Sunday 22 November 2020

Classic 0 - 0 - Leverstock Green FC Vs Biggleswade United FC, Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division, Pancake Lane (20/10/20)

It’s all doom and gloom in the car today, there is no nostalgia riddled soundtrack like the last time out, the notification of an impending news conference from the Prime Minister, means the dial on my radio is very much turned to Radio 4 and when old Boris appears over the airwaves, he brings word of Manchester being placed into tier 3.

I was already feeling a little anxious, having left the daughter for the first time with a babysitter, but I can assure you she was displaying no signs of someone who was remotely fazed by it, and I’m not sure she even noticed me leaving the door. The aforementioned tightening of restrictions in the North West makes me feel that London and the South East is surely only days or weeks away from a similar fate, maybe even lockdown again. It very much feels like our window for going to football is closing.

Due to Tom having his own flirtations with Covid, I’m happy to say it was in the end a false alarm and me having caught something via my daughter from the germ factory that is her nursery, we’ve not been out for a couple of weeks. Every missed opportunity to get to a game is a tough one to take, in these uncertain times. However when you are curled up in the fetal position on the sofa, being sick into a waste paper basket, there's not much you can do about it.

It is thankfully a glorious autumn evening, the trees that line the road have already changed into their new outfits or are very much on the way. My car feels far too big for the tiny lane I find myself on, and it's not a boy kicking a ball I find myself creeping along behind like at Godmanchester Rovers, but a girl on a horse.

Spotting the tops of the floodlights above the fence always sends a bit of a shiver of anticipation down my spine, and once safely past the horse, I'm turning through the black wrought iron gates that pave the way into not just any old non league football ground, in fact any old ground in the entire universe of football, be that now, in the past or the DeLorean reachable future, became this is a ground simply known as, are you ready for it, Pancake Lane.

“Gates are up, that’s a bonus” says Tony Leverstock Green FC’s (LG) Vice Chairman, who is busily setting up an olive green gazebo with all the apparatus that is all too common now at grounds, QR codes to check into the NHS track and trace app and a device to measure your temperature, which is basically a small white gun, you have to stand still for, while he points it at your forehead.

The lack of “elite football” locally he tells me means people are searching out football in all shapes and sizes, and Pancake Lane is as good a place as any to get your fix. There are a few downsides though to the nationwide rules, the “bar is restricted” Tony explains, however “some people don't pay any notice”, he adds, but its still “better than it being closed”. 

As a man of a somewhat limited stature, he’s struggling with the roll down zip up door of the gazebo and I'm caught in an awkward position of should I help him or leave him to it, thankfully a steward steps in and I’m not forced to treat a man much my senior, like a toddler.

Both the home and away managers and their entourages arrive at the same time, LG’s much like the visitors Biggleswade United FC’s (BU) are all weighed down with bulging bags full of kit. It’s all very convivial, plenty of hellos and nods of recognition. Every one of them passing by a large Welcome To Pancake Lane sign on the side of the flat roofed clubhouse, but none of them are anywhere near as giddy at seeing this club's great home name emblazoned in black block capitals. For Christ's sake people the place is named after something you have for breakfast.

The actual bar is closed, the optics secured behind a metal shutter, the room though is busy, and Tom is a fan of the home shirt framed on the wall, “I like that green kit”. The 50/50 notice on the board next to me is a promising sign, as is the honesty pot and the small pile of programs on a table by the door on the way in. An actual paper programme, my first of the season, remarkable.

“We're up, we're down” explains an LG fan, his face says it all of the clubs current fortune when he tells us they “lost to ten men” in their last game, “Saturday was disappointing. His summation is disturbed by the rattling din made by the shutter as it is hoisted upwards. The lady doing it, then prepares herself for a bit of table service.

Outside the tiny tea nook, with the menu scrawled on a small bit of card affixed beside it, has flung open its doors. The nearby white board with the lineups, has yet to be updated, and shows the starting 11’s of the last game here.

With the players out to warm up, Tom heads off in search of a hot drink, and above the pitch, only half illuminated, a bat swoops, snagging bugs drawn in by the lights. Not allowed to train on the pitch, the BU manager instructs his players to vault the railing around it and warm up on a grass verge next to the stand behind us. “Focus, focus” he encourages as they dash back and forth. “Fucking three points” demands one player. 

