AFC Didsbury 1
Moss Side 0
Man of the Match: Rogers
Yellow Cards: Whiteley
Red Cards: -
The myth has gone...
Muss Side 1 Moss Side 0
Captain John Battersby’s half time message as Didsbury led Moss Side 3-1 during their first encounter back in the 2011/12 season was simple “I honestly think we can beat them today fellas. The myth has gone”. Final score Moss Side 7 – AFC Didsbury 4. Famous last words.
Didsbury lost that game and their subsequent 5 games against Moss Side. Almost every team does. For those who aren’t familiar with their MASFL history, here are some impressive facts about Moss Side football club:
· MASFL Premier League winners for the past 10 seasons
· Only 2 league defeats during the last 10 seasons
· 83 goals scored in 14 games in all competitions this season
The challenge faced by Musson’s side was formidable but with almost a full strength squad to choose from and following a good run of recent results, there was a definite sense of optimism in the changing room before the game. The stage was set for what has already entered into AFC Didsbury folklore as ‘One Nil Day’ (#1nilday).
Whilst the words Sunday league football and tactics are not normally associated, it was clear that as Musson delivered his team talk, there was a game plan. Make that a master plan. Lessons had clearly been learned from the recent 10-2 defeat by Moss Side in the reverse fixture in January.
Didsbury won the toss and choose to play with the wind behind them in the first half on a typically blustery Manchester morning. The game started slowly as a cagey Didsbury sought to keep things tight and their opponents seemed content to ease their way into the game.
Sensing a lack of urgency in their opposition, Didsbury began to push forward and create openings. Gaz Lee and Liam Hadfield were combining well down the right hand side and delivered some dangerous crosses which went unconverted. Tom Whiteley and Pavol Vasko were winning the vital midfield battle and Mike Corbett and Ross Menghini, playing as 9 and 10 were causing problems with their neat interplay and clever touches. Confidence was building.
The first clear chance of the game arrived when Vasko made a clever run from midfield beyond the strikers which was picked out by a Ben Jaffray through ball. Vasko controlled expertly on his chest just inside the 18 yard box and his well directed shot to the bottom right corner was pushed away by the young Moss Side keeper.
Didsbury went close soon after when a mishit clearance from the goalkeeper landed at the feet of Corbett who was unlucky to see his exquisite left footed lob from 25 yards strike the crossbar and rebound to safety.
Moss Side offered a timely reminder of their attacking threat when their number 9 chested down a long ball and spun and volleyed on his left foot from the edge of the area. The ball flashed inches wide of the top left corner of the goal. This was the closest the home side went in the first half as Didsbury defended excellently on the front foot, Colin McDonald in particular making numerous interceptions to cut out the supply line.
With the game scoreless on the stroke of half time, Didsbury won a free kick on the left touch line midway into the Moss Side half. Sensing an opportunity, the big men were thrown forward. Winger Rick Peat assumed set piece duties and delivered a superb, whipped cross which captain Battersby met at the far post with a powerful header across goal into the top left corner to give Didsbury a well-deserved lead at the break.
This time around there was no rallying cry at half time. The manager and his players were fully aware that the hardest part of the job was yet to come. We had been here before.
The second half really belonged to Didsbury goalkeeper Wayne Rogers. Inspired by his recent penalty shootout heroics against Halton Juniors, Rogers produced his finest performance to date, playing with a confidence and self assurance that spread throughout the rest of the team.
For the opening 20 minutes of the second half, Moss Side were unrecognisable from their first half display. The midfield players began to run with the ball and created a number of scoring chances, which were denied by some excellent goalkeeping from Rogers.
After soaking up sustained pressure, a rare Didsbury attack resulted in Whiteley being played through on goal, he attempted to round the goalkeeper and was taken down to deny a certain goal. The referee leniently allowed the goalkeeper to stay on the pitch as it was his ‘first one’. Col McDonald stepped up and dragged his penalty wide of the right post, joining the growing list of Didsbury players who have missed penalties despite never missing previously. Or so they say!
With a slender lead to protect, Didsbury adopted the ‘what we have, we hold’ approach for the final 20 minutes of the game and parked the bus on the edge of their 18 yard box. Sensing the game slipping away from them, the home side resorted to direct football which suited the tiring Didsbury defence, with Battersby in particular making some vital headed clearances. García García came on to replace the excellent Rick Peat and added some much need physicality for the final stages.
As the clock ran down, Rogers pulled off further saves to deny clear goal scoring chances and hope faded for Moss Side. With minutes to play, a lapse in concentration allowed the Moss Side striker a final opportunity to score which was denied by a superb last ditch tackle from Hadfield.
The full time whistle eventually sounded and the Didsbury players celebrated their most impressive victory to date. Credit is also due to many of the Moss Side players who offered their sporting congratulations after the game, despite this defeat almost certainly blowing their hopes of retaining their league title.
For Didsbury this victory was not about their position in the league. This was the reward for the hard work throughout the season and for the improvement each year since the club was formed in 2010. This was about a group of players giving their all for 90 minutes to beat a truly excellent side. This was about going for a pint with your teammates after the game and saying ‘can you believe we beat them’. After all, this is the reason we all get up on a Sunday morning to run around a muddy field.
Words by Ben Jaffray
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