For putting life, limb and chin on the line
The 4s have been unlucky over the past two weeks. Taking just a point in a one-one draw against Wellingborough - despite two-goal Jelley - and then leaving Cambridge City with nothing, losing 2-1 following an, 'Anything you can do, Jelley, I can do too' approach from Monckosaurus, chipping in with his own brace. Four points lost rather than one point gained.
The 4s have played well against the better teams in the league, though often losing a late goal to come away with nothing. Today's challenge was against a third placed St Neots. The unusual presence of Joe 'Flick' Whittaker stepped into the keeper's kit and looked sharp in the warm up.
Before much had happened in the game, it was apparent that St Neots own 'Area 51' was fairly contaminated and not safe to venture near. At several points in the early exchanges, Aussie-style sledging could be heard emanating from Area 51, and South (and the umpires) sensed that it might be hard to ensure Area 51 was not breached.
St Neots looked sharp, with quick passes, good movement off the ball and often threatening our D, if not the goal. In a rare foray into the South D, Flick Whittaker had the shot covered and was on the point of kicking it to Paul South for an easy goal, when a fleet of foot and unseen striker nipped in front and gave the ball the tiniest of glances, past Joe and into the goal. One-nil St Neots.
Recognising that Area 51 was a potential liability, South sent in undercover spy, Captain JJ. Usually known as a mild mannered, problem solving mediator, intrepid Captain JJ was infected, albeit momentarily, enough to mutter unmutterables within Area 51 and cause a mini explosion therein. The umpires, wisely choosing to steer clear of Area 51, and hence not hearing Captain JJs unmutterables, recognised the danger of an exploding Area 51, and encouraged Area 51 to be removed from the field of play. It is fair to say that Captian JJ considered his undercover work to be highly successful.
St Neots' second goal looked much like their first: some neat interplay, an innocuous shot on target that Flittaker had covered, only for a different stealth Neots player to nudge past him. Two-nil. Frustrating, but South were still in the game.
Various encouragements were given at half time, with John 'Ugly' Gourd suggesting attention could be paid to Area 51, which might result in additional fireworks and see Area 51 be cordoned off.
The second half South looked brighter; crisper passing, better movement off the ball, fewer hit and hopes from Monckosaurus. Passing the ball neatly to George Weston and Pete Dreuitt, spreading the play and building more deliberate attacking opportunities. The midfield combinations of James 'Sliding' Hayes, Simon Jelley, Seb Dias, John Gourd, Keishi Kohara and Captain JJ were starting to exert more influence in the middle of the pitch. It was Keishi's particular attention to Area 51 that caused the next explosion, and consequently St Neots were down to ten for five minutes - increased danger of contamination.
South struggled to take advantage of the extra man, despite Ollie Weston and the Souths - Tom and Paul - regularly getting behind the defence. As one attack broke down, St Neots countered at pace, leaving their fleet of foot centre forward one on one with the Monckosaurus. The latter failed to take the ball off the striker, allowing him to think he had made a clean break to be one-on-one with the keeper, but he hadn't counted on the extreme size of the Monckosaurus leg, which scythed him down bringing an end to that moment of hope. Unfortunately the umpires had become a little trigger happy with the cards, so he was sent to the sidelines.
South kept out the following attack, suggesting that the semi-professional foul was worthwhile. Soon after all players were back on the pitch and St Neots made two swift breaks on the South D. Most looked on concerned, but Sliding Hayes flew into action. Having no need for his Neymar-like acting skills, he drew from his curling expertise, sliding across the D and snuffing out the danger.
Soon after, Area 51 was discovered in Ireland on a shinty pitch, initially trying to lift a ball over a South player. Having been penalised thirty seconds before, Area 51, somewhat unhinged, tried the same again before firing a missile in anger towards an umpire, before being returned to the sidelines for a third time.
Mildly jealous that Area 51 had now received 3 cards, Monckosaurus set about ensuring he earned his own second - this time yellow. In an almost exact replay of his first card, the sloth-like defender allowed a teenage whippersnapper past him with the ball for a chance of a one-on-one with the keeper, only to ensure the striker lay sprawled on the ground rather than reeling away having scored St Neots' third. The umpire's generously allowing the aged dinosaur a break on the sidelines for a second time in the half.
The game petered out a little as South struggled to find the edge needed to score, and St Neots took to time wasting and showboating as the clock wound down. One or two were unimpressed by the toxic influence Area 51 had on the St Neots team as a whole, which took the edge off a highly competitive and enjoyable match.