Top Red v Downs FC
Jack Walpole Cup - 11th February 2018
Downs win 6 - 5 after extra time
Game nothing short of cracking
With both teams scoring six in the previous round, this game had a bit of promise about it and indeed, it at times left the larger than average crowd gobsmacked. The game had it all other than a sending off but, as noted on the touchline, a yellow on a Sunday is the equivalent to a month’s suspension on a Saturday so, barring a riot, it was always going to end with 22 on the pitch. However, though each one of those 22 played his part, the wind was the key element. It assisted every tackle and threw the ball around as if it were a bloody rag in the jaws of some giant celestial Rottweiler.
The game started scrappily with little to comment on until DSL for Downs raised hopes with a snap shot forcing a save and Begg almost scoring from a free kick. Top Red (@TopRedFC) , 2 divisions above Downs and fighting for promotion got to grips with the conditions and looked like doing justice to their league standing by scoring an early penalty assertively awarded by a referee who looked eerily similar to every Top Red player bar one, a slip of a player who spent a lot of time in the air.
Riley, consistently calm at the back for Downs surged forward onto a free ball but could only find the side netting but shots and scrambles, players on the floor, scuffed clearances, balls back in and general Top Red messiness in the area all looked like resulting in a Downs equaliser until, somehow, the ball found itself in Downs’ penalty area and, more unfortunately, against Aron’s hand.
The referee awarded a second penalty and what with Top Red playing into the wind and Downs not taking their chances, those on the touchline began to think about coping strategies that would see them through the next 70 minutes. But Biscoe saved. The penalty was shot hard and low to the keeper’s left but he saved it and he held it. Bravo Biscoe.
A fight broke out on an adjoining pitch which was impressive as it wasn’t even 11 am on a Sunday. You’ve got to admire the dedication to being a dick that some dicks possess. Downs’ players would have had a good view of it but remained undistracted and the professionalism paid off when Aron kept his focus to spectacularly head off the line when Top Red looked certain to score. Downs almost got the equaliser, but their attack was unable to get on the end of a Biscoe long ball.
Then Top Red got their second with a shot that was definitely a cross as confirmed by an on-line poll of people who may not have been at the match though King replied quickly to get on the scoresheet and make it 2-1 with a well taken goal after a one on one with the keeper.
The general feeling on the touchline was that Downs had to go into half time with a lead as the second half was going to be difficult playing into a wind that was getting meaner and meaner. Downs weren’t able take the lead, but Jack gave us some hope netting from a Gilroy assist to go into halftime level.
The second half saw the arrival of a new type of wind. A bastard wind that obviously supported Top Red as once again, they scored from a cross. The scorer spun away in disbelief and in the ten minutes that followed Downs played with their heads don a little. It was ragged, the ball spent more time off the pitch than on and it looked like Top Red had all the luck what with having 2 penalties and 2 crosses that were goals. Then Gilroy got the ball on the edge of the box.
The two qualities that Gilroy best demonstrates are stubbornness and balance. He is very difficult to shake off the ball and, in this instance, it was poetry in slow motion as he shrugged off challenge after challenge before hammering home. It was now 3-3 and all Downs’ goals were proper goals. The mighty Ben was brought on as a sub and it felt that, for the first time, Downs were favourites.
Top Red sensed this and started to get a bit dirty but Begg saw to that by levelling a couple of them. The referee showed a yellow which was very brave of him. We are sure it did wonders for his confidence but it’s a £10 fine and the result was that we docked him points on the referee appraisal form. So, no one’s a winner here. It’s a shame.
Once we had stopped shaking our heads, we urged the team on to get that winner and we thought we had our own penalty when a shot from Gilroy was sent away for a corner off the hand of a Top Red defender. The referee was obviously enjoying it and was looking forward to extra time.
Extra time began and within a couple of minutes, the ball was offered to Justin who, not hanging around, looked up and shot. Usually, a match report will say ‘he spotted the keeper off his line’ but Justin did not care where the keeper was. He hit the ball to stay hit and it was always going in. The only question was how far out it was. The supporters thought 35 yards seemed right but Justin confirmed that it was in fact 40 yards. Maybe 42.
The celebrations were short lived as Top Red found space after a defensive error just 2 minutes later but Ben, the freshest on the pitch, put Downs back in the lead almost right away to make it 5-4 scoring from another Gilroy assist.
There was a sense that more goals were to come even though 3 had already been scored in extra time and that goal came in the form of an equaliser for Top Red. A free kick from just outside the box was curled low around the wall and an absence of communication allowed Top Red to steal the ball on the six yard box and poke it into the net. It looked like going to penalties but with Biscoe already having saved one on the day, we would have gone into the shootout with the psychological advantage. Downs, however, were in no mood to hang on and see it out and when Gilroy got the ball and Ben found some space all that was needed was the perfect cross and a belting header which is what we got. 6-5.
It was a sensational game. Every player dug in and no one let anyone down. It was a privilege to be there. The Marshes had emptied by the time the referee blew the final whistle and as we walked across the pitches to the exit, there was joy but also a sense of sadness in that it couldn’t possibly ever be this good again.
Next game Downs v FC BKT Sunday 18th February 10:30 Pitch to be confirmed.