A man in the most fantastic Hummel jacket has me somewhat hypnotised and I almost consider half hitching it, but it's so tightly zipped up, and long, it’s almost down to the wearers knees, I wouldn't be able to do it without him noticing and such is my admiration in this vintage get up, I miss the teams coming out, however it's another underwhelming entrance, no music, no fanfare, the norm now really.

“Captains please” instructs the referee, who promptly join him in the centre circle. The coin is tossed, the ends are picked, forcing the sides to swap ends, before we can get underway.

The word from Tony was that “whoever plays at home wins” in this particular fixture, but it's the visitors who go close first, and second a long distance screamer smacking the cross bar and third, only a point blank block inside six yard box prevents the player teeing up his effort, from putting BU into an early lead. “Good challenge” screams an already animated away supporter.

BU’s early pressure is somewhat relieved by the home side's first half chance, but the cut back into the box is well and truly hoofed clear. 

With all this action, you’d think Tom would be suitably entertained however he’s already playing the ‘he looks a bit like someone else’ game. The referees assistant on our side, he has already dubbed “fat Clarkson” and the referee himself is either “Pepe Reina” or a “thin Benitez”, saying he didn't know the once Liverpool stopper had “taken up refereeing”.

The dugouts are ludicrously far apart, meaning if the managers want to have a set too, they've a long walk before doing it. Tom thinks I was a bit “optimistic” with my “3 - 1” home win prediction, it's all BU and Slim Fast Benitez is already showing his relaxed Mediterranean nature. “Fucking referee” bellows someone on the home bench, everyone of his decisions is greeted by some level of remonstration from one bench or the other.

It’s taken LG a quarter of an hour to register their first chance of meaning, a looping cross into the box is met by the head of a player but it's over. The latest away attack a few minutes later only reinforces Tom’s earlier comment of how well they “transition” into attack, as well as showing off the angular, almost Cubist numbers on the back of their red and blue shirts. Again it’s only another last ditch tackle that stops an inevitable goal.

One late arrival to the pitchside car park, momentarily shines an unwanted spotlight on one goal with his headlights, before shutting them off. It would perhaps be too much to say LG had been under the cosh so far this half, they are taking a while to get up to tempo, but are showing signs of maybe putting a bit of weight behind the statistics Tony shared with me before.

A free kick finds the intended player in the box, but he can't get the ball out of his feet and the chance for LG goes begging. BU are quick to counter, however LG win the ball back not long after, forging then their own attack and forcing the BU keeper into a smart low save.

According to someone on Twitter the food is supposed to be pretty good here, I share this with Tom as we edge closer to the break, but he nigh on snaps my head off with his reply, “I’ll be the judge of that”.

In a brief lull one home player displays football's sometimes unfathomable grip or lack of, of reality, “good start, let's make something happen”. It’s been anything but a good start, they are lucky to not be behind. The referee also shows his credentials as a laissez faire, letting a horrible BU challenge go unpunished. “Come on guys, let's go” shouts the distinctly Spanish sounding BU manager, but Tom’s not quite sure of his origins, “do you think he's Spanish?”.

“Unlucky Bullet” says the same nearby energised BU fan as before at the sight of the away number 9, turning on a sixpence and sending the most mesmerizing shot towards the top corner of the goal from outside the box, only for it in turn to be matched by an equally top draw save from the LG keeper. “That was a bullet” sniggers Tom, sounding slightly like a red top headline writer.

Bullet is not the kind of person you want to anger, his hulking frame and bullish mentality means he is quite the force to be reckoned with. “Come on” he snarls after doing all the hard work, great feet and a pin point cross into the box, only for none of his teammates to have made a run, much to his annoyance.

“How did we not score” wonders a flabbergasted LG player, the ball from a corner having just traveled through the entirety of the BU box, but no one was able to get a touch on it. “We just watched it '' says one teammate, such was it’s likelihood of going in, everyone assumed that surely it was going to.

Bullet is down in the LG box and quickly claims a penalty, “reffff”, but he gets no response. A glance towards “fat Clarkson” hoping he'll give it, gets no reply either. He and everyone knows the only thing getting him over is a bulldozer, “fat Clarkson” who is a chatty assistant to say the least, reassures Bullet he wouldn't “mug him off”.

