Cobras v Parents/Siblings
By Trevor Offord
What a match
Saturday 10th of October.
A beautiful morning in Ascot saw a thrilling contest between two giants of world football. The precociously talented Berks County Cobras were to host a charity match in support of Alzheimer’s research against the hugely experienced all star veterans of ‘Lorna’s Pacemakers’.
The question of who would emerge victorious had left experts divided, but all felt that this match would be the classic case of, ‘the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object’. As it turns out, they were not wrong and the sell out crowd were not to be disappointed on this fantastic day.
This titanic battle would also visit the age old question...... Would youth prevail over experience?
Over the years, the managerial side of football has been spoilt with its personalities, whether it be the ‘Special One’, more recently from Anfield, the ‘Normal One’. But on that autumn day though, we were graced with the new Pacemakers manager, the ‘lovely one’. Her debut game was to prove a real baptism of fire for Lorna with the problem of fielding her strongest possible team, yet keeping control of the fierce some ‘Chopper Clark’ who was red carded the last time the two teams met in a horror tackle that left cynics wondering if he was merely trying to drum up business for himself. Her answer was simple and brilliant. Play the hatchet man in goal.
With all the hype and team talks over, the Cobras kicked off.
The game to start with had an edgy feel to it, with neither side wanting to give anything away. From the outset the pace was frenetic, until both teams started to settle and ‘let the ball do the work’. It soon became apparent that Pacemakers right winger, Emma, would rather catch the ball than kick it, perhaps forgetting that she was in fact an outfield player, much to the amusement of the Cobras! The Cobras were not laughing for long and it would be the Pacemakers that would start to boss things though.
Intricate passing and neat one touch football culminated in Austin’s dad finding the back of the net, only to be ruled (some would say controversially) OFFSIDE! From another point of view though, it would be fair to say the Cobras treated fans to a defensive master class. The Pacemakers front men were caught with a relentless monotony in the Cobras offside trap which was to become something of a feature.
The frustration of some of the Pacemakers was clear to see and a lesser set of match officials may have buckled against such heavy pressure and barracking. Fortunately, FIFA had appointed one of their top referees to officiate this challenging fixture and eventually, (with the refs patience wearing thin), Ian ‘how can that be offside? Are you serious?’ Cliffe, found his way into the book for dissent. This seemed to fire him up even more and it would be the fiery midfielder that would break the deadlock in this fixture 1-0 to the Pacemakers and end of the 1st quarter.
If things had started to simmer in the 1st quarter, the start of the second quarter saw things really start to hot up. Pacemakers playboy pin up Matt ‘Sharpy’ Sharp changing from a respectable set of tracky bottoms to a pair of shorts that would have left even the most brazen of 80’s footballer feeling self conscious. It was suggested that the shorts actually belonged to Sam, but these rumours are yet to be confirmed as ‘Sharpy’ was not available for comment at the post match press conference.
The Cobras battled on and against the run of play, Harry put them level with a superb goal that stunned the Pacemakers 1-1. The Cobras forgot the old adage though, that you are never more vulnerable than when you’ve just scored and more or less from kick off, Tom found Ben with a Mesut Ozil like pass which was clinically despatched 2-1 Pacemakers.
Moments later, Sammy’s brother George caused problems for the Cobras down the left hand side of the pitch with ‘Sharpy’, alive to his teasing cross, rising like a young salmon and brilliantly finding the back of the net, only to be cruelly robbed by the linesman’s’ flag.
It soon became apparent that the ‘lovely one’ had set up her team for not only a bruising, physical encounter, but one without fear or remorse of employing ‘the dark arts’. Diego Costa, (who had managed to slip into the stands largely unnoticed) was heard to utter: “I’m simply a learner in comparison to Tom and Sharpy” just as Sharpy deliberately smashed the ball into the refreshments table, sending tea, cake and cookies flying everywhere. Meanwhile, Tom, (off the ball and under the cover of the commotion) viciously attacked Trevor resulting in a broken fingernail for the Cobras gaffer). Fortunately, the handsome man in black was perfectly placed to see (despite many derogatory comments advocating a trip to Specsavers) and managed to retain order by issuing two yellow cards for the offending Pacemakers
George again heaped more misery on the Cobras goal with a crisp effort from the edge of the box that left Rosa with no chance, 3-1 with the Pacemakers threatening to run away with the game.
