Well, one thing's for sure - our matches are never dull!
On Thursday 12th March, we headed over to Radlett Preparatory School to play our quarter-final match in the 9 a-side Wix Cup.
From the spectators' point of view, the bright afternoon sunshine did not compensate for an icy wind cutting across a very exposed field. It was freezing! The boys should have been warm enough, once they got running around...
Only, that was part of the problem: Radlett started the match at a much faster pace than we did and were were immediately on the back foot. They had a couple of speedy attackers who instantly caused us problems. We needed to grow into the match but weren't given the chance to. A simple through ball put one of their players in on goal and a calm finish made it 1-0.
We began to get a bit of a foothold in midfield - scrapping for some kind of control of the ball, but before we could mount any serious attacks they had a corner which was volleyed in at the near post. 2-0. Oops.
We did not win the league last year by rolling over when things got difficult, and we were not about to give up on this match quite yet. After all, football matches are a marathon, not a sprint and there was plenty of time left to try to recover the situation.
Slowly but surely, we grew into the match and began to show what we are capable of. Our defence started to clear the ball with much more conviction and Ollie, in particular, became an inspiration in midfield. Every time he won the ball, the opposition resorted to fouling him to stop our attacks - and that was where it all went wrong for them . Thanks to the powerful kicking of Ollie and Kieran, our free kicks were devastating. Midway through the first half, Ollie booted a free kick deep into their penalty box. Alfie was in the right place at the far post to volley the ball into the net 2-1. Game on!
And it was as if a switch had been flicked. All of Radlett's early confidence was suddenly drained and we were totally dominant. An attack down the wing and a burst into the box was followed by yet another foul. Penalty! Unfortunately, the spot kick was saved, but Radlett were definitely rocking.
Just before half time, we won yet another free kick inside their half. Ollie blasted the ball deep into their penalty area and there was Riley to poke the ball home. 2-2! Scenes!
Unfortunately, the half-time break came at just the wrong time for us. It gave Radlett a chance to clear their heads and regroup, and when they came out for the second half, they were more like the team that started the game. The remainder of the match was a very evenly fought match. And 'fought' was definitely the right word. The referee did very well to keep control of the match, which was often littered with fouls - mainly against us, it is fair to say. Every time we had a free kick, we filled their box and caused no end of problems. At one point, one of the Radlett supports/ coaches shouted: RADLETT STOP FOULING! It demonstrated just how rattled they had become.
But for all our chances, they still looked devastating on the break. They squandered quite a few chances through some wayward shooting or through our solid defending. In fact, both teams had the woodwork to thank for keeping the scores level at 2-2. They hit the post directly from a corner, we had a free kick which hit the bar, and they smashed the ball against the post from distance.
And then it came to what turned out to be the last piece of action of the match - Radlett gave away yet another free kick inside their half. Instead of holding a defensive line to play for offside, they defended practically on their own goal line. We loaded the box again and waited for the ball to be kicked into the danger zone. When it dropped to the feet on an onrushing Kieran, he calmly poked the ball home to make it 2-3. GAME OVER!
I think this is what they call 'winning ugly'! We have played more attractive, free-flowing football in other matches, but sometimes the result is the only thing that matters.
We now play Bovingdon in the semi-finals, but the question is when. In theory, we need to play as soon as possible, but with the Coronavirus...who knows?
Watch this space.