“I struggle to find the words to express my respect for the boys. It was incredible. We did so many good things. I saw so many sensationally good performances and I am really happy. It was a very intense game for different reasons; it was not our best game we have ever played but it was enough to win. This was a wonderful night for the club. I said before I didn’t not know how it would feel. Now I know it feels outstanding, absolutely sensational. I am so proud of the boys.”
It’s Klopp, of course, but could so easily be Power. After a dismal run of defeats, a Yuletide Local Derby gave the perfect opportunity for redemption but also risked the possibility of going into the festivities nearly two months without a win. This meant dipping into the club’s playing reserves, unfurling players with the quality of Duffy and Whittingham, Ayton and … yes even Sykes.
The starting line-up, however, was much as always, though a minor reshuffle post-election was required. McGuckin was back in midfield with Bodey and Killen, Esterson’s win in Sefton Central allowing him back on to the field. So long was it since the Chairman had watched us play that he thought Bodey in midfield was an abandoned experiment rather than the master plan. It was by these three that the first half was won, controlling the heart of the pitch and only rarely choosing the Hollywood pass over the neat one-two. With twenty minutes gone, Killen was felled in the box but as he appealed familiar Ashworth-honed tones screamed “Advantage, Gentlemen” and King listened, smashing the ball past Danny to open the scoring. Hall and Finnegan teased the opposition on either flank. Frank had gone to Scotland early so there was no psychobabble to rile Mornington, who kept his cool. Mostly. Well for a bit, anyway.
RvP came from an exciting night on the tiles and a less exciting first half at Goodison to partner Duffy at centre-half, Culture Club and the Crazy Gang on the same team for once. Gorton marauded from left back. This was full throttle.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference provided the last citrus of 2019 at the break, they were good.
But then calamity struck. Bernie Stinger, barely able to walk six months ago, easily outjumped “Nige in White Satin” when Fletch lofted a Hail Mary into the box. Minutes later, a reminder of last week’s glorious Strictly final came when Anton went down like Du Beqe in the box and Head Judge Barry pointed to the spot. Not even Bruno would have given a ten for that one. Stringer smashed the penalty in to put St Mary’s ahead and the taste of cheap mulled wine entered the Ramblers pallet at the expense of Dom Perignon.
But when asked if they knew it was Christmas Time, the answer came back positively. First King, playing with midfield abandon now the security of Sykes was behind him, whipped a ball into the near post and Mornington finished with precision. Then with ten minutes to go, Mornington turned provider and found Whittingham timing his run with precision, he slotted coolly and the Ramblers were ahead once more. Ainsworth shored up the midfield with an excellent late cameo and victory seemed all but secure until the final minute when the home side shot. “Going wide” shouted Duffy confidently. The last time this sort of thing happened the skipper listened to the call and conceded. Once bitten, twice shy, he decided to dive and tipped it round the post. The final onslaught was quelled, we held on, just.
A great game played in great spirit, some might say a draw would have been a fair result. But whereas that might have crushed our spirit, instead our hearts soared.
This season so far then, played 15, won 7 lost 7, drawn 1. Thanks to all who have made 2019 a great year for this team. Have a good one but not too much Yule Log please, further challenges lie ahead.
|December 21, 2019||2:15 pm||Vets XI Fixtures||2019-20|