Venue: Happy Valley Pitch 2, 1pm Kick Off
Team: Anthony; Adam, Colbourne, Jonny, Grimmy; Ali, Dani, Pat; Simon, Oliver, Mendez. Subs: Balka, SY, Gids, Fernando, Louis, Benoit, Lando, A Trialist.
Following the somewhat disappointing draw with Soho Spartans followed by the Manj incompetence-induced free week, Spartans were itching to get back to winning ways against last year’s league champions and general irritants DBFC, who possibly for the first time in their history actually agreed to turn up for a 1pm Kick Off. Rumors of their ex Manager Gazza lobbying fellow managers, and memories of his tantrum last year where he threatened to withdraw them from the league if made to play at 1pm, only made the tie all the more mouth-watering.
The crippled management team of Steph and Pete had an embarrassment of talent to select from for this one with recent availability and form driving the choice of starting lineup. The quality on the bench just goes to show how far we have come as a club over the past 12-18 months. It was a blisteringly hot day at Happy Valley and I don’t think anyone was complaining about the size of the bench as a result!
The opening exchanges were largely in Spartans favor with us moving the ball well and pressing hard. The DB danger man, and one-time star of Hollywood Blockbuster Captain Philips, Kafi was being closely marshalled by Adam down the left to such an extent that he was soon moved inside to hunt for more space there. At the other end we looked threatening, with Oliver linking up play well and our midfield bossing things.
Given the above context it came as little surprise that we took the lead on 15 minutes through goal-machine Chris Mendez, who had rightly earned his first league start of the season after two explosive cameos off the bench and a strong friendly performance against ADW. The goal itself came about through Oliver springing the ageing DB defence and slightly miscuing an attempted lob of the keeper, which albeit not goal bound fell in the right position for Mendez to head home.
It was largely one way traffic for most of the first period, but DB certainly had their moments. There was one exceptional point blank save from Anthony that let us off the hook and Kafi was beginning to look more dangerous as the game went on. However, it was Spartans that doubled the lead with 10 minutes to go to the half: the returning Chris Balka (on for Dani who had a boot malfunction) picking up the ball in his own half and driving at the entire DB defence a la Maradona in 86 against England. He was simply too quick and strong, cutting through DB like a knife through butter and finishing clinically to send the Spartans faithful into raptures on the sidelines.
Three changes were made at half time in view of the heat and quality of the subs bench with the message from the management being one of “more of the same” and “don’t get complacent.” What happened next I am still trying to get my head around and will not dwell on as I try to keep control of stress and blood pressure levels which are starting to normalize again…what I will say is that a number
of players seemingly forgot the very basic concept of a 4-3-3 formation that we have played with in
every league game for at least the last 6 months! Given this lack of shape, it was little surprise that
performance levels dropped significantly and DB deservedly pulled a goal back through the ever
Just as we were beginning to find our shape again and emerge from self-inflicted near implosion,
disaster almost struck. We conceded a penalty with momentum definitely strongly swinging in DB’s
favor. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man, with Anthony producing a fine save to burst DB’s
bubble and ensure that the Spartans breathed a collective huge sigh of relief.
After the penalty save our performance was certainly back on track, although with the score still at 2-1
there was always a worry that we could end up being hit with the proverbial sucker punch. However, on
this occasion we held firm and in injury time added a two further goals to put daylight between DB and
us. For the first Oliver burst through to finish calmly; a goal well-deserved in my opinion for him having
led the line superbly throughout his time on the pitch. Just one minute later in a similar move Simon
charged through from midfield (yes, from midfield!!) and finished with aplomb to add some gloss to the
All in all we perhaps made harder work of the task than needed given the pantomime of the opening 15
minutes of the second half, but a 4-1 win against the League Champions is an excellent outcome and a
great result to build on as our own league title aspirations begin to develop.
Appropriate celebrations ensued at the Station with a strong turnout, especially impressive in light of
the early hour. BMUPs was underway by 4pm and the weathered participants among us certainly learnt
a few things: Ryan Bertrand replaced Ashley Cole as first choice left back for Man United; Chris Waddle
was the center-piece of Keegan’s 90’s Newcastle side; Jonny really likes drinking shots; Adam “The
Whisperer” once again undone many a player that fell into his carefully laid repetition trap! I think the
longest category was WWE wrestlers, aptly reflecting the levels of intellect, cultural awareness and
broad general knowledge base within the squad.
– MOTM: Anthony: things could have turned out so differently if not for the excellent penalty save
at 2-1. Point blank save in the first half as well and generally commanding and confident as our
last line of defence.
– MOTD: The Management Team: a travesty of justice if ever one has occurred! Clear instructions
regarding positions and roles were given and not followed for the first 15 minutes of the second
half with very negative consequences – management team caught between a rock and a hard
place with shouts of “sort it out” from some quarters and “calm down, calm down” from others
as they attempted to do just that.
Next week we play J-Leaguers out at Po Kong Village – kick off 3.45. Another big game against a fit, hardworking
team that are always there or thereabouts come the end of the season. It also presents a
chance for Colbourne to rekindle his bromance with Youtube overhead kick sensation Nakamura.