Mild conditions perfect for football. A pitch like a carpet, suited to the Tiffs Vets slick passing style. A straightforward build-up to the game, untroubled by late withdrawals.
All of these things would have been very welcome on Saturday, but unfortunately, we can only dream.
The Vets’ answer to Jurgen Klopp – Simon Baile – was told hours before the game that the Vets’ answer to Virgil Van Dijk – Lee Coleman – was going to have to withdraw through illness, so gave a late call to the Vets answer to Konstantinos Tsimakas, Jon Kent. If our opponents Double H were familiar with our players, this change would not have struck fear into their hearts.
We arrived at Weston Green as the wind blustered around us, rather in the same way Simon does at half time. The rain started to fall, as we warmed up on a cow field which would be our pitch for the next 90 mins or so.
The intention was to surprise the oppo, who had beaten us convincingly in pre-season, but the early moments of the game hinted that intent was one thing, and doing it was likely to be quite another.
We were against the wind, and on the back foot from the off. Balls from Jason in goal were holding up on their way from keeper to full back or midfield, and the brief delay gave Double H all the encouragement they needed to close down, hustle and – all too often – get to the ball first.
In the less than ideal conditions neither team were especially finding it easy to piece together nice passages of play, but Double H were certainly making a better fist of it than the T’s.
Their superior possession was not especially leading to a plethora of goal scoring chances though – it was more about set pieces and the occasional break away when we were upfield, and that’s how the goals came in the first half.
After about 20 mins a free kick was loaded into the box, and poor communication meant there was a spare man at the back post. The talented Barry Gibb look alike’s right foot met the ball accurately on the volley and it was 1-0.
Minutes later Double H had a corner and it was swung in low to the near post. Their man stooped low and found just the right angle to evade both his marker and the man at the near post. 2-0.
All Tiffs could do was try and lift themselves and they battled on but the first half was a trial. Around the 37th minute a throw in in the opposition half ended up in Double H possession and a long ball proved difficult to deal with. In stole the Double H’s left midfield who drove inside and curled an unfortunately great finish beyond the despairing dive of Jason and into the right corner of the net.
At half time coach Jurgen rang the changes, switching to the 3 at the back system the team practice with so often in training.
This meant Markham, the incoming Jon Kent and the returning Carl 1 often going man for man with the lively HH forward line but it also meant more people in midfield, with Paul Kinchin coming back from his holiday on the right wing to join the battle properly.
With the wind now in our favour it was Double H who began to struggle to clear their lines and our midfield of Oscar, Jed and Paul with Bruce and Dave Harry on the flanks had more play. Matt would have enjoyed this period better too but was now in possession of the linesman’s flag.
Things felt a little better and when Dave Smith spanked in a shot from the edge of the area for 3-1 Tiffs sniffed a bit of hope. Jed hit the bar with a long ranger and we wondered – is the comeback on?
But all this prompted was a bit of a Double H recovery though and they continued to look dangerous on the break.
Their young striker, who favours a dive, managed two goals in this fashion while Dave and Ben up front were making few further inroads, despite working exceptionally hard.
Probably the best shots of the match wee taken by someone not wearing a football strip – Paul Banoub, who loves a camera, took a range of superb action shots to cheer us up later.
Now we have a vivid reminder of this wonderful game, even if most of us are trying to forget it.
Man of the Match brought to you by Smart Kids in Town