LX CLUB v FIREBRANDS EMBERS
This fixture was last played nearly 3 years ago, (actually on Colin Pinks’ 70th birthday), as a shakedown game for England O60. So it was pleasing to see it revived thanks to Colin’s abiding enthusiasm and the good offices of our highly durable fixture secretary David Read.
Pre-match negotiations promised to produce an even contest until a few days before the game, when late replacements for ‘burnt out’ Embers noticeably stiffened the opposition. Thus LX, with 4 players over 70, found themselves facing an Embers squad with only 2 players over 60. Nevertheless, as events were to prove, the contest was far from one-sided.
In the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the early stages were dominated by Embers, who enjoyed lengthy periods in possession probing away at our defence. Here, however, they encountered resolute and skilful resistance from back four Percy Steele, Brian Tubb, Sudesh Nayar and Tim Block, with energetic reinforcement from midfield trio Zahid Arain, Brian Stokes and John Tripp, who worked hard to cover the movement of their opposite numbers. Behind them, Barry Sewell was in fine form, and dealt decisively with several fierce shots and goalmouth scrambles.
Playing out of defence, LX took some time to find any rhythm, with wayward and soggy passes being picked off by quicker opponents. Gradually however, construction improved and, with the front three of Mike Sprange, Pami Bolina and Trevor Denison moving intelligently to receive longer balls, encouraging penetrations were achieved as the whole side began to move forward with more confidence. Trevor in particular made several serious incursions down the left, weaving through with pace and control. Short corners were won, and at the third attempt, 5 minutes from half time, Zahid scored with a powerful shot past the keeper’s right foot. Motivated by this slightly surprising lead, LX continued to press, and might well have gone further ahead but for a fine save by England O50 hopeful, Bruce Brassington, to deny a looping strike from Trevor.
The second half started brightly enough with positive periods of possession for both sides. Unfortunately however, after about 10 minutes, despite earlier admonitions from Captain Brian Stokes, another poor pass was intercepted and we were back under the cosh. A bout of goalmouth ping pong developed, and, despite more heroics from Barry et al, the final touch fell to Embers, (from 2 yards!).
After this setback, the contest reverted to an even balance for a while, but as time wore on, it was apparent that our grip in midfield was inexorably waning in the face of non-stop running by younger opponents. Eventually, a little into the last quarter, Embers contrived a textbook manoeuvre, down their left and along the goal line, before presenting Darren Wheadon with a tap-in, his second of the day.
The final stages saw Embers more or less content with their position, allowing LX back into the game a little as the pressure came off our defence. Fleeting chances came our way, but in the main Embers were comfortably in control. Even the customary ‘kitchen sink’ charge in the last couple of minutes was not enough to level the scores.
Overall, a somewhat familiar story perhaps, but nevertheless a pleasurable encounter on a cold but sunny afternoon. (What would any of us have rather been doing instead?!) Certainly we acquitted ourselves well against a strong Firebrands squad which could hardly have expected to lose with 5 players boasting England and/or West O50/55 experience. Probationers John Tripp and Zahid Arain, in their contrasting styles, both made big contributions. Although he had to retire early with a very sore big toe, it was also good to see Tim Block back in action after a long absence through injury. Hopefully, this time nothing serious.
Afterwards, drinks in the pavilion and delicious boeuf bourguignon followed by apple crumble. Many thanks to Sharon Wilkins and the ladies in the kitchen for such sumptuous fare, and of course to Colin and the Firebrands Club for their generous hospitality. Equally important, thanks also to Chris Smailes and Kirsty Gostling, who umpired to a high standard with easy going authority, entirely within the friendly spirit of the game. We look forward to doing it all again next year.
LX Squad:- Barry Sewell, Brian Tubb, Sudesh Nayar, Tim Block, Zahid Arain, Brian Stokes, John Tripp, Mike Sprange, Parmjit Bolina, Trevor Denison, Adrian Money
Match Report by Adrian Money