Into the final ten, and things are reaching close to boiling point. “How many more?” asks the home bench, after another robust BU tackle. “You're not going to get away with it” mumbles Tom, BU barreling people over time and time again.

A blatant hack from a BU player on a LG one, after the referee had already awarded BU a free kick, sees the player downed in the book emphatic to go unanswered and off he marches for his time out on the naughty step. This rule like every other time we’ve seen it confusing the hell out of us both.

“Let's settle down and play” pleads the BU captain, however his intention for calmness, feels a little bit late. 

LG’s keeper is doing his best to take as long as possible to do everything, which this early on is a bit of a “worry” as Tom puts. Bullet flattens an LG player like he wasn’t ever there and when a LG player goes down like an extra from a war film, the home bench erupts. “Why is he screaming like has been shot?” asks one nearby person of his friends. “Looked like a yellow from here” interjects “fat Clarkson”. The home fans are asking for the sin bin, and the home bench are asking for a bit of consistency after claiming a BU player just “swore” at the man in charge. I say in charge, I'm not really sure he is.

The half ends with a bit of a question mark hanging over it, the referee on the sidelines before blowing his whistle talking to a home steward from a prolonged amount of time, the players standing around twiddling their thumbs, “ref get on with the game”. My first inclination is that during all the commotion of the recent flair up, something has maybe been said by someone in the crowd towards a player perhaps. Tom states that that’s the “point of non league football” audience participation, I guess it is to some extent, but it’s a fine line.

Tom returns from the food hatch with talk of absolute madness, struggling with one of non leagues greatest dilemmas, where to balance your burger and chips so you can have a drink.                    Rumour is rife about what caused the referee to have his elongated chat with the steward.

 “Big half” demands one of the freshly returned BU players, and just over five minutes into the new half, his team spank the LG cross bar for the second time tonight. The home side are still a man down, both the bench and fans ask the referee “how long?” has he got left in the naughty corner and even if the game is devoid of goals, “fat Clarkson” can't help but get involved, engaging in a full blown conversation with a man behind him at one point.

All the chances are coming BU’s way as they look to overturn the form book of the home side always being victorious. “Fucking hell” exhales one travelling fan, the ball having traveled all the way through the LG box, however again no one is able to poke it in, before finally being met at the back post by a player who is only able to scuff his shot directly at the keeper.

“It's going to be a match of near misses” says a wise Tom.

Bullet once again shows his undoubted class, Tom thinks he’s “too good for this team”. Holding up the ball, then with a delicate flick he releases his teammate, who surges forward only to let loose the most dismal shot at the end of his run.

The chatty assistant delivers perhaps his best line of the match so far, in response to a whinging player, “keep your hands to yourself and grow up”. An LG kung fu kick of a tackle, that results in no free kick sees the entirety of the home crowd slacked jawed at the decision and the referees assistant completely undermines him, saying quite clearly, ”in my opinion it’s a foul”. In Tom's opinion, “Pepe Reina is losing a grip on the game”.

BU are in again and it's only a spread eagle save with his right foot, that denies what feels like an impending BU goal, “he’s pulled a few out the bag today” comments Tom. 

Considering everyone else is having a chat with him, I try my luck striking up a conversation with the chatty assistant, asking him why he just sidestepped a ball rolling out of play, when he could have easily just stopped it, and he is of course more than willing to explain his reason behind it.

A big midfield 50/50 challenge leaves one BU player screaming, but the referee just waves play on. Bullet is then dispatched, and LG counter, their long range effort is straight at the keeper, who spills it, but he’s able to gather it at the second attempt. The referee continues to get it in the ear from all corners, the latest big challenge is still being discussed.

“He had him panicked” rues Tom, a rushed home clearance is straight to a BU player who hits it first time, straight back from whence it came, forcing the home keeper to furiously back peddle, the ball eventually going just over the crossbar.

Bullet is off, how he leaves the pitch without at least one goal to his name is a mystery. Into the final fifteen and as Tom put it, “it’s all going on”, players are starting to bicker, tackles are flying in and a break in play comes about after one LG player stays down clutching his neck, the incident brought to the referees attention by “fat Clarkson” repeatedly shouting, “heads, heads, heads” at him.

