AFC Didsbury: Rogers, Hadfield (Johnson), Battersby (C), McDonald, Jaffray, Lee, Whiteley, Harrison, Vasko, García García, Kennedy (Mackie).
Goals: Whiteley, Vasko, Lee Assists: McDonald, García García, Harrison Man of the Match: Battersby
Didsbury Halt Juniors
On March 4th 1995, Ipswich Town were beaten 9-0 at home by Manchester United (they even let Roy Keane score – embarrassing). The Tractor Boys didn’t score in their next five games, and lost their next six on the bounce. Crushing defeats can break the weak-willed; so how would AFC Didsbury respond to their 6-1 reversal last time out? Today on a wind-swept Wythenshawe field, AFC Didsbury put on their shin pads (more of that later), got back on their horse, and rode it all the way to a spirited draw. To their credit, every Didsbury player managed to arrive punctually (take that, daylight saving time). However, solving that complex mathematical puzzle obviously took it out of the away side, because most of us were about 15 minutes late when it came to actually competing in the match itself. After just a couple of minutes a Halton Juniors attack down the right lead to a pull-back, which was finished into the far corner by their captain. Looking for a reply Didsbury committed men to a corner, which was dribbled not once but twice into the first defender by Gareth Lee, leading inexcusably to a 3-on-2 counter-attack. Their stocky and skilful left winger finished well with the outside of his boot, and memories of two weeks ago surely entered into the Didsbury players’ minds.
The response was defiant and immediate. Lee managed to finally control the ball, taking everyone including their right-back by surprise, and was taken down on the right flank. Colin McDonald eyed up the wind and the slope, and whipped his left around the ball. A mass of bodies tried to make contact as it headed towards the ‘keeper. Taking advantage of the confusion, Tom Whiteley claimed a goal that should perhaps be credited as an own goal, McDonald’s, or even to ‘the wind’. Opportunism at its best, 2-1.
With that, Didsbury were back. Pavol Vasko, Jorge García García and Matt Kennedy began to link up well; Matt Harrison and Whiteley began to dominate the midfield, and back four began to win their tussles against the shin-pad-less Mennis up top.
As an aside, I have a strange admiration for a player who, after witnessing the truly terrible injury suffered just two weeks ago, decided to eschew this injury-prevention measure. Apparently, when @MennisXCIX goes on rides at Alton Towers, he’s so confident he refuses to pull the bar down. When @MennisXCIX goes on holiday, he’s so confident he doesn’t even buy holiday insurance. When @MennisXCIX is changing a light bulb, he doesn’t bother to switch off the relevant lighting circuit. When @MennisXCIX buys an electrical appliance, he’s so confident he doesn’t even fill in the warranty form. I’ve become distracted, back to the game…
Now an even contest, Didsbury knew they had to make the most of the wind, slope and momentum, all of which were in their favour. Exotic playmaker García García got to the by-line and dinked a sumptuous cross to the back post. Meeting it was Vasko’s right boot, volleying confidently into the roof of the net. A goal made in mainland Europe, it may have upset some UKIP supporters, but it had AFC Didsbury’s in raptures. 2-2 half time.
The second half began without much to note. Halton Juniors had more of the ball, and with the slope now in their favour, had a strong territorial advantage. But with Ben Jaffray and Liam Hadfield making excellent interceptions, and the double-pivot of Whiteley and Harrison ably protecting captain, John Battersby, and McDonald, chances were few and far-between. A five minute break in proceedings further restricted the flow of the game. The ref, seeming believing he is paid by the hour, decided to lecture a large swathe of Halton Juniors’ players and supporters for their incessant claims for unpopular decisions. I spent the time thinking about how hard Mennis must be, and started to partially regret standing up for the ref as I did a few weeks ago. (Although I do stand by what I said, you can’t call a 60 year old man a f***ing c***.).
The break did us no good, and the front four of Halton Juniors began to twist and turn to greater effect. When it came, their goal was relatively simple, and almost an exact copy of our second. A cross was lifted to the back post, and their centre-midfielder met it sweetly on the volley giving goalkeeper, Wayne Rogers, no chance. 3-2.
Again, questions were asked of our character. If some of us fail to digest even the most basic of egg-and-pastry-based savoury foods, do we really have the stomach for the Mikey Williams Premiership fight? Vasko, determined to answer in the affirmative, continued to go at his man up the left. Finding half a yard, he clipped in a cross towards Harrison, who had taken over Kennedy’s Herculean task as the lone striker. Harrison competed well, and when his header was blocked the ball looped into the air just beyond the penalty spot. Lee swivelled and made contact with a difficult left footed volley, which positively sizzled into the bottom corner. 3-3.
Off the bench came Jonny Mackie and Paul Johnson, to provide much needed energy as Didsbury looked to stand firm. Halton threw on yet more forward-thinking players, but diligent and brave defending from all of Didsbury’s players kept the home side at bay. Time and again their quicksilver feet bought them half a yard for a shot, but time and again a Didsbury player was there to make a block – none more so than MOM, Battersby, who really earned his post-match flan.
With time running out the ball landed at the feet of one Juniors’ player, who had the chance to render all of our efforts fruitless. Out came Rogers, and with his outstretched left boot, he made a crucial stop, and secured us an incredibly hard-earned point.
We are not Ipswich Town 1994-1995. We are AFC Didsbury 2014-2015, and we’re back on track.