The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’
Tonight, hoping to hang onto their seven-game undefeated streak, the Greys face unintimidating Jacklington Stanley for the second time in a row. However, the yellow and black-striped shirts warming up before kick-off are barely recognisable compared to the more make-shift team the Greys beat 8-2 two weeks ago. Jacklington Stanley, it seems, are back up to full strength and hungry for revenge.
It’s cold and the rain lashes down as the Greys kick off, but it doesn’t take long for things to heat up. Part-time midfielder Hammam finds himself in space on the right-hand side of Jacklington Stanley’s box and spreads the ball wide to winger Martin. The angle’s tight but Martin looks up and side-foots the ball into the far corner, like the Blackpool Sergio Agüero. 1-0 Greys and business as usual, or so it seems.
Battling to cope with the wet conditions the Greys make a series of careless mistakes that let Jacklington Stanley back into the game. Yellow and black shirts swarm the box, but instead of clearing the danger when they have the chance, our heroes gift the ball straight to a grateful Jacklington Stanley forward. He turns and shoots, but Greys keeper Yusuf gets down well to keep it out. The yellow and black shirts react first, though, and pounce on the loose ball. 1-1.
Again, the Greys fail to cope with the slippery conditions and their aggressive, physical opponents. This time, instead of kicking the ball out, they pass it straight to a yellow and black shirt lurking in the box. Yusuf charges out to intercept but the Jacklington Stanley forward beats him to the ball and heads it in to put his team 2-1 up. Things aren’t looking good for the Greys.
Just before half-time, however, Karim makes a move down the right wing and floats a tasty looking ball into the box. Martin gets a head on it and glances the ball up and over Jacklington Stanley’s keeper. It drops just in time and nestles perfectly in the top corner of the goal. 2-2.
The rain is on and off in the second half and you can’t hear a word the stand-in ref’s saying – or even hear his whistle. And without an authority figure on the pitch the game boils over. Jacklington Stanley throw themselves around and the Greys do well to avoid the robust challenges. Greys defender Koyes, however, is up for the fight, crunching yellow and black shirts with perfectly timed slide tackles and driving things forward.
He wins the ball back deep in the Greys’ half and passes wide to Martin, who runs down the right wing and delivers a perfectly weighted pass into the box. Hammam gets to the ball ahead of the charging defenders and hits it first time, using the speed of the pass to beat Jacklington Stanley’s keeper and put the Greys 3-2 up.
Then things get a bit ugly, and eventually, Martin is sent off for dissent. With a man down the Greys fall apart. They’re all over the place, as Jacklington Stanley go on the hunt for an equalising goal. Karim rushes into a 50-50 challenge with Jacklington Stanley’s keeper and things get pretty tense.
Miraculously, the Greys weather the storm and hold onto their lead until Martin’s return. And luckily, that’s how it ends. 3-2 to the Greys. It’s a tough game and a good, hard-fought victory. But in truth, the Greys made their opponents look a lot better than they really are with a number of careless mistakes. Still, it doesn’t matter. The Greys march on, and victory never tasted so sweet.