By FRASER HOPE
The Old Boys injured reserve list caused manager Graham Tweddle conniptions as every hour and social-media post gave the impression that the chance of fielding a squad for the game against Zgoda 48s at Finlayson field receded into the distance just like Donald Trump’s re-election chances.
However, as always, Old Boys got out the numbers necessary to maintain the purity of a win with the addition of Rick Hoogendoorn (South Vancouver Island Classics Soccer Association president) as our 12th man backup. Missing in action were many of the Old Boys stalwarts: Donny Brown, Stefan Cermack, “newbie” Jude Shugar, Mike “Superman” Davis and Matt Johnson on vaccination duty. Striker Dave Toynbee returned to test out his lower body injury, hoping his body would last the full 90 minutes.
As always, following BC Ferries COVID regulations, the discussion in the lounge turned to more prosaic analysis of world affairs than the upcoming game with emphasis on the brouhaha south of the border. Needless to say, everyone was taken by the gracious way “45” was reacting to the result and were hoping to hear an uplifting speech congratulating the incoming president! Not!
As has been noted over the years, Zgoda is a “Jekyll and Hyde” team. You are never sure who will turn up! Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? One certainty would be the appearance of Zgoda’s Dziadek, Stan Godek, who well into his 70s shows many of the football skills from his youth in Rostov.
Within minutes of the whistle, two Zgoda players had to leave the field injured, giving Old Boys a glimpse of finishing the game ahead in numbers at least, if not in goals. These thoughts were quickly erased when the Zgoda striker out-muscled and out-ran Ben Cooper to advance on goal, but fortunately Bruce Winstone advanced far enough to challenge, causing the shot to narrowly miss. It is so rare for Cooperman to have faced a competitor in Old Boys games that this reporter searched through past reports for any examples. None to be found. A portent of things to come!
Scott Howe, stepping up in the absence of Donny Brown, sent an accurate cross-field pass to Mike McCormick streaking (“streaking” as in moving very fast) down the right wing. McCormick kicked the ball into the middle to find an onrushing Toynbee, who calmly rounded the last defender and shot the ball into the bottom left-hand corner for an unexpected Old Boys 1-0 lead. Congratulations to the Team Medical Unit for rehabilitating Toynbee’s lower body injury. Five wins in a row? Even this reporter in the press box mused at the possibility. Notice the use of the word “mused.”
Several more forays by the Old Boys promised more success. But Zgoda have speed; lots of speed, and Winstone had to clear quickly to avoid an equalizing goal for Zgoda. Then the inevitable happened.
“Speed kills!” Zgoda speed killed the short-lived Old Boys lead. Winstone had no chance and the game was tied 1-1. The pace of the game began to take its toll on players and the game flow was interrupted by substitutions. The game had more subs than a Subway franchise.
After an Old Boys attack petered out, Zgoda used their skillful midfield spine to move the ball up-field, and before the Old Boys could regroup, that fast striker moved into position and gave Zgoda a 2-1 lead. Often the best opportunities to level the score come immediately after the opposition scores and lets down their guard. Not so on this occasion as the whistle brought the first half to a close with Zgoda well deservedly in the lead.
Team tactics of “Go to the ball!” and “Through ball to space not to feet!” were heard from the coaching team to an almost exhausted Old Boys squad. Maybe the fitness regime benefits would “kick in” later in the game?
Zgoda had several more self-inflicted injuries but had considerable bench strength and continued to move the ball around, connecting with teammates and applying constant pressure on the Old Boys net. After one corner kick the ball bounced off the post crossbar and fortunately was scrambled to safety. Old Boys at last lifted the siege that lasted for nearly 20 minutes with a breakout that lasted 20 seconds before needing to return to defence. The inevitable third goal came: same same same, with speed through the middle and another thunderous shot for Zgoda. Tactics fit for field conditions.
Old Boys seemed initially to be falling apart, a bit like Arsenal against Aston Villa, but girding their loins they mounted an attack to salvage Old Boys pride. The pressure resulted in a mis-kick out of defence and Toynbee, with a newly girded loin, pulled a goal back, 3-2, to make the last 15 minutes a contest that could have squeaked out a tie or even a win. It must be noted that having been distracted by dropping my pen and fiddling about under the bench, I missed the entire sequence of the Toynbee goal, which meant having the info relayed by hearsay.
No such luck with getting a win or a tie. The Old Boys threw everything into an attack, which left themselves open to the counter-attack and again Zgoda, using punishing speed, sealed a win with a fourth goal. Stan the Man Godek showed skills as he continues to contribute to his team victories.
Old Boys graciously ceded victory to a very powerful, skillful Zgoda team who were well worthy of their victory. All good things must come to an end! (14th-century proverb or Nelly Furtado, 2006.)
The press box “called the win” before the last minutes of the game were completed.
Usually on the ferry, post-game analysis has Old Boys possibly tying the game or almost winning if not for the opposition scoring more goals. Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Still not clear! Most of the conversation revolved around my completing a customer satisfaction questionnaire for the BC Ferry Corporation. All positives except “Bring Back the Old BC Ferries Website” and “We Want the Queen of Cumberland on the Fulford-Swartz Bay Run!”
This news just in: The Driftwood’s investigating team has intercepted an email from the Hubble Space Telescope Ground Center in Maryland cautioning new trainees that “Images seen on Sundays may have to be treated with caution because often they do not represent new planets or moons of Jupiter but scoring attempts on goal by Old Boys FC, a seniors soccer team in B.C., Canada.” Thanks to Dave Eadie, Mike McCormick and Dave Toynbee for their contributions to this research.
Old Boys will start the road to recovery on Sunday, Nov. 15 at Finlayson field in Victoria for a third-time bruising battle with the bulls of Centaurs 48s. Can the injured reserve list survive another such contest? Hopefully the Old Boys team will avoid hitting the buffers!