I’m not sure if it's the departure of the BU front man, but the game's quality has somewhat dipped, so much so we are talking about Covid 19 Christmas. An LG cross is then just above the heads of the players in the box, drawing a “ohhhh” from the crowd, Tom reckons they are going to “nick it” and “wouldn't deserve” it one bit.

A BU free kick on the edge of the LG box is in a promising position, the first runner is a decoy, the one behind him strikes it straight into the wall. A cry of “handball” goes up the referee shakes his head. Another big challenge, this time by the visitors, results in a mighty yelp from the player on the other end of it, but once more no foul is given.

Five to go and the game is frantic and sloppy in equal measure, the dog pottering about the stand behind us seems to have lost all interest. LG are so wasteful in possession, their number 9 telling a teammate who tries to find him with a through ball, “I can't do that, I’m not that kind of player. Again the referees assistant isn’t shy telling the players, “why don't you worry about playing the game and stop whining”.

Tom is still sure “someone is going to nick it” but who that is, he’s now not so certain. The home bench call for the team to push up, “too deep” shouts the manager. One player asks his team mate to “dig in” with the final whistle rapidly approaching.

LG have their chances to “nick it” as Tom put it, in added time. A hooked shot over the bar looks to be their last one of the match, but when they are gifted a corner, they are granted one more go at threatening the BU goal, but as Tom put it, it's “shit”. A free kick in a dangerous position is rushed, taken while the ball is traveling. All the late home pressure comes to nothing and come the final whistle one person leaving puts it perfectly, the match will go down as a “classic 0 - 0”

There is plenty to like about LG, more than just the wonderful name of their ground. As I overheard one BU player say “this is some fucking ground to find”, but it’s worth it. Any club that has Our Guests above the away dugout, are a classy one to say the least. It might be a bit “wiggly windy” as another player put to get here, but you won't be disappointed.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

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Wednesday 4 November 2020

Snacktastic - Godmanchester Rovers FC Vs Ely City FC, Eastern Counties Football League Premier Division, Bearscroft Lane (30/09/20)

It’s only our second game and I'm already alone, but I should really get used to it, suck it up and be a big boy, because a change to Tom’s shifts at work means I’m going to be spending most evenings flying solo to games. It’s OK though, an upgrade to the blogmobile over lockdown means my radio now has a much greater scope of channels and I’m more than happy to spend the sixty minutes or so driving, sans my other half listening to a mixture of 90’s indie and 70’s rock.

The large white sign that welcomes me at the start of a long narrow gravel lane confirms I’ve arrived in the right part of Cambridgeshire, a rather soggy part at that. As I creep along behind the young man kicking his football in front of him, he kindly steps to one side to allow me to pass. Not even turning around to acknowledge me, the crunching of the loose surface under my tires enough to signal he needs to move, and once he does, edging past him, I catch a glimpse of the expression on his face in my wing mirror, it is one of a person who wished they had brought a coat.

It is of course apt that I pass a farm on the way to a ground known as The Farm and take great comfort that the nickname of Bearscroft Lane home of Godmanchester Rovers FC (GOD) is not because of the smell or abundance of bovine swanning about the place.

Stepping out of my car there is not much to feast my eyes upon, not helped by the inclement weather, everything is a little grey. The music playing from the single tiny speaker on the way in is of a very different genre to that I’ve been enjoying on my way here. If I’m not mistaken it's a spot of 90’s garage and Craig David to be precise. The couple of tatty looking flags atop their long white poles have seen better days. The rain is a constant, not heavy, just making itself known, however if we have learnt anything these last five years, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's all about scratching the surface to see what's underneath.

In the distance some wind turbines slowly turn. Braving the camera gantry, a scaffold structure between the two dugouts on the far side of the pitch, a man attempts to thread a red golf umbrella up though it’s broken roof to plug a hole above him, to try and ensure he’s not utterly soaked come the end of the match. However his initial attempts look to have been fruitless and its soon folded away, but he’s clearly determined to make it work and not long after he’s back at it, the brolly sitting precariously above him, nervously holding onto the handle to stop it from blowing away.

The bright crimson umbrella the only bit of colour on what is turning out to be a very drab day.

