|09/09/2023||15:00||West London Veterans Football League||2023-2024|
9 September 2023
Old Meadonians 2-3 Ascot United IIs
Two goals from Stuart Birkett and a karate kick of an effort from Jez Myhan were ultimately enough to secure the AUFC 2s three points from their first league contest of 2023-24. That, however, doesn’t tell half the story….
According to the Met Office Saturday 9 September was officially the hottest day of the year so far (see here for the evidence). No one who was at Dukes’ Meadow for the contest between Old Meadonians and Ascot United IIs was going be disagreeing with that. In the words of the immortal Caroline Aherne it was indeed ‘Scorchio’ (and some).
Ascot United travelled with a squad of 15 and if the game was going to end positively for the visitors then it was pretty clear that all 15 were going to have significant roles to play. Plenty of player rotations so that folks could take turns to rehydrate and (most importantly) spend time under the gazebo that Stu Flurry had brought along. A masterstroke from Flurry there, and there were times when you could see the Meadoniansplayers looking enviously across at the small but beautifully formed piece of shaded grass on which the Ascot subs and management team were often huddled.
Out on the field the 2s started off with an attack-minded 4-3-3. Rob Stockford and Karl Small were making league debuts for the Yellas, whilst Ed Du Bois, Nige Gatehouse and Darren Lewis were the Bould, Adams and Winterburn of the side. Skipper Paul Woodford sat in the middle of the park, Adam Abusweder and Stu Birkett flanked him. That left an imposing front three of Dwayne Bryan, Carl Collins and Garyth Brant up top.
The game understandably took a bit of time to get going, and when it did it was Ascot who nudged their way in front. Brant slotted a nice ball through for Birkett and he neatly rounded the on-rushing ‘keeper before slotting home. 1-0 to the visitors.
Meadonians, however, came back into it. Indeed, if they’d taken lessons from Birkett on how to round a keeper and score then they would quickly have been not just level but in front. Rob Stockford, however, was in magnificent form. Three times he rushed out, dived at forwards’ feet and snuffled out danger. Still, the warning signals were there for Ascot.
The hosts’ equaliser nonetheless came from an altogether different route. Meads won a free kick 25 yards out. Given that they had no interest in taking it quickly it fell under the bracket of a ceremonial; the ref waits for everyone to be ready and then blows the whistle. Somewhere along the line that got lost though, and when the ref’s whistle blew Stockford was (quite legitimately) still sorting his wall out. The Oldham Stopper made a gargantuan effort to get across and block the shot, but it wasn’t meant to be and the ball squeezed over the line. All very odd somehow.
The next passage of play was even more annoying – and painful – for Stockford. He came out to the right-hand corner of the box to clear a through ball and somehow managed to fall awkwardly. Very awkwardly. Poor old Stockford had suffered a fracture and was forced to hobble off. The diagnosis coming in later from A & E was indeed that there had been a crack and that the damage was serious. He’s only played half an hour of league football for Ascot, but he’s already made a big impression. Fingers crossed we see him in Ascot yellow again very soon.
The question then arose as to who would go in nets. Big Dwayne Bryan was the man who stepped up to the task, so he donned the gloves and transitioned from goalscorer to goalstopper.
And, as the game moved into the second half, Bryan made a couple of big contributions. Meadonians took the lead with 50 minutes on the clock, a sharp move down their left leaving Bryan helpless to do anything. However, when they next attacked he pulled out a worldy of a save to somehow keep out a shot that looked all the world like it was bound for the back of the net. That save was to prove crucial.
At the other end, Ascot were beginning to look menacing. Paul Hamblin was running over, through and only occasionally around the Meadonians defenders, whilst Jez Myhan was making a real impact with his touch and ability to hold the ball up. Carl Collins was bustling gamely and the expectation was rising that Ascot still might be able to get something from the game. It was one of those front three, Jez Myhan, who brought the scores level, volleying the ball home from six yards following an excellent Paul Woodford corner.
Both sides clearly felt they could win it, but as the heat took its toll it was ultimately Ascot’s deeper bench that began to make the difference. Darren Lewis ran through the proverbial brick wall for 70 minutes, Dave Porter came on and calmed everything down for the last 20. Garyth Brant returned out right and Andy Gleave enjoyed some Gazebo-time after a magnificent hour in the middle. Adam Abusweder played in about four positions and just kept going and going. Throw in some excellent full-backism from Karl Small and the Yellaswere holding their own nicely.
The fifth and decisive goal of the game came after another excellent Bryan save, this time with his feet low at the near post. In that same passage of play the ball ended up falling toStu Birkett. He ran straight and soon moved through the centre circle and into the opposition half. A couple of defenders bounced off him and rather than dance round the keeper again he opted to shoot from the edge of the box. The ball nestled nicely in the far corner. A strike worthy of winning any game, particularly if that game is played in 30+ degree heat. Say it quietly, but it had a bit of the Alan McInally about it (see here).
Meadonians had a couple of chances late on, but ultimately the clock ticked down and Ascot United got where they needed to go. Excellent stuff.
Special mention to everyone who brought coolboxes and indeed to Stu Flurry for schlepping the gazebo along. Magnificent work by all concerned.
The twos are next back in league action on Friday 23 September when Bank of England’s second string are in town. Fingers crossed that it’s cooled down a bit by then.
Team: Rob Stockford, Karl Small, Darren Lewis, Ed Du Bois, Nigel Gatehouse, Paul Woodford, Adam Abusweder, Stuart Birkett, Dwayne Bryan, Carl Collins, Garyth Brant
Subs: Dave Porter, Andy Gleave, Jez Myhan, Paul Hamblin
Goals: Stuart Birkett (2), Jez Myhan