Fresh from the Christmas festivities, the first game of 2018 was the prospect of a rather sobering encounter against Clapham Old Xaverians’ with the 10 – 2 home loss still burning in our memories. Wounds fleshly healed, OTFC were determined to give a better account of themselves against a very good team.
There is an adage explaining the certainties in life. Death and taxes. OTFC II’s having dramatic matches can be added to this list. Before a ball could be kicked or nutmeg be attempted, the venue and kick off time had changed and veterans of the II IX were unavailable. With Tom Nichols having a mid-season holiday down under for the Ashes (fine per time zone crossed, appeals welcomed), Kimber still serving suspension – shame, and VC Will unavailable, OTFC were short of regular players so a change of formation was needed. Rather fittingly, it was out with the Christmas tree formation and inspired with the possible summer tour to Europe, it was in with the continental 3 at the back, with wing backs to maximise the width of the pitch. Before the match could even begin, the referee tried to halt proceedings explaining that the OTFC keeper was not only risking his own safety but the safety of everyone on the pitch by wearing glasses, right. With a rag tag bunch of players borrowed from around the club, we were ready to go.
Following the captain’s advice to keep it tight, words he took too literally in the second half, OTFC got off to a positive start cutting out any Clapham foray into our half and giving as good as we got with intricate passing in the middle between Luke and Dale to release our wingbacks culminating in a cross that needed the slightest touch to break the deadlock unable to find a purple shirt. The warning signs were there for OTFC with Clapham seemingly turning a clearance into a half volley that rattled the bar before the keeper could even move. As the half progressed both teams seemed to nullify each other and the match seemed to be coasting into half time at a tense 0-0 until Clapham managed to fashion a 1 v 1 that should have put them 1 nil up. To the surprise of everyone, keeper included, the ball was pushed wide and cleared. The half ended with other notable moments being Bonar hitting the post from a wide angle showing OTFC were very much in the match. Going into half time Clapham were dazzled, partly caused by Luke’s luminous orange boots; they knew it wasn’t going to be as comfortable this time.
After giving a team talk about keeping it tight, Kieran immediately ignored his own advice and played expansive football out from the back to keep OTFC ticking over. Unfortunately all good things come to an end and after being denied by some last ditch saves and defending, Clapham scored a scrappy goal from two yards after the keeper attempted to kick a cross clear, hitting the ball into a backside and into the fortunate striker’s path to tap in. Euphoria and despair in equal measure for Clapham and OTFC respectively. When OTFCs concede they tend to implode but not this time as for the next 30 minutes they dominated with Joe, Matt and Zeki tirelessly running the flanks to create chances. This new attacking formation did have casualties with Dicky facing a period out with an injury while turning to clear a counter attack. Unfortunately the new 9-1 formation Clapham adopted held firm. The match ended in controversy as Joe felt he should have had a penalty. His honesty being punished by not taking a swan dive after contact. This writer cannot comment, but the week VAR has been criticised, this will only fuel the debate. Plenty of positives to take away especially with a 6 pointer this weekend.