Brightening up the place further, the arrival of a visiting fan, one of Ely City FC (EC) in his red and white scarf means things are on the up and the warm glow of the lights now on in the clubhouse, seeping out the small windows on its side, draw me in, past the now familiar sight of a sanitation station.

Blue dots with white footprints guide you around the carved up clubhouse, black and yellow tape on the floor makes sure everyone keeps a sensible distance from each other, the few tables scattered around the edges of the room, are all allocated their own intimate section. All the must haves of any good club bar are present: a dart board, aging silverware, old team photos, a club scarf pinned to the wall and a highly polished wooden honours board. A small TV in the corner is showing the local news at a deafening volume. However I can just about overhear the conversation among the group of EC fans, unsurprisingly it's about the weather.

Tom’s eventual arrival is somewhat dramatic and his time at our table in the corner is fleeting, sticking around only to tell me he got “lost”, “very, very lost” and “nearly died three times”. Dropping that bombshell on me before bursting through the door of the nearby loo, returning not long after looking a whole different man, “ohhhhh that's better”.

Outside the teams warm up in the rain, a man with an umbrella in the home team's colors, does not do a bad job of conducting the session from underneath cover, while the players as ever are seemingly unfazed by the downpour, all while everyone else clambers for shelter under the various lean toos and small stands dotted about.

Having caught wind that the tea bar is open Tom is off. A stray ball hits the roof of the metal stand I’m in and gives out a terrifying crash. Such is the combination of the wind and heavy rain, the roof is almost redundant, on the horizontal, I’m getting wet regardless. 

One of the referees assistants warming up as Tom points out is far from “into it” as the conditions worsen, however with Tom’s return he comes baring news far worse than a bit more drizzle and once over the fact his cup is either half full or empty depending on how you look at it, I ask him has he spilled it on this way back and he tells me that's simply what he was “given”, by who turned out to be the GOD “chairman” who he was instructed to accost by the man behind the bar, he finally breaks it to me, there is “no food”.

I’m half expecting tears to start rolling down his cheeks, the “woman who normally does it, is on a course”. He is gutted.

As at Windsor, there is no grand entrance by the players, just dribs and drabs, ones and twos filtering out of their respective changing rooms. There are a few GOD fans to welcome the home players with a high five or a word of encouragement, and there is now quite a crowd here to witness them take the field. The EC supporters are by far the loudest, the small contingent from the clubhouse, offer up a few shouts as the players limber up, “come on Ely, come on boys”, one from behind his red and white face mask.

“Start fucking bright” screams one GOD player loudly as the referee prepares to get things underway, the player is matched in volume by the cry of one away fan as the man in charge draws his whistle to his lips, “come on Ely”.

Despite all the available shelter, the EC fans have stayed out in the elements and the smell of Deep Heat from one nearby player is on the verge of overwhelming, I can almost taste it, and I don’t think there is even two minutes on the clock and EC have taken the lead, sending their nearby supporters into a chorus of woops, some waving their hands in celebration about their heads. “Good start” affirms one, “come on Ely'' shouts another.

Every time they get the ball, venturing forward, EC look dangerous, “too fucking easy” shouts one GOD player, they are not exactly making it hard for them. The visitors pony-tailed right back is at the heart of a lot of their attacks, flying down the wing he looks a threat and I'm not sure if it's Tom’s influence, but I can't take my eyes off his curly flowing mane. 

A spitting player catches Tom’s attention, who he quite rightly scalds, albeit under his breath, “oi Covid” and the proximity of us to the match, as is the non league way, means we both get to enjoy the

audible growl the EC captain gives out every time he jumps to challenge for a header.

With just over ten minutes gone the home players pleas for a red card, their player through on goal, is tugged back, go unheard. It's a free kick and no card. A free kick taken by one of the centre backs, “interesting” comments an intrigued Tom.

It may well be because of the rain weighing them down, pitter pattering on the corrugated roof above us, but the goal nets are unflatteringly saggy and one nearby EC fan recounts to another in a flat cap his exchange with his wife who thought he wouldn't be “going to football if it's raining”, laughing as he tells his neighbour just what he told her, “don't be daft.

The home side continue to be their own worst enemies, “stop giving away free kicks” barks one player, which one old voice responds to from the back of the stand, “shut up whining” and when they are presented with a rare chance in front of goal, they fluff it. “It would have been easier to score”, muses Tom. The deep cross is met by the intended player at the back post, but somehow he manages to head it away from goal, instead of towards.

