It was a bright but crisp Sunday morning and the Classics had travelled down to the lovely little park at Centenniel in White Rock for what was the final league match of the season. The Classics did their usual warm up excercises and this time remembered not to throw their fag ends onto the field of play as they are not bio-degradable. While this little ritual was being performed the opposition were also busy shaking hands, introducing themselves to one another and exchanging passport details and stories of long line ups at the border crossings.
It's not much of an exaggeration to say that these two teams have met many times before but never have the Classics witnessed a Transit team where half of them were unknown. Talk about stacking the team! I know that this game is always 'a biggie' and Transit play in a Chelsea strip but there was no need to bring in the likes of Lampard, Drogba, Terry, Macelele, Gudjohnsen, Duff and Uncle Tom Cobley and all just for this fixture. The build up to the game was unusual but it could not have foretold the unexpected tale of events which was about to unfold............
The game began with Transit doing all the pressing and having much better of the early exchanges. The Classics were playing a chasing game and trying to keep up with the constant barrage of unrelentless pressure on their defence. The play was intense with no quota asked or given from either side. Chris Arcari was given a yellow card for a foul. The first half belonged to Transit and the only thing that the Classics got out of it was another yellow card for Chuck McGill. Immediately after the McGill booking Ray Marrington looked at the referee and .........he got a yellow card with the comment, "I might as well give you one as well". Hmmm.....the referee's pocket was resembling a pop-up toaster and a subtle pattern was starting to emerge.
Steve Gollogly was unlucky from a corner and could have headed the home team into the lead against his former club but his effort was over. Always head downwards Stevie! An incident late in the first half caused some panic in the Classics defence. McGill called for the ball on the edge of the six yard box and booted the ball out to the touch line and safety. The referee promptly awarded an indirect free kick against the Classics from the place where the incident took place. Technically correct, because McGill did not call a name, the referee was taking centre stage by awarding a contentious and unnecessary free kick which forced the Classics defence to retreat to the goal line. Luckily for the visitors the effort was blasted over. The first half ended all square.
The second half began with John Wilson chomping at the bit. Sidelined through injury, Wilson wanted some of the action and came on in the fifth minute of the second half. He got stuck in and for the first time in the game the Classics started to play with some authority and began to raise their hopes that all was not lost. Unfortunately Wilson was given a yellow card three minutes later. Bruce Cook was winning everything in the air but the Classics forwards just couldn't get into their stride to feed off him. That changed in an instant, and in a rare Classics attack Billy Ranger went thundering into the box and caused all sorts of panic in, what was up to now, an untested Transit defence. The Transit centre half tried to bring down Ranger but fell clumsily and handled the ball to which the referee immediately awarded a penalty. Everyone looked around, with their chins on the floor, to decide who was to replace Chris Arcari as the spot kick king. Wilson stepped up to the plate and comprehensively placed the ball to the right of the keeper to give the Classics an unexpected lead and also to notch his first goal of the season.
The Classics raised their game and started to look dangerous and finally started to take some control on this game. Two minutes later Wilson was called for a foul after an inncocuous challenge. When he asked the referee why he was being victimised he was shown his second yellow card and a subsequent red card. The referee was wanting to show his authority in this game, and show it he did. Wilson may have only been on the field for seven minutes but what an impact he had on the game in those seven minutes. Minutes later Arcari was given his marching orders after receiving his second yellow card. This was now becoming farcical and one had to wonder if the referee was trying to gain entry into "The Guinness Book of World Records." I think two Transit players had also been booked by this time but one needed an abacus to keep up!
Cook laid on a glorious opportunity for a match clinching goal from an unlikely source when he put Doug Smith through in the penalty box. Smith was stationed on the right of the box but could not control the ball. In reality he had more time to control the ball than Wilson had had on the field but he still allowed a defender enough time to boot the ball to safety. Minutes later Jim Eden was being cautioned by the referee for asking how long was left to play in the game. The referee summoned Eden to his side as if he was asking his pet dog to beg! "Stand here, mein heir," demanded the referee. Eden took it all in his stride and managed to control what was obviously another unnecessary confrontation with a dignity that the referee could not comprehend. At this stage of the game the referee had given out more bookings than an Italian Restaurant on St. Valentine's Day.
It's difficult to put into words the trail of events which happened in this game. The game was not dirty. Transit played a good, hard fought game and probably had more than 60% of the possession. The general concensus was that the referee was Welsh. (a true observation and not a joke). If he was Welsh then his name must have been Dai Bollockal, because some of his decisions were diabolical. The game is not about referees. It's about players. The author is dumbstruck and can only relate to what his late dad told him about the glorious game of football and a quote which he always held in high esteem until this fiasco. "A good referee is one which isn't noticed in a game."
In the final analysis the Classics won a game which they probably didn't deserve to win based on the amount of possession but it will be a game which will be remembered for a long time - but not for the right reasons.
Final Score 0-1 (0-0)
MWG: J. Wilson
Yellow Cards: Arcari (2). Wilson (2), McGill, Marringtom, Eden
Red Cards: Arcari, Wilson
The Classics received an all time record of 9 cards in one game