L.O.B. vs Electric Rams – Keep Playin’

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

It’s come to this. The penultimate game of the season. The Greys need to win to be in with a chance of snatching second place from tonight’s opponents, Electric Rams. If they do win they could even win the league. As long as they win again next week and first-placed Copa ’90 lose. But win tonight and a draw next week is all it would take to finish second and secure promotion to Division 1.

Playing in red, Electric Rams make the first move. Instantly, the Greys are on the back foot. A red shirt is brought down outside the box on the right and the free-kick is floated in towards the back post. An Electric Rams forward jumps highest and smashes a firm header past Greys keeper Yusuf, into the top left corner. 1-0 Rams.

The Reds are still dictating play when their keeper kicks a dodgy pass out to no-one on the edge of his own box. Greys winger Karim reacts first and beats the charging keeper to the ball. He squeezes it wide to Alex, who controls it well and makes the simple finish to level things. 1-1.

The Greys are back in it. Karim wins a free-kick deep inside the Reds’ half. He takes it himself and strikes it well. The ball bursts through the wall but the Reds’ keeper gets down well to his right and keeps it out. What a save.

This time Greys forward Martin hits a thundering shot towards the top right corner of Electric Rams’ goal. But just as he turns to celebrate the keeper dives across his goal, sticks out a hand and flicks the ball over the bar. Incredible. It’s an even better save than the one before and that’s how the half ends. 1-1.

Channeling injured Ronaldo’s theatrical Euro 2016 orchestration from the touchline, out-of-action player manager Thomas shuffles things around at half-time and the Greys start the second period stronger. Back in the team, defender Big Pat is a constant threat in the box. He hits the bar from a free kick. Heads a corner narrowly over. But then, finally, it’s Martin who makes the breakthrough, flicking on a surprise long throw from stand-in midfielder Danny to put the Greys 2-1 up.

Suddenly the Greys are all over the place. Centre-back Julien plays a neat ball through to Martin, who carries it forward and whacks a powerful low shot under the Reds’ keeper from outside the box. 3-1 Greys.

The Greys are still in charge when another Danny long throw clears everyone at the front post and falls nicely for Alex at the back one. He doesn’t waste any time and half volleys the loose ball in to put the Greys 4-1 up.

Keeping the momentum going, Martin runs onto another neat Julien clearance. It looks like the chance has gone when he holds onto the ball instead of playing it wide to Alex and seems to run out of space. But somehow he manages to nutmeg the last Electric Rams defender and get the ball out to Karim on the left. Making no mistake, Karim pulls the trigger and smashes the ball into the far right corner to wrap things up. 5-1 Greys. Bring on Tuesday.


L.O.B. vs Design Bridge – Keep Playin’

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

The Greys have dusted off their disastrous pre-Christmas run and are finally back on track. Tonight, for the first time… ever, they have the same starting lineup for a third time in a row. And with Karim, Martin, Rob and Alex up front and in the middle, you know there’s going to be goals.

Desperate to keep their promotion – and perhaps, title – challenge alive, our heroes face Design Bridge, who are one place behind them in Division 2. It’s an important game, because next week the Greys face Electric Rams, who are one point and one place ahead. And of course, second place would guarantee promotion to Division 1.

With so much on the line, both teams start well. It’s back and forth in the middle, but early on, left back Theo and left winger Karim combine well down their side. Karim looks fired up, bouncing off black Design Bridge shirts and throwing himself into tackles. Rob soon joins in and plays a neat ball to Theo, now in an advanced left wing-back position. Somehow, Theo bundles his way past two defenders and finishes well to put the Greys 1-0 up.

A few minutes later Design Bridge’s keeper rolls a routine throw to his centre-back. Charging in like he’s holding down R2 and playing FIFA, Karim dives in and wins the ball. It breaks for Ollie, who plays an early pass to Rob. Taking it in his stride, Rob holds off his man, turns and fires the Greys 2-0 up.

Taking their foot off the gas, the Greys let Design Bridge back into the game. A black shirt breaks down the right wing, cuts inside and plays a neat ball to the charging forward. The Greys fail to close the striker and he shoots from outside the box. The ball skims off Adam and beats keeper Yusuf at his far post. 2-1. Game on. Half time.

