The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’
Friday night football. Not quite as tantalising a draw without Rachel Riley. Because, with two players dropping out hours before the game, the Greys went from a comfortable nine-man, one-sub situation to scouting semi-abandoned Coram’s Fields for ringers five minutes before kick-off. Luckily, they find Granit Xhaka.
Playing in blue and white stripes, tonight’s opponents, Wednesday Week, must have thought they were in for an easy ride when the Greys line up one man down. Still, the Greys look determined to maintain their undefeated status three games into the new season.
The Greys kick off and things look promising. Playing on the left, Martin looks a real threat up front. And with him doing enough running for two players, perhaps our heroes might just be able to pull this off after all.
Martin gets the ball deep in Wednesday Week’s half and darts forward threateningly, but his shot tears into the side netting. A few minutes later Rob knocks a through ball into Martin’s feet but this time he blazes it over the bar. And suddenly, Xhaka – aka 18-year-old ringer Callum in a Number 29-Xhaka Arsenal third kit – reappears with a pair of boots and shin pads and the Greys are back up to eight.
Still, it’s Wednesday Week who strike first. Their right winger runs on to a defence-splitting through ball and smashes his shot past Greys keeper Yusuf. Almost immediately afterwards the Greys get a free kick on the edge of Wednesday Week’s box and while they’re still arguing about the wall Martin tucks the ball neatly into the bottom left corner. Game on.
Just before half-time Wednesday Week strike again. A hopeful shot deflects off Julien at the back and the ball falls to an unmarked striker in blue and white, who smashes it in to put Wednesday Week 2-1 up at half time.
Greys defender Koyes has an idea and switches the formation to three at the back, with midfielder Manu dropping into left back. All of a sudden the Greys look much more solid in defence, which gives the attacking players the freedom to just get on with it.
Martin passes two men down the left like a man possessed and whips in a dangerous-looking cross. Rob rises to meet it and glances his header past Wednesday Week’s keeper – who reacts just in time to bend and fish the ball out of his net. 2-2.
Wednesday Week kick-off again and play it back. Charging forward, Martin closes down the slow-thinking last defender and wins the ball back, blasting his shot past a now stunned and slightly annoyed-looking Wednesday Week keeper to put the Greys 3-2 up.
Next, Rob gets the ball just inside Wednesday Week’s half and hits a hopeful long ball up the pitch. Xhaka runs on to it, and to everyone’s surprise, he hits a sweet, Match of the Day quality half-volley into the bottom right corner. 4-2 Greys.
Smelling blood, the Greys circle their blue and white-striped prey. And again it’s Martin who seizes the initiative, ghosting past dejected-looking striped shirts and rolling an appetising pass into the box. Rob runs on to it and darts the ball into the top right corner. 5-2 Greys.
Wednesday Week can hardly believe what’s going on. They were 2-1 up at half-time and in the space of about 15 minutes the Greys have turned things upside down. Still not content, Martin charges down the right hand side this time – if you could see a heat map of his touches the pitch graphic would look like the floor of a Heinz Ketchup factory.
Still going, he cuts past another defender and squares the ball to Greys forward Hammam, who fakes to shoot, sending the last blue and white man the wrong way, and tucks the ball coolly into the top right hand corner of the goal to make it 6-2 to the Greys.
By this stage the Greys look like real title contenders. Rob holds the ball up like Diego Costa and is surprisingly delicate on his feet for a big man. Martin’s all over the place like Action Jackson. And at one point, he spins past a shell-shocked Wednesday Week defender and the small crowd gathering on the touchline gasps.
Silk-footed Manu looks comfortable at left back as well – as cool and calm under pressure as always. And Julien and Koyes are fast, determined and always ready to stick in a leg, a boot, a head and make that tackle.
But suddenly, with referee “I know everything about football” Nev about to blow the final whistle, Julien brings Wednesday Week’s right winger down on the edge of the Greys’ box. The free-kick is whipped in quickly and Koyes can only manage to flash his header past Yusuf and into his own net. And that’s how it finishes. 6-3 to the Greys. Undefeated. Hungry. And ready for more…