Coeur returned to action this week after last weekend's 25th anniversary celebrations. Greeting them on their return were second placed Old Cathinians. Coeur were one place lower having played a game less. Old Cats had started the season on fire, winning their opening six games. Last week had seen them drop points for the first time with a 1-2 reverse at Wavertree W.D.O.B. Having a chat pre match, the Old Cats manager was bemoaning last week's result stating that the Wavertree keeper had a blinder and that Old Cats were particularly wasteful in their finishing. Irrespective of last week's result, Old Cats were certain to provide Coeur with their toughest test of the season to date.
Si, as becoming the norm these days, had a plethora of players to select from. Darren and Jacko were both missing, but Si still had the option of 17 players to select from, come 1:30pm on match day. Mully was between the sticks again, with Lynchy slotting in beside Matty at Centre Half. Rob Phil and Mike Robertson filled the full back berths once again. Ahead of them were Ian, Jack Riley and Degsi, with Mick Taylor and Andy Pflancer flanking Rob Hatton up top. The over populated bench consisted of Jack Kelly, Ste Alty, Ste Ally, Ady Maxwell and Peter Riley. Si was restricted to the sheepskin.
The key question was how would Coeur start? Would a week off result in some rustiness? Well the answer was an emphatic NO. 2 minutes gone, the ball was fed into Rob Hatton who produced a sumptuous flick which took it past the last defender and into the path of the rampaging Degsi. Degsi took a took and slid it home from the right hand side of the box, giving the keeper no chance, as the ball nestled inches inside the far post.
Old Cats tried to respond, but it was Coeur who continued to play the better football. A couple of nice moves almost saw Couer in on goal, but some last ditch defending kept them at bay.
15 minutes into the game Old Cats won a free kick 35 yards from goal. It was a soft free kick that was somewhat debatable. As if this wasnt bad enough, what followed saw Coeur enraged. The ball was lifted into the box where it was met by a Coeur head. As the ball dropped, a Cats player punched the ball into the path of another player who fired home despite the best effort of Mully. The ref awarded the goal, despite Coeur's protests. It was blatantly obvious that the ball had been handled, but the ref managed to miss it.
Spurred on by this injustice, Coeur attacked the Old Holts goal incessantly, with a lively Andy Pflancer not giving the full back a moments peace. On the half hour Coeur regained the lead as Andy lifted the ball through into the path of Mick Taylor who hit the exact same knot in the net, from almost exactly the same spot as Degsi. Another brilliant finish.
At this point Coeur were definitley on top. A fantastic move down the right saw several players fizzing the ball about before the cross was met by the head of Ian Jones, who was devastated as it flashed just wide of the upright. Old Cats were still trying to get forward, but their play consisted of lumping up to the two big lads up front and trying to feed off them. Any threat though was quickly nullified by the Coeur defence.
Sacre Coeur 2 Old Cathinians 1
The second half saw a tighter game, with Old Cats trying to dominate the game physically. Coeur though were still playing the better football, even though the chances were at a premium. The first good chance of the half came when Ian Jones escaped down the right. He fired a great ball in across the six yard box, but Rob Hatton was on his heels, when had he been alert it would have meant a simple tap in for 3-1.
With the famous Buckley Hill wind picking up a little, Old Cats took every opportunity to lump the ball into the Coeur box, be it from open play, free kicks or via their long thrown in merchant. Coeur defended stoutly and headed away the majority of the missiles without concern.
Ste Alty was introduced from the bench as Ian made way as Coeur looked to kill the game off. However 20 minutes from time another long throw in was hurled into the box. Matty got up highest and headed it away, only for it to drop 20 yards from goal. The lad lashed it back goalwards and somehow it managed to evade all 17 bodies in the box and fly into the net.
Andy then led the response for Coeur as his got past the left back again and lofted a cross to the far post, where the less than 6 foot Rob Hatton was a matter of a couple of inches away from nodding it home.
Matty had tried to shake off a dead leg but to no avail. He was replaced at centre half by Ste Ally, meaning Coeur had just Lynchy over 6 foot in the war against Old Cats ariel bombardment. Jack Kelly replaced Andy and Coeur went 4-4-2 with Alty and Rob up front.
Coeur were still feeling the injustice from the handball, but were unwilling to let it effect the outcome of the game. A free kick was earned 25 yards from goal. Ste Alty stepped up and whipped one of his lesser quality shots at goal, but it proved to be too much for the Old Cats keeper. It squirmed between his legs and he eventually managed to drop on the ball with Degsi and Rob Hatton both in close attendance. The shouts went up from the pair of them, convinced the keeper had dragged the ball back from behind the line. The ref agreed, blew his whistle and pointed to the centre spot. The keeper didnt agree. He was apoplectic calling the ref every name under the sun, including a "sunbedded t*@t" much to the amusement of the Coeur line.
Old Cats continued to moan, but the irony of their complaints was lost on the majority of them, after having been awarded a goal in the first half, despite the hand ball. Irrespective of people's individual views, the score was 3-2 to Coeur, and on the balance of play justifyably so.
The remainder of the game saw Old Cats lumping it forward, with Coeur counter attacking at any opportunity. Both defences stood firm and the match finished 3-2 to Coeur.
Not the most cultured of matches, and not Coeur's most free-flowing performance of the season, but an important victory nonetheless. It is performances and results like this that are the mark of title winning sides. At no point are we suggesting that this side is going to win the title, especially with Old Xavs looking formidable, however if you are going to challenge for leagues and cups, then results like this show that the team has the correct credentials.
Sacre Coeur 3 Old Cathinians 2