Real Tuesday 5 - 5 FC Happy Mondays
Preparations for this game were thrown into disarray when the volcanic ash cloud covering most of northern Europe left wee Gary and Phil stranded in Milan and Malta, respectively.
Call offs from Calder and Dale added to the confusion, then Fahd applied the icing to the cake by deciding that we would go with a 4-5-1 formation to counteract the potent Happy Mondays midfield. Fergal was going to sit just in front of the defence, apparently. Wee Clarky, Mat and Bill watched through their fingers from the sidelines as Brian Latto blew his whistle to start the game ...
Then, for 45 minutes, it all went horribly right! A nudge on Dave barely a minute into the game resulted in us being awarded a penalty that Dave slotted to give us a one nil lead. Ten minutes later, Dave hit the bar. And, seven minutes after that, further pressure from the Real ended with Andy Christie popping up on the edge of the box to blast a low drive past the helpless keeper to make it 2-0.
Andy scored again on the half hour mark, after a deft lob into the box from Graeme; Andy trapped the ball and coolly finished before the Happy Mondays defence could get organised.
Then, on the verge of half time, a rare Happy Mondays attack broke down, allowing Matty to sprint majestically up the middle of the pitch from the edge of the Real box. He then slid a beautiful through ball to Dave, who finished well to make it 4-0 to the Real at half time.
Euan and Mat replaced Biggsy and Darrell on the wings at half time, and the Real were now playing into a slight wind blowing from the changing room end of the pitch. We continued to attack, however, and it took a fine close range save from the Mondays keeper to keep Andy out just after the restart.
We then had a warning sign when the Mondays swung a looping cross over from the right hand side. Lee got hands to the ball, but could only tip it onto his crossbar, from where it bounced to safety.
Five minutes later, the Mondays were on the scoresheet, after Sam was adjudged to have fouled one of their attackers in the box. The penalty was well struck past Lee, and it was 4-1.
Lee was forced into action two minutes after that, beating away a shot at close range before Matty hacked the loose ball clear.
Our first meaningful attack of the second half came around the 15 minute mark, Clarky shooting just wide of the right hand post after Andy had played him in beautifully. Dave made no such mistake just afterwards, though, another fine finish from him making the score 5-1 to the Real.
Two minutes later, Brian awarded the Mondays yet another penalty, this time for handball. Lee had no chance, once again, and it was 5-2.
Another two minutes later, and the Mondays scored again,
this time from a corner on the right hand side. The ball fell to an
unmarked giant in the middle of the area, and he had the presence of
mind to head the ball into the ground so that it bounced over Lee's
head and high into the net. 5-3, and squeaky bum time had truly begun!
Lee then had a bit of a 'mare with one of his kickouts, sending the ball straight to the feet of a loitering Mondays forward. It took a fine last ditch tackle, possibly from Graeme, to prevent the goal.
We did, however, ship two further goals in the last five minutes of the game. The first of these came when the Real were pushing up the pitch in search of a goal that would get things back on track. The play broke down around the half way line, like most of our moves did in the second half, and a great through ball allowed one of the pacy Mondays strikers to spring our offside trap and make it 5-4. The equaliser came just three minutes after that, an attack down our right flank ending with one of the Mondays players slotting the ball home from an acute angle.
The Mondays then nearly had a man sent to the sidelines for dissent - he stayed on the pitch after apologising to Brian - and this caused the Real to rally a little. It took another fine save from their keeper to stop Andy Christie netting the winner after a mazy solo run.
This was an excellent game, with the Mondays refusing to lie down after a nightmarish first half. It's hard to say just what went wrong for us in the second half, though you do have to wonder whether the two penalties awarded against us were of the 'give them a chance' variety. The Mondays also scored just about every chance that came their way, while we squandered numerous chances throughout the game due to bad luck, some fine goalkeeping and, occasionally, a tendency to overplay things. Replacing our two experienced, tough tackling wingers with a couple of relatively raw recruits may also have subtly swung things against us.
Just don't suggest that the Mondays fightback was triggered by Stu coming off the bench for them at half time - that would just be too horrible a thought to comprehend.