Real Tuesday 4 - 3 St Columba's
The Real made it two wins out of two games against St Columba's, but only after possibly the greatest fightback we've ever witnessed.
The squad looked a wee bit different this time around, with Ross and Greg unavailable and call offs from Biggsy (STD) and Fahd (house hunting). Sam therefore made a rare start at centre half, while Dave Murray kindly agreed to pull on the goalie gloves for the first time in a while. Yasser also agreed to bench at pretty short notice, joining Bill and Dave (who had asked to start there as he was feeling under the weather).
We were very much on top during the first half, with only some superb keeping by the St Columba's goalie preventing us from taking the lead.
Calder was the first to test the goalie 10 minutes into the game, picking up a long clearance from right back Jim, springing the offside trap then closing in on goal. The big keeper made the save, however.
Five minutes later, St Columba's scored on their first serious foray into out half, our goalie Dave being caught well off his line after our defence got in a major fankle. The St Columba's striker was left with a simple tap in after we'd failed to deal with a speculative ball into the box.
We had a great chance to equalise with 25 minutes gone, a fast free kick releasing Calder up the right hand side. The ball eventually came to Ted, who managed to squander a great chance despite being one on one with the keeper.
Ted and Jay then got a serious talking to from referee Brian, apparently after Ted took umbrage at being pinged for taking a foul throw. Jay was (allegedly) just trying to calm Ted down!.
The St Columba's keeper was called into action again after 35 minutes, reacting well to deal with a decent shot from Craig. The onrushing Jay nearly scored from the rebound, but still no joy.
The half finished with two more decent chances for the Real, the keeper making a great save from Calder then coming out on top after a one on one with Phil.
It had been a very frustrating half for us, and it was obvious that something needed to be done to change things around. Luckily Sheepy Mike, sidelined for this game due to a 5s foot injury, knew what was needed. Jordan and Jay took a breather, to be replaced by Yasser and wee Dave; Sam moved to left back, Craig replaced Sam at centre half, Ted adopted the holding midfielder role, Yass went left wing and wee Dave went up front with Calder.
We continued to pound the St Columba's defence after the break, Phil waltzing his way into the box before releasing an 'unstoppable' shot that the keeper ... stopped. From the resulting corner, a close range shot from Ted was cleared off the line. Were we ever going to score?
We had a decent penalty shout shortly afterwards, Phil being pulled down in the box after the keeper had saved Calder's shot at close range.
We finally got back on level terms 6 minutes into the half, a great header from Yasser on the left touchline finding Phil; his low cross picked out Dave, who gave the keeper no chance with his shot.
Four minutes later, we were in front, Yass bulleting in a sweet header after a fine corner from Dave.
The lead did not, however, last long, a speculative shot from far out on the left somehow finding its way past our hapless goalie and into the net.
Things went from bad to worse shortly afterwards when the nippy wee St Columba's striker (who caused us problems with his pace all night) found himself one on one with goalie Dave after some good play up the right hand side of the park. Dave had no chance, and we were losing 3-2.
Fifteen minutes into the half, we had equalised again, a shot from Calder taking a wicked deflection before looping over the stranded keeper. Ted then smacked a shot off the bar, then Phil went one better shortly afterwards, tapping in after another fine save from the keeper. That put us 4-3 ahead, with fully 25 minutes left to play.
We maintained the onslaught, with Jay (back on to replace Mike, Calder going to right wing) smacking a shot off the upright. Calder was then felled in the box when he was clean through on the keeper, but Brian didn't award the penalty. We were asked to sub Andy shortly afterwards after he'd let Brian know what he thought of his decision in no uncertain terms. So off he trotted, to be replaced on the right wing by Mike.
The game rather fizzled out at this point, with the Real content to see it out and St Columba's unable to unlock our (now) rock solid defence. We did manage to win our first free kick of the game with five minutes to go, and Ted had a good shot saved just before the final whistle after we had broken well from midfield.
A hard fought - but well deserved - victory, then, against a St Columba's team that was a lot better than the one we played in the friendly a fortnight before. The church men had a good spine to their team, which included a couple of University players, while their goalie was far and away the best one we've come across in the Winter League to date. Their young striker was also a cracking player, and definitely one to watch out for in the rematch - he even walks like a real footballer, according to the wise Mr Boyle!
There were standouts for the Real all over the pitch, the defence working well as a unit and the midfield passing the ball around nicely. Yass really turned the game round in the second half with his speed and athleticism, while Sam was as solid as a rock after he moved to left back, clearing his lines in a typically no-nonsense fashion and tirelessly patrolling the left flank. Craig was as solid as you would expect at centre half, while Craig seemed to enjoy the slightly deeper role he adopted in the second half - nice to have options!
Our strikers also deserve a collective pat on the back for not letting their heads go down after a highly frustrating first half - on another night, against a different keeper, we could have been six up at the break.
Lastly, thanks are due to St Columba's for playing their part in such a fine match - the game was played in a great spirit, with very little niggle or dissent (apart from Calder, obviously!)