Pioneers hang on to make their point........
What was billed as the big showdown turned out to be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill game for the Classics. On a field more suited to beach volleyball than football it was another of those games where a mistake that allowed a slutchy goal or one piece of magic was going to win it either way.
The Classics started the game with only one sub as they were decimated with several of their big guns missing due to holidays or sickness. However, the tardiness of Hans Erker and Alfie Deglan gave them a little more leeway but it was still an understrength Classics team that took on the Richmond Pioneers on another dreadful Richmond field. It really is time that the authorities took some kind of stand and set some standards of playing surface as neither team can provide a good product on such a pathetic surface.
The first half was a balanced half where both defences dominated the play. Midfield was a battle and the inconsistency of the surface caused problems for both teams with passes going astray and both teams having to resort to long ball tactics. The referee must have seen a different game as ten minutes into the game he had to ask if the game was an over 40’s or an over 50’s game as he said that the standard was so high!
There was a welcome return to the fold for Alan Burton who had previously retired from the game. His involvement with the team meant that he needed to get match fit before the upcoming trip to Vernon for the May long weekend tournament. ‘Budgie’ made his last appearance for the team in the 1-1 draw against Peace Arch back in October 2003 but he didn’t miss a beat. The old Budgie was his devastating self and was spreading out passes like a waitress in a bun shop spreading butter. Each pass was just the right consistency, and each one tasted more sweet as the game progressed.
Larry Thorlakson had a good chance early on after a Dave Moore challenge put him through on a one-on-one with the keeper but his effort hit the post and resulted in a goal kick. The first half was devoid of any really serious goalmouth incidents and both teams left the rain soaked field cold but ready to do battle in the second half.
There were more attempts on goal in the second half and the Classics clearly had the better chances but all came to nothing as the shooting was woefully inadequate (everybody blamed the pitch). The first 20 minutes of the half was all Classics with the team playing what was the best football in the game so far. Still they couldn’t find the breakthrough. Deglan and Chas Jones had to retire through injury and the heaviness of the field meant that both teams were getting bogged down. Manfred Soucker was particularly in trouble as he kept tripping over the sand castles that he was building in his quiet periods.
Chances fell to several players and a great centre from Jim Eden was placed perfectly on the head of Hans Erker only one yard off the line. Unfortunately for Hans, the ball hit the square part of his head and bounced well over the bar even though it looked easier to score. As the game wore on it was starting to look more and more like a 0-0 result was to be the outcome. Ten minutes from time Bruce Cook put Thorlakson in the clear and as the keeper advanced it just needed an instep chip to claim the glory. Unfortunately for Thorlakson he toe punted the effort and the ball sailed incredibly wide of the mark.
Five minute later, Kenny Johnson took a baltant dive in the box hoping for a penalty. Had he not pulled Fisher Crockett’s shirt beforehand he might have had a case, but the referee was having nothing of it and he waved play on. He didn’t even award Johnson a yellow card for the dive but the spectators were very generous in holding up their cards - 3.0, 4.7, 3.5, 4.0 and 2.5 respectively. Such is life! The Classics defence had to take much of the credit for the result as they were in a determined mood. In fact, their mood was such that they would have tackled their own granny if she had gone anywhere near their goal.
Against all odds, the outcome of the game was that the Classics maintained their unbeaten run, they recorded their sixth successive shut out without their recognised goalkeeper and the Pioneers left with heads held high knowing that they had maintained their dignity in a well fought and mainly sporting encounter on an attrocious pitch.
Final Score 0-0 (0-0)
Yellow Card: B. Cook (mouthing)