviously the Viagra salesman had been in town because, like Poole (G) before him, Prince couldn’t keep it down (after that pun be grateful that neither was substituted…).
Bastow began inching forward as the half progressed, firing off a number of long-distance howitzers that must have scared the life out of the Nomads ‘keeper such was their proximity to his goal, and when McLaren made his bow with a little over twenty minutes remaining he gave his centre half’s move into midfield a belated stamp of approval by going three at the back. Kerry (again) and Fairclough took their leave around that time, the latter for Lamb, who would influence proceedings yet, while the former was replaced by the tell-tale-tit captain, who earlier in the game had taken umbrage with one of the home players for tricking Kaye into leaving the ball so that it ran out of play for a Chester throw, complaining from the side line, “Ref, he’s lied.”
McLaren had only been on the pitch a minute (or so) when everything turned ugly for Convocation. Having been so dominant all game the visitors’ midfield went AWOL on one of the rare occasions that their hosts got near their penalty area, and taking advantage of nobody closing him down a player in gold lifted a shot over the defence and Purcell from the edge of the ‘D’. And with one swish of a foot Convo started to redefine the definition of ‘flapping’.
The visitors kept attacking and kept creating decent scoring opportunities, but suddenly every time the Nomads got anywhere near their opponents’ penalty area it was like watching a henhouse with a fox around, and they would convert their chances while Convo continued to be profligate. McLaren could have scored when he snuck around the back of the gold-shirted defence at a corner like a stealth bear, but when the ball duly reached him he directed his shot straight at the #1 from a tight angle, while Poole (I) – whose ‘finest’ hour was still to come – took atoms of paint off the Chester goal frame in the final few minutes with a free kick that just wouldn’t curl enough.
Destiny had caught up with Convocation by then though. They’d been on the attack, looking for an equaliser almost in a state of bewilderment at how they found themselves in such a situation, when they were sucker-punched by Chester breaking uphill at speed; understandably the visitors had pushed almost everyone forward, so when a long pass was played through the deserted middle third of the pitch only Shanahan was back to deal with two attackers, and when the free one was fed by his mate he had all the time in the world to slam a shot past the exposed Purcell from down the side of the area.
You could almost see the players in orange deflate as it flew in, although Bastow was well and truly re-flated moments later when he got the ball right up his hoop at a corner from a blast at point-blank range that pretty much lifted him off the ground. From more-or-less the same spot Chester scored their fifth in what should have been the third minute from time, when their left winger advanced into the penalty area and cracked a shot across goal that Purcell blocked with one foot but, alas, the rebound then hit his other peg and deflected back into the net behind him. The player in gold who struck the effort would surely disagree, but it was difficult not to mark it down as an own goal.
Moments after the restart the home side got forward again and fired of a pretty tame shot from outside the ‘D’ that Purcell smothered down to his right, and with not enough energy to get to his feet the ’keeper passed the ball out to Lamb while still on his knees with what was later described as “a hospital roll”, and on the edge of the penalty area a slightly unhinged player in gold launched himself two-footed at the veteran. There was a howl of pain followed by much effing and jeffing, and once they both got back to their feet – thankfully, uninjured – the two foes seemed to indulge in a spot of Eskimo kissing, while all around them an umpteen-man stramash erupted. The last thing the situation needed was anyone making matters worse, but Convo’s #1 diplomat disagreed and went in all guns blazing, arms swinging like windmill sails, before eventually Shanahan stumbled out of the melee hollering, “Fuck off Pooley, you've just punched me in the face.”
That may have been a spot of friendly fire, but there was no mistaking the total lack of friendliness in the glazed-over eyes of Lamb’s assaulter (like a cross between a Vietnam vet and the Terminator), so once everything had finally been calmed down, and the visitors had taken their free kick, the referee – one of the Nomads players – waited for about ten seconds and then blew up a couple of minutes early to prevent anyone getting seriously hurt.
A strong smell of weed drifted around the place as the players trudged back to the changing rooms, and after the shenanigans of moments earlier quite a few of them could have done with a puff or two (and at least it made a change from dog shit). Convo didn't deserve to lose; you could argue that they didn't deserve not to win, as for the majority of the game they were the better side and fought hard for their advantage. But they wasted far too many good chances to put the game to bed so they can’t complain about their plight, and at least that means it wasn't all Prince's fault (it was joked afterwards that he was the new Andy Willis, as with losing the pre-match toss and then missing his gilt-edged header he had “spoiled it for everyone”).
The punch-up at the end was a strange denouement to what was otherwise an enjoyable and amiable encounter, but as it was on the same pitch that the lovely Deano went on his one-man charm offensive several years ago maybe someone should dig up its centre circle and see if there are any psychotic Indians buried underneath. They shouldn’t be surprised to find excrement, mind.
Man Of The Match: It’s probably Holder, but he never reads the website so it can go to Poole (G), although everyone was in with a shout.
Convocation (4-4-2): Purcell; Lamb B, Shanahan, Bastow, Fairclough; Poole G, Holder, Poole I, Kerry; Prince, Kaye; Subs: Ross, McLaren
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; McLaren, Bastow, Prince, Ross; Poole G, Poole I, Kay, Kaye; Knox, Holder; Subs: Round, Fairclough, Lamb B
Convocation (4-4-2): Morgan; O’Brien S, Southern, Bastow, Lamb B; Ross, Poole I, Welsh J, Prince; Holder, Houston; Subs: Kaye, Carnacina, McLaren