3 - Louis F 9 - Zach L
4 - Tom A 10 - Charlie T
5 - Leo M 11 - Sam M
8 - Charlie W
The downpour from the previous night had threatened the game but despite a few sloshy patches on the grass, the pitch looked fit enough to play on.
With the Easter break meaning no football for the lads, we needed to get the boys sharp before the kick off.
We were down to minimum numbers this week with Harry H and Cameron M both away on international duty. This also meant that Ross was unavailable, so Mark Francis stepped in to support me with the team.
Warm-ups were going well with the outfield players working on quick passing and Mark warming up Charlie T in goal, when disaster struck! Leo M jarred his knee and after some desperate work from the physio was declared unfit to play. We were down to six. I spoke with the Tigers manager who took the sympathetic view of continuing with seven players!
Mark and myself did our best to fill the lads with confidence, however, the drop in number meant a slight change in formation.
Charlie T started in goal with Louis F and Sam M in front of him. Zach L was on the left with Charlie W on the right. Tom A started as attacking midfield, a key role as it meant getting forward and back.
The two captains shook hands and the game got underway. The lads looked shell shocked with only six and they really struggled at the start to get to grips with the extra space the opposition had and it wasn’t long before the Tigers scored. The boys kept plugging away but were creaking a little, Louis F and Sam M were finding themselves isolated and brilliantly between them they kept Maldon at Bay. Charlie T in goal was acting like a sweeper and clearing up anything that got through.
The Tigers’ pressure paid off again when a shot looked to have been cleared off the line, but goal line technology had ruled it just to have been a goal. Charlie T was devastated as he thought he’d done enough. At that point I turned to Mark and said we could be in for a real struggle.
Now this Piranhas side don’t like to be predictable and, as they have so many time this season, the boys in orange made me eat my words! What came next was an absolute master class in both technical football and attitude. I don’t know whether the disappointment of the second goal galvanized the team but they suddenly got their heads around the situation they were facing and for the next 25 minutes you would have thought it was the Piranhas who had the extra player.
Charlie T was solid in goal as we have come to expect. Louis F and Sam M grew about two feet in stature and kept the Maldon attackers in their pockets, filling the spaces and working together like they have been an established partnership for years, and the attacking play was scintillating!
The first goal was the real catalyst with Tom A and Charlie W playing some lovely one-twos on the edge of the box. Their quick play found them both in front of goal with the ball, almost to their surprise as they decided between them who was going to slot it home!! Eventually Tom A did the honours with a neat finish.
The second goal saw Zach L play a fifteen-yard pass across the pitch into Charlie W’s stride. Charlie rewarded such a great pass with a fine touch and finish. The third goal was even better. Wonderful passing triangles between Tom A, Zach L and Charlie W bought Charlie time and space in the box to finish for his second.
Goal number four saw Tom A feed the ball out to Zach L on the left and with his usual trickery Zach brought the ball inside and fired past the Maldon keeper.
The whistle went for half time and we brought the boys in. What an unbelievable effort. I said to the team at half time that it didn’t matter what happened for the rest of the game now, the attitude, effort and team spirit they had shown in that half had made them all winners already. Tom A and Charlie T swapped places and the lads went out for the second half.
The second half started as the first had ended with the Piranhas dominating, however, the effort from the first half and playing with only six started to take its toll and the final pass or finish was just missing.
Maldon got a couple of goals back as spaces started to appear and then the Piranhas were dealt the biggest blow of all. Another goal line clearance which even the man-in-the-moon could see hadn’t crossed the line was given as a goal. The lads were absolutely devastated as they protested with the referee.
Now I’m never one to moan about scores or at referees and I certainly wouldn’t encourage our players to do so, however, this was such a cruel blow that the team didn’t deserve after such a monumental effort. Being a volunteer referee is a hard job and they don’t see everything but there were at least ten other people on either side of the pitch who could see it wasn’t a goal and not one of them helped the referee out. Not very sporting in the circumstances.
Submitting a Piranhas defeat to the league left a bitter taste on this one and only occasion.
That aside we did our best to lift the team because as already stated they were all winners. Great performance, great attitude, great effort. Class.
A special thank you to the Piranhas supporters who also showed a great amount of class as they always do. Given the circumstances we know that supporters from some other teams would not have acted in the same way. Great from everyone involved. Thanks also to Mark Francis who enjoyed dusting down his tracksuit to help me with the lads.
MOTM was difficult because it could have been any one of the lads. The referee gave Tom a MOTM award for some great link-up play in the first half and a solid goalkeeping performance in the second but my MOTM was Zach L who obviously likes playing against this team because it is his third MOTM against them! Zach was a constant threat with the ball and when the defenders needed to relieve some pressure, they looked for Zach who got the team up the pitch.
I am always proud of the team and especially for what they showed in this game, you all should be too.
WELL DONE LADS!