The second half is tight and both teams are up for it early on. Yusuf rolls the ball out to Greys centre-back Julien, who plays a quick ball upfield to Martin. Injecting urgency, Martin steams forward and plays a clever ball inside to Rob. Again, Rob holds off his man, turns and sticks the ball in the back of the net. 3-1.

Still hungry for more, Martin breaks forward again. He plays the ball to Greys midfielder Hammam, who skips past Design Bridge’s right back and hits a low cross into the box. Rob – who else – has made a neat run and meets the pass at the front post. He puts the keeper on the ground with a dummy and then smashes the ball in to complete his hat-trick. 4-1 Greys.

Desperate to get on the scoresheet, Alex picks up a pass from Adam on the halfway line. He takes a few steps and hits the sweetest shot of the season. The ball sails over the keeper’s desperate lunge, moving all the time, and drops perfectly in the top right corner. What a goal. 5-1 Greys.

Design Bridge deflate and it’s pretty much one way traffic, minus a few last-ditch long balls by the black shirts. Then, finally, Design Bridge get into the Greys’ box. A black-shirted forward blasts the ball straight into Julien from 10cm away, his right arm is at his side, in a perfectly natural position, when the ball hits it. But still, the ref gives a penalty.

Yusuf dives the wrong way and Design Bridge pull things back to 5-2. Visibly angry with the decision, the Greys charge forward again and win a corner. Karim floats the ball perfectly and Martin heads it in at the back post. 6-2 Greys. Just before the end, Karim hits an almost identical ball into the box. This time Hammam jumps well to meet it and heads the ball down, but the keeper tips it over. And that’s how it finishes, 6-2 to the Greys. Bring on the Electric Rams…

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.

L.O.B. vs Anon – Keep Playin’

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

It’s a new year and the Greys need to jump start their season, fast, if there’s any chance of them winning the league. Tonight they face bottom-of-the-table Anon, who they beat 7-1 last time round. This time, however, the red shirts seem reinforced. Taller. Better. Stronger. Faster. And early on it’s one way traffic, as the Greys struggle to shake off their New Year’s blues.

But with centre-back Julien in charge, the Greys ride the storm. And midway through the first half they spring to life, conjuring a goal out of nothing. Wing-back Adam winds up for a throw-in just inside the Red’s half and finds Big Rob outside the box. Still, it doesn’t look threatening, until Rob chests the ball, muscles his man out of the way and whacks it, beating Anon’s keeper at his near post.

Soon afterwards Greys forward Martin wins the ball on the halfway line. He ghosts past his man and lays the ball off to winger Karim, who seemingly dribbles his way through the entire Anon defence, before smashing a cross low and hard into the box. Greys striker Alex dives in foot first at the back post, finishing off a fine team goal. The kind of stylish goal Arsene Wenger might watch at home over a nice bottle of red, some Bob Marley playing gently in the background.

Optimistically, the Greys go into the break 2-0 up, knowing that a clean-sheet would secure all three points. The whistle blows, and this time, the Greys don’t waste a second. Rob finds himself one on one with the keeper rushing out. He tries to dink the ball over him but misses the target. Then Karim breaks down the left wing and hits a thunderbolt from way out. But the ball hits the post and the keeper collects.

Playing in running shoes, a puffy vest jacket and a beanie, Anon’s keeper plays like a makeshift goalie. His saves aren’t pretty, yet somehow, he’s always there, sticking out a foot, a hand, a knee, a shoulder, like Mr. Fantastic. And eventually, the Greys’ frustration starts to show. Their concentration waivers and Anon sneak in a few chances. A stinging shot is turned wide by Greys keeper Yusuf. A free kick is floated in and narrowly misses the target. Greys left-back Theo snuffs out a good chance on the edge of the box. And Julien throws himself into headers, doing his best to hang onto the Greys’ clean sheet.

It looks like Anon are on their way back, until Martin picks up the ball deep inside Red territory and finds Karim in the box. He fires the ball on goal, but again, Anon’s keeper sticks out a foot and blocks it. Luckily, the rebound goes straight to Karim, and he doesn’t waste his chance this time. 3-0 Greys.

Karim runs off and celebrates like a man who thought he’d never score again. The whistle blows and it’s a great reboot for the Greys, who face title contenders Haggerston Park this Friday. And if they win their two games in hand, they’ll be two points behind league leaders Copa ’90.

