AFC Cup 1st Round (formerly known as only round)
Goals: Dougie (no known last name), Hook, Burns-Peake (2), Bettis
As is custom in such events, the crowd arrived slowly and steadily for the scheduled 4:45 main event. But those who arrived early went home that day talking of a number of plucky fighters who don’t know when to quit and will undoubtedly earn higher billing in weeks to come. It wasn’t a game of two halves as much as it was a game of shifting momentum, and there were times that the OTFC 2’s of old would have folded like Will Forsyth after going behind early, but there seems to be more steel and resolve to the team these days.
OTFC would controversially field a slightly weaker starting 11, but with the luxury of strength on the bench this was clearly a team with experience amongst a few newer faces. The core of the team was familiar, with Hobbs looking continue his fine form in goal and Keiran looking to play the under-utilised sweeper/striker role. As the two teams walked out to the pitch, there was a clear air of confidence coming from the Carlshalton side – a well-drilled warm up in stark contrast to the view of some OTFC late arrivals changing pitch side – and maybe this is why they started strongest, with a period of early dominance finally resulting in the away team taking a deserved lead. There were only so many times you can get away with not clearing the ball under pressure, and despite a congested area the ‘robust’ striker was able to find space to turn and finish neatly in the corner. The next five minutes were more of the same, with Carshalton failing to capitalise in and around the area with some soft attempts on goal.
They were to pay for this lackadaisical finishing when OTFC punished them with a strong counter attack. A few passes down the right hand side resulted with the ball being pulled back to Dougie on the corner of the area. Determined to not use his right foot at any stage during the game, Dougie stepped up and casually unleashed a curling left foot effort past the stricken defence which nestled in the top left hand corner – an exquisite strike that was a goal as soon as it left his boot. This appeared to confuse everyone but Dougie himself, who pulled out a delightful windmill celebration that had clearly been choreographed in front of his bedroom mirror the night before. 25p well spent.
Carlshalton were clearly shellshocked, and OTFC took full advantage moments later with a great team move and effort on goal from Edwards met by an equally solid save from the keeper, with the rebound falling to Ali to calmly slot away. 2-1 OTFC and the early arrivals were getting their money’s worth.
It wouldn’t be OTFC if they didn’t make hard work of having a lead, and after a few neat passes the Carlshalton striker rounded the diving Hobbs in goal. There appeared to be minimal contact, but after taking another three steps the striker collapsed Forsyth-esque to the floor and the ‘referee’ immediately pointed to the spot. Hobbs made a valiant attempt to keep the low penalty out, and on another day he may have succeeded in pushing the ball around the post. 2-2 and we have ourselves a cup tie. The half time team talk was positive, with both sides aware the game there to be won.
OTFC started the second half strongly, with the majority of play occurring in the opposition half. As numbers started to push forward to take advantage, a clear handball moment of fortune resulted in a deflected cross falling to a Carshalton player who slipped the striker through, and he made no mistake with a low finish to give them back the lead. A fourth goal followed quickly after and looked to put the game out of sight, with the excellent number 8 drilling a fine volley into the left hand corner of the net, giving the keeper no chance.
And this is where the new look OTFC resolve came together. Matt Burns-Peake, making his last appearance before taking the step down to play at University, finally lived up to the hype his haircut deserved. He was a thorn in the fullbacks side all afternoon, constantly pressuring without the ball and getting in and behind whenever OTFC broke. Reading a clever pass disguised as a weak deflected shot, Burns-Peake remained alert and was immediately on to the loose ball, firing home from a near impossible angle to bring the difference down to one. The comeback was on, the pressure constant and the equaliser seemed inevitable. A passage of play in and around the Carlshalton area fell to Bettis who gratefully opened his account for the season.
The comeback was completed when Matt finished from another patient attack, and with five minutes remaining – plus Fergie Time it seems – the OTFC defence bedded in for the onslaught. However the preseason training was starting to show its benefits as our superior fitness left them with nothing but speculative long balls which were calmly dealt with, and when the final whistle blew it was clear the better team on the day had won. Which brings us to….
The Main Event.
The Rumble in the Jungle, The Thriller in Manilla, and now, the Fist at Grists
With the game in the bag and OTFC deservedly proceeding to the second round, the frustration clearly got to the Carlshalton number 11, a young man who had not been making many friends on either side throughout the game. Luckily for us, if he was as good as he thought he was this game would have been out of sight a long time ago. His angry words at the final whistle were met with the laughing face of Forsyth, and this somewhat understandably proved to be too much for him to handle. He lashed out with a sucker punch, catching Forsyth in the mouth and proving once and for all that he does indeed bleed red, not blue as he has lead some to believe. Will sensibly adopted the tuck and roll position normally seen when protecting oneself from a bear attack, and left the referee to calmly ask if we would like him to deal with the 10 man rolling cartoon skirmish or not.
Thankfully, players like number 11 were in the minority for the opposition, who handled the event in the correct manor and with the seriousness it deserved.
For Old Tiffinians, it proved to be an excellent start to the season and the confidence of beating a solid opposition will hopefully carry through to the first league game next Saturday. MOTM could have gone to a number of players, with Peake making a smooth transition from his favoured centre back role to marshall the middle of the pitch and Keiran always ensuring the opposition knew he was in the vicinity throughout the game, but Matt Burns-Peake will be a very hard player to replace in weeks to come and was excellent in all aspects of the game.