Monday, 12 September 2011

10 seconds...

Apologies for my outright lies in my last post claiming that this post would be posted yesterday. A combination of aching limbs and a sore head conspired to reduce my brain power to the point where only basic motor functions were possible. This was largely due to the excesses of Saturday nights post-match activities. In this weeks case it was the drowning of sorrows that was taking place rather than the toasting of victory, but the difference in our attitude was slight because the margin seperating us from victory was so slim.

Now the records will always read that on Saturday we lost 3-2, but the numbers don't tell the story. Not by a long way. What keeps ringing through my head is that with 10 seconds to go the lowly Sale, 5 divisions inferior to their god-like opponents, were winning the game. Not just winning it, bossing it. Making the 'superior' opponents look clueless and lacklustre, a team without a drive, without cohesion, a team not up for the fight. Our hard work achieved that, our discipline and support for one another was what did that, and no result can detract form that. We played our way and we out-worked a team that were supposed to put us quite easily to the sword. This was supposed to ruin our hard-work and all of the preparation that we put in was meant to be brought back down to earth, but we simply went onto that pitch and said no. I think that at the end of the game, whilst tired and heartbroken, we were also proud.

The game saw us slip into a 1-0 deficit at half time, the result of a penalty flick. The flick was incorrectly given, but other than that the general standard of the umpiring was fantastic. It was a shame not to see the defender being given the benefit of the doubt, but we certainly kept our heads and tried not to appeal and rile the umpire, something our opponents showed less discipline in. To be in it at half-time was a great feeling, knowing that we had to keep our work-rate up was the real challenge, they way we played contained them very well. In the second half our tactical changes left the opposition struggling with what to do to break us down. We hit them a few times on the break before we finally netted an equalizer. I've not really mentioned this to any of the lads so I'm not sure if they noticed but I was the one who scored the equalizer, on my reverse stick no less. I mention this purely because my reverse stick ability is a part of my game which is comically lacking, so to score like that against such classy opponents is a source of great humour, if only to myself! But in all seriousness, when I looked around having scored to see the joy and belief on the faces of the other guys on the team, it was a great pleasure. This was a group of players who now believed that not only were they in the game, they could win the game. Once we knew we could score, that second goal didn't seem so surprising. It was a goal of great craft as well, open on the top of the circle Lyndon managed to resist the temptation to test the keeper (something I'm ashamed to say I probably couldn't do just yet) and played the pass that took the keeper out of the equation. Danny put the finish on it, and Sale were going through the the next round.

And then the heartbreak; 10 seconds left, a short corner, a goal. The opponents were out of jail and extra-time beckoned us. Our bodies were tired, not as tired as theirs. Our work-rate never dropped though and we battled through to the second half of ET, but it wasn't enough. They got a chance, they took it. A golden goal, but for the look on the winners faces as they trudged off the pitch it might as well have been brass. That's all I have to say about the winners, they don't merit the attention and they don't merit the many teams between us and them.

What I would say about the heartbreak though, and I'd implore our guys to do this, is hold on to it. Embrace that feeling and hate it. Hate it because you never want to feel it again. Hate it because it is but a drop in the ocean compared to how it feels to drop to lose games we should win. Hate it because it's how we will feel if we don't replicate our performance and we don't go out into our league and win. Let's take that feeling and use it to beat teams.

And let's start that winning next week in our friendly, a bit more on that next time though as  think I've got a bit too emotional now and need to have a lie down. Thanks for waiting for it and thanks for reading it!

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