It’s the first of a couple of quick fire wasted GOD chances, their “fast” front three as Tom highlights have plenty of potential, they constantly look for the same ball over the EC defence, but the crucial first touch or final pass is lacking.

“Aren't you a bit wet out there boys?” asks one EC fan of those still standing, quite unnecessarily out in the rain, they could take about four steps right or left and be dry.

A big challenge on a home player, which Tom brushes off as being a “50/50” all's fair in love and war is his opinion, leaves him in a heap. There are no theatrics, no screaming, so you know he’s actually hurt, but after a short break he’s thankfully back up.

In the twenty five minutes since taking the lead, EC haven't forged a chance on goal. The awarding of another free kick to the visitors doesn't go down well with one home player, “he’s taking the fucking piss” he suggests to the referee. His petulant reaction, one away supporter puts down to a case of “ohhhhhh just because you're losing”. After such a lull since scoring, it maybe explains the wild shot from the EC number 10, after robbing the home captain on the halfway line, surging goalwards, “go on son, go on” encourages one supporter, he lashes it way over the bar. “He got a bit excited” laughs one away fan.

Tom’s got “wet shins” he tells me, as the rain batters his lower legs. EC have a penalty appeal waved away and despite the bad weather Tom is convinced the referee is really “enjoying” himself, after suggesting earlier he didn't want to be here. Very rarely does he not have a huge smile on his face. 

Into the final five of the half and EC have decided to up their game a bit, after bursting into the GOD box it's only a fine low stop from the home keeper “a good save” as Tom puts it, that stops EC furthering their lead. 

The upturn in their performance inspires a few new shouts from their supporters, “come on boys, come on Ely”. Again they burst forward, “go on, first time” urges an EC fan, the player opts for a pass instead, finding his team mate with a well timed through ball, only for a GOD defender to be on hand for a last ditch block. The less said about their final chance of the half mind, the better. The shot in danger of hitting one of the coaches parked in one corner of the car park, way beyond the boundaries of the ground.

Some late home pressure sees plenty of “nice ideas” but “no end product” as Tom puts it and the half concludes with a bit of hands bags, and one home player after the whistle is helped to his feet by the clubs physio, the players wrist looking all sorts of odd and the man with the cold spray fashions a makeshift sling out of the players shirt as he leaves the pitch in clear discomfort.

“Good football that” says a satisfied EC supporter. Tom’s visit to the bar is a short one, a bar which is currently showing “Corro” he informs me. With an insatiable need to eat at least something everywhere we go, and with no hot food options, Tom instead opts for a packet of the well known crips brand Snacktastic, and a couple of bags of their Worcester Sauce flavour.

The away fans who were braving the wet weather have moved on, to stand behind the goal their team will be attacking in the new half, and someone on the home bench is clearly very displeased with the team's first forty five minute performance and is letting anyone in ear shot know about it.

“Come on boys” implores one home player and his words seem to have had the intended impact, as GOD are on the front foot right from the off. “They've come out very energetic” says Tom, one of the home side attempting a “little bicycle kick” he giggles. The player with the injured arm has not returned and the EC supporters sensing their teams decline, make their own attempts to arrest their teams slide, with a loud “come on Ely”.

A collision between the GOD keeper and a defender sees a long break, the physio is on, and that hush that inevitably descends when a player is down, and before everyone is sure its nothing too serious, shrouds the place. It’s only when the defender starts to slowly limp off, that the noise returns. 

“Unlucky Ely” shouts one nearby fan, following a header sailing just wide from a corner. “Ohhh” sigh both home fans and players sensing they are losing their momentum, that they got away with one there. One player demanding his teammates carry on where they “fucking left off” at the end of the first half.

It really is the least they deserved, and seven minutes into the second half GOD are back on level pegging. “Come on” screams one player mid celebration, a nice move down the wing, a low cross and a blocked shot, sees the ball drop kindly, and it’s thumped home.

“Was that a tannoy?” queries Tom, the tiny single speaker that Tom points out is “pointing the wrong
way” seems for a moment to have come to life, but it's far too quiet to know for sure if it was just a bit more Craig David or the name of the scorer. 