L.O.B. vs Wednesday Week – Keep Playin’

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

The wheels have come off the Greys’ title challenge a bit, thanks to two back-to-back defeats and some flaky turnouts, so tonight’s game against Wednesday Week is crucial if our heroes want to reignite their campaign. And of course, things don’t start well, as referee Ash sends Greys midfielder Adam off to find two bibs to cover up two dark grey shirts and then blows his whistle. It’s a surprisingly cruel move, even for him, and the Greys struggle to contain Wednesday Week one man down early on. “I guess his favourite book isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey,” jokes Greys winger Karim.

Playing in blue and white stripes, Wednesday Week win a corner and take it quickly. The ball floats over the front post and finds their towering target man. Unchallenged, he heads the ball through the crowd. It bounces off Adam’s head and ricochets untidily into the top left corner. One nil Wednesday Week.

At this point Adam returns and Greys defender Koyes shows up. Back up to full strength with a man extra, the Greys fight back. Stand-in forward Big Rob holds the ball up well, flicking blue and white shirts off him like flies. But somehow his thumping shots always seem to hit a Wednesday Week limb and fly wide.

Adam signals the ref, telling him that the Greys want to make a substitution. The ref seems to acknowledge the call but as soon as substitute Koyes touches the ball he’s sent off for not letting Ash know he was coming on. It’s a strange decision, as everyone else on the pitch seemed to have seen the request.

Feeling cheated, the Greys fail to adjust to going a man down, again, and leave a gaping hole down the right. Spurred back into action by their seemingly unfair advantage, Wednesday Week’s left winger bounds through the open space and crosses the ball to an unmarked Blue and White forward lurking in the box. Making the most of his chance, the striker steers the ball past helpless Greys keeper Yusuf to put Wednesday Week 2-0 up. Things don’t look good for the Greys at half-time.

There’s a different air about the game in the second half. Hungry for revenge, the Greys exhale and calm things down. Stand-in defender Mike’s throw-in finds Big Rob, who holds off two defenders, turns and smashes the ball past Wednesday Week’s sprawling keeper. 2-1.

Next, Karim and Rob link up down the left wing. Moving surprisingly delicately for a big man, Rob turns his defender and lays the ball off. Karim muscles past his Blue and White adversary and his emphatic shot ripples the back of Wednesday Week’s net. 2-2. That’s more like it.

Upset that their lead has crumbled so early in the second half, Wednesday Week show their teeth. But neither team backs down and there are some pretty hard tackles in the middle of the pitch. Eventually, tempers boil over and Greys defender Koyes reacts angrily to what he feels is an unfair challenge on him in the box. Overhearing his threats, referee Ash sends him off… again. Although this time it seems like the right decision.

Determined not to let things slip the Greys cover for their missing defender. Julien is unshakable at the back and Rob and Karim are so physical, skillful and nimble upfront that Wednesday Week fail to deal with them. Karim rolls a pass to Rob, who shields it with his massive elbows, holds off two defenders and fires the ball into the back of the net. 3-2 Greys.

Still buzzing, the Greys pin the blue and white shirts back off their own kick-off. Rob nudges his man off the ball close to Wednesday Week’s right corner flag (if there were flags). And against the odds, he smashes a raking shot past Wednesday Week’s disbelieving keeper, into the bottom left corner. 4-2 Greys. Three goals for Rob. What a comeback. Made even sweeter by the Greys’ sense of injustice over Wednesday Week’s two first half goals. Keep playin’.

L.O.B. vs Copa ’90 – Keep Playin’

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

The Greys are having the season of their lives but they’re shedding dedicated defenders quicker than Manchester United. Tonight’s lineup was particularly attack-minded, so hard-tackling centre back Mike was called in at the last minute. The Greys face fourth-placed Copa ’90, one of four teams going for the title. They’ve played two games extra but they’re tied on points with the Greys, and behind on goal difference.

It’s wet and the ball moves around fast early on. The Greys win a free-kick on the halfway line. Hoping for the best, Mike smashes the ball straight at the Copa ’90 goal. Somehow, it misses everyone in the box, until lurking Greys forward Alex sticks a foot out and guides it into the back of the net. 1-0.

Minutes later Mike’s involved at the other end, as he dives in to block a cross and the ball catches him on the arm. “Penalty,” says the ref. It looks like a harsh decision. Ball to hand, completely accidental and his arm was in a natural position to support his slide.

Greys keeper Yusuf half goes the right way and comes agonizingly close but can’t stop the equalizing strike. 1-1.

