Cliff Avenue brought an impressive line up to Topham Park for their league encounter with the Classics. Looking for revenge after their last meeting, which resulted in a 6-3 victory for the home side, the Avenue had a sideline which looked more like a chorus line of Tiller girls from the London Palladium. The Classics on the other hand started the game with just eleven players, several of which were still carrying previously sustained injuries. However, the home side started in fine style and took the initiative from the off. The first twenty five minutes was played exclusively in the Cliff end and several chances went amiss before the Classics took a deserved lead. It occurred after a perfectly weighted through ball from Alfie Deglan sent Jimmy Butler on a direct route to goal. Butler dispatched the ball in devastating fashion to put the home side ahead.
The goal spurred the visitors into action and they began to edge their way into the game with some good mid-field play. With ten minutes of the half remaining, Avenue forced a break through on a defence which had given nothing up prior to this attack. A mix up between Rick Geary, Chas Jones and Larry Thorlakson allowed a foraging forward through with a clear shot of goal and he hammered a strong shot over the head of Dave Moore who was standing in for the departed Garry Hackel who had been once again called away on International duty. The half time score remained at 1-1 but the Classics could take heart from a good fighting display from a team which was built around what looked like a solid defence ably led by twin centre-halves Geary and Danny Jensen.
Cliff came out with all guns blazing in the second half and, ten minutes in, took the lead for the first time with another powerful shot which gave Moore no chance – not even the Salvation Army could have saved that one! It could have easily been 1-3 to the visitors when they again got one of their forwards through one-on-one with Moore. Moore amazed even himself when he saved acrobatically by diving full length to his right to pull off a fine one handed save by pushing the powerful shot away for a corner kick.
The Classics were running out of steam and Avenue were taking command of the game as the Classics suffered a mid-game crisis. The turning point of the game came mid-way through the second half when “Diego” Rohla was back 'helping' in defence and was ushering the ball safely out of the penalty area when he inexplicably did his impeccable impersonation of a tea-pot and handled the ball with not one Cliff Avenue player within 75 yards of him. The referee, Pete Thomas, walked slowly over to the position where the offence took place and called the Classics goalkeeper over to him. No-one knows what conversation took place but it resulted in a penalty being awarded to the visitors. Moore dived the right way but, as he went down in installments, he didn't have time to successfully save the perfectly placed shot which was just inside the post. Rohla pleaded his innocence and blamed it on a freak gust of wind. He later discussed the incident with his lawyer but the lawyer, who incidentally got Stevie Wonder his driving licence back, told him to plead guilty.
The Avenue turned into a freeway, and a one-way one at that, and they increased the lead to 1-4 with 15 minutes to go after a right wing attack resulted in a cross which was converted by a simple tap in. With the game seemingly won the visitors took their foot off the gas and allowed the Classics some more freedom which they took full advantage of. With ten minutes remaining Rohla sent over a beautifully weighted cross which Chuck McGill powered home to give the home side a life-line. Even though they had lost players through injury, Chris Arcari and Thorlakson were now spectators, spirits raised in the home camp and they finally started to knock the ball about with some authority. Al Burton was even called in as emergency full-back.
With three minutes remaining the Cliff goalkeeper made a great save and the Classics were awarded a left wing corner as a result. The corner was perfectly placed by Jim Eden onto the head of Doug Rosenlund who powered another forceful header past the Cliff keeper. Game on! The Classics threw everything at the Cliff defence and they faced a desperate last few minutes of defending, but they still held out for a memorable away win. Had there been another five minutes left it could have easily ended 4-4 but the Classics lost, but not in a fashion that they should be ashamed of. The Cliff keeper made many good saves and kept them in the running as McGill, Deglan and Butler all had good chances well saved. Geary had a great game as did the rest of the Classics defence but it was one of those games that just wasn't to be. It's done – move on – dust yourdelf down and start again. The spirit remains.
Final Score 3-4 (1-1)
You were crap award: Paddy Rohla