Paul Dyke starred down hard at the face of his digital watch. He was stood on the wooden balcony outside Totton & Eling's first floor changing rooms, with his back turned against the view of the well maintained suburban gardens that hug the sports ground's perimeter. Flowering petunias weren't his concern; time was.
|Totton's sports ground in distance|
Dyke had given the latecomers a fighting chance, but his texted warning of delays on the motorway didn't stop Dan Allan, Sam Hewitt, Kristian Hewitt, Ryan Hurst, Ryan Jones, Ben Rowe, Sam Schwodler and Jason Wilson, all crawling to Totton along an M275 laden heavy with traffic headed for the Southampton Boat Show.
Standing in our way of a place in the second round of the Southampton Senior Cup were Totton & Eling reserves. Some might classify the term 'reserves' as inferior. This would be incorrect. Being in the Southampton Senior Division, we represent the lowest tier of sides in the competition amongst teams from the Southampton Premier League, the Hampshire Leagues and the Wessex Reserve Leagues, all of which will eventually be whittled down to two teams in the final at Southampton's St Mary's stadium.
|Ryan Hurst heads clear another Totton & Eling attack|
Once that it was established that the Pope wasn't the head of the Anglican church, further questions were raised, such as: do Catholics believe in the Jesus thing? A moot opening question that was sadly never fully debated. There were more pressing questions to grapple with, like: where have all the kit's black socks gone? Will the changing rooms be locked? And the perennial rhetoric that Burridge players have struggled with since the start of the club as we know it, which is: if indeed we're to leave our belongings in the changing rooms, is there a separate place, perhaps a bag of some sorts, that we can keep are valuables safe in during the game? Answers to all of which were once again provided, but no doubt wiped clean from collective memory banks by next Saturday afternoon.
As is customary, the referee asked to check the soles of our football boots for any sharp studs. Lee Fielder wore white Nike cleats. Black rubber blades jutted from their soles like the blunt teeth of a herbivores mammal. “Blades,” said the ref, raising his scrawny grey eyebrows. “Never tried them. What are they like?” Lee seemed keener to get warmed up than enter into a conversation with a referee about footwear. “Yeah, they're fine.” The referee wore a pair of non gripped black trainers, the make of which I couldn't decipher without sinking down to his feet. He pointed down at his shoes, “these flats are perfect for this time of year.” This strangely friendly attitude showed no evidence of quite how irritable he can and would become during play.
It was clear from kick-off that Totton & Eling wanted to flex their Wessex League muscles. They made quick passes with tidy ball control. In an eagerness to stamp their mark on the game further, one of their defenders mistook technical superiority with incompetence. Defenders aren't there to ponce about, their primary function is to destroy. Their defender's careless pass across his penalty area was seized upon by Ben Rowe who poked us into the lead. Totton & Eling didn't let this mishap stifle their confidence, and at times their quick play tied us in knots. By half-time they were 2-1 up, which was a fair reflection of the half.
We stayed outside at half-time and sat under the shade of a tree. Dyke emptied a carrier bag full of Mars Bar Duos onto the grass in front of us. Several players tucked in. I stuck to water. Our efforts continued to be commendable in the second-half, but getting the run around on a warm September afternoon isn't always conducive to maintaining good relations with one another. Baiting or indeed any other general unpleasantness amongst ourselves was kept to a minimum. By in large it was a good spirited game between the two teams, which is always a bit of a shame.
Totton did not take their foot off the pedal and we were unable to prevent them from scoring two further goals in the second half. It was during a stoppage in play that I offered the referee a swig of water from one of our bottles that lay on the dry grass beyond the touchline. I don't know what came over me, it must have been the heat. As he guzzled from it, low guttural sounds resonated from somewhere deep in his throat. It sounded as though he were trying to sink a particularly stubborn handful of Mandrax.
He only stopped mouthing the bottle's yellow plastic teat after noticing a far younger blond women sat on a bench beyond the perimeter's fence; one he seemed to know. "What are you up to," he asked in an all to familiar tone of voice. The women took her eyes off her mobile phone screen to look up towards him for the briefest of moments. "Sudoku," she replied. Obviously. There are some things that aren't meant to be understood by man.
Click here to see full results from the first round of the Southampton Senior Cup
Burridge line up: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Sam Hewitt, CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Dan Allen (Greg Baker), RM: Sam Schwodler, CM: Mark Sanderson (Joe Hill), CM: Jason Wilson, CM: Kristian Hewitt, LM: Marc Judd, CF: Ben Rowe (Lee Fielder)
|Burridge goalkeeper Ryan Jones, shortly before making an athletic save from a Totton free-kick|
The annual Southampton League prediction were on page 36 of Saturday's edition of The Sports Pink. There it was, one page after a voucher for Tosca's Italian restaurant on Commercial Road, predictions for the top three in each of the eight divisions.
This season Burridge have been given the wild-card, and I quote:
“Burridge AFC always flirt around the edge and might go one better this time around.”
Netley Central Reserves are predicted to win the title
with Forest Town in second,
and Allbrook in third.