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Diary of a Sunday League club - Part 2

We continue our look into that very English of pastimes - Sunday League football.

Total Football is following the fortunes of Barely Athletic (yes, that IS their real name, and no this isn't a fictional story). And this week the boys are celebrating a Sunday morning to saviour.

Don't forget to tune in this week to see if our favourite Sunday League team can extend their unbeaten run to two games.  

Tyburn Gallows 0 - 3 Barely Athletic

Barely began their irresistible rise up the league with a comfortable away win, despite a catalogue of injuries and maladies. 

Unusually, most of us arrived at Regent's Park in good time.

The preliminary team news was not encouraging. Our spine had been considerably weakened by the news that Jonathan Menzies was out and Ol Saugman - perhaps still reeling from the loss of his I-phone - was missing, presumed hungover. 

His younger brother Fred, meanwhile, announced minutes before kick-off that he hadn't eaten for 3 days and had, the Saturday night previously, been 'unable to stand or see'.

Further niggling injuries to Dan Kilpatrick and James Goodall, plus the presence of just one sub, made the likelihood of Barely finishing the game with a full complement seem distinctly poor.

Ringer

We had managed to recruit a ringer by the name of Geordie to play at centre-half, while Ben Payne, our imperious central midfielder, had the dubious honour of being the first player who's parents had come to spectate.

Similarly, the referee, a jolly looking sort, had bought along his wife and infant daughter to watch.

The first half an hour was more memorable for a succession of foul throws than any chances of consequence. At one point, the same throw-in was retaken four times, twice by each team, as full-backs and wingers alike floundered with the 'ball-behind-the-head' rule.

Goodall was particularly guilty for Barely but even Saugman, who professed angrily that he had been throwing since infancy, was penalised.

In windy conditions, both sides were struggling to get the ball down but five minutes before the interval a moment of class broke the deadlock. 

A la Cruyff

Max Harrison picked up the ball on the edge of the box, turned the centre-half a la Cruyff before rounding the 'keeper and calmly slotting home.

It should have been two moments later, Payne heading over from Harrison's corner leaving infant daughter and Mr. and Mrs P. with heads in hands. 

At half time we conducted a brief throw-in workshop before returning to the field, wind on our backs, in a confident mood. 

We continued to press and Payne again went close with a volleyed snapshot, before Tommy Trenchard headed over from a Saugman (legal) throw.

Injuries, however, were taking their toll and Goodall was forced off early in the half to be replaced by debutant Nick West. Kilpatrick also was struggling to run and, keen to protect our lead, we prioritised defence with the walking wounded taking up midfield roles.

Moment of inspiration 

We needn't have worried though as another moment of inspiration doubled the lead. A high ball into the box looked to be catching practice for Tyburn's 'keeper but Trenchard brilliant got there first, controlled with his head and volleyed in from the angle.

With tiring legs the game became stretched and Geordie proved proved himself to be something of a Phillippe Albert, surging forward and skinning the last defender only to see his shot well saved.

Tyburn moved their lanky centre-half into the striker's position and were unlucky not to pull one back when the beanpole connected with a cross inches from goal. Primitive defensive instinct seemed to kick in however, and his header sailed over the bar to safety.

Saugman, who had managed to stay on his feet for 85 minutes, thus preserving his heavily scabbed knees, was scandalised when a push in the back went unpunished but the Tyburn forward fired wide from a good position.

The game was put beyond doubt by Trenchard, who tapped in Geordie's corner with seconds left to make it 3-0. 

We left our mark on the pitch in true Sunday league style as the night before caught up with Geordie, who vomited in the centre circle moments after the final whistle. More Gazza than Albert after all then.

By Dan Kilpatrick


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