Reduced to wandering around the village of Surfleet in his pants
The M2s’ season reached the halfway mark with a trip to table-topping Spalding, who had taken the temporary throne from Long Sutton the preceding week after we held those boys to a one-all draw.
We set off in high spirits and all safely arrived in Lincolnshire with plenty of time to spare, except Shin, who arrived ten minutes before pushback cheerfully wolfing down a McDonald’s apple pie*.
The intervening period was put to good use, particularly by Nik Patel who spent most of it accosting random villagers and asking to borrow their shorts. Our warm-up was greeted by standing applause from the local teenagers that had congregated (alarmingly quickly, in retrospect) to watch. I think one of them even filmed us on his phone, which is surely the least likely footage to go viral literally ever. A word to the wise - if you want to make your fortune in the paparazzi, don’t spend your time waiting for Jack Chalk to open his gate.
Intent on setting a tempo from the start, our forward line charged around like mad things in the opening few minutes. Short corners quickly appeared, three consecutively in fact, and from the last of these old Shinwoo sent forth an unstoppable drag-flick to put us in the lead.
Buoyed by this, we started passing the ball around with real control, with every member of the team playing their part. James Menzies was typically involved, displaying his usual predilection for winking deflections and cushioned passcouragements. Matt Allsopp was unleashed into midfield as a more pragmatic counter-point and he too sought to put his stamp on the game.
Stung into action, the home side fought back and launched a few salvoes in our direction. One short corner saw them draw level, before another felled Tom Anns and caused his temporary withdrawal. To our credit, we managed to swing the momentum back the other way and Duracell Dan Loy whacked us back into the lead just before half time.
‘Keep this up! They are tired!’ went the predictable team-talk, conveniently ignoring the fact that we also were quite tired by this point.
As you might expect for a team at the top of the league, Spalding raised their level in the second period and firmly established the midfield dominance that we had enjoyed for portions of the first half. Ash Artaman was customarily involved in our rear-guard effort, whilst Adam Catley and Douglas Gibson worked hard up and down the flanks. We became overrun though and there was nothing Michael Gillingham in goal could do about either Spalding’s equaliser or, shortly after and with Menzies enjoying a couple of olives in his sin-poubelle, their third.
Having been twice in the lead and now finding ourselves behind, it was looking bleak for the boys in yellow**. I tried to inspire the troops by doing one of those reverse stick dive interception thingies that I had seen during the international matches on the telly earlier in the day. I collapsed slowly onto the turf with a certain noble tragedy – the only way I can think to describe it is like watching the operatic death of a giant swan, or perhaps the sinking of The Lusitania.
Suitably inspired, we charged upfield with all the gusto that an M2s side can muster after sixty minutes. Somewhat surprisingly, this turned out to be enough gusto to manage another couple of short corners. For the first, we sent our now-returned big man Menzies on to the back post, whereupon he promptly headed the covering defender’s stick and left the field again, this time doused in crimson.
The second came with only a minute or so to play. Whilst everyone else had reached the end of their energy levels, one man still had something left to give. In this era of marginal gains and tailored peaking, Shin Kim is an unlikely poster boy, but Dave Brailsford and Tim Kerrigan would be proud of his own brand of commitment. The calories from the apple pie had hit Shin’s arteries at just the right time. Sucrose flowed through his system. Fructose crackled from the ends of his hair. Time itself stood beaten and confused, as another drag flick flashed from his pastried blade, thumping into the backboard to send the travelling support (Eimear and Ash’s dad) into wild celebrations***.
We retired to the Village Hall for a CLASSIC hockey teas of sausage, chips and beans. More clubs should take note of this menu. The demolition of Spalding’s previous changing rooms - the shipping containers hauled from the wreckage of some past ecological disaster - has been a tragedy, robbing us of the opportunity to study in greater detail the legion of infectious diseases that previously harboured in the shower curtain. It was duly a long and whiffy car journey home, albeit one with a Big Point in the boot.
*‘Crispy on the outside, deliciously hot and sweet on the inside, our Apple Pie is a McDonald’s classic.’ 1043kj (13% RI), 250kcal (13% RI), 14g fat (20% RI)
**We were playing in the away shirts.
***They may have just been doing star jumps to keep warm. 5pm on a dark December evening in The Fens is definitely one for the purists.