L.O.B. vs Haggerston Park – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

Tonight the Greys face third-placed Haggerston Park, who are four points ahead of our heroes after one game more. Conditions are dire. That rain that flew in sideways in Forrest Gump has soaked the pitches and there’s no sign of it letting up. Wearing yellow bibs over their white kits, Haggerston Park are a player short, and the Greys make the most of their one-man advantage early on.

Greys winger Karim finds himself in space on the right, just outside Haggerston’s box, and thunders a shot straight at the stunned keeper. The ball whizzes through the rain wickedly and the goalie spills it. Big Rob reacts first, poking the loose ball in to put the Greys 1-0 up.

Next, Greys keeper Yusuf plays a quick ball out to fill-in right back Adam, who wastes no time squeezing the ball out to Rob on the right. Showing he’s got more in his locker than strong hold-up play and a solid shot, Rob gets past his man, drives towards the line and fires in a low cross. Seemingly recreating Wednesday’s second goal, Alex runs on to Rob’s pass and sticks the ball past the keeper, putting the Greys 2-0 up.

The Greys pass the ball around well in the rain, playing with urgency and intensity. And seven-man Haggerson must fear the worst when they see Karim winding up for another big long-range shot from outside the box. This time, again in space on the right, the strong winger’s strike screams through the air and hits the back of the net, beating Haggerston’s keeper at his far post. 3-0 Greys.

Against the run of play, Haggerston break down the right and whip in a quick cross, catching the Greys flat-footed on the counter. A yellow-bibbed forward times his run perfectly, heading the ball in unmarked at the back post. 3-1. A sudden flicker of panic sets in. Until Greys midfielder Ollie hits an optimistic shot/pass from way out on the left. The keeper bends to get the ball but it skids off the wet surface, squeezing through his hands and into the net. 4-1 Greys. Half-time.

Haggerston start the second-half stronger. Determined not to concede again. But the Greys keep pressing, relentlessly, and eventually Rob plays a tasty ball inside to Martin from way out on the left wing. Martin controls it, looks up and places the ball past Haggerston’s keeper. 5-1 Greys.

A few minutes later Rob and Martin hookup again, only this time Rob plays the ball in from the right. Martin’s shot is just as emphatic as before, though, and suddenly, the Greys are 6-1 up and one point behind their rivals – with a game in hand. But then Karim finds himself in trouble with the ref for sticking out an arm to control a rebound. Still, players on both sides are blown away when Karim’s sent off, for a handball, in the opponent’s box…

Even though they’re 6-1 down, Haggerston are a good team. And with the numbers suddenly level again, the yellow bibs burst into life. Incensed with the red card, the Greys throw themselves into tackles and headers, doing their best to kill off their opponents’ newfound enthusiasm. A Haggerston chance rebounds to an unmarked yellow bib outside the box, and the midfielder’s skidding shot hits otherwise-flawless Greys centre-back Julien, deflecting to the left and sending Yusuf the wrong way. 6-2. Karim’s allowed back on.

Feeling the swing in momentum, the Greys concede a free-kick on the edge of their box for a dubious high foot. Haggerston call in their big-hitting midfielder, who whacks his shot straight at the Greys’ wall. The ball breaks for Big Rob, and all of a sudden, it’s Karim and Rob vs Haggerston’s beleaguered goalie. Of course, he doesn’t stand a chance. Rob lures him in before playing the ball wide to Karim, who inevitably smacks it past the keeper, wrapping up an impressive 7-2 victory.

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