Time passes. Tick tock. Tick tock.
I knew this better than most. I felt it in my bones, they ached with desire, with the need to succeed, with a burning passion that could not be quenched. For it had been too long: too long since I’d heard the sweet slap of ball on hard backboard. I needed to score.
There was a time at some point in the distant past, under a different captain and in a different league, when I was ‘dreamy Harry’. People would stand in silent awe as I walked out on to the pitch. People would lament my upright, forthright hockey style, the way I ducked and dived in the midfield. Indeed some of the M2s and M3s can still be caught on a Saturday night, foot on table, regaling to newcomers and the old guard alike the great tales of my most illustrious past. ‘Jan loved him.’ ‘Do you remember when Harry…?’ ‘God, he has such great chat.’ There was even talk of a guard of honour for my final game for the M2s but those rumours were never substantiated. At least, much like those rumours about Matt Kenzie, the M2s show their gratitude strictly off the pitch.
But those days are long gone. Eight games have gone past, the whole of the 2018-2019 season to date, and not a goal in sight. All day I bend the weather to my will, keeping Cambridgeshire safe from regional flood warnings, and now this dry spell has spilled over into my private life. My will is too strong sometimes! If only the ball would succumb to my desires like my weather-based powers. There have been chances; last weekend against Kettering I came close, a strong flick into the keeper only to be defied by…his presence. Maybe today my fortunes will change.
Time passes. Tick tock. Tick tock.
So the minute hand hit twelve and we began. City of Peterborough 3s fielded a strong eleven with plenty of young legs standing before a more experienced backline. I was nervous - could today be the day? Could today break my annual deficit? Like a cherry atop a mountain of whipped cream and coconut ice cream, ready to be popped into my open mouth. The game progressed much as Captain Stu and I had planned: we mounted pressure and had the majority of the ball in the first half. Joel, relinquishing his defensive role to make way for Tom K, who, feeling the pressure in the midfield, was keen to find the safety of the sideline to secure himself against on the pitch. The only slight hiccup being a conceded penalty corner quite early on, which put us on the back foot. I thought about my half-time talk and ran over all three key points I wanted to make. Sam and James maintained a strong presence in the middle of the pitch and Harry Lewis did his best to right that Peterborough wrong.
However, it wasn’t until the second half when I got my chance. After a period of consistent chances from the surprisingly handsome frontline - Owen, Jim and Oli showing spells of clarity to get behind the defence - the ball penetrated the D following some nice fluid passing between myself, James and Dave. Jim stood at the back post but somehow the ball fell to my feet three metres in front of goal.
Time stopped. Tick.
Nightmares from last week’s near miss filled my mind. Could this be Kettering all over again? Other recurring nightmares fleeted past my mind’s eye. I imagined Tom Ann’s standing over me, holding a McDonalds in one hand and a toilet roll in the other – this was pre-game! I imagined being locked in a small room with a recording of Dave Aston’s dad puns. I imagined me re-telling a story about how I scored the second most important goal in a game of hockey whilst standing on a table. I shook my head. Not this day! Now was my time.
I pulled the ball back, rounded the keeper and slotted it home. The drought was over. I had scored!
Tock. Tick Tock. Time started moving faster now.
The second half moved on. Inevitably, James Bailey got another yellow. For him, time on the sideline must drag on. Peterborough took this opportunity to take more control of the game, attacking our D and making some decent chances, but all were comfortably contained by Stu, P and Rosselli at the back. With thirty seconds to go, the team almost completely resigned to a one-one draw, Joel finally made use of his now-midfield attacking freedom to drive the right wing, then baseline and fire a cross through to a jam-packed Peterborough D. A reinstated James Bailey found the ball and tucked it on to the backboard to score the best, probably most-memorable goal of the game. Redemption? Probably a few more required yet.
Time stopped again. But this time after a mere thirty seconds as the umpire called time and the cheers echoed round Long Road. We had won, I had scored. James had scored the winner.
As I walked off the pitch, I overheard some of the M2s saying, ‘God, that James is a good player,’ ‘Yeah, I heard he’s got great chat.’