|19/03/2022||14:00||West London Veterans Football League||2021-2022|
Croxley Green Vets’ 2s 3-2 Ascot United Vets’ 2s
Croxley Green’s second string edged out the Yellamen’s twos by 3-2 on 19 March. Darren Lewis and Stu Flurry scored for Ascot, but that wasn’t enough to seal what would have been the team’s third away win of the season.
A hardy group of 11 battle-worn warriors set out for Rickmansworth on what was on the face of it a decent day to be playing football. Ben Spence, fresh from the day job of managing one of the Ascot junior sides to another triumph in the morning, also negotiated the M25 as quickly as he could – he arrived with half-time approaching to at least offer a change option should one be needed.
And, needed it indeed was. On a pitch that made playing anything even resembling football difficult and with a wind blowing a veritable gale neither side ever really got going. Little things were also getting ever more irritating; every time the ball went behind the hosts’ goal, for example, a scouting party needed to be sent out to retrieve the thing from what felt like nearby Watford.
Croxley produced the first moment of genuine quality, their left winger neatly stepping insider before firing the ball smartly home. AUFC nonetheless responded; the rumbunctious Paul Hamblin steamrollered through challenge after challenge and Lee Coleman grew into the game impressively on debut. AUFC were beginning to exert a modicum of control.
Chances came, too. Stu Flurry and Hamblin combined to send Dan Hough through; he shanked hopelessly wide off his left shin. Flurry and Hamblin themselves also had shots on goal as even if quality was rarely in evidence, if any did appear then it was Ascot that generally provided it.
Spence’s introduction at the start of the second half nonetheless gave the visitors another option going forward. His touch was better than most and despite playing uphill and into the ever-annoying gale AUFC looked more likely to score. An hour in and that they duly did, Darren Lewis bundling home an excellent Stu Flurry corner to level the scores.
Ascot tried to step things up a gear only to then be hit by what was ultimately the first of two sucker punches. A swirling ball somehow got over and through the AUFC defence leaving a Croxley striker free to restore the advantage. Ascot responded. Coleman suddenly remembered he had a long throw in his locker. Coleman’s incarnation as a balder version of Rory Delap immediately paid off; he flung the ball in and Stu Flurry swivelled nicely at the front post to fire the ball home. 2-2 and game on.
The smart money with ten minutes to go would definitely have been on Ascot to go on and notch a winner. The unfortunate Mike Hynes had gone off with a knee injury, but Jad Sidhu came on in the middle to sit whilst others ploughed forward. Adam Abusweder and Micky Parker were combining well down the left as ball after ball was nicely pinged into the box. But, the decisive goal wouldn’t come.
Football, however, can be a cruel mistress. With five minutes to go Croxley humped the ball forward, the AUFC defence stopped and suddenly the ball was in the net. 3-2 and very little time to do anything about it. Skipper Martin Kay did his best to rally the troops, but ultimately it simply wasn’t to be. 3-2 to Croxley it ended.
“There were times today when I thought the ghost of Shane Warne was playing tricks on me” Kay later mused to Gary Lineker on MoTD. “A simple pass would fizz like one of Warney’s famous leg breaks before then spinning unexpectedly like one of his googlies. I know how Mike Gatting felt at Old Trafford in 1993 now when he faced that ‘ball of the century’….”. Lineker could only nod solemnly.
“We travelled a bit light today” Kay continued “but respect due to the 11 starters and also to Ben Spence for making the effort to get there as soon as he could. Everyone deserves plenty of respect for giving it a good go. We move on to next week”.