Copa ’90 play in bright orange, like the Dutch national team, and their keeper looks like Ed de Goey. He seems hard to beat as well; the Greys manage to string a few chances together but the shots that aren’t straight at him are well kept out.

Soaking up the pressure, Copa ’90 launch an opportunistic counter. Their hulking, man bun-wearing centre forward is given too much space on the edge of the box. He hits a low shot that skids up off the wet pitch and squeezes under Yusuf’s elbow, as he gets down to try and keep it out. 2-1 Orange.

The Greys switch off for a bit in the second half, giving possession away and playing themselves into trouble. Instead of passing it around as usual they hit out-of-character long balls, which skid harmlessly out of play off the wet surface.

Finally, the Greys back off Copa ’90’s attacking midfielder one time too many and he decides to just shoot from way out. The ball squeezes through a crowd of Grey shirts on the edge of the box, through the clearing and into the bottom right corner of Yusuf’s goal. 3-1 Orange.

To make things worse, Copa ’90 aren’t done. They break down the right with a string of neat passes. An Orange-shirted forward cuts in on the right and ghosts past two Greys defenders, before placing the ball into the opposite corner of the net. 4-1. It looks like the Greys’ undefeated run might be coming to an end. But this realisation seems to galvanize them.

Alex gets the ball on the edge of the Orange box and sort of… steps on it. Greys winger Karim winds up and fires the dead ball past Alex – who might have got a touch – and into the top left corner. 4-2. One for the dubious goals committee, perhaps.

There are five minutes left on the clock and the Greys need two goals to hang onto their unbroken run. Finally, they play out from the back. Karim gets the ball down the left wing and knocks a dangerous pass into the box. Martin keeps his cool, sidesteps the keeper and buries the chance. 4-3. That’s more like it.

But just like that, referee Ash blows the final whistle and it’s all over. The Greys left it too late. They had more chances than their opposition but couldn’t stop Copa ’90 for a second time this season. Let’s just hope it’s a once off, not reality finally catching up with our momentarily defeated heroes in Grey.

L.O.B. vs Jacklington Stanley – Keep Playin’

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.

L.O.B. vs Jacklington Stanley – Keep Playin’

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

Top of the league. According to the whispers going round Coram’s Field before kick-off, anyway. It’s new territory for the Greys, who have made a great start to the season and are undefeated in seven so far. Tonight they face old rivals Jacklington Stanley, who start the game a man down – and seem to have a few new faces in their ranks. “Let’s have it,” says the ref.

Jacklington Stanley play in black and yellow, but for some reason one of their strikers is wearing white. Under the floodlights, at first – and, perhaps even second, third or fourth – glance, his shirt looks grey. But when the Greys complain a Jacklington Stanley midfielder replies, “Calm down pal, this ain’t the Champions League.” Classic.

Five minutes later Greys forward Ollie’s winding up for his first long-throw of the game. Not knowing what to expect, the yellow and black shirts watch in slow motion as the ball sails over their heads, coming back up to real-speed as Greys striker Alex, back for the first time in over 10 weeks, sticks the ball in the back of the net. 1-0 Greys.

The Yellow and Blacks kick-off but it doesn’t take long for the Greys to win the ball back. Martin finds Adam just outside the box and his business-ended shot fizzes right past Jacklington Stanley’s grey-shirted keeper. 2-0. The Greys are all over the place.

Playing his last game before his big move back to France, midfield playmaker Manu rolls the ball to Martin from the right corner flag. And Martin’s shot is just as convincing as Adam’s. The keeper doesn’t stand a chance. 3-0. The Greys are in dreamland.

Confidently, our heroes slow things down, passing the ball around well and looking for another opening – like any top of the league team worth their open top bus parade should (too soon?). Suddenly, left back Paolo breaks down his side. He looks up, spots Ollie and knocks a perfect ball into the box. Ollie volleys his shot straight at the keeper but reacts well to head in the rebound, effectively assisting himself. 4-0.

Perhaps shocked by their early lead the Greys back off and give Jacklington Stanley more time on the ball. A cross is fired in, but it’s straight at Greys keeper Yusuf. Eventually, the Yellow and Blacks win a corner. The cross is whipped in. The ball squeezes its way through the pack, to a yellow and black shirt inside the box. And the striker hits the ball through the crowd, straight into the right hand side of the Greys’ net. 4-1.

