A crisp, dew drenched, frosty scene at Great Common met the Vipers as they faced their first ever game against our visitors of the morning Charlwood (CW) who herald from errr.. Charlwood I guess? A quick Google search informs me it is out by Gatwick.
The guest referee Vincent “Colina” Jenkinson arranged the two teams in the centre circle for a perfectly observed minutes silence (except of course for Tessa who didn’t notice or stop nattering!)
CW dressed in the famous yellow shirts, blue shorts and white socks so the scene was set for Brazil vs Fulham. Colina got the game underway and the Vipers started very strongly. Immediately apparent was the quality of the CW #5 in central defence who good positioning and well-timed tackling broke down initial attacks. This was a feature throughout the game.
Harry J was quickly called into action in goal and kept out CWs very useful #19. Jody was lively upfront and broke through into a 1-on-1 as the keeper came out his shot lifted just over the bar. Sam and Barney interchanged a couple of times during the 1st half and worked tirelessly in the middle of the park.
A sweeping move through the middle of the field when Sam passed intelligently to Cody and a beautiful long pass again found Jody whose left foot shot went just left of the post. One highlight which almost had his Dad in tears was Charlie performing a beautiful Cryuff turn.
The first CW goal came somewhat against the run of the play but a loose ball was picked up and a very good chip placed it into the top corner for 0-1. The boys were unsettled and almost immediately CW scored again – their useful #19 delivering the goods. This could get out of control!!!
The boys were continually a threat upfront. They demonstrated good knowledge of the offside rule and then potentially the key turning point of the game occurred as Jody was bought down in the penalty area. Who would take the 200% nailed on penalty kick? What do you mean Vinny “Stevie Wonder” Jenkinson hasn’t given it? “VAR, VAR. VAR……..” came the chant on the terraces.
2nd Half (Jeremy)
It was rather tense. It was rather frustrating too. The swirling post-Halloween fog had now almost evaporated by half time leaving wisps hovering around the fringes of the pitch. The weather conditions right now felt just like Vipers pre-match expectations of strong belief and hope - now all rather (unfairly) subdued and diffused. Vipers so close to scoring on countless occasions in that first 30 – highly competitive all over the pitch...yet...yet...weirdly now 3 goals down. Two goals needlessly given away by Vipers, both forays by CW as soft as the softest Cornish butter in the noon day sun but the third was a wonder goal by CW – a mazy run past x4 defenders and then buried skilfully in the corner...rightfully, a thing of beauty to admire.
However, Vipers, now downhill, started strongly right from the off. Within 48 secs Jody and Charlie skillfully interplayed and was pressurising the startled CW defence. Jody surged through and his powerful shot cannoned off a hapless CW defender into the net. Oh yes! Hope reborn indeed, its 1-3. The home crowd surged hard against the respect rope but luckily it held. Our noble coach Paul ‘hairdryer’ Fielden voice went up an easy octave. ”C’mon Loxwood ...BELIEVE!!’ We did. The team did too as they skipped back. Game on.
But what’s this? Our defence, in their man marking, mysteriously crumbled away within 2 mins of our goal. CW forced a decent save from Sebby, low down to his left & out it went for a corner. CW whipped in the corner but only half cleared by Vipers but then CW calmly passed it back into the box to find x2 (!) unmarked CW forwards, one of which calmly tapped in from close range. 1-4. Rats!
CW applied pressure again, their defence and midfield was rather striking in their composure on the ball – playing a simple game of short triangles up the wings and midfield they worked the ball well. Vipers battled well though and it was still highly competitive everywhere. Vipers in the final verdict perhaps guilty of hanging onto the ball a tad too long...and perhaps too pushed off the ball a bit too easily too. As Olivia NJ sweetly said a long time ago....’let’s get physical’ (too).
The ball was zinging back and forth up and down the pitch...in-swinging high and fast corners from CW exposing our defence protocol...more simple & effective interplay too from CW.... but then Jody popping through (again) and powering a shot against the bar....William surging through on another clever run...Charlie with sublime touches on the wing...Sam and Cody both valiantly tackling with huge heart and covering alot of ground...Cam majestically striding around the midfield with choice interventions...however CW had our number. Within a purple patch of 12 mins they found a further two goals... 1-6. Vipers midfield and defence were just a bit patchy. Sebby, in goal, was having a tough ‘ole time and so wisely our coach gave him a break which released him back to the outfield – it was a good decision and crowd encouragingly roared their approval as Sebby got back into the defence saddle.
The match in its final 10 mins was again strangely and compellingly competitive despite the skewed score line. Jody was keeping their keeper very honest forcing another terrific save. But crypt kickers five they again scored rather easily...1-7 but then a thing of beauty....William retaliated. Wonderfully. Rather like the ghost of Zola past in the wisps of the fog around he curved past x3 hapless CW defenders then calmly shot hard and accurately into the bottom left – a truly wonderful score.
So it all finally ended 2-7 to CW....but as the home crowd wended their way past security, the waiting visitors coach and inevitable press paparazzi...all present felt it was a much closer game. Yes, of course CW perhaps on balance deserved to win, maybe 4-3, but it was another encouraging display by Vipers all over the pitch and the future looks bright...yes, almost as orange as the now out of date pumpkins littering the roads.
So onto Charlwood ‘B’ team next week. It’s away. Bring it on. Yes, lets BELIEVE.
Congratulations to Cameron "Kyle Walker" Ramsay who was awarded player of the match in part for his agreement to play in goal at the end of the game.