Thursday, 19 May 2016

2015-16 Round-Up Part 2 - The Top Three 45 minutes of the season

It takes a lot for a football team to perform to the absolute maximum for a whole 90 minutes.  From first whistle to last, to boss the opposition into a numbed submissive posture.  Listening to Poppies fans on matchdays leaves one with no doubt as to how rare and precious such a feat is.

But we often turn it on for the occasional magical 45 minutes which leave you breathless, and annoyed that it can't be repeated the other side of the ref's whistle.  So, what were our best "half-games" this season?

1)  The second half away to Kings Lynn.  We had actually had by far the better of the first half and were leading 1-0 at the break.  The second half was as comfortable as a comfy pair of particularly comfortable slippers.  We scored a couple more and could have added any further number to the tally.  The fun part was this all occurred in front of the biggest group of simmering bad losers in the Southern League.  No, not us.  At least, not this time!

Kings Lynn supporters have the most enormous, insular sense of entitlement.  No doubt, coming from being the only town within 3-days donkey ride of the next dwelling place with more than a double-digit population.

On that afternoon they soon went from being wanabee big time Charlies, with their big stand, big terraces and big chanting, to being grizzly, narky and bitchy - mostly against their own players and manager.

All in all, a most pleasant way to spend Boxing Day, considering the alternatives were to spend more time with either the in-laws or once again watch the temporary inmates of Stalag Luft III on the telly.

2)  The first half away to Cambridge City.  We have generally struggled against Cambridge City the few times we have encountered them, including them doing the double over Carl Shutt's Southern League Championship Winners,

This time there were no such worries.  We were a goal up before we'd settled down to finding the best place to stand.  Two up by the time we'd realised it was a bit warmer then expected and taken our coats off.  Three up by the time we'd fished out our sunglasses.  And four up by the time we were pondering a half-time cuppa.

The rest of the game was an obvious anti-climax as we made player changes, went through the motions, and Cambridge set themselves up to limit any further damage.

But still, a lovely Spring afternoon, lapping up the welcome sun and the equally welcome 3-points.

3)  It would be impossible to ignore the second half at home to Bideford, when, if you could compel people to give you a penny for every mention of "game of two halves" you'd have enough for a hefty down payment on a season ticket for 2016/17.

We needed a hefty win to keep pressure on the teams above us after we had mystifyingly lost to an appalling Bedworth the week before.  Bideford worked hard and we were bereft of ideas.  They earned a 0-0 half time score, much to our collective annoyance.  We had blown it for the second time in a week and the natives were turning (even) uglier.  Also counting against us was this was the evening we were finally wearing the famous "Kettering Tyres" shirt - which is without doubt the unluckiest shirt in the history of football.

Why so unlucky, you ask?  Let's look at the evidence.  Wearing it in the 1970's resulted in the club being admonished and dragged down the FA headquarters in London for a proper, old-school bollocking.  A few years ago, when we were dying on our arse at Nonce Park, Bet Fair proposed for us to wear a version of the Kettering Tyres shirt as part of an advertising gimmick.  Before Imraan could bank the money from Bet Fair, league sponsors, and fellow online betting outfit, Blue Square, called "foul", and another bollocking ensued.

This season, as part of the 40th anniversary of the shirt, we have tried several times to wear the damn thing, and each time the weather has had the last word.  And now, at half time against a lowly Bideford, we'd finally got on the pitch wearing the Kettering Tyres shirt, and couldn't look less like scoring.

And then the second half started.  Forty five minutes later and we'd racked up 7-goals and about a thousand near misses, in the most dominant half of football anyone at Latimer Park that day would remember.  It seemed as though the entire half was played in the Bideford 6-yard box.

Not a bad way to sign off the 2015-2016 home fixtures.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

2015-16 Round-Up Part 1 - Dubi Bye-Bye

Not exactly an enormous surprise to hear that Dubi's contract with the Poppies hasn't been renewed.  It has been terribly sad the way both Dubi's Poppies career, and his footballing career in general has gone.

When he joined us from St Ives his impact was immediate and prolific.  Looking back now, it seemed he scored a hat-trick every game of his first season.  That tailed off last season to the odd cameo, and by this season he was so far down the pecking order that he struggled to hold down a place on the terraces, let alone the starting XI.  His inability to actually get to our matches didn't help him much, Nor was his seemingly indifference to any possible footballing career.

We all heard tales of his trials with bigger clubs the length and breadth of the country, where he would turn up late, at the wrong place, or not all all,  One was left with the impression that his default position was to hope for the best, but then shrug of the shoulders when everything went wrong.  A shame as he has everything going for him as a footballer, except the drive to actually make it.

So, it's farewell to Dubi, but we all have some great memories of him.  Leaving aside his goals, my top three Dubi moments were: -

1) The game away to Rugby a few seasons ago (when we spanked them for fully 90 minutes and only got a draw, and not the game when they spanked us and we left with the title).  In the first half we had something like 350 corners in front of our assembled masses on their huge terrace.  At one point we were singing Dubi's name and he stopped and looked at the fans with a sweet mixture of amazement and embarrassment, reflecting perhaps the fact that such adulation was completely new to him.  At St Ives it is probable the closest he got to this was when a couple of their lunkish retards accidentally poured beer on his feet as they attempted to pat him on the back.
Dubi sprints for the exit

2)  The same season away to Royston where we huffed and puffed during the first half to break them down.  Dubi came on as a substitute at half time and within a couple of minutes picked up the ball, beat a couple of defenders and slotted the ball home.  As his teammates came whooping over to him in delight, he merely trotted around in front of us shrugging in usual fashion, as if to say, "what's the problem?"

3)  More of a personal one.  We were winning away to Biggleswade, on an evening when Canavan was destroying the home team single-handedly.  Towards the end of the game, with Dubi having been substituted, we had a goal disallowed for offside.  As ever, maintaining the theatrics of modern football, our entire bench jumped up and berated the officials for daring to cost us another goal.

I was stood on my own (sad, I know), 10 yards from the dug-out, and perfectly level with the offside decision.  Our guy was so far offside, even a linesman at our level couldn't help but get the decision correct.  Even as our management team and subs were still lambasting the officials, Dubi turned to me and raised his eyebrows in a questioning manner.  I nodded and motioned with my wide-placed hands how far our guy was offside.  Dubi merely nodded and re-took his seat in the dugout even as his colleagues were still ranting and raving.

A cool customer.  Which was part of his quality as a player.  And also, unfortunately, may prove to keep him playing park football when he should be performing at a much higher level.