A sadly depleted Old Boys team of 10 boarded the overloaded Bowen Queen on Sunday with a certain amount of trepidation.
In fact, two of the 10 were in the second-to-last vehicle to board before the barriers closed! An omen?
The world may have been in thrown into great confusion this last week with presidential “executive” orders sowing anger, astonishment and discontent, but it did not come close to the angst amongst the Old Boys over the previous week’s dismal last-minute loss to the Fighting Perch.
The Old Boys were reinforced with a late player transfer, Dave Bruce of Sunderland fame, who was brightly ideal for their Finlayson style of play — confident, accurate passes triangulating from goalkeeper Jack Braak outwards, involving the defence, midfield and attacking duo. Coach Graham Tweddle’s insistence on the numbers approach was paying off! In fact, there was a string of continuous passes, 17 to be exac. “Long balls” Old Boys are so last season. Eat your heart out, Antonio.
The rust of the mid-winter break gone, the Old Boys dominated the first 35 minutes of the game. The many starlings spectating on the power lines finally moved off to other more entertaining locations. The fans are hard to please these days!
New transfer Bruce had a fierce shot tipped over the bar by the Vic West goalkeeper after a good lead-up by Sean Norgard, Mark Aston and Wade der Heide. Would the Old Boys’ dominance pay off with an slew of goals? For most of the first half, goalkeeper Braak and assistant referee/reporter Fraser Hope were the only ones in the Old Boys half, such was the dominance.
Against the run of play a weak pass back to Braak was intercepted and Vic West were 1-0 up. Old Boys were stunned, as was the lonely visiting fan.
Old Boys returned to the attack, determined to have no replay of previous game horrors and to be a constant thorn in the opponents’ side. No angst here. A Mike McCormick left-footed free kick forced the home goalkeeper to make another tipped save over the bar. Another quick counter-attack saw Braak make a save from Norgard.
Exhausted from retrieving the ball from outside the fencing, Tweddle took a momentary rest on the bleachers to cheers (or was it jeers?) from the players.
Scott Howe was brought to his knees by a strong illegal tackle and needed a few minutes to recover from his contact with the artificial turf.
Half time brought the siege of Vic West’s goal to an end without an equalizer. Half-time team tactics focused on the need to feed up the strikers and use the width and length of Finlayson to take advantage of the Old Boys’ superior speed and fitness. I can’t believe I used the words “fitness and speed” with reference to the Old Boys, but I did.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, with Old Boys dominating possession and chances with occasional forays by Vic West that posed little or no danger and were mopped up by Braak with relative ease. An air of confidence emanated from the Old Boys, as tiredness became more of a factor for Vic West.
A quick throw in from der Heide to Norgard then made ground through the middle to find Aston, who put a beautifully weighted pass into the path of a flying Charley May as he cut to the byeline. The cross into the six-yard box found a tracking Norgard to side foot an equalizer. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” (John Keats -1795-1821). Who says the Old Boys cannot be immortalized?
Despite constant pressure on the Vic West goal, tiredness and some robust keeping kept the score tied. Howe mainly spent the rest of the half seeking retribution for his scraped knees, aching ribs and a migraine, but the referee, sympathetic to his plight, did not enforce any serious punishment. Howe, making a timely clearance, came to the aid of Tweddle to prevent another catastrophe!
Living dangerously and going for the go-ahead goal left hems eves open at the back, but der Heide and Braak performed a poetic ballet defensive maneuver, passing along the goal line.
The last 10 minutes saw the two squads’ energy levels drop significantly on the prairie-wide expanse of Finlayson. Both teams were anxious to not make the mistake that led to defeat, but a Norgard attack on goal was thwarted by a shove, which if he had fallen could have led to a penalty. Following the Old Boys code of honour, he kept his feet and pride by stumbling instead.
Old Boys players were enormously cheered by their effort in coming back from an early blunder and rallied round the iced tea to pat themselves on the back for a true team performance.