An email went round before kick-off, warning the Greys to expect a rough ride from tonight’s opposition Hazard Us. “Top of the league,” it said. “Destroying opponents,” it said. “Four goals scored per game,” it said. Well, in the immortal words of Rodney Trotter, “Ruud Gull-it, nowhere…”
Playing in red, Hazard Us strut their stuff early on, passing well and out-muscling the Greys to the ball. They’re relentless. Even referee Ash Pedantic can’t keep up, and gets in the way of a few ominous-looking long balls. But the Greys roll with the punches, digging their heels in and riding the red storm.
Centre-back Mark blasts the orders and everyone in grey works harder than ever. Midfielder-turned-defender Adam’s all over the place. Right back Theo manages to keep sticking a leg out like an intercepting football magnet. And holding midfielder Rob does more running than Mo Farah in a Quorn advert.
Still, Hazard Us slip through the cracks. A red shirt rises to meet a corner but the header goes whizzing past the upright. Another shot hits the post. Then keeper Yusuf drops to his knees and blocks one on the line. Always looking for the long ball, Hazard Us are a constant threat, and our heroes do well to hang on to their clean-sheet going into half-time.
The Greys start the second half a lot stronger. Hazard Us almost seem deflated, perplexed that they can’t seem to score. Taking them by surprise, Greys midfielder Manu threads a perfect ball through two red shirts but Adam can’t put the chance away. Karim finds himself in a good position on the edge of the box but misses out. And player-coach Thomas also comes up short. One of those days, perhaps?
Eventually, Karim gets the ball on the left side of the box and knocks a long, raking shot/pass towards the right hand post. Adam gets to the ball first and sticks it in the back of the net. One nil Greys. Then it’s game on. Hazard Us can’t believe the turn of events and launch a fresh wave of attacks.
The Greys go into lock down, the shouting intensifying as the minutes tick away. Everyone’s in on it, pointing, covering, yelling and getting stuck in. It’s what I imagine being in the trenches might be like – only less of a laugh. Hazard Us win another corner. This time the ball finds a red shirt unmarked on the penalty spot. But the header goes just wide. Another shot hits the bottom of the upright and bounces straight into Yusuf’s grateful arms.
At one point, Hazard Us’ exasperated bearded defender let’s out a blood curdling scream that seems to stop time. Everyone in a 500 meter radius stops what they’re doing and looks his way. But even that mighty battle cry isn’t enough to breach the Greys’ defences. Scrambling, tracking back and spluttering, somehow they manage to hold on and see out the game. Sneaking a hard-fought, traumatizing victory over the league leaders and clawing their way up to third position.