- Clapham Royals 0 Old Tiffs Vets 4
Scorers: Arlow 2, Harry, Silva
- Dave Smith
- Pete Stephens
- Pete Markham
- Carl Naylor
- Simon Baile
- Ali Rawlinson
- Dave Gardner
- Luis Silva
- Ricky Evelyn
- Dave Harry
- Warren Arlow
Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering
It will be happier.
So wrote the nineteenth century poet Lord Tennyson.
Was he musing on the fates and fortunes which may befall a football team as his quill scratched the parchment on which his words fell? One suspects not.
But, after the first game of 2018, hope continues to smile, and Tiffs – who ended 2017 in the third bottom position – are entitled to wonder whether happier times lay ahead.
After a decent turn or two between the sticks, Dan Rose had been selected for this year opener, allowing Dave Smith another opportunity to shine on pitch.
But coach Walker saw an early spanner chucked into the works when Rose pulled out at the last moment. It was handy we had a spare keeper – and, it turned out, one who could assist our attack too! We’ll return to that in a moment.
Tiffs were put to shame by their opponents when it came to pre-match preparation. The Royals were out, testing the turf and going through their warm-up routines 45 minutes before kick off. Tiffs were shuffling out onto the pitch in dribs and drabs six or seven minutes before. But when the game started, they proved ready.
Clapham bossed the early exchanges in terms of midfield possession. Sitting second in the league coming into the match, their tails were up and they seemed well organised.
This midfield possession was not necessarily translating to penetration however and Tiffs were keeping the Royals attack at bay, while they worked their way into the game.
Intermittently, we were able to test them on the break. On one occasion Dave Harry got to the byline and cut it back but the opportunity was spurned.
Then, a goal came, which started in a most unpromising situation.
Ignoring conventional wisdom and to the dismay of his team mates, fullback Simon Baile hurled a throw-in back not down the line but back to keeper Smith, who had a Royals striker for company.
Hearts were in mouths for what seemed like several minutes, while Smith tried to twist and turn his way out of trouble, as only he does. After about the fifteenth feint, he threw off the Royal shackles and made a few strides into space. From there, barely past the D of the penalty area, he clipped a blinding ball to put Dave Harry away, and the forward made no mistake.
Against the run of play, 1-0 to the Tiffs.
The goal prompted renewed vigour in the Tiffs creative play, and knocked Claygate back a bit.
Another chance was fashioned in which Harry got again to the byline but his cutback was ballooned over by Wazza. His time was to come later. During the attack, the Claygate keeper had got injured, so an outfield player deputised.
Tiffs took the 1-0 lead into half time. Claygate, like a proper team, appeared to be having a long and well constructed discussion about how to change things in the second half. Whatever was said though, things didn’t go to plan.
Our defence seemed to be coping ably enough. On our right, Claygate’s winger was making good headway but Paul, our wide midfielder, wasn’t put off by being beaten once or twice and kept working away, credit to him. Overall, though, attempts at goal were restricted.
Luis scored the scruffiest of scruffy goals following a corner. It was that scruffy, possibly only he knew he was the scorer, pinging as the ball did off various people before ending up in the net. We were happy to take it – 2-0.
Mid-half, Wazza was thrown on up front. Naylor and Markham debated whether his main contribution would be nuisance value or quality. In the end, perhaps both were right.
Within minutes Claygate’s goalie tried to clear with Arlow bearing down on him. The big striker’s size 13 foot blocked the clearance and it rebounded into the net. Wazza had been a nuisance and we were three up.
He scored a neater goal later in the half, showing his quality to slot past the keeper for our fourth. There was even time for him to lope away from their defence and draw a diving save from the keeper, preventing a hat trick.
A happy new year for Wazza – and for the whole team.