(Un)Funny Old Game
Tuesday 13th August 2013
—Margate FC 1 AFC Hornchurch 2—
It has often been said that life has a mysterious way of bringing you back to earth with a bump when you’ve got your head in the clouds. However, nothing does this as firmly as football.
As I set off for Margate, excited to break in my new season ticket & carrying a giant inflatable dolphin on my personage (as you do) I was full of the joys, looking forward to a test of our credentials against a side that had been relegated from the Blue Square South last season.
After catching up with the usual crowd who were kind enough to compliment me on my blog (many thanks to all) as well as bumping into one of the most unselfish & generous guys I know (still owe you that cuppa, Alan!) I spent the time before kickoff acquiring a Margate replica shirt for Dave Dolphin (ironically I’ve not got a shirt myself at the moment!) & having a familiar feeling of excitement & nervousness.
As I surveyed the wonderful sight of the Hartsdown Park pitch, I noticed that Graham Ives (MFC’s groundsman) had installed some very stylish blue & white goal nets, as well as matching poles behind the goal frames. Always thinking of the little details Ivesy, no pun intended!
Not long before kickoff, Terry turned up with a rehabilitated Kevlar Shark, & came up with the idea of attaching the MFC shirt to Dave Dolphin via a mini sewing kit. Truly a star.
As ever, the teams emerged to the strains of ‘Singing The Blues’ followed by Chas & Dave’s ‘Down To Margate’ – full marks to whoever included that topical song!
Apart from George Craddock replacing the poorly Ryan Dolby (thanks to MFC coach Simon Pridmore for pointing that out) the team was unchanged from Saturday, music to my ears as I thought the teams confidence must’ve been sky high after a great result to start off the season.
Almost before I realised, the game kicked off which led to the customary dash to the end behind the opponents goal, never fails to tickle me to see so many people making the mad dash to get a good vantage point!
The game began with both teams seeming to cancel each other out, with not many chances at all – although I did notice Walshy getting no end of joy from the Hornchurch defenders, winning headers & bringing people into play with the greatest of ease.
A minor flashpoint occurred from a Gate set piece where ex striker Carl Rook stamped on Vinesy’s foot, leading to a loud expletive from Joe & the loss of any previous respect I had for Rook during his time here. A cowardly act, made even more aggravating by the ref completely missing it.
Ah, the ref. Without wishing to sound like I’m blaming all society’s (& Gate’s) ills on this man, he seemed to pander to Hornchurch’s every outraged howl, leading me to wonder if their management had him on a string of some kind. More on him later!
Not long after, a strong sense of déjà vu occurred when after an innocuous challenge & a fall from the oppositions attacker, the ref pointed to the spot.
Villain of the piece Rook stepped up & slotted his penalty under the dive of Hollers, who yet again went very close to saving it. 1-0 Hornchurch.
As the half progressed, I felt it had a very scrappy feel, with Hornchurch happy to break our chances of getting into a rhythm by pumping long balls forward or screaming at the ref until he gave them free kicks for what seemed like no apparent reason.
No clear cut chances as such but again, not a bad performance by any means & we went into the halftime break with myself & others feeling we could pull this back.
And pull it back we did, as not long into the second half, a corner from the left was swung in & skipper John Beales met the ball with a thumping header to send the fans into delirium. A true captains goal, 1-1.
Gate seemed to lose a bit of impetus when Walshy was taken off for Zac Attwood, the former having given the opposition defence a few headaches during the course of the game.
As we approached the last five minutes, the match descended into farce. A long hopeful ball from Hornchurch was allowed to bounce, which was then followed by Richard Avery (Avo) colliding with their player. The ref (in his infinite wisdom) saw nothing to alarm him, until the maniacal flagging of the linesman persuaded him to change his mind & award the penalty.
Rook stepped up yet again, but in a twist to the tale, Hollers dived low to his left & turned the ball round the post. Yet again, an outstanding save from our talismanic goalkeeper & manager.
After the resultant corner had been cleared, the overwhelming opinion seemed to be that a draw would do, and indeed that translated onto the pitch. Until the referee, yet again, felt the need to get himself noticed.
After what seemed a fair challenge from Scott Kinch who had come on for the last dregs of the match, he awarded a free kick to Hornchurch before making quite possibly the biggest meal of booking Kinch that I have ever seen. He called him back not once, but twice, a decision that seemed nonsensical considering that Kinchy didn’t seem to show much (if any) noticeable dissent at all.
A ball to their right winger who promptly slid the ball across goal, leaving Hornchurch with an easy tap in which they duly converted, was a true kick in the teeth. I believe the goal was scored in the fifth minute of injury time, an astonishing amount for a game as non incidental as this.
True to form, it turned out to be the last act of a diabolical night for the referee. As he blew for fulltime, an ecstatic Hornchurch side celebrated their smash & grab raid (understandably) while Avo promptly picked the ball up & booted it out of the ground in a mixture of rage & frustration.
Never before has a game of football, including the feeling of our players and fans been summed up as well as that gesture.
Truly, the most eloquent points are often made in silence.
Roll on Saturday.
*Many thanks to Margate FC coach Simon Pridmore on informing me about previous inaccuracies in this entry – those have now been changed*