Let me set the scene.
It’s a bitterly cold Monday night, the rain is lashing down, a bombardment of thousands of minuscule, frosty daggers burning with an icey rage. The merciless downpour twinkles in the reflection of the flood lights, almost giving it a harmless façade, as we stood there shivering to our bones. The sandy football pitch glowed a morbid yellow thanks to the sheen of the water, which also made it a less than preferable surface on which to run on, let alone control a football.
This would be our field of combat. This would be The Battle of St Mary’s Astro.
The stakes of the game were, admittedly, not very high. It was but just a 7 a side league game. Us, currently sitting in forth due to taking the team who was actually in forth position’s place in the league, against second bottom. We were all familiar with each other, having all grown up in the local area, some of us even attended the same high school as those on the opposing side.
No one could predict the brutality that would follow.
The game started off with our team, dressed in black, lining up in a fairly standard 222 formation: Royley in goal, Wazza and my good self at the back, Dal and Cartwright across the midfield, and Lloydy and Dec up top. With Smithe, Peters, Moorey and Leighton on the sideline, eagerly awaiting to jump into the action.
We quickly raced off into the lead; Cartwright finding an inch of space over on the left and unleashing a shot that beat the goalkeeper at his near post. Our opponents, all in white kits, were quick on the counter, and had one or two creatively inclined players, but they worried us fairly little. I took a cannon ball of a shot to the chest, which summoned a mighty “FUCKKKK!” from the depths of my lungs, and Wazza, oh Wazza, hit a cross onto his own cross-bar.
We were comfortable, and sitting even prettier not too long after as Lloydy swung in a corner which was side foot volleyed in, through the goalkeeper’s sprawling arms, by Dal.
Moments prior to his goal, Dal made four of their players look like toddlers with missing knee caps, as he tricked them all with good footwork, before finally being apprehended by a foul.
Two up and cruising, we didn’t need to let the other team get back into it, but alas.
Tempers started to rise slightly, with each team getting their own rough shoulder barges in, with every contentious decision the poor old referee gave being met by a barrage of “fucckkkkkkkk off” from the idiots.
The enemy got back into the game as their one pretty good player beat the defensive line down the left hand side, had little difficulty in beating Moorey for pace, and then smashed it very hard down the middle, with it going in via Royley’s elbow.
The ref just about managed to keep a lid on the growing frustration from some certain players, and then blew the half-time whistle, with a dressing down to both teams quickly following. The referee was very understanding and explained that he was going to say the same thing to the other lads, at right about the time Wazza stormed into the circle expressing “fuck off, it’s them!”.
After a change of goalkeepers for us, with Dec taking Royle’s place, proceedings commenced once more. Now, the second half was very much a physical battle with very little football actually being played. Due to the horrid conditions (it was still pissing it down, btw) each team pretty much resorted to playing long throughs balls, trying to slip in players down the wings, with neither being able to really make anything work.
Royley used his considerable strength to hold off practically every on rushing attacker single handedly, whilst Leighton was trying to make things happen at the other end of the pitch with some driving runs and clipped passes.
But then, as the game entered the dying minutes, it began.
After a decision went against Wazza he, once again, shouted “fuck off!” in the general direction of the referee. Who finally broke and gave him a yellow card. That was actually the second booking of the game, as a player on the White team picked one up earlier.
Remember, 7 a side.
Now, our Wazza is prone to be a little moody when things aren’t going his way, so we dragged him off the pitch to avoid an unthinkable second yellow.
He reluctantly left the field of play and stood next to us on the side line. With the score still 2-1, the Whites pressed on to find an equaliser, and our park-the-bus tactics resulted in them winnings a lot of throw ins on both sides of the pitch.
With three minutes remaining the ball rolled out right where we stood. Wazza, being a mischievous little trickster, stood over the ball in order to prevent the Whites player from getting it.
All Hell, and hilarity, ensued.
The Whites player shoved Wazza in the back in order to get the ball, quite overtly. Our shaken beauty didn’t take too kindly to that, and pushed him into the fence with all his might. The commotion began as people descended to where we stood. The player went to punch Wazza in the face, but Waz pussied out, ducked and turned around all in one swift movement. I looked on, bemused at the event, but sprung into keep the player and another onrushing White team mate back and attempt to defuse the situation.
When I turned back around, Dal had, in the full spirit of Wrestlemania, swinging headlocked Wazza to the ground, and held him there. Then Leighton stormed in out of no where and helped hold Wazza down, asking what the fuck he was playing at?
Players on the White team were making bold claims of “We’ll quit this league”, and I’m sure the team lingering at the bottom of the league would be sorely missed. The referee eventually wandered over, looking as perplexed as me, and handed Wazza, a SUBSTITUTE, his second yellow card. The player on the White team was also given his marching orders.
As I gazed around at the bloody carnage of The Battle of St Mary’s Astro, I let out a laugh, then a sigh, then another laugh. The rain beating down on my head, “7 a side” I said.
The game wasn’t over though. With a few action packed minutes still remaining. We were very much defending with our backs to the walls, with Leighton’s powerful runs our only means to transition from defence to attack. He clipped one ball over the top for Moorey, who wasted a glorious chance to seal the three points by blazing over.
Then up at the other end, Dec was called into action as one of their players raced through the defence clean on goal, but Dec stood up tall and batted the shot away.
And with that, we conquered the battle in a glorious, hard fought, victory. Moving us up to 2nd in the league in the process.
With some juicy afters of varying degrees of “banter” being branded about on Facebook, I can only imagine that this battle was not the end of the war. At the request of my beloved team mates, player ratings:
Royley – 8/10
Wazza – 7/10
My self 4/10
Dal – 9/10
Cartwright – 9/10
Dec – 7/10
Lloydy – 6/10
Leighton – 8/10
Moorey – 0/10
Smithe – 6/10
PETERS – 10/10