The Greys were already one down before kick-off, when only seven of the confirmed eight showed up to face NND. Luckily, Greys defender Paolo found an able recruit kicking about before the game – named Tiano, no less!
Despite the last-minute shakedown the Greys started well. They were organized at the back, creative in midfield and relentless in attack. And for the first 20 minutes they were all over NND, like a Rashford.
Like most ringers, defending was not part of Tiano’s game, so there was always one man spare down the left wing. But his attack play was exceptional and his powerful left-footed strikes more than made up for it.
The Greys were on fire, and before half-time it felt like everyone had had a shot cleared off the line. Then, completely against the run of play, NND’s token fat guy broke through the Greys’ defense with his surprisingly nimble footwork.
Off the ball he was wheezing, coughing and spluttering like a Sunday leaguer, and his balance looked shaky as well. But as soon as he had the ball at his feet he spun through players like a ballerina.
He cut in from the left and laid the ball off for a teammate, whose return cross fooled everyone, including Greys keeper Yusuf, who could only watch as it dropped neatly in the top corner.
Before the whistle blew for the second half referee Ash Pedantic earned his pedantic stripes when he wouldn’t allow Tiano back on the field in his preferred black Nike compression shirt – even though NND play in assorted yellow Norwich kits. Then he penalized NND’s goalkeeper for time wasting (now that’s a first) – maybe he just didn’t like his leopard print goalie shirt.
The second half was a lot like the first; the Greys on all out attack and the ball constantly being scraped off the NND goal-line. At one point midfield maestro Manu even had an NND player on the deck with his trickery. Our heroes did fall away a bit towards the end but the Yellows didn’t get any better either. And somehow, that’s how it ended: 1-0 to NND.
But the stats – and the shocked looks on the Greys’ faces coming off the pitch – told you everything you needed to know about the injustice of the result. The Greys must have had more than 65% of possession and managed around 10 shots on target. NND, on the other hand, had one shot on target (and that’s not including the miss-kicked cross that went in). Sometimes, perhaps, it’s just not meant to be…