Just before the half Adam plays Martin in down the right hand side. Martin doesn’t waste any time pulling the trigger, and his shot is way too hot for Jacklington Stanley’s keeper to handle. 5-1.

To be fair, despite the heavy score line, Jacklington Stanley’s keeper is actually having a good game. If not for him, the Greys could have seven or eight by now. Early in the second half he screams like medieval Sean Bean, trying to rally his flagging troops. But the Greys aren’t feeling sympathetic.

Manu knocks a long pass into the box from just inside Jacklington Stanley’s half. Martin reads the flight of the ball perfectly and hits a tidy volley past Ned Stark to put the Greys 6-1 up.

Jacklington Stanley kick-off again but Martin closes down a weak back-pass from the centre. Somehow, he squeezes the ball across the box to Alex, who’s in the right place at the right time to put the Greys 7-1 up and complete his comeback hat-trick.

Beaming with pride the Greys slip up again. A wave of yellow and black shirts surges forward on the counter and the ball breaks for the same forward who scored Jacklington Stanley’s first goal. Forced to commit, Yusuf guesses right but the striker goes left. 7-2.

It’s back and forth for a while, until Ollie tosses a throw-in to Yusuf. Feeling confident he attempts a Cruyff turn but ends up looking more like Artur Boruc against Arsenal. He gets away with it, though, and Theo and Koyes clear the danger.

Wrapping things up, Adam runs past two yellow and black shirts on the right wing and drives a low cross into the box. Martin reacts first and the ball’s in the back of the net before the keeper even knows what day of the week it is. 8-2. And a hat-trick for Martin as well. All in all, a good day’s work for the Greys. Keep playin…

L.O.B. vs Copa ’90 – Keep Playin’

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

Usually, our heroes in grey start out strong and tail off, as injuries, work commitments, Friday nights and an eventual sobering mid-table finish kick in. But so far, they’re still undefeated, six games into the new season – with a healthy five-goal-a-game average. And really, a top-of-the-league dogfight is unfamiliar territory. But that’s exactly what the Greys faced tonight, against second-placed – with a game in hand – Copa ’90.

Playing in matching orange Netherlands kits, with a big man at the back wearing an actual captain’s armband, Copa ’90 kick-off. They look fit, physical and intimidating. Buoyed by their recent form, however, the Greys stand toe-to-toe, passing the ball around and spreading the play patiently.

Early in the game, Greys winger Karim is brought down just outside the box. He takes the free-kick himself and fires a stinging shot at the bottom left corner of the Orange goal, but the big keeper gets down surprisingly quickly to keep it out.

Next, Karim fires a corner at Greys forward Martin, whose low, hard shot hurtles towards the middle of Copa ’90’s goal. But again, the keeper reacts well, showing surprising agility to readjust from his position on the near post and keep the score level.

Then a long throw from Ollie, his first of the match, finds Adam at the back post. Unfortunately, Copa ’90’s defenders scramble his header out for a corner, but it’s a good start for the Greys. Then Copa ’90 start to flex their muscles…

Their big centre-forward throws his weight around like Diego Costa, jumping into players rather than for the ball. He’s good, but he’s sneaky. Finally, a long punt from Copa ’90’s keeper ends up in that dreaded no-man’s land between Greys last-defender Julien and keeper Yusuf. The hulking forward reads the situation well and throws himself between them like Andy Carroll flattening David De Gea. He gets a head on it but Julien stands up holding his face. It looks like a foul but the ref disagrees. One nil Orange.

The Greys fight back but they’re up against it. Martin and Karim can’t find the same kind of space to dance past players like they usually do. It seems crowded in the Orange box. Their defenders are ice-cool on the ball, often taking the John Stones approach and sending Greys forwards the wrong way with a few neat step-overs rather than booting it out of play.

A long throw from Greys right-back Koyes finds Martin on the edge of the box. He scoops the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net, but the ref blows for a foul on Copa ’90’s last defender.

Then a torpedo throw from Ollie sails right into the top corner of Copa ’90’s goal. The Greys claim the keeper got a touch, but again, the ref disagrees. Goal kick.

The second half is just as tight. Physical. Intense. And end-to-end. But the play is stop-and-start, as Copa ’90 make a number of cynical fouls. On top of the tight defending, their keeper catches everything in his box, thwarting the Greys’ long throws, crosses and corners and breaking up play even further.

