Andy Baker scores from a set-piece straight from the training manual
Often the weight of expectation stifles the big occasions and snuffs out the smoldering torch paper before it ignites (writes our Chief Football Correspondent).
Not so at Haverstock High School Astro-Turf on Friday, where two giants of the modern game illuminated a chilly January evening with a lavish display of footballing fireworks.
A capacity crowd of fervent, if slightly cold and bored looking Justgiving supporters roared their approval as their gladiators entered the lion’s den, slightly late because of congestion on the Northern line between Old Street and Chalk Farm, and missing centre-back Jules because he had to attend to a sudden flurry of Helpdesk enquiries.
Raring to go in the opposition half stood the formidable Cancer Research UK, resplendent in red Bobby Moore no.6 shirts and with some players even sporting proper astro-turf boots, suggesting they might actually have played before. The stage was set.
Already a defender down, Justgiving were further hamstrung before the game had even started when Aussie international Roger Dennis tweaked a thigh during the warm-up and was forced to concentrate on celebrating Australia Day from the sidelines.
Into the starting 8 came Tim Truman, and good job he did. With the match barely minutes old, a thrusting Justgiving incursion over enemy lines saw Truman pick up the ball on the right and slice a horribly miss-hit cross into the top right hand corner of CRUK’s net to make it 1-0. It would have been a classic goal, if only he’d meant it.
On the premise that if Spurs fan Truman could score past CRUK, anyone probably could, Justgiving pressed forward with ever greater purpose and began assiduously posting a cricket score. But then, drama.
A CRUK sabotage mission cunningly disguised as a mix up with pitch bookings meant the entire game had to be shifted to half the pitch to accommodate another match. Cue much bewilderment and frantic tactical reorganisation, as the teams were shrunk to five and substitutes suddenly outnumbered supporters.
On the smaller pitch, CRUK’s crack 5-a-side hit squad came to the fore and Justgiving were suddenly under the kosh. Tackles were traded, passes went astray, lunging last ditch interceptions saved the day, balls flew past flailing arms and legs and rippled the nets. And when the final whistle blew, the burning question on everyone’s lips was…who won?
And in all the excitement, it turned out nobody had kept score.
So, it was up the road to the pub for some post match tipples and the most delicious honey and mustard coated sausages anyone had ever tasted. Hand were shaken, glasses were chinked, the glory was shared. A classic sporting encounter, conducted in the true spirit of the game, and one that Justgiving hopes will be repeated many times in the future.
Many thanks to all CRUK players and supporters. When’s the rematch?