In the space of five minutes things go from bad to worse for the visitors, who looked so assured in the first half, “what a turn around, dear oh dear” sighs one one of their fans, as the scorer of GOD’s second knee slides across the slick pitch, having just scored directly from a free kick. A free kick he neatly slotted underneath the jumping wall and into the back of the net. It’s like something right out of Fifa.

The shouts of “come on Ely” are far less frequent now. The team look shell shocked, a bit all over the place to say the least. It takes a stunning finger tip save from their sides latest free kick to stir them, “come on boys”. The man in goal for GOD is just able to get enough on it to tip it over the bar. 

EC’s Pirates of the Caribbean looking number 2, the influential marauding right back from the first half then hits the post, he really should have scored, some of the EC fans hang their head in their hands. They go close again as their resurgence continues, putting wide from a set piece. “Keep going boys” urges one supporter.

Plenty of hardy souls are still braving the rain and despite a string of rash home fouls, the referee keeps his cards in his pocket. The the drama is ramping up, each team doing their best to buy as many fouls as they can.

The sight of the home team going further ahead is too much for one EC fan, “see you later mate” he says, as he beats a hasty exit. It’s a bit of a comedy of errors that leads to the corner that the goal results from. A shanked away clearance is greeted with a sarcastic “weyyyyy” and the goal itself is a near carbon copy of the first. The ball absolutely leathered in from close range, after a brief bit of six yard box pinball.

It feels like any sort of EC fight back has well and truly been squashed now, however the home bench want to make sure the team don’t give away anymore “stupid fouls”. The third goal has really fired up GOD, and it is attack after attack, they are “rampant” as Tom puts it. The bench are loving every minute, no more shouting or scalding, just excited sounds at the sight of a big crunching tackle won in front of them, “fucking love it”. 

EC look a shadow on their former selves, their number 9 is particularly angry, showing his anger from inside the pocket of his marker the home number 6, who won’t let him out of his sight. Nothing is falling their way at all, and when it looks like their keeper handled outside his area, things are close to full implosion, but the referee deems him to be just inside his box. “Come on boys some energy” demands one EC fan, to which one player responds bluntly, “we’re losing 3-1”.

A round of substitutes are displayed via some cards on the touch line Play Your Cards Right style. EC are well and truly pinned back, “get up the fucking pitch” screams one player, but they can’t and its only a last ditch tackle of the highest order, nigh on, on the line that stops a home fourth from point blank range. They might be on course for a loss, but the away fans appreciate the effort all the same.

There is nothing like a penalty in the final five minutes to help a fan base find their voice and give a team a lift. EC have just reduced the deficit by one, roused the supporters to let loose a few rounds of “come on Ely, come on Ely”, who then go close to equalising, only for another reaching block by an GOD player stopping the goalwards shot.

GOD gets some respite, winning a free kick, which leaves one EC fan fuming, “he didn't touch him, get up you wuss”. Frustrations are starting to show from all corners, players and fans. “Get up, get up” screams a home player as his team falls further and further back. 

A big home ball forward sees two players collide, and when the foul is given in the eyes of many of the EC players, the wrong way, many are sent into fits of rage. Ahead, GOD seem happy to try and see out the last few minutes hunkered down in their own half. “Forward, forward” instructs one EC fan, who have found their voice again, “come one Ely”, the chance of rescuing something from this match, is tantalisingly close.

“Keep working” beseeches someone on the home bench, with every hoofed clearance, the ball just comes back at them again. The attempt at a whistle from the crowd, does not surprisingly stop the game, a late EC corner has hearts somewhat in mouths and a final booming “come on Ely” can't will
the ball over the line, come the final whistle the plaudits of “unlucky Ely” from the traveling contingent, seem genuine. 

Perhaps because the din of the match has subsided, the PA is all of a sudden more than audible, thanking everyone for “turning out”. 

It’s nights like these, wet and miserable ones, that you see what your fan base is made of, and considering the gate I would say both GOD and EC’s are made of pretty stern stuff. Depending on the length on the woman's course, yes there is a chance you might have to just have crisps,  and don't be put off by the choice of music either, because if there is a chance of seeing more set pieces formulated on a PS4 then I’m game for another visit, and so should you be.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

Watch our video from the match ↓ HERE

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