Raiders faced up against the French in the plate semi-final and produced a victory in a game which was as comfortable as it could be for the recently crowned champions. After Coach Colin’s penultimate pre-match team talk was interrupted by an apologetic 34 year old teenager (oooo sorry!), the tone of the match was set early on with Raiders knocking the ball about in possession well, threatening the French goal numerous times and restricting their opponents to few chances on Mirko’s goal.
The early pressure paid dividends with Clem hammering the ball into the net on the volley and the lead was then doubled by Hoggy. Stefan and Mirko did their best to cause mix up in the Raiders box, but managed to avoid a calamity with Stefan walking away claiming there was never any danger to the goal. There was.
The second half saw the heat begin to take its toll on the Raiders players and, once a third was added by Emma, they began to conserve energy in preparation for their second game, or play with whatever energy they had left as some squad members went into an impressive 36th hour of their 48 hour self-sponsored drinking marathon.
The French were allowed more time and space on the ball but seemed reluctant to take any advantage of that, and the game was played out in fairly relaxed, almost friendly like conditions. The final whistle was blown forcing the French to exit the competition lacking the fight they had shown just over a month ago against us, and allowing Raider to progress into a hotly anticipated final against The Vikings.
Raiders met Vikings in the final of “The Plate for the teams who didn’t want to win the cup anyway”, with the encounter finishing in conditions as wet as a fart from Myles after a few beers.
As the morning sun and heat disappeared, the clouds and rain came in along with some strong words of wisdom from the coaches and some random shouting about nothing (“Bentekkers”) echoing in the ears of both sets of players. The teams traded attacks early on but it was Raiders who started to knock the ball around the better of the two mid-way through the first half in an attempt to gain the early advantage. That they did so was thanks largely to Arjen’s generosity in allowing Clem’s powerful shot to fly straight into the middle of the net to give Raiders the lead.
Vikings saw the setback as an opportunity to hit back and threw themselves into equalising from the restart. Ricky V and James were showing some signs off progress running at the defence, with Myles being left to scrap with the Blackpool Ramos down the right. Vikings did get the equaliser they deserved with Jonas scoring what would turn out to be his second best goal of the game by caressing the ball into the top right corner from the edge of the box.
Raiders tried to draw some inspiration from this but seemed to forget that to actually score you have to shoot the ball towards the rectangular frame and away from the body in the middle of it. Something which would prove costly as they missed a hatful of chances before Ricky took to doubling the Viking’s tally with a neat finish to take them in to the lead as the half time whistle – and Noah’s Ark – approached.
Jonas’ second of the game, and his best of the day, was an absolute thunder bastard from 5 yards that travelled through the river between the goal and the 6 yard line at lightning speed. He’d pounced on the fact that none of the Raiders team were up to the quick thinking speed of the Turkey for the day, who had ingeniously attempted to head the ball back to his keeper through a 2-foot-deep river. As the ball lay awaiting to be dispatched into the net, there really was nothing more the Raiders defence could have done to deny Jonas the perfect opportunity for his goal of the season contender. The ball finally dropped anchor around the 6 yard line ready to be sailed over the line by the big German. The only downside for Jonas being that the votes for goal of the season have already been cast. Somebody with great knowledge and experience was apparently overheard saying that “there is no shame in conceding a goal like that in these conditions”.
The downpour continued throughout half time and the referee began the second half with a pretty unique offer to both teams of either cancelling the game or playing on for 3 minutes to see if the lake that was covering 70% of the pitch would have reduced. Both sides ignored either bizarre request and agreed to complete the second half in farcical conditions.
What ensued was 15-20 minutes of no one being able to pass the ball more than 2 yards on the ground, with almost everybody on the pitch displaying a complete inability to flick the ball up to themselves and hoof it. Raiders threatened with a couple of volleyed efforts and Vikings seemed to play on the break with Raiders leaving only a few tributaries as their last line of defence on several occasions.
A couple of players found the temptation to have a roll around in the water together too hard to resist and it was heart-warming to see how close Myles and Stefan wanted to get. Stefan clearly finding it difficult to stop playing the Casanova role that had dominated his weekend up to that point.
Despite the conditions, Raiders somehow found the 2 goals they needed to bring the game back level. The first being a scramble over the line from Stefan and the second a gem of an individual goal from Hoggy, who was able to keep the ball above sea level for a 30 yard dash before a classy finish into the portside of the net.
Hoggy’s late equaliser was the final touch in the game (wasn’t there still 10 minutes left?!) and led to penalties, with all the players who volunteered showing great bravery given the treacherous conditions. Once again, somebody with great knowledge and experience was overheard saying that “there is no shame if you miss a penalty in these conditions”; a true statement if ever there was one.
The only obvious help for both keepers was that the penalties were surely going to be hit high above the waves. Arjen, not wanting Mirko to be the only keeper in the squad to have 2 attempts of saving a penalty, was kind enough to give his opposite number a second chance of scoring his penalty, however our resident Italian failed to take advantage of the offer and sent it sailing too far above the waves. Raiders emerged victorious from the shootout thanks to successful penalties from Stefan, Chris and Florian. Misses for the Vikings from Miah (heee Miah Ohhhh), Myles (get well soon) & TipDawg contributed to the Raiders victory, but they can all take comfort from the previously mentioned overheard words of wisdom: “there is no shame if you miss a penalty in these conditions”.
Nothing else of note to talk about in the shootout…unless anyone wants a free football to play with? If so, apparently there is still one floating towards a goal line somewhere in D2. Someone didn’t get the “keep it above the waves” memo…