Yesterday, at Guildford, the Gondoliers were served a stern wake-up call by Oxted Moonshiners – ably assisted by young Ian, Haslemere Vets’ star forward. We entered the game half asleep and a tad complacent. A significant proportion of the team continued to play as if they had left their office Christmas parties only an hour before: seeing two balls; striking air; miss-timing tackles; and passing weakly, mostly to the opposition.
The two teams were an interesting contrast. The Gondos full of relative youth, fast-paced and fond of hopeful long passes, whereas Oxted were careful, meticulous and clinical. They cleared well from defence, kept possession and used their skill to control significant portions of the game.
What they could not deal with was the Gondos sporadic, explosive enthusiasm. And they rarely threatened our goal. That, however, did not stop them taking advantage of some very sloppy defending to put themselves one nil ahead.
This, instead of inducing a wake-up, introduced nervousness – the team being unfamiliar with trailing. There was a fair amount of chat amongst the Gondos and between the two teams which perplexed the umpire who mistook it for dissent. This misapprehension culminated in the Gondos match-day captain, Regan, being asked to interrupt his on-pitch team instructions to sit on the bench for a couple of minutes. Christmas is a time of wonderment.
And at Christmas too we like to give each other presents but on the evidence of this pre-Christmas performance few of us are deserving. There were some honourable exceptions, however. Tim Savage was as steady as ever and we benefited from the welcome guest appearance of that undoubted future star of the Gondos, Mark Lenel. Through him we decided to take the second half a little more seriously and it fell to the fortunate Rob Manning, who otherwise had been drifting around in a flu or alcohol-induced trance, the chance to slide the ball past the keeper. Mercifully this match will be forgotten in the wave of jollity over the Christmas break but it is a reminder that if we want to stay at the top of the league we need to put our backs into the second half of the season as we did last year.
Co-incidentally this game marked the absence of our CSW trio (acronym for Continuing Success with Winning) and fortunately they will be back in the New Year.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS and NEW YEAR to ALL GONDOLIERS (both passive and active)