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Diary of a Sunday League club

Barely Athletic was created by two 'visionaries' of the sport. United 11 years ago under high-waisted coaching pioneer Derrick Levick, Fred Saugman and Dan Kilpatrick decided to form their own squad from disparate groups of university mates.

They currently ply their trade in the London Weekend Afternoon Division One, but regard promotion as a mere formality. Barely Athletic play in navy and gold as a nod to the city of Oxford, where Kilpatrick and Saugman honed their skills under Levick.

Unfortunately, we kick-off the new diary with news of a defeat for Barely Athletic:

New Cross Gate 3-2 Barely Athletic

The name Barely Athletic was chosen with a healthy dose of smug irony. As the game developed, it would become painfully appropriate.

It was our first match of a new beginning. University football was a thing of the past; this was to be the next step towards our eventual emergence into the Champions League.

The first game on this epic journey was against New Cross Gate FC. It was with some annoyance and a little trepidation that we discovered the game was to be played in Catford, some 10 miles south of the Thames.

The drive to Catford should take around half an hour. We left with an hour to spare to give ourselves warm-up time.

As we mazed our way through London’s weekend shoppers it quickly became apparent that walking would probably be the quicker option.

Skate parks

We were dissuaded form this option by the alarmingly regular skate parks we passed, populated with all sorts of unsavoury looking youths.

Chauffeur and centre back Oli Saugman was particularly perturbed by the location and voiced portents of doom for the security of his possessions, as he casually deployed the central locking.

So we arrived 20 minutes late for kick-off much to the annoyance of our teammates and the heavily-mustachioed referee.

The opening 10 minutes of the game were a nervy affair, with neither side willing to give away any early opportunities. This was the first time Barely Athletic had ever played together, but the early signs were healthy.

Despite overwhelming possession stats against them, the home side took the lead. A surging run left the Barely’s right flank in pieces and the New Cross winger coolly slotted past our eccentric goalkeeper, David Watkins. 1-0.

Towering performances

Unaffected, Barely Athletic grew in stature as the game went on. Towering performances from Oli Saugman and Freddie Meakin at centre-back ensured that was the only sight of goal New Cross would have in the first half.

With tiring legs on the wings, the bulk of the creative play came from Ben Payne and John Menzies in the centre of the park, who ably provided for the attacking talents of Tommy Trenchard and Max Harrison.

At the interval, we felt the score line failed to reflect our superiority. There were, however, growing worries over fitness and a rousing speech was given by ‘Guthrie’, a mascot in a fetching white vest that we had picked up at the gates of Catford.

We took to the field for the second half full of belief but drained of energy; our opponents had four games worth of fitness over us. As right back Dan Kilpatrick began to emerge as an attacking force, he moved up to the wing with Fred Saugman seeking a corner to die peacefully in, as his lungs failed.

The switch proved catastrophic, with two goals conceded in quick succession. New Cross were 3-0 up and Barely looked deflated. However the spirit which defines our club shone through, as enterprising wing play from Ol Grazebrook ended in the easiest of tap-ins for Kilpatrick. 3-1.

Perfect cross

Shots and headers rained in, testing the New Cross keeper to the limit. Finally a perfect cross from Harrison was nodded in by Trenchard to bring the game within touching distance.

With 10 minutes remaining, the match became increasingly physical and Barely’s players were being felled regularly. Saugman professed loudly that he’d been struck in the genitals but, instead, a spurious push in the box resulted in a penalty to New Cross, which was duly dispatched onto the bar.

Infuriated by the miss, the home side began to look dangerous again. Feeling a bit left out, Watkins decided to take matters into his own hands.

He surged from his area, lunging like a wild animal at the New Cross right winger who flung himself out of the way as Watkins took the ball cleanly in the finest tackle I have ever seen made by a keeper. It turned out to be the last action of the game. 3-2.

Our disappointment could wait ‘til we caught our breath. Insult was added to injury however as Oli Saugman’s worst suspicions were confirmed. His phone had been stolen. Guthrie remains the prime suspect.

By Fred Saugman


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