Then the Greys win a pretty non-threatening-looking free-kick just inside Copa ’90’s half. Karim whips a long ball into the box and Greys defender Paolo jumps to meet it. Incredibly, he dives backwards and glances the ball off the side of his head perfectly, looping it over the sprawling keeper, into the top right corner. 1-1.

Meanwhile, the Orange forwards clatter into Yusuf every time he jumps for the ball. At one point, a gung-ho defender smashes into him, elbow out, and bundles him over the line. No free-kick. With minutes to go, Copa ’90 win another corner. The ball’s whipped in and the Oranges’ Costa jumps straight into Yusuf, this time sneakily holding his arm down as he jumps. The ball ends up in the back of the net and it looks like the ref’s given the goal. The Greys are incensed, until they realise he did spot the foul and the goal doesn’t count. I’m sure this ref’s just bored and goes out of his way to irritate people and wind them up by being as ambiguous and pedantic as possible.

Towards the end, Copa ’90 are relentless, and the Greys can’t seem to get the ball out of their own box. But thankfully, that’s how it ends. 1-1. Exhale. The Greys walk off like they’ve been in a fight. A battle. And to be fair, the draw is a fair result.

L.O.B. vs Anon – Keep Playin’

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

Forget what I said about Friday nights, 6:00pm starts are the Greys’ new kryptonite. And predictably, two players – who clearly live in the real world – dropped out hours before kick-off. Throw in signal failures and severe delays on the Piccadilly line and our heroes face Anon two men down. But Anon have a man stuck on the Tube as well. Six vs seven – the pitch seems massive.

Shine a light, Ollie’s here. Seven vs seven. And luckily, the Greys’ red-shirted opposition don’t look like they’re going to pose much of a threat. Greys forward Martin seems to dribble through them at will. But for some reason, all his shots are straight at the keeper. Adam and Ollie soon join in, but their shots hit him as well. He’s like a magnet.

Finally, the Greys get their breakthrough. Ollie winds up for another one of his trademark long throws – it’s always fun watching an opposition team get their first taste of Ollie. His throw sails over all the Reds’ defenders and Martin half-volleys it in at the back post. 1-0.

The Greys continue to threaten Anon’s goal but can’t make the most of all their possession. Until another Ollie throw finds Martin, again unmarked, at the back post. This time the ball bounces a few more times, but otherwise; same result. Two nil. And with that, Greys defender Theo and Anon’s missing player show up, and finally, both teams are back up to eight. Game on.

Suddenly, completely against the run of play, Anon launch their first meaningful attack. The Greys give Anon’s midfielder way too much time on the ball and he makes the most of it. He hits a hard, stinging shot straight at Greys keeper Yusuf, who spills the ball to a grateful Reds forward. The gift horse doesn’t think twice and fires one back for Anon. 2-1. Imbued with confidence, Anon look more of a threat as the half-time whistle sounds. But that’s where their story ends…

Early in the second half, Greys midfielder Chris passes the ball to Martin, who cuts through two Anon defenders like he’s skating on ice down the right wing and sneaks the ball in at the near post. Anon counter, and Yusuf clashes with a red-shirted striker in the box. But moments later, Paolo feeds the ball to Martin, who does the same twinkle toes routine down the right-hand side, this time beating Anon’s keeper at his far post. 4-1.

Next, Martin turns provider, laying the ball off to Adam, who finishes coolly to put the Greys 5-1 up. Then, soon after Anon kick-off, Adam wins the ball back and plays a long ball towards Martin. He turns his man, easily, and rolls the ball to Ollie, who slots it into the bottom left corner. 6-1 Greys.

Looking to claw one back for pride, Anon pass their way into space on the edge of the box and feed the ball to their long-haired man up front. To be fair, the striker has been a threat all game, but luckily, he’s been expertly marked by Greys defender Julien. This time, though, he’s brought down inside the box. Surprisingly, he bounces back up quickly and thumps the ball past Yusuf. But referee Nev had already blown his whistle. Penalty. No goal.

After some complaints, the striker composes himself and lines up for the penalty. He hits it hard but Yusuf guesses well and dives to the right to keep it out. Then, smearing the Greys’ cake with icing – and wrapping up an Aguero-like five-goal haul – Martin steps past another assortment of confused Reds defenders and smashes the ball past Anon’s beleaguered keeper, who looks like he’s already back on the Piccadilly line and heading home. 7-1 Greys.