Match report: Raiders 2 – 1 Japan FC
It was an interesting week. All year we have been priding ourselves on an improved disciplinary record. Well, I guess we should remember that pride comes before a fall. Two red cards in one game. Ben’s over exuberance got the best of him and a Scott must have had a rush of blood to the head. I guess it didn’t have far to travel. He had their big centre forward in his pocket all game and picked up a yellow earlier which was fair enough but cruising home 4-1 up in the last 10 mins he committed an act of uncalled for petulance. Ah, the folly of youth.
Afterwards, there were calls for postponing the game due to us probably struggling to field a team. There were 3 suspensions, the above two plus the giggling assassin (Danny Vo) as well as a crew on a raid to Muine and others unavailable. A word in Luke’s ear received a straightforward reply that the game was on with no option to rearrange. Coach elected to let the sign up go out and let the cards fall where they may.
To begin with the responses were slower than usual to come in and then we had a few no shows at training. You know how coach loves that!
By midday Thursday the squad was up to 17 with Vincent and Rick pledging to cut the Muine raid short in support of the team. Coach was buoyant and then the news came through on Friday that the Japanese team had set a booby trap in the Muine beach volleyball court and disabled our Panzer so we were down to 16. Still, 16 committed Raiders could do it.
Game day and the lads arrived at Chu Van An wondering why Mick was on the bench and how would we cope with the pocket sized nuclear power plant that plays centre mid for Japan.
Coach was confident that the starting 11 would give Japan lots to think about. To be sure though, he gave the squad a little reminder of what the rest of the world things if soccer players when things get tough. Would they fold up inside like little &@€%s and call their mum afterwards because coach called them names or would they man up and stand tall like men and get this oriental monkey off their backs?
The lads took to the field with everyone committed to their task and prepared to do whatever was needed for the team. ‘Prodigal Son’ Mirko , stood tall in his goal and talked confidently to his defence. The two full backs , ‘ I need 90 minutes ‘Aron and Nano Scorsese fresh from their impressive performances the week before continued with another solid start. Captain and team counsellor Jerry and ‘Mr Wolf’ Collin were solid in the centre. Jerry winning the aerial battles and Collin sweeping up behind. ‘Mr Calm’ Bloor provided cover for the centre backs with ‘Mr Objective’ Greeve pulling the strings ahead of him. Pat ‘Gimly’ Cartier scared the bejazus out of them on the right and ‘people’s republic of CARK’ Gary tore into anything that moved near him. Rick ‘I’ll take a 5 hour bus journey for the team’ and Hoggy ‘I’ll throw my toys out of the pram if you sub me’ pulled their defence left and right and could have taken an early lead.
All was looking good for the first 6 minutes. Then the Japanese midfield pushed forward catching the Raiders defence with a man down and duly dispatched goal number 1.
Would the Raiders remember the coach’s words from the pre game chat? Would they fold and call their mums after the game or would they man up?
There was a calm in the squad. A steely determination was in this group today. They dug down and weathered the storm. The midfield was having a torrid time with the little nuke and a change of plan was needed.
Mick came on to anchor midfield and Peter dropped into right back with Aron making way. Still things were tough in the middle and the two lads up top were allowing them to play a high line and concentrate play into a third of the pitch on top of our defence. The wind also assisting their pressure.
We changed to 3-5-2 with Emmanuel now going wide left and Gary pulling into centre mid. Nano made way to allow the change of strategy. Luke moved to attacking midfield to give Nico a breather. Now we were getting a grip of midfield. We pressed and pressed, eager for the equaliser.
Rick moved back to right wing and Sean came on up front with Hoggy. Pat took a well earned rest and the Japanese midfield breathed a sigh of relief that at least for now they might not get dispatched with an axe.
Jerry signalled that he’d hurt his back and coach stepped onto the pitch for the first time this season. Things were going smoothly. Coach thinking to keep it steady for the next 5 minutes to half ‘TIME’ when he could relaunch the mission and get the fires going again. Then, the ref stopped the game! Stunned silence all around the ground. Had Pat slipped on again with his axe and beheaded someone? Had Nico said something reasonable and objective? Nope, of course that would be ridiculous. The ref objected to Raiders having too many bald lads on the team (under the guise of asking for my watch). End of first half.
Jerry was recovered and would go back into the defence. Luke had subbed himself off stealthily before half time for a reason I just cannot repeat. Coach would resume his time keeping duties on the sideline.
With the breeze at their backs and the wind in our sails the Raiders took to the field again with fresh instructions to stick to the plan and to keep pressing.
Our three man defence were majestic and snuffed out any spark of a Japanese attack. Mirko was sitting between the posts dreaming of drinking wine at sundown with his Italian brothers.
Mick, Gary and Nico bossed the centre of the park and the two flying wingers, Rick and Emmanuel, tortured the hapless Japanese midfield and defence. Hoggy and Sean pressed and prodded their defence, trying to prise them open. Surely this pressure must pay off. It did. Hoggy latches onto a super through ball and leaving defenders in his wake meets the on rushing Japanese keeper. Cool as a cucumber draws him closer and then sends a cheeky little chip over him and inside the post. Game on!
Time after time Raiders press but the Japanese defence is resilient. Filled with lads who would give every drop of blood and sweat for their team. A worthy adversary.
It had to come. The one touch one two football was a joy to watch and it just need that final bit of luck to take the spoils.
It takes a bit of magic. Emmanuel gets the ball on the left wing and bobs and weaves and twists and turns with the ball seemingly glued to his feet. He draws two or maybe three defenders to him and then springs the trap. As they close in he releases an inch perfect pass to Nico. Super first touch a feint and then a turn inside. The supporters hold their breath. It was like time stood still.
BOOM! Cracking shot past a stranded keeper and Raiders take the deserved lead.
Raiders then absorb the inevitable backlash but today they are men and brush off the brief spell of Japanese dominance with ease. Pat, Porr and Luke trade places back and forth with Nico and Sean and see out this solid Raiders victory with ease.
Collin deservedly picked up MOM and the little bitches that you are had the last word after the coach questioned your manhoods. Happy to take Turkey for the crime of wearing a timepiece today. Says a lot about the whole Raiders performance today. Well done lads!