Old Boys set off in style from Thrifty’s parking lot on Sunday morning, quietly confident of maintaining their unbeaten streak of three consecutive games with a long-awaited match with Duncan 48s at Frances Kelsey field.
It seemed like old times as we all climbed into the back of Antonio Alonso’s van for the trip to Mill Bay. I was given pride of place up front to assist as a human GPS as the weather and road conditions meant Alonso had to concentrate on keeping the team transport on the road.
Animated conversations helped to pass the short speedy journey to the field in Mill Bay. Topics ranged from sea-level rise impacting downtown Ganges businesses; cycle valet parking; a new clubhouse on site of the old Shell gas station; possible mayoral candidates after incorporation; and matching Chemainus’ famous murals with Salt Spring’s own characters to stimulate tourism.
The field was in surprisingly good condition considering the constant rainfall of the last week and Old Boys started brightly in the downpour, passing elegantly from the kickoff. Continuation of the winning streak looked like a distinct possibility.
Unfortunately, goalkeeper Dennis Shaw was not party to the pre-game huddle where coach Graham Tweddle had decided to change the formation to 3-4-3 from their more familiar setup, which seemed to be a random set of numbers that sort of worked. Shaw took a goal kick, aiming for the missing member of the back four defence and gifted a scoring chance that Duncan capitalized on.
Like last week, the Old Boys came storming back and, within minutes, a fine series of passes out of defence saw Mark Aston find David Toynbee with a pass he duly converted to tie the game.
Old Boys quickly settled into a rhythm bolstered by returnees Stefan Cermak, Sean Goddard and Scott Howe. They pressurized the Duncan defence but could not make the final strike pay off with goals.
Suddenly, as the rain stopped and a possible glint of sun arrived, Ben Cooper took off on a mazy magical meander through the Duncan defence to place a fine cross where Charley Mayer powerfully headed into the net to give the Old Boys the lead. It was 2-1 at the half and the Old Boys were thinking the unthinkable: “The second half is our forte.” “We have a forte?” “More like a faintly discernible pattern” summed up the half-time pep talk.
But the second half proved to be as different as the first. The Old Boys tired and Duncan’s passing game saw the visitors chasing shadows. Quickly taking advantage of set pieces, free kicks and corner kicks, the Duncan squad quickly traded the 2-1 lead to tie the score.
Two more corner kicks saw a near post header neatly deflected for goal number three and a defensive entanglement increased Duncan’s lead to 4-2.
Cooper, in a valiant attempt to raise his fellow players to a comeback finish reminiscent of recent exploits, took off up the sideline but “hit the wall.” The wall was in the shape of a 280-pound defender who had decided one Cooper mazy run was one too many and laid him low, earning a 10-minute sin-bin penalty for his efforts.
Shaw managed to prevent a fifth goal in rushing out for a save at the feet of the attacker, but the final whistle brought the Old Boys’ roll to an end.