Teenage Kicks

18 Mar

Sixth Form                          2.2          Staff

(Cowles, Graham)                           (J Smith, Marples)

Let there be no doubt or dispute: this was an eagerly anticipated encounter. Hundreds of keen spectators poured over the bridge and jostled to secure their front row places for this clash between two behemoths of South Lincolnshire football.  For one team, the motivation was clear: an opportunity to show their more experienced opponents how the new generation play the game. For the other team, the avoidance of complete and total embarrassment was all that was sought – but this desire can be a powerful factor and should not be underestimated.

It was all to play for and the stakes could not be higher.

Sixth form team

Staff team

Leading up to this game, the Staff team had not enjoyed the best preparations. A request for a week long training camp in Spain had been denied by the boardroom which resulted in unrest and a dented morale amongst the group. As Friday loomed into view like a lumbering and cumbersome elephant, the squad were hit even harder with late withdrawals from Saunders and Ladley who were called up for international duty. Furthermore, a training session had to be cancelled due to a serious and widespread outbreak of ‘can’t be bothered’.

In complete contrast, the Sixth Form team were strong, well prepared and drilled. Lead by the strong leadership of Johnson, morale and expectations were high.

From the kick-off, it was clear that Sixth Form were at the races. Cowles’ surging runs from midfield were a constant feature which usually resulted in good link up play between Bacon and Graham. Chances were forged with ease and camp was set up in the Staff half. A burst down the right from Cowles somehow managed to evade the man mountain known as Allen and lead to an incisive cross which Bacon converted with ease. It was nothing more than the Sixth Form deserved and it wasn’t getting any better for the Staff as they toiled to get a foothold in the game. Cowles once again broke through the defence but this time, Allen had had enough: he unceremoniously prevented Cowles from getting past him. The experienced referee, Dave Farrell (official Posh legend), awarded a penalty and the Staff were staring down the barrel.

Bacon stepped up and fancied his chances but he dragged his shot wide of the post. Although the Sixth Form had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and chances, there was a feeling that they might just regret not taking full advantage. The penalty miss acted as a fillip for the Staff who set about tweaking the formation and line-up. Hawes gave way to Grace and Dunham was replaced by P. Smith and both were asked to play narrower in order to support the tireless running of Brooks up front. Maltby too was released from his defensive shackles in an effort to bring J Smith into the game. For the Sixth Form, Reilly replaced Hudson and battle once again commenced.

It was different. The tide had been turned. The zest was out of the bottle and would not be forced back in again. The Staff had found their mojo. J Smith unleashed a thunderbolt from the edge of the box which whizzed past Hunnings before he even smelt it. Game on.

Not to be outdone, the Sixth Form forayed forward meaningfully and a tidy passage of play between Reilly and Cowles released Graham who coolly slid the ball into the corner of the net. Suspicions of offside were waved away by Bell in his role as assistant referee. At this stage, Graham saw J Smith’s robot celebration and matched it with a display of push-ups.

© Owen Papaioannou 2014

Time was running out. The Staff pushed forward – literally in the case of P Smith who was lucky to escape censure for a deliberate push as he fought manfully for the ball like a rabid wolf. With four minutes remaining, Staff won a throw-in deep into enemy territory. Pearson strode purposefully forward to hurl it into the corridor of uncertainty. Marples rose salmon-like, looking to flick it on but was clattered from behind by Reilly with the force of a runaway train. Marples fell in a crumpled heap to the floor as the experienced and authoritative Farrell (official Posh legend) pointed to the spot.

A soft penalty? Contact in the box. File this one under the category of, ‘I’ve seen them given’.

If ever there was a pressure situation, this was it with pride and parity up for grabs with one kick. Reluctantly, Marples stepped up yet nonchalantly slotted the ball into the corner of the goal where it nestled snugly like a hibernating hedgehog. Relief unconfined.

Redemption was achieved after 30 odd years of hurt

.© Owen Papaioannou 2014

© Owen Papaioannou 2014

© Owen Papaioannou 2014

© Owen Papaioannou 2014

© Owen Papaioannou 2014

© Owen Papaioannou 2014

There was little time remaining for either team to alter proceedings and the game petered out into a draw which left the Sixth Form ruefully regretting their first half chances. But the indomitable spirit of the Staff was a force to be reckoned with; honours even.

There was only one winner today and that was the beautiful game of football.

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