Pivotal days in title races are always hyped up on Sky Sports these days. "Super Sunday", "Clash of the Titans", "Decision Day" etc, you know the kind of thing we're on about. Well today in the Liverpool Old Boys Division 5 title race saw both title rivals travel to Bill Shankly Playing fields in West Derby, to face Old Cathinians (who still harboured title hopes themselves) and Collegiate. Today was to be billed:
The tension was mounting, the twitter hashtag #shanklysaturday had been selected and former Coeur players Gaz Hughes, Philly Thommo and Dave Kennedy had been called into the Soccer Saturday studio to cast their eye over precedings and give their expert views of the games in West Derby.
Coeur arrived at Shankly with 16 players after Ian Jones and Ste Alty were given opportunities to rest knocks. Ian still travelled with the squad to act as chief mascot and occasional touchline reporter for the Old Cats vs Old Xavs match. The skies were dark and murky and the pitches were completely destroyed. The chances of playing free-flowing passing football were almost in negative numbers and the pre match talk centered around the match being won by the side who made fewest mistakes. Mully once again started in goal with Ste Ally, Matty, Jacko and Rob Phil making up an experienced backline. Ahead of them were Mick Taylor, Darren, Lynchy and Jack Kelly, with Degsi partnering Rob Hatton up front.
The lads attempted to warm up on a boggy pitch only to be move to the furthest pitch, which upon reaching it, looked like it had hosted the World Swamp Football Championships that morning. Again it was drilled into the lads to keep the football to a minimum in our defensive third and then to try to utilise the marginally less muddy wings when attacking. The middle of the pitch was almost a no go area and Si's decision to leave the diminutive pair of Peter and Jack Riley on the bench seemed an excellent one, as nobody had brought a tractor to pull them out of the sludge.
The match kicked off and Coeur asserted their dominance from early on, with Hatton and Degsi both creating plenty of problems for Collegiate's back line. On 10 minutes Mick Taylor looked to have broken the dealock with a smart finish but the ref ruled it out for offside, though it was a tight call. Within 5 minutes the keeper had staked an early claim for man of the match as he produced a couple of excellent stops to deny Hatton then Degsi. Collegiate rallied and had a spell of posession but Coeur took the lead when Hatton escaped down the left and crossed where Degsi took his time and slotted into the net to give Coeur a deserved goal.
Just 2 minutes later roving reporter Ian Jones relayed the news that Old Xavs had taken the lead against Old Cats. Coeur contnued to pile on the pressure, and Rob Hatton had great chance from 10 yards but blasted just past the upright. It seemed just a matter of time before Coeur grabbed another with Coeur dominating the play. Jack Kelly fed a glorious pass into the channel and was caught late. the referee had half an eye on the tackle and half an eye on where the ball was gone. He allowed play to continue, but had failed to notice that Rob was offside from the pass from Jack. Rob steadied himself and crossed from the right to Degsi who finished it off to produce a mirror image of he first goal.
News filtered across from the other pitch that Old Cats had equalised making it 1-1 with Old Xavs. Collegiate then had a few minutes where they pressed forward and forced Coeur into some stout defending. It was a resolute effort from Coeur but still it required a great stop from Mully with his only meaningful work of the first half. Just before the break Xavs retook the lead so it was status quo at half time, that being as you were before kick off and not the ageing, denim-clad rockers producing an impromptu concert in the festival style mud of West Derby.
Collegiate 0 Sacre Coeur 2
Old Cats 1 Old Xavs 2
Half time saw the team praised for their first half efforts in testing circumstances. Again it was stated to take no risks and try to minimise mistakes. The second half began with Coeur forcing Collegiate back and Mick Taylor almost made it three as a fierce drive flew inches over the top. Jack Kelly was also looking to get on the scoresheet, but the keeper managed to keep him at bay.
Ian Jones again reported that Xavs had scored, and as he was delivering the news, they scored again. At this point Ian decided to dedicate his attention solely to the Coeur game. The match was still in Coeur's hands but there was an air of the next goal being critical. As it happened the next goal fell to Coeur and it ended the match as a contest. A long ball from Mully was misjudged by the Collegiate full back and Degsi scampered after it, sliding to meet it and steering it past the advancing keeper. The ball trundled towards the goal with Rob Hatton in close attendance. Degsi shouted for Rob to let it go in, hoping to claim his hat-trick. As the ball reached the goal line, Rob pulled back that left boot of his, before letting the ball cross the line untouched. very magnanamous of him.
With both games seemingly finished as a contest it was left to Coeur to see how many goals they could get. Jack Kelly again produced some good work with Degs and his fierce shot was too hot for the keeper to handle and Rob Hatton slid in to turn the ball home for Coeur's fourth. Si decided it was time for a few changed from the bench and Lynchy was replaced by Jack Riley, with Andy Pflancer coming on for Rob Hatton.
Jack Kelly was again itching to get on the scoresheet and produced another thunderous strike which the keeper did well to keep out. Mick Taylor was on hand though and tucked it home for his 9th of the season. Collegiate were in disarray at this stage and any attempted forray forward was easily snuffed out by Coeur's impressive backline. Peter Riley was then given 15 minutes to stake his claim as he replaced Degsi for a run out up front.
Coeur made it six in the simplest of fashions when Jacko's long ball beat the keeper, leaving an empty net for Pflancer to tuck the ball home. Barley 2 minutes later Andy had a chance to make it seven as he was fed in brilliantly, he took a great first touch, then steadied himself and passed the ball back to the keeper. Well that's what it looked like anyway, though he was adament it was a shot!
The match was rounded off with a seventh for Coeur which was almost a carbon copy of the sixth. This time it was Peter who was presented with an open goal after another blunder from the keeper. He duly obliged and rolled the ball home to seal a thoroughly convincing win for Coeur.
The news that Xavs had smashed Old Cats 8-1 brought a wry smile to the faces of Coeur's players as they know that it is likely to be just the two matches between the two sides that decide the title.
So in conclusions Shankly Saturday proved that the two best sides in the division were once again a class above their opposition.
Collegiate 0 Sacre Coeur 7
Old Cats 1 Old Xavs 8