New Pacemaker signings, ‘the Coughlin brothers’ both showed some dazzling skills and at times were so good they even managed to tackle themselves! Constant diving though, led to both of them being cautioned for simulation by the excellent man in the middle.
Just as the Pacemakers felt they were in command, the game flipped on its head. Chopper Clark, (in what can only be described as a moment of madness) came out for a ‘through ball’ and cynically scythed down Henry, PENALTY! The ref was in no doubt, instantly pointing to the spot. The only saving grace for Chopper was that he wasn’t the last man, his son Freddie’s stalwart defending and excellent clearance proved to be in vain as Cobras ‘hit man Henry’ crashed home from the spot 3-2.
Despite trailing, it felt that the tide was starting to turn for the Cobras. With almost constant pressure, the cracks began to appear in the Pacemakers defence. A failure to clear from a pinpoint driven Cobra cross, left the normally composed left back (Coughlin Snr.) like Bambi trying to regain balance on ice. The crowd held its breath as the left backs river dance continued and Cobras midfield powerhouse, Austin, burst through to coolly slot home past the despairing dive of Chopper Clark’ 3-3! Halftime.
The 3rd quarter saw Austin’s dad on the score sheet again. A rasping shot hit so hard from about 6 yards that no one saw the ball leave his foot. The charred remains of the ball were recovered from the scorched net as Ian wheeled away (celebrating as if he’d scored the winning goal in a world cup final.) Make no mistake; the Pacemakers were taking this seriously and in no mood for clemency, even if it was just a little girl in goal 4-3! and end of the 3rd quarter.
Just when fans and pundits alike wondered if it was possible for a game of football to get any more exciting, the 4th quarter took it to a new level. Some of the tackling, vision and passing demonstrated by Sam, Ioan, Harry and Rosa at times was sublime. The off the ball runs made by Henry, Will, Austin and Sammy teased and tortured the Pacemakers defence and more and more cracks started to appear when the aging defence was simply unable to pick up or track the marauding Cobras anymore. Maybe, under team orders, they were tasked with stretching the aging opposition and prey on their biggest weakness. Fitness! The ‘lovely one’ obviously had different ideas though and felt that trying to preserve a slender one goal lead was never going to be enough against a marauding Cobras side. She ‘rolled the dice’ and pushed for the win by bringing the feared ‘chopper Clark’ outfield. This inspired change had immediate effect with Chopper finishing with surgical precision 5-3
With 5 minutes left in the game and the feeling the tie was slipping away, the mercurial Cobras manager took things into his own hands by hitting a set piece from his own half, as if it was sent from the gods themselves. A floating, dipping, swerving shot that seem to defy physics bamboozled the helpless Pacemakers keeper 5-4!
Sensing a comeback on the cards, Ollie Coughlin wrenched the Cobras hearts by finishing exquisitely in the corner 6-4.
Surely the dream was over for the brave Cobras, but NO! A great team just doesn’t know when its beat and Sammy found the Pacemakers net to set up a grandstand finish 6-5!
Fitness wise the Pacemakers were always going to struggle if things were tight near the end of the match. Exhausted, ‘on the ropes’ and desperately hanging on for the final whistle, they attempted to park the bus and run down the clock down for a famous victory.
It wasn’t to be though. The Cobras swarmed forward like an army of unstoppable ants and the midfield behemoth, Austin crashed in the equaliser off the post, Hatrick! 6-6!!!!!
With the ref feeling that extra time would lead to a visit to a coronary care unit for most of the aptly named Pacemakers, it was decided that the drama of penalties would settle things. Every player took a penalty which ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous (you know who you are!) But what impressed most, was the belief from the Cobras who managed to soak up the pressure and score the last 5 pens on the spin to come from behind and level the shootout!
It finished 6-6, but it was agreed by all that no one on this fine day deserved to lose. The overall winner was football, anyone who ate any of Lisa’s cookies and most importantly the £220 raised for Alzheimer’s research.
I’m sure that even if you were not there, but you’ve enjoyed reading this, you could find some spare change for this debilitating disease which could affect any of us.
As for ‘man of the match’?.......... to close to call. But in my mind, the ref must be in with a shout! ;-)
Composed by Dave Austin (literary genius & today's Ref)