The OTFC IIIs walked out for their second cup game in as many weeks against a Thorntonians side who had given us a real run around in pre-season. However, with the OTFC Draft having been implemented, the IIIs were more of a new-look side. James Khaj, Nader Meradji, Wes Bishop, Jez Eggar and Stephen Dwyer all stepping up from the IVs to help us become a more competitive side this season.
It was a blisteringly hot day in Roehampton Vale, and the ground was rock-solid. Not ideal for a number of the IIIs players who are too stubborn to buy more than one pair of boots per season, and maintain that ‘soft ground boots are the best value’. Result – hurty heels.
It was inevitably going to be a tricky day for the Ts right at the kick off. Thorntonians had two sprightly young attackers who ‘aggressively sprinted’ towards the ball during the first 4 or 5 (probably 1 or 2) passes of the first half. They were keen.
However, the IIIs started the first half well. We were solid at the back, and we were seeing plenty of good runs made by Khaj, and 3s debutant Frankie Kalogirou. However, Dwyer wasn’t able to get on the end of much. Constantly man-marked by the ginger beanpole and Cousin Lundie at the heart of Thorntonians’ defense, he was unable to make his mark on the game.
Our old refereeing friend from last week had joined us for this match too. at the half-hour mark, a questionable free-kick was awarded 45 yards from the OTFC goal. Lumped forward towards the back post, the Thorntonians left-winger (possibly offside), comfortably nodded the ball past Meradji in the Tiffin goal to take the lead. This would have been less of a bitter blow had it not been known that the scorer was in fact an ex-Tiffinian [will find him on Full Time – a leaver of 2008]. There was a little tension in the Tiffinian ranks, and heads moderately dropped for the next 5 minutes, which led to another cruel blow. Under no real pressure, one of the Thorntonians midfield took a snap shot from distance. The daisy cutter left Meradji motionless in the Tiffin goal. 2-0 down before half time, sun beating down, not enough water to go around the squad, things were looking a little bleak.
The IIIs were forced in to a goalkeeper change at half time, and up stepped Wes Bishop. Insistent that he was happy to go in goal, despite a liberal application of surgical bandages around both wrists during the half time break. Tiffs had some very tired legs, and Thorntonians really rubbed it in our faces by bringing on a set of Michael Rapaport-alike twins who both had fresh, quick legs. Irritating.
Ultimately though, Thorntonians barely troubled the Tiffs goal during the second half. A strong performance from Jez Eggar at right-back, and from Chris Harris at centre-back stopped them from getting through. On the rare occasions that they did make it through, Wes was as quick off of his line as Hugo Lloris (a comparison I’m sure he’d love to hear as an Arsenal fan) to clear the ball from danger.
The IIIs looked the more likely to score in the second half, and as a matter of fact, we did score. James Khajenouri went on an extraordinary run from the edge of the box right up to the six-yard box, played it across goal, only for the ginger beanpole to knock the ball in to his own net. His expression said it all – embarrassed, ashamed, concerned. Not according to the referee, however. Khaj had allegedly taken the ball out of play. Must have been difficult for the referee to tell from the centre-circle how distraught the aforementioned ginger beanpole was at the time, let alone see the whole ball cross the line!
A couple of clear-cut chances later, including a graze of the post from Steve Dwyer, led to the final whistle. The 3s beaten 2-0 in another first-round cup defeat. This will surely allow us to concentrate on the league, and to firm up our position as a much stronger side in this division.
Man of the match went to Wes Bishop for agreeing to go between the sticks, and always looked comfortable. Congratulations to Frankie Kalogirou for his strong debut appearance for the IIIs, we look forward to seeing many more in the future.