Hobbs Hill Wood 1 South Hill 0
It’s the final report of the football season - literally and...er...the other kind of literally.
For three seasons in a row we’ve been the bridesmaids and never the brides, so to speak. Twice we’ve lost in the final of the league cup, and last year we lost in the final of the Wix Cup.
But we are now, most definitely, the bride! (I'm not sure the players will approve of that analogy, but hey ho.)
As you should all know by now, thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we are the champions of the district football cup competition. But that one simple post did not tell you any of the juicy details of the match. Was it a stone-cold classic or was it scrappy mess of a game? Did we deserve it, or did we get unbelievably lucky? Was the winning goal one for the ages or was it the scruffiest finish you’re ever likely to see?
To set the scene, the weather was glorious – a perfect spring afternoon. The sun was out and it was comfortably warm. The event, held on The Hemel Hempstead School Astro Turf pitch, started with the finals of the second-tier plate competition. The boys’ match was played on one of the pitches, the girls’ on the other. We had arrived nice and early to soak in the atmosphere and get mentally prepared for the match ahead. Some used this time, though, to eat various picnic items from a seemingly never-ending source!
Although it was good to see the other teams play, it was hard to think of anything beyond our own match.
I used some of this time to remind the players of the usual key instructions: try to play football rather than panicking and hoofing it long; don’t badger the referee by asking for fouls all the time; demand the ball when in space; don’t dive in.
The opposition arrived at this point and it all went a bit surreal for a while. Rather then there being a feeling of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, it was all very friendly – a bit too friendly!? The boys seemed to know each other from outside of school and our parents all seemed to know their manager, Pete Brathwaite. There were smiles and handshakes all round! After the tensions at the Broadfield match, I was geared up for another one of ‘those’ matches, but this was a very welcome start to proceedings. Hopefully it would still be all smiles at the final whistle.
With the coin toss approaching, I realised that this call may make a difference. The sun was shining directly at one end and I got our captain, Ollie, to kick towards it in the first half - hoping that it would be worse for their ‘keeper in the second. It probably wouldn't make any difference, but sometimes games can swing on such fine margins.
And with that, we were off!
Now then, it’s at this point that I usually refer to my notes to take you through what happened - but there were only three things written down! Considering how eventful some of our other matches have been, this very quiet. The game wasn’t exactly cagey, it was just that there were two teams of very confident, able footballers. Good challenges were made, breaking up the flow of attacks. Quality positional play from both sides meant that there was little space in which to attack. Chances were at a premium. We had a few long shots from distance, which were either well-saved or ballooned high over the bar. They had shots of a similar quality.
There only two moments of genuine threat in the first fifteen minutes. A good passing move resulted in Kieran’s shot being deflected onto the base of the post. Just before half-time, they broke away down the wing, cut inside our defence and prodded the ball past our ‘keeper. It it looked, for all the world, like we were about to concede the first goal…and we would have had it not been for Harry, sliding in at the very last moment. Incredibly, he cleared the ball off the line and away to safety.
The half-time talk was predictable – 'more of the same and don’t do anything reckless'.
Five minutes into the second half and we won a free kick just inside their half. We packed the goal and Ollie struck a powerful shot with the intention of causing a bit of chaos…The ball flew high towards the goal and the ‘keeper rose to parry it away. Only, it went straight through his hands and into the net.
Now then, Ollie will claim that it was all about the power and the dip of the shot.
Kieran will claim that he was making a nuisance of himself by standing right in front of the ‘keeper.
The simple fact of the matter is that the ball was dipping from the exact same position of the sun in the sky – momentarily blinding the ‘keeper, leading directly to the error.
We’ll never know the exact reason, so let’s just say that there were many contributing factors to the goal. (But the blinding sun was the most likely!)
Anyhoo, we were ahead and fairly comfortable and there were only ten minutes left to see out. It was decision time, and I went for plan B – park the bus!
I’m not usually that defensively minded, but I decided that it would be prudent to revert to a back three. I knew that we would face a bit of an onslaught of one-way traffic, but it was nothing that I didn’t think we could handle. I also knew that we had the players to break away if the chance arose and possibly double our lead. We could do this!
(Also, maybe I knew at the back of my mind what a dangerous lead 2-0 could be! I was more than happy with a lead of 1 and I really didn’t want to risk it.)
And that was that! We defended resolutely and saw out the rest of the match. In terms of pure football, it wasn’t our finest hour, but pure football doesn’t always win trophies.
And the best thing…we get to do it all over again next year.
Well done to all the players, who have been spectacular over the course of the season. You can now join all the previous winners on the Hall of Fame.