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Parade of the Wooden Soldiers*

Wednesday evening Sutton Leisure Centre’s SoccerDome resplendently awaiting the arrival of the mighty SHWFC for their last session pre-Christmas what could go wrong? Well thankfully precious little went wrong on a night of dazzling football and not a single Christmas jumper on display Warming up 17 players presented HeatMeister Gaz with a new dilemma How to warm up his charges without repeating the wizard moves and jolly japes of recent weeks? This week Gaz (for it was he) introduced to quicker tempo and array of connected moves that had the assembled mass frantically falling in line to follow the Meister He added a quick session of ball work with 2 groups of players mesmerically passing around a circle The end result was a thoroughly warm if not bewildered collection wooden soldiers At times the vigorous routines was wasted on the corp but all claimed to have enjoyed the experience, as the spontaneous round of applause showed

Coach Davies worked his Moneyball magic and we were presented with 3 teams of evident balance

The team selections were;

Blues - Cockney Rebel, Tom Derby, Gonzalo, Les, Lee (or is it Wayne?) and Citeh Geoff

Reds - Gaz, Disco Deggs, Tony Snakehips, Lord Rainford, Chopper and Speedo

Yellow - El Presidente, Tom Stretch, Phil, Grav and Mike Wayne (or is it Lee?)

The first game was a dour affair with two very evenly matched teams determined to prevent the other taking the spoils Blues had marginally the better of possession but couldn’t beat Gaz between the Reds posts Two fine saves from Gonzalo and the Cockney Rebel in quick succession illustrated the problem Reds seemed to have little to offer in front of goal with Disco Deggs relegated to wild shots from distance A rare error from Victor in the Blues goalie jumper (not Christmas though) led to a penalty He misjudged a ball along the touch line believing the ball had left the playing area to venture out of his area to retrieve the ball Despite the outcry Reds Disco man lined up to take a penalty which he promptly dispatched wide of the left hand upright Poetic justice maybe? Gonzalo almost immediately punished Reds but was adjudged to have strayed into the area, the ball in the net didn’t count Time elapsed with neither side deserving to win or lose 0-0 but not for the lack of effort

Yellow took on the Blues and sprayed the ball around with some flair Yellow presented a very organised formation which was augmented by the presence of Gaz as guest keeper in their first match Goals from Phil and Tom sealed a victory whilst Gonzalo was kept in check by a combination of Tom and El Presidente 2-0 to Yellow and good value for the victory Blues offered a serious obstacle well marshalled by Citeh Geoff with Lee, Les and Tom Derby all chipping in to thwart the Yellow waves of attacks

Yellow welcomed Reds in the next match up and we’re able to continue to display the fluid passing and movement that had served them well in the first game Reds did confound the Yellows with a decent goal scored by Speedo Mick but normal service was re-established soon afterwards with Tom and Grav finding the goals to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat Gonzalo guested as Yellow keeper, doing his best Mr Angry impression to forcibly make his point for the second time of the evening

The lack of space which is the product of six a side matches was one issue but the goal machine was unhappy with the pace of the ball too More on this later

The re-match of Blues and Reds did result in goals at their second attempt Gonzalo claimed his almost inevitable goal to fire Blues ahead but Reds found a way through thanks to a spot of over-generous sportsmanship Lord Rainford was the beneficiary as he hit a fine shot across the keeper for Reds equaliser 1-1 the result as the scrappy affair ended Reds had improved throughout the evening Chopper solid as ever, Tony and Speedo busy in the midfield and Huyton’s finest leading the line

Blues took an early lead in the night’s final action Gonzalo having been shepherded wide picked out a spot to score past Guest keeper M’Lord The ennobled one reacted with uncustomary disgust by kicking the bib bag into the changing rooms area (no mean feat through several doors, walls and corridor But Yellow wore down Blues rearguard with several efforts brilliantly saved by Lee and later Tom Derby

Phil wasn’t to be denied however striking a power drive from wide on the left flank to the obvious delight of his pumped up team mates Yellow secured the win and the night’s unbeaten tag with a late goal scored by Mike Wayne (or is it Lee?) He’d contributed to Yellow’s showing in a unselfish manner all evening and his delight was shared with his team mates Blues stormed back to find a late leveller only to repelled by a fine diving save from Lord Rainford, doubtless keen to atone for earlier rush of blood The game ended with both sides looking for further goals Yellows winning 2-1 to take the evening’s honours

A word for Referee Jeff Betty, quietly efficient all evening, helped by Coach Davies - the 2 Wisemen in search of their missing king from the Orient (not Leyton obviously) Coach urged the teams to calm down at one point Valid intervention but in truth it was just the Yellow’s way to pump themselves up to rise to the task ahead Nothing to see here (as Cressida Dick might have said)

The Boot Room session poured over the evening’s entertainment as being yet another good effort There was discussion regarding the pressure of the indoor balls All night long the ball seared around with most players struggling with their first touch As the old guys might have said “it could do with taking a pound out” So before we restart in January we intend to consider some trials with slightly deflated balls to test in match We did at one time use Futsal balls that are heavier and slower perhaps that might help improve technique too

The other gem from discussions was the difficulty that we have with some players using bibs that are too small The boob tube look might be very fetching on the fairer sex but on an overweight geezer it’s not a pretty sight More than just the aesthetics it also causes problems during games when the wearer has a shirt beneath that is the colour of his opponents shirts

Players‘ peripheral vision is sorely tested when the bib cannot be easily seen If you look to pick out a pass to a team mate only to present the ball to the opposition it does tend to irritate The answer might be simply to ask our more amply endowed players to wear a neutral (white or black) shirt In an ideal world we would purchase XXXL shirts but bibs are generally supplied in pre-determined set sizes so it’s not so ideal after all

The Boot Room was in fine shape ahead of Friday’s planned get together Those who have to wash their hair or return library books will miss a treat Good company good laughs are guaranteed Seriously it is a great opportunity to get to know your Club mates a little better in a convivial atmosphere We hope to see as many there as possible Boosted of course!

Finally to those who we’ve lost this year we extend our Best Wishes

You’re in our thoughts

Best Wishes to all Let’s hope 2022 is a better year

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers* - The Crystals

Can’t beat a Spector song at this festive time of the year!

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