The Tale Of The 12th Man
Saturday 17th August 2013
—Margate FC 3 Harrow Borough 1—
As far as football cliches go, there’s an awful lot of them. Some are tired (Let him know you’re there) some are negative (If in doubt, kick it out) & some are downright patronising. However, I make no apologies for bringing out the 12th man cliche. In many cases, this term relates to the fans (of which we have one of the most friendly, knowledgable bunch in the League) but it can also, in times of great ire, be used to describe an inept officials performance.
In previous posts, I’ve despaired of the standards (or lack thereof) of officials in this League, so can forgive anyone who thinks I’m using referees /assistant referees as an excuse to vent my spleen if something doesn’t go the way of the Gate. Personally however, I’ve always been of the opinion that for the most part, the ref doesn’t win or lose a team matches, the team’s performance determines that (up to a point anyway)
But I digress. I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.
After taking in Terry’s U10 Margate squads friendly against Hugin Vikings (a creditable 1-1 draw for those interested!) I made my way to Hartsdown Park, minus Kevlar Shark who was in Terry’s care. She later turned up, beaming as always & with said shark in top condition after a deflating time at Tuesday’s home game.
A sunny day, until it turned to light rain later! Perfect for football & yet again, an optimism (blind or otherwise) that the lads would do us proud & pick up a much needed, confidence boosting 3 points against a side who were yet to win a game (OK, early doors but just stating a fact!)
Having seen Harrow in our last game of the previous season, I felt they were an awesomely mediocre – very much a long ball, hit & hope side. Noting ex Gate striker Leroy Griffiths in their lineup, (twice according to the matchday programme!) as well as danger man Shaun Lucien (who had scored all Harrow’s goals thus far this season) I was still confident that our overall quality could shade the result for us.
After the pre-match ritual of tying Kevlar to a ledge on the terracing (an ideal vantage point for him) we were greeted with the unusual sight of Gate attacking the newly named Thanet Cars South Stand, owing to an ultimately inspired decision by skipper John Beales to give us the wind advantage in the second half.
The game was barely a minute old when the ball was pinged across to Charles Ademeno, who promptly buried his first goal for Margate with a ruthless half volley in the far corner that gave Harrow’s keeper (dubbed ‘the new Oliver Kahn’ in the programme notes!) no chance. 1-0 Margate, and all was rosy in the land of Hartsdown Park. The depleted Choir (the younger members sadly voted to attend an Arsenal game – you were all missed lads!) did a sterling job of blasting out the Gate songs, drawing some amused looks from some junior visitors to the ground, who insisted on requesting various songs thereafter! The true meaning of a family club.
Then, disaster. A corner from the right wasn’t fully cleared, a cross came back in & looped off the head of Phil Walsh, past a stranded Hollers for an unfortunate own goal. This came after a couple of spurned opportunities for us, a feeling of deja vu starting again! Things got worse later in the half when a long ball (didn’t see that coming!) was belted upfield, where the chase was on between our mecurial keeper & manager Hollers, and a Harrow striker. A collision promptly ensued, which left the Harrow player pole axed. Popular opinion at the time suggested that Hollers did nothing wrong, but will leave that for yourselves to decide, having worn my Arsene Wenger glasses for the day!
The ref, all 3 foot 5 of him, played advantage, & then promptly awarded the penalty when Harrow squandered their opportunity. To my bewildered mind, three thoughts occurred – 1) Can he do that? 2) Not another penalty! & 3) If it was a penalty, why was Hollers not sent off? Thankfully he wasn’t, as he was to show his worth (priceless) 30 seconds later.
The aforementioned Shaun Lucien ran up, attempted to slot it to Hollers’ right hand side, but was denied by the cat like reflexes of the heroic keeper. If I sound slightly enamoured with Mr Holloway, it’s because he’s now saved 2 penalties in 4 games, as well as being (for my money) the best keeper in this League.
Worse was to come from the official who’d escaped the clutches of Snow White, as he controversially sent Ryan Dolby off following a hopeful punt forward (again) that left him exposed at the back, bringing down a Harrow striker. The reason I say controversially, is because others felt that other players (Beales & Cox) were running back to cover, preventing a last man situation. Again, will leave this for yourselves to decide, although I admit my first reaction being a disappointed one & feeling that the ref had no option but to dismiss the Gate left back. As Dolbs trudged despondently from the pitch, Harrow wasted their resultant free kick.
Elsewhere in the half, the lively Ademeno was brought down by a scything tackle in the box. Not only did the referee dismiss the appeal for the penalty as well as Charles’ agonized yells (it really was a vicious tackle) but he also failed to stop the game. This & many other incompetent decisions, turned a by now angry & frustrated Gate crowd against him, & indeed some fans were visibly seen foaming at the mouth! Well not quite, but a little embellishment works wonders…
As the half time whistle went, followed by bays of derision for the referee’s performance, some pensive looks were noticeable around the ground. Down to ten men, a dodgy official.. surely things could only get worse in the second half?
A resounding ‘No’ would be the answer to that! Bravely sticking with their attacking lineup, Messrs Holloway & Osborn proceeded to seize the game by the scruff of the neck with Warren Whitely coming on for the unfortunate Ademeno. Bodders reverted from his usual wing wizard role into Dolby’s vacated position at left back. This tactical masterstroke would be rewarded just over 5 minutes into the second half, with Walsh producing a classy left footed half-volley after a ricochet between Scott Kinch & the Harrow defenders (I owe much to David Pittman for his YouTube highlights!) Kinchy happily ran behind the goal to us fans at the Coffin End (& Kevlar Shark!) graciously accepting acclaim for his hand in the goal. However, his joyous reaction was nothing compared to Walshy’s.
In quite possibly the happiest goal celebration I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, Walshy bounded over & managed to bury himself in the fans while loudly proclaiming ‘That’s how you score a goal!’ – a move he’d later come to regret when good friend & fellow Margate fanatic Dan ‘The Man’ Boyle found it hard to let him go! A great strike with a celebration to match, & it truly was well deserved. 2-1 Gate. My own personal reaction was hoping that we’d hold on for a smash & grab win, but Margate don’t do smash & grab. We’re too classy for that, don’t you know…
As the game approached the last 10 minutes, Whitely’s cross from the right & excellent link up play between debutant loanee Jake Hessenthaler & Zac Attwood, led to the latter fashioning himself some space in the box with a deft turn, before clinically slotting home. 3-1 to Margate, & we were in Dreamland (no pun on the local theme park / bone of contention there, honest!)
From then on, Harrow attacked & were awarded various corners that all came to nothing, & the game was seen out in assured fashion. As the whistle blew, an elated group that included myself & Kevlar as well as the Choir who sung heartily throughout, made their way to the bar where a great day was capped off by the surprise appearance of our ex centre back Laurence Ball, who had decided to swap the surroundings of Paris for the Isle Of Thanet.
And on a day such as this, who could blame him?