“I don’t know how anyone can ever miss a penalty.” – Drew Williams.
A fiery and hot-tempered game in Bethania this morning saw two real contenders for the title battling it out in an old-fashioned six-pointer. However, despite the best efforts of both sides, the game finished 2-2.
The Hatchets went into this game severely undermanned, with three first-team players missing. ‘Pierre’-Nicholas Boyer’s girlfriend was kind enough to call and let the team know he wasn’t
allowed able to take part after he suffered a minor hamstring strain. The Tuscan Freight Train (or Steven Cecchi as he is sometimes known) was temporarily derailed after he was found to have broken the abstinence clause in his contract on Saturday 2 August and was subsequently given an automatic one-game suspension. Kregg Laundon was simply too angry to take part.
The game was also notable for the return to the pitch of injury-prone player-manager Jenya Deny-me-not, who was clearly delighted to be back from his foot injury. “И хаве хад ит wитх тхесе мотхер-фуцкинг пхоених он мы мотхер-фуцкинг питч”, he sang before kick-off, which is the traditional battle cry of his native Bucharest.
The game was incident-laden from the very first whistle blown in anger. There were several niggly early fouls from both sides, although Naita were certainly the rougher of the two teams, and at times it seemed as though their physicality was a deliberate strategy. Inside the first ten minutes, an opposition midfielder was given the first blue card of the match, for a crude challenge on centre-back Alex Cote. It would be the first of an astonishing five sin-bins for the Phoenix in this match, which is thought to be a league record, and says a lot about the style of their play.
The game really heated up, though, in the twenty-third minute, when an opposition striker managed to find space on the right-hand side. His run into the box was ‘impeded’ by Hatchets defender Simon Bennet. Although this intrepid reporter did not see the challenge, it was clear from the striker’s scream of agony that some serious damage had been done. Luckily, he managed to get back to his feet for the spot-kick.
Drew Williams has made some big-game saves this season, but he would never have been so conscious of the weight of his team-mate’s expectations as he was when the opposition number 10 stepped up to the spot. Williams correctly guessed right (“actually I could tell from his hips he was going right”), but in the end he wasn’t even required to make a save, as the weak penalty bounced harmlessly wide (“that’s absolute bullshit Simo. I got a hand on it and everyone here knows it”).
Sadly for the legions of Herston fans looking on in red, the Hatchets failed to capitalise on Williams’ good work, and Naita scored not long afterwards. A turnover in midfield led to a quick Phoenix counter-attack. The ball was fired in from the edge of the area, and there was little that Williams could do this time as the ball nestled comfortably into the back of the net.
In the dying embers of the first half, several opposition players began to get noticeably agitated and stressed, allowing our brave Hatchets to fight back with some good possession. A long ball found reliable full-back Toby Bronckhorst at the far post, who smartly played the ball back across goals. The tremor-ridden goalkeeper took his eyes off the ball to apply a new nicotine patch, and subsequently collided with a defender, resulting in an own goal. Hatchets fans waiting eagerly for the replay were disappointed when Naita pressed A to skip it, as is their right.
So at half-time the score was 1-1 and Phoenix players were finally able to calm their nerves with a long-awaited Winnie Blue. Meanwhile, Demidenok was far from calm, delivering the below speech:
His masterful reference to the 1984 Seoul Olympics looked to have fired the team up in a big way immediately after half-time, and several of the players really seemed to be embodying the courage of Gabriela ‘Gaby’ Andersen-Schiess. Sonesh Amin in particular was having a strong game in attack, and it was his good work that led to the third goal of the match. The quick-footed first-year turned his man inside the penalty box and was promptly hauled to the ground in frustration. Up stepped Alex Cote, who showed Naita how it was done by blasting the ball into the top-right corner. Despite the complaints of the opposition goalkeeper, who betrayed his tenuous-at-best grasp of the laws of the game by claiming that a penalty taker isn’t allowed to stutter in his run-up, the goal stood and the Hatchets were 2-1 up.
The game became even more ill-tempered, if that was possible, and any flow to the Herston play was disrupted by a spate of fouls and blue cards. Team fight-defuser Bjorn ‘The Ice-Man’ Burgher was the busiest player on the pitch, sprinting box to box in his quest to prevent any altercations from escalating. Sadly, he wasn’t as quick to prevent an incisive Phoenix through ball, which was eventually bundled into the net by the extremely unlikeable opposition number 10, making the score 2-2.
And that was how the game finished. Naita will probably be the happier of the two teams, as this result means they should be able to hold on to top spot in the league. Herston, on the other hand, still have several make-up games to play, and will have their eyes firmly set on second place and the associated home semi-final.
Next Sunday morning, the boys in red will return home to the familiar surroundings of Jack Spear Park Colosseum, where they take on the Virginia Spitfires. Despite losing to the Spitfires the last time these two teams played, the Hatchets will be confident of taking three points, and continuing their challenge for QIF Sunday Premier Division glory.