Should we just permanently engrave the (hypothetical) trophy?
In brief, the M4s played assuredly though with little pizzazz and were a bit hard done by to lose the game, in what is becoming an all too familiar pattern.
There was more action before the game started than during the first half. Stand-in skipper for the day, the Monckosaurus, turned up on time – for which he nearly won Lemon - Andi bailed hours before the game, Jo played despite being chronically ill and Jelley, who’d flown in with Siberian flu, turned up to ensure we had one sub. Jan was harshly awarded Lemon for arranging flights on a Saturday (and some people still not letting go of making us turn up an hour early at freezing St Ives three weeks ago).
The first half was sedate as both teams tried to discover whether the Christmas excess prevented any actual running. The defence looked solid, midfield were winning a fair share of possession and the forwards passed well, but neither team really threatened the opposition D.
The second half began differently: an unexpected upsurge in confidence for South as they moved the ball with greater conviction, moved off the ball with more urgency and passed with the crispness of a frosty winter’s morn; Jo scampering up the right wing, defying illness; Jelley taking it past players on the left, often finding Oli or Rob with smart flowing moves; John intercepting as if there was glue on his stick; Simon a bustle of energy, winning 50-50s and releasing Paul down the right. Five, ten, fifteen minutes of sustained pressure finally producing a goal: short corner drag flicked in by JJ, on target, but batted away by the keeper; the Monckosaurus wound up for a monumental smash; deflected back out again to the lurking Jelley, who took the ball in the air and into the back of the net. One-nil South, and totally deserved.
The lead was short lived as yet another potential victory was squandered in the final fifteen minutes. Hertford started creating more opportunities, one shot nearly clearing the fence. But the pressure told and a pacy break down the right ended with a sharp cross neatly deflected past an exposed Nelson, who looked sharp all game. As if Hertford had been forewarned of the potential of the M4s to capitulate, they rushed forward with growing confidence. James, the perennial man of the match whether he’s playing attack, midfield or defence, made several significant stops, breaking up threatening advances.
The winner came, eventually, from a short corner. The first shot was defended well, with the ball rolling back to the top of the D for the striker to take another blow. Pete’s brave aggression meant he got a ball in the gut. Was he within five? The umpires felt not, so a second short was given. Again, the initial effort was well defended. Monckosaurus left his post as play broke down, only for the shot to loop painfully past Nelson into that corner. Two-one Hertford.
It was a shame to lose, and to do so in the manner that has accompanied the 4s all season, but it was an ideal game to get the M4s moving post-Christmas. There were moments of real encouragement, and quality from different people all over the pitch. After all the pizza had been eaten and votes counted – James a deserved man of the match again - Nelson declared that he has lost every match he has played so far! Played six, lost six. We could do with that changing in the second half of the season.