Three consecutive wins give Old Boys a flying record start
Ball-passing rumours prove true
By FRASER HOPE
Away games at Tyndall on a late Saturday afternoon often pose team personnel problems for Old Boys coach Graham Tweddle with other duties and family commitments making a full team lineup difficult.
The new spirit in the locker room has been such a catalyst that 14 players made it to Tyndall Turf Field for a 4 p.m. start versus Gordon Head Gunners. The Old Boys Management Committee would like to thank the hardworking researchers at Langley, Virginia; Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Lubyanka Square, Moscow and the PLA Unit 61398, Beijing in providing the Team Tracking App to add to our Golden Boot Award Digital Resources. Coach Tweddle was able to tell the team at kickoff that Mike Berendt was travelling down the Malahat and would provide fresh legs for the second half.
A large crowd of supporters, family and at least three dogs were in support to see if the “the dream” could continue. As reporter I was refreshed by the fine sausage rolls at the local township coffee shop that had been kept especially for me, according to the management. Hmmm! maybe we should look a bit closer at this newfangled tracking software?
Old Boys, bolstered by the return of silky Richard Steel and the northern grit of Phil Ritson looked to capitalize on the winning start to the season. The referee was overheard to remark “the Old Boys pass the ball around” to the home team bench. Who needs scouting when social media bares all and we’re not talking senate hearings here?
Just to prove the rumour was true, Old Boys dominated the opening 30 minutes with several opportunities, resulting from the ball being skillfully worked out by the defence (Dave Toynbee in the unaccustomed role of centre back), the mid-field of Dave Eadie, Stefan Cermack and Matt Johnson providing opposition-splitting pinpoint passes for strikers McCormick and Steel to give the goalkeeper plenty of exercise to keep him warm, Tyndall being by far the coldest, windiest ground in the league.
An early clash found Tweddle trying to see out of a poked eye while his assailant lay writhing on the ground in tremendous pain from the minimal contact he had with Tweddle. The hushed crowd expected to hear the sirens of approaching BC Ambulance Service to take him to emergency. Somehow he was helped off to the bench to be “finished” for the game.
As play continued, Steel found himself one on one with the keeper, who managed to keep the score level. Supporters were comfortable with the notion that goals would surely come with this dominant Old Boys pressure. Yes, readers, you know what’s coming! An innocent wrong turn saw our “hospital case” opponent swiftly latch on to a mistimed back pass to give an undeserved lead to the Gunners.
This would be the test! Could the Old Boys martial their inner strength and overcome this unexpected hurdle? Minutes later, Ritson calmly ignored the Gunners’ shouts of “offside, ref” to almost walk the ball into the net to equalize 1-1. The old adage to “play to the whistle” was never better displayed as the home team looked darkly at the assistant referee, who fortunately was a member of the Gordon Head club.
Half time came with goalkeeper Dennis Shaw making a dramatic scrambling save from a rather innocent shot to add to the excitement. The Juggler, or El Malabarista, as he is better known at Camp Nou, always tries to bring a refreshing lightheartedness to the seriousness of a match.
Coach Tweddle welcomed Mike Berndt safely off the Malahat and with the admonition to the team to make sure the next goal was for the Old Boys and not the opposition. Very quickly Old Boys returned to their early game dominance and Ritson, casting off years of cobwebs, sprinted onto a defensive error and rocketed a shot to give the team a deserved 2-1 lead. Many supporters still were hoping for Christian Ronaldo’s rippling abs but were just as excited by Ritson ripping of his team shirt as he ran to the bench to accept the congratulations of manager and subs. He avoided a yellow card because the referee was still arguing with the Gunners over the disputed goal.
That old defensive shell is one of the hardest tasks to overcome in coaching terms and, true to instincts, Old Boys gave ground to a Gunners team seething with resentment. In my dual capacity of reporter/assistant linesperson, I gave several offside decisions that further increased their ire. The referee warned our modern-day Lazarus that he would be red carded if he continued his abuse. Thanks, ref! A goalpost saved Shaw on one occasion, and Lazarus was too cute in trying to curl a shot on the advancing Shaw, which saved an almost certain equalizer.
It was the TSN game turning point. With Gordon Head and the Old Boys both anxious in the final five minutes of play, both myself and Shaw were exhorting the team to take the ball to the corner flags to run out time. Instead, coach Tweddle crossed to the corner kick where Stefan Cermak glanced the ball to Mike McCormick, who settled the result with the third goal for a fine victory. Old Boys are making a habit of coming from behind early goals to turn out well-deserved victors.
Confidence is just oozing out of the collective team pores! It’s not a pretty thought, but a successful productive result. The soft drinks cooler became the subject on the way home. With impending legislation coming into effect on Oct. 17, there is speculation that these three wins in succession (a first in Old Boys history, according to the team archivist) might not be the only “high” point of the season!
This weekend is Thanksgiving, so no matches are scheduled, but the Old Boys “go for four in a row” on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 10:30 a.m. at GISS, or more likely Portlock Park.
Four in a row, you say. Sshhh! We don’t want to tempt fate!
“One Game at a Time”: Tweddle 2018.