Old Stoics Pull out Win From Jaws of Defeat
17 October 2017
In a remarkable game of football, the Old Stoics recovered from being 3-0 down within first 15 minutes to win 4-3 despite losing playing with 10 men for last hour of the match.
Saturday brought the visit of Old Wykehamists IIs, regular opponents over the years due their similar inability to get promoted nor relegated from Division Four. In the absence of Mark Thompson-Royds, Rollo Chadd made his first appearance of the season in goal, while regular back-up keeper Tom Wiggett was forced into an outing at right back with Tom Wilson also making his seasonal debut at left back.
The unfamiliarity of the back five was brutally exposed in the opening exchanges as Wykehamists attacked down the flanks before creating three straightforward chances for their forwards who calmly slotted away the opportunities. However, the Old Stoics side refused to panic and as the half wore on the contest evened up with the home side able to spend more time in the opposition half.
This quickly exposed how much of a liability the Wykehamists' keeper was, having not played in goal since he was 12 and having come straight off an all night bender. First he spilled a straightforward shot to allow Jamie Hirsch a simple tap-in at the far post before things started to deteriorate spectacularly for him and his teammates.
Shortly afterwards Oli Trotter, back in the side after missing the previous match, was barged off the ball when played in towards goal with the referee generously deeming the offence to have been committed just on the edge of the area and not a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Although the defender was spared being sent off, or indeed being booked, Tolly Leech ensured he was still made to pay by sliding his free kick through a very porous wall and into the bottom of the goal with the keeper dreadfully positioned. Sadly whilst this was going on up field, Wiggett's knee had given in and he was forced off the field and with no substitutes, the Stoics were forced to continue for the rest of the contest a man short.
Shortly afterwards, Trotter again ran onto an accurate long ball, this time to be faced with a one-on-one with the keeper who had raced off his line. The keeper recklessly Trotter out so violent an aerial lunge that the force spun him round and saw him land awkwardly and potentially highly dangerously on his neck and shoulder. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot with the red card surely to follow. Somehow he managed to find sufficient mitigating circumstances to only issue a yellow card, much to the amazement of everyone on the field, including the keeper himself and all his teammates.
For those of you that weren't there, imagine this:
Again Leech was able to not let any grievance about the referee's leniency distract him and he slotted the penalty away to level the scores up at 3-3. The keeper's lucky day continued when he picked up the ball outside the area and received no further punishment. This time Leech tried a free-kick similar to the goal scored by Argentina against England in 1998 World Cup (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt18qVBKYQE) but rather than find Thomas Benyon, he hit it straight out for a goal kick...
Anyway, all square at half time remained a remarkable outcome for the Old Stoics after such a dreadful start. And with the home side playing down hill in the second half, the ascendancy was with them, despite somehow being the side with 10 men.
The Wykehamists finally switched keepers at half-time and the second half proved to be a more even contest with Stowe's defence also more switched on and settled after a jittery start with Hirsch slotting in at right back after Wiggett's injury and Leech pulled into left midfield to leave Trotter to work tirelessly up front on his own.
There were few clear-cut opportunities to note with Ben Hirst arguably having the best chance with a free header at the back post from a corner. However, he directed the ball downward rather than goalward. At the other end, Chadd made a smart stop with his feet on the one occasion that the away side managed to evade the defence.
As the minutes ticked away, you sensed there was one more goal left in the game as both sides were tiring but still attacking in search of a winner. Thankfully that chance fell to the Old Stoics from yet another keeping error with the fourth player to don the gloves for Wykehamists choosing to make a save with his feet rather than his hands from a corner. This only directed the ball towards the far post where Hirsch was on hand again to apply the finishing touch and secure all three points for the men in yellow and blue.
A great result if a gritty performance made all the more remarkable given the numerical disadvantage for so much of the game. Man of the match goes to Trotter who won every aerial battle, ran the channels tirelessly and forced fouls that gave the Stoics a way back into the game when things looked forlorn at 3-0. Bob Baxter was immense in central midfield, refusing to let the pain from new boots deter him from hounding the opposition for the duration of the match while Hirsch illustrated perfectly how to combine the attacking and defensive duties of a wing back.
Teams seldom bounce back from such adversity to win so all 11 members can be proud of their performances. After gaining a valuable point against Old Alleynians in the previous game, that's now 4 points from the last two matches despite not playing anywhere near our best in either match. If we can keep a regular core for remainder of season then there's no reason why this can't be the year we finally escape from Division Four.