Match Report - 24 Oct 2009, Leeds Modernians Football Club 1sts beat Old Collegians
After securing a first League victory of the season against Shire, The Mods arrived at Cookridge keen to grab another vital 3 points to stay in touch with the leading pack. It was perhaps fitting that Michael Keeney’s continuing struggles with his semi-fictional illness opened the door for the return of Richard Hoole, who is a true role model to aspiring injury fakers throughout the amateur game. Keeney’s youthful optimism and ability to evade a full-back’s challenge is mirrored by Hooley’s cold-eyed cynicism and ability to evade the linesman’s flag when a fellow substitute offers it. The rest of the squad was unchanged from the impressive victory at Shire, with Stevo and young Josh returning to the starting XI, and Rob Wright & James Coulson joining Hooley on the bench.
After announcing the line-up, manager Mick Birch explained that, although the team was playing well, a degree of rotation was appropriate, with plenty of good players vying for a limited number of positions, the search for the ideal line-up far from over, and the depth & quality of the entire squad being vital. Anyone with experience of the Birch School of Management realised that this was a euphemism for “I’m in charge and I reserve the right to feck with your heads, even if you’ve been playing well. In fact, especially if you’ve been playing well. I’ve dropped better players than you lot, and if you think I’m a psychotic weirdo now, wait until I move into full Colonel Kurtz mode. Have a good game, lads.”
Collegians had narrowly avoided relegation in 2008-09, and the word on the YOBL streets was that they were working their way through a transitional period, having promoted a few talented young lads from their lower teams. On the day, they also had to work their way through congested Headingley traffic and the game consequently kicked off over 10 minutes late. This caused problems for Birch whose characteristically meticulous preparations were thrown into disarray by the knowledge that the set piece routine we’d practiced for the third left wing throw-in of the second half would be disrupted by the fact that the sun would be fractionally lower on the horizon than it would have been without the delayed kick-off. Only time would tell if this unforeseen development would prove crucial.
The visitors struggled to settle, and Mods enjoyed a large majority of possession in the early stages, without managing to create many clear chances. Eventually, the sustained pressure told when a Chris Stevenson shot from the edge of the box deceived the corpulent, yet surprisingly agile, keeper. 1-0 after 18 minutes. This should have led to a more settled and measured approach from us, but we failed to make the most of our territorial domination. Given the recent form of Tyrone and the back four, plus the limitations of the opposition strikers, Collegians’ goal threat was minimal in the first half, but we were unable to add to our tally before the interval. Jonny Wilson came close, both with a shot dragged across the face of goal and with a close-range header from an outstanding cross from Adam Matthews. 1-0 at half time.
Some observers felt that the Mods’ subdued first half display may have been a consequence of the shock pre-match revelation that Danny Clemence is still in his twenties. Several players were noticeably affected by Danny’s dubious claim, with some demanding independent verification, while the more philosophical members of the squad were moved to ponder the notion of time itself.
Half-time came and went, as half-time tends to do, and the weather continued to change, with rain and wind followed quickly by bright sunshine. It was as if god* / Jah* / Smythey* himself was so troubled by the possibility that Danny might actually be 27 that he thought “oh feck it – what’s the point?” and started messing with the weather settings.
The second half saw The Mods continue to enjoy extended spells of possession against a limited but resilient Collegians, who managed to survive our considerable territorial advantage without undue pressure. We always looked the better side, but there was a lack of incisive football, and while ever the score line remained so tight, we were vulnerable. Occasionally, Collegians broke at pace, and – although our back four were typically solid – once or twice we were exposed, and a better forward line would have punished us from one particular foray with just a couple of minutes remaining. Had they scored then, we would almost certainly have relinquished two points, against a team that appears destined to lose more matches than they win.
Eventually the final whistle went to confirm another narrow victory, on a day where other results went very well for us. As a wise but dull individual once said “three points is three points”, but the League table tells an interesting story. Collegians came into the game having conceded 17 goals in their previous four League matches this season, [plus a further 6 in a cup exit against Division 1 side Bainbridge]. However, despite Mods enjoying 67%** of possession and dominating territorially, we only managed a single goal. Although we’ve scored fewer League goals than any other team in Senior B, we sit just two points behind the divisional leaders, in a congested table. This illustrates how effectively we have defended, with a “goals against” tally of just four in five League matches [and 7 in 7 League & Cup fixtures]. Perhaps the lesson is that we need to become more effective in possession, by improving both our decision-making and our execution of that mystical “final ball”.
The next challenge comes from another team in transition, in the shape of recently relegated Bramley Juniors, who have lost a number of the players who helped them to the Senior B title just 2 seasons ago. However, they have signed a clutch of good new players, and – despite suffering a setback at home to Shire last week – they have had some excellent results, including a notable cup victory over West Leeds rivals Stanningley, who with 5 wins from 5 games are the only team in Senior A with a 100% League record. We have had a number of well-contested matches with Bramley in recent seasons, and Saturday’s fixture promises to be another such encounter, on a critical day of Senior B action. Depending on results, we could end the weekend as low as 8th in the table or as high as joint top. With cup matches on each of the following 3 weekends, it’s vital that we maintain our momentum in the League, with a good performance and a victory against Bramley.
Given the massive importance of this match, what better way for the first team lads to prepare than to stay in on Friday night, with a cup of cocoa, leafing through the new “Browns’ Maintenance” Autumn brochure? You know it makes sense.
* - delete, as appropriate, depending on your beliefs
** - made up statistic
Leeds Modernians Football Club 1sts 1 - 0 Old Collegians ()