The next chapter in the attempt at winning the Vernon Tournament began on Saturday 20th. May at the unearthly hour of 9:00am., not the most conducive of times after a night out in the Vernon Lodge. With Jimmy Eden having to pull out of the tournament at the last hour, the responsibility of coaching fell onto the shoulders of Dave Moore who immediately appointed Tony Short as his assistant. It was just like Cloughie and Taylor again! Luckily all the players were given a 9:30pm. curfew and were all tucked up in bed with their Ovaltine well before 10:00pm. which was a necessity before such an important opening fixture. The first fixture in a round-robin tournament is the one which is imperative to win if a team is to be successful and South Hill are no slouches.
Game 1 - South Hill 20th. May at Marshall #2 9:00am.
The Classics began this game as if they meant business. In driving rain, and on a pitch more suitable to water polo, the Classics tore into South Hill and raced into a 3-0 half time lead. On loan Dennis Irwin got the opener with a powerful shot from the six-yard line and an own goal put the Classics two up ten minutes later. Another guest player, Phil Smith, scored an important third goal before the half to put the Classics well and truly in the driving seat. It was unexpected but gave the Classics the upper hand. South Hill reduced the deficit early in the second half and then Ray Marrington conceded an unnecessary penalty to give Hill a lifeline which they gratefully accepted with an easy conversion. Try as they may, South Hill threw everything they could at the Classics but could not break them down enough to get back in to the game. It was a resounding success and with an "easy" game against Langley scheduled for later in the afternoon things were looking rosy.
Game 2 - Langley 20th. May at Mac West 1:30pm.
Game number two in the round robin should have been a formality. Langley had been hammered 7-1 by Stari Prdaci in their morning fixture and the Classics should have strolled through the game, thus conserving energy for tomorrows game against Prdaci. As Jimmy Greaves used to say, "it's a funny old game is football and football's a funny old game". Try as they may, the Classics could not buy a goal. They had all the play, all the shots, all the near misses but none of the goals. It was definitely a game where the Classics had an off-day. It could have been thst the players approached the game in the wrong frame of mind. It was a game where the Classics did not play as a team. It proves the point that you can't put good players together and make them a good team. It was an afternoon of frustration which ended in an unexpected 0-0 draw, a result which the Langley players celebrated as if they had won the World Cup.
Intermission: Saturday night out was a marvellous team building exercise. With an Italian dinner to start supplemented by copious amounts of wine and some starters of Glenlivett it was a night to be remembered. The only down side was that Dave Moore was cut off with him having to drive home. Please don't mention Wally under any circumstances.
Game 3 - Stari Prdaci 21st. May at Marshall #2 12:00pm.
This was the biggie! With Prdaci winning both their games, the Classics knew that they would have to win this game to have any chance of reaching the final. The Classics were under no illusions as they played Prdaci in last year's final, eventually going out after a cruel penalty shoot-out. The Classics held Prdaci 0-0 at the half and it was an evenly balanced game. With 11 substitutes on the sidelines Prdaci started to take advantage of the tiring legs of the Classics players. They deservedly took the lead midway through the half and when they knocked the second in ten minutes from time it became evident that the Classics were not going to get back into the game. With a win, a draw and a loss it looked like they were going to have to play for 3rd. or 4th. place as Langley and South Hill had both lost two games.
However, a South Hill player reported that their manager had worked out that the Classics were out as South Hill had scored more goals in their defeats and with a point per goal they had made it through to the 3rd/4th play-offs. Meanwhile, back at Mac field when all the results were finally in it was discovered that the Classics and South Hill both had 12 points. Under the rules of the tournament, the tie breaker was not goals scored but head-to-head so the Classics went through. When South Hill beat Langley they conceded a penalty in the last minute which was converted. The penalty robbed South Hill of a shut-out (another point) which would have given them 13 points. So it's down to Langley's last minute penalty conversion that put the Classics though to the 3rd/4th play-offs.
Game 4 - Silver Stars (Vernon) 22nd. May at Marshall #2 9:30am.
This was it. All or nothing. Having battled their way through it was down to one game - winner take all (prize money). In an attempt to shake up the team, Cloughie and Taylor sprang a surprise by putting Ray Cormack up front. With John McGuire taking the early bus home it left a vacancy in the front runners. With Brian Dominick on the left of midfield he had promised goals as had striker Phil Smith. The proof of the pudding would be in the eating. The Classics put the disappointment of yesterday to the back of their minds and started the game in a workmanlike fashion. With Chris Arcari, making his real debut in the tournament, and Dennis Irwin taking full control of the centre midfield it was a different Classics team although they were the same players. Somehow it just clicked and the Classics were in command right from the off. They sneaked into a 1-0 half time lead when Smith headed the opener. One point of note in the first half was that Chuck McGill had decided to go out in fashion. He went wide on the left side and was tackled by a Stars player. Turning with the speed of a rusty submarine he did the best impersonation of the "Dying Swan" seen since the Russian ballet dancer Rudolph Near-enough popped his cloggs. He was immediately shown the yellow card for simulation.
The second half continued with the Stars having nothing with the Classics controlling proceedings. McGill rose to a corner and put the Classics two goals to the good and when Dominick followed through on his promise it looked like a three goal cushion would be enough. Marrington obviously had a death wish or he was looking to get his name into the "Oldham Brewery Book of Records" as he conceded yet another penalty. A Stars player turned Marrington and he started to fall the opposite way that his legs were going. In his enthusiasm to regain full consciousness he inexplicably handled the ball in the box to give the Stars a thread of hope. They converted the penalty shot by sending Garry Hackel the wrong way. Marrington is now the proud holder of "joint penalty conceder." With only five minutes to go there was no doubt that the Classics would hold out, a feat that they accomplished with relative ease even though Short made an unexpected appearance at left back.
Conclusion: Thanks go out from the Classics to all the guest players - Brian Dominick, Robin Neilson, Phil Smith, Dennis Irwin, Kenny Johnson, Ray Cormack, Eric Errington, John McGuire and Danny who's name ended in a ski! You did us proud. This tournament was the last game for some time for Chuck McGill as he is taking a year off work to visit Africa and to see Oldham Athletic play in England. Good luck Chuck - you will be missed. Another milestone was reached in the final game of the tournament as Fisher Crockett played his officially recorded 500th. game for the club. Well done Fisher. All in all a successful tournament given the pitfalls that the team had to suffer with late withdrawals and the like. If there was another game to play the Classics would have ran riot as they had finally stared to gel as a team. Thanks again to all participants.