Writing the first match report of the season is a bit like going on a first date… on the one hand you are keen to make a good impression, on the other you know that before long you’ll probably be reduced to monosyllabic grunts and only bothering to say something every time you score. (Given my barren scoring record chaps, I wouldn’t get your hopes up for too many reports for the season ahead!)
With that said, there was still a lot to write about for the official opener of the season as 62 Ramblers descended on Shrewsbury school with a motley crew of players that included one local MP. After spending all summer researching the combination of the gegenpress with a libero defender in a three at the back formation the manager’s pre-season team talk was reduced to 30 seconds of awkward silence whilst he asked for volunteers to go on nets. Damo drew the shortest straw the remaining players were hastily sorted into positions like a 3 year old setting up a chess board.
Still the Ramblers started well, our three best ball carrying players, Birrell, Allison and Alex provided a solid platform for keeping possession and playing out from defence. Sadly, as all of our best ball carrying players were stuck in defence play tended to break down shortly thereafter. Not for a lack of energy in the midfield trio of John, Mikey and me I should say, but the young Shrewsbury side set upon us as if we were Pikachu at a Pokémon party and we soon resorted to long balls down the channels. Surprisingly this paid off nicely with our first goal coming from a long looping header from Minchin (no that’s not the name of a Pokémon) on the edge of the box after Allison launched one forwards from a free kick.
With all the enthusiasm of youth Shrewsbury persisted and continued to contest every ball no matter the odds. I assume that is the only explanation for why one of their players decided to fly head first after a ball safely in Damian’s hands. The rest of us looked on with concern thinking we were about to see Wile E. Coyote heading straight for a man mountain but unfortunately Damo took the brunt of the impact on his hand sustaining three fractures and some ligament damage. When water runs into rock you would think there is only one winner but, occasionally, even river can cut through a mountain… not because of its power but just because of its persistence.
Cue a change of keeper; Birrell went in nets and inspired by the heroics of his WW2 compatriot, Bert Trautmann, Damian soldiered on with his injury in Defence. Having played as a sweeper in the three at the back, Birrell smoothly transitioned to become the ultimate sweeper keeper… to picture just how smooth Birrell was you would need to imagine Javier Mascherano playing in nets while trying to open a ferrero rocher with his gloves on. Exactly.
At one point, in order to stave off the boredom at the back, Birrell ran to the edge of his box threw the ball straight to a Shewsbury player who proceeded to lob the world’s most confident 5 ft 9 & 1/4 inch keeper… thankfully Birrell moonwalked backwards and calmly tipped the ball over the bar to shouts of “you’re spoiling us Mr Ambassador!” from the stands.
Remarkably Shrewsbury managed to score a goal shortly thereafter that was almost a carbon copy of the Ramblers’ first goal with a looping header lobbing the imposing keeper. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
1-1 at halftime and a POW trade saw Nolan substituted for Chester from the Vets. As Chester had yet to catch up on the skipper’s pre-season YouTube tactical analysis of the 3-5-2 system, the Ramblers reverted to a more traditional 4-4-2 with Ollie and Phil pressing high from the back swarming the midfield.
A quick counter attack by the Ramblers resulted in a penalty for a handball in the box. A somewhat harsh decision but with an eye on the golden boot Chow swiftly grabbed the ball and dispatched the penalty without mercy. 2-1 to the Ramblers.
Another change of keeper at 60 minutes and Jimmy Jimmy donned the gloves. Jimmy Jimmy is the man with no surname, a veteran Rambler and the father of one of the 4XI youth development squad who had thought he had hung up his boots but ‘just when he thought he was out we pulled him back in!’. Jimmy Jimmy “I only want to play 10 minutes” had peaked early outfield and had already begun to move progressively further back in the formation as the game wore on, only stopping off in nets briefly before his warm shower and chilli con carne. The opposition sensed his anxiety at the back and tested him early on with a curling corner towards the back post. Jimmy Jimmy jumped to meet the cross like a floundering seal on a bouncy castle at the circus but the beach ball floated into the back of the net without ever touching a player… not even the circus midget at the back post, yours truly, could stop it. It’s not often you see a goal directly from the corner kick, all that was missing was the big tent and music “doot-doot-doodle-oodle oot doot do do”. 2-2.
Chester had already scored a hat trick for the Vets and was content to rely on his own aggregate score line, but Chow had other ideas. You see, Chow had scored 6 goals in the same fixture the previous season and looked like he would have scored more if only the schoolchildren stopped crying long enough to take the kick offs a bit quicker. Chow doesn’t know the meaning of taking it easy; think Roy Keane in a game of 5-a-side at a children’s party. Having rattled the post in the first half Chow finally found the target in the second after some nice link up play down the left. 3-2
Ramblers saw out the game to a comfortable win whilst still making our opposition look good in the process. 3-2.
Some notable performances by Chow, Nolan, Burgess and Minchin but the man of the match goes to Dave “The Ambassador” Birrell.
Thanks to all those who made the journey and to Shrewsbury for their top hospitality. God speed Damian, get well soon.
|September 8, 2018||2:15 pm||3rd XI Fixtures||2018-19|
|21 Ashton Rd, Shrewsbury SY3, UK|