Coeur's Cup Dreams Sunk in the Mud
The weather proved to be the problem the first time Coeur were meant to meet De La Salle in the Alan Brown Trophy, as the ground was frozen solid and still had ice in parts. Despite the best efforts of De La Salle to convince the ref that the pitch was playable (it wasn't), the game was rearranged. In a mildly ironic twist, this game was also in doubt due to the weather, but this time it was the lack of solidity in the ground that was causing the problems, as a week's worth of rain had turn the pitch into something resembling a Finnish mud-football pitch, rather than one due to host the beautiful game.
Prior to kick off, the referee, seconded from the County Prem, spoke to Si about the prospect of the game being called off, however both sides were keen to play the match and the ref agreed to reassess the pitch at half time.
Just before kick off the ref told Coeur to remove all jewelry, including wedding rings. This opened a debate about being able to play in a taped up wedding ring if it was physically unable to be removed. The ref's response was it is not allowed. Some bright spark then piped up "So if you have a wedding ring that won't come off, you need to retire, is that right?" to which the ref replied "Yes". The ref then spotted Dave Parry's girly wristbands and asked him to remove them. Dave refused as he stated they were memento's from festivals and he worn them for over a year. The ref insisted and Dave reluctantly removed them, the first with a load of Vaseline* (* other lubricants are available and Sacre Coeur are not promoting any one particular brand) and the second had to be cut off, much to the dismay of Dave as he fought back the tears.
So Coeur lined up with Kev in goal, a back four of Joe, Tommy, Jay and Shunter, the midfield was occupied by Draper, Dave Parry (minus his beloved wristband) and Mick Taylor. Richie Hughes was drafted in from the fourths to start on the left of the quartet. Up front were Mick Lynch and Paul Jordan.
Barely a minute into the game a wild lunging tackle was thrown in by the portly number 4 of De La Salle. The ref stopped the game and admonished him, telling him in no uncertain terms that this wasn't acceptable. The lad duly ignored him and walked away as soon as the lecture was complete. The lecture didn't prevent him or a few others from a couple of dangerous tackles during the remainder of the match. Coeur didn't let this bother them and they started the brighter of the two sides. Richie Hughes looked sharp down the left as did Mick down the right and both went close early on. Richie then found himself presented with another good opportunity but the keeper did brilliantly to keep out the goal bound effort. It proved only a matter of time before Coeur took the lead. An incisive through ball was slid in behind the defence and Lynchy galloped onto it. The shout went up for offside, and the ref put his whistle to his lips, before correctly declaring "play on" as the left back had been playing Mick onside by a couple of yards. Lynchy calmly rounded the keeper before slotting home his first goal of the season.
Coeur created a few more chances but were unable to double their lead and De La Salle started to gain a foothold in the match. A few chances were well snuffed out by Coeur as they stood strong in the tricky conditions. Ten minutes before the interval, Kev sliced a goal kick and Tommy, trying to help the ball on, diverted it back towards Kev. Inexplicably, instead of heading the ball or even letting it go for a corner, Kev palmed the ball down which gave the ref no option, but to award a free kick to De La Salle on the corner of the 6 yard box. A petty squabble then ensued with Kev asking the ref to measure the yards for the wall. Kev then claimed victory, but the manner in which he did saw him booked. The resulting free kick didn't threaten the goal and Coeur had certainly "got away with one".
With half time approaching, a half hearted toe-ey from the De La Salle forward headed goalwards. Kev misjudged his angles and waved the ball past the upright only to see it nestle in the bottom corner. Oops indeed.
De La Salle 1 Sacre Coeur 1
Despite the late concession in the first half, Coeur still felt comfortable and were confident of progressing to the next round of the cup. The downpour continued and the sorry sights of Martin, Pricey and Si getting drowned in their subsuits was only topped by the fact that Doyley had turned up in a pair of leather soled shoes and was disappearing into the mud at an alarming rate.
The game was far from a spectacle and it was becoming increasingly likely that a mistake was going to settle the game rather than an individual piece of brilliance. What transpired was actually 2 of one and one of the other. De La Salle were the ones to benefit as Coeur's passes were held up in the mud. Shunter attempted to turn away from the danger only to lose his footing and end up rolling around like an ecstatic pig in the filthiest of sludge. The forward took full advantage of this and calmly slotted the ball home past a helpless Kev.
Within a minute Coeur were level. Joe Carragher skipped a wild lunge midway in Coeur's half and was about to set off down the right hand side, before Jay appeared from nowhere, took the ball and disappeared down the right, skipping 2 tackles, another wild lunge and then bursting past the full back. He then dinked a brilliant ball to the far post, where Paul Jordan was on hand to rise highest and nod Coeur level.
A brilliant response and one that handed Coeur the momentum. Well at least for 30 or 40 seconds. Another slip down Coeur's left let De La Salle in. Tommy Stevo came sliding over like he had just exited the Kamikaze waterslide, water spraying everywhere, and he was unable to stop as he cleaned out the attacker for one of the most nailed on penalties you will ever see. The rest is as you would expect it. Ref awards the pen, the forward fires it home to restore De La Salle's lead
Martin and Pricey were introduced off the bench to try and give Coeur fresh impetus, but the conditions were worsening. Passing became a lottery as a simple ball could either stop dead in the mud or skip of the deck giving the intended recipient no chance. With 8 minutes to go the ref was on the brink of calling it off but both sides convinced him to continue, De La Salle because they only had 8 minutes to hang on and Coeur as they were attacking at will and an equaliser looked imminent.
Coeur's final chance summed the day up. The ball was knocked into Paul Jordan, who chested it past the defenders and span clear. He struck a sweet shot along the deck which looked every inch an equaliser. Sadly in the summer months this daisy cutter would have nestled into the bottom corner of the net, but in this mud bath the ball ground to a halt just before the thankful keeper, who smirked as he picked both himself and the ball up out of the puddle.
A gallant effort in difficult conditions. Three errors had gifted De La Salle goals, whilst Coeur's goals had been beautifully created and taken. A bittersweet pill to swallow? Perhaps, but that after all is what makes the game so great.
De La Salle 3 Sacre Coeur 2