MY GREATEST GAME #5

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MY GREATEST GAME: Eastfield Reserves vs West Pier Reserves, 2001

LEAGUE: SCARBOROUGH SATURDAY LEAGUE DIVISION TWO

WORDS: PAUL ROMANS

ILLUSTRATION: MILLIE CHESTERS

My greatest game? As much as I enjoyed this one, it might not have been the first that sprung to mind if asked this question a few years ago. A night game at the end of the season against a side who had already won the league and every single game along the way, looking to add us to their list of hapless victims. We had a decent team, but it was always a bit of a mixed bag from week to week, depending on who turned up – so you can imagine how many cried off for this one. 

Somehow, we pulled together a rag-tag of eleven men, consisting mainly of defenders (eight, if I remember correctly, including the lad who played in goal). Among the eleven was my very good friend Mark Lawson, who hadn’t played for around a year, but he was back home from uni so I managed to drag him along. As I went to the same uni a few months later I tried to drag him along to trials there, too, but he made the decision that it was more fun to watch me run whilst he sat and relaxed as if at an Amsterdam café. 

So there we were, eleven lads thrown together for the most part, including Lawson who was probably wondering why he’d bothered once I’d finally told him the situation and who we were playing – not quite the evening kickabout I promised. He was playing centre-back alongside Macco, who himself was partial to a cigarette that might help him relax before kick-off, and as neither of them were blessed with pace, we decided together that we’d hold a line roughly around our 18-yard box and see how it went from there. 

As it turned out, our tactics of having eight defenders staying as deep and compact as possible became quite frustrating for the table-toppers. Everything that went in the air – BANG – headed away by Lawson or Macco, two lads who definitely knew what they were good at. Bodies were thrown in front of anything going towards our goal, which was basically everything, as possession was not going to happen with me. I’m a full-back through and through and was joined by another full-back in the middle of the park. Anything that got past Lawson and Macco was stopped brilliantly by Sheads (or Big Fat Sheads, as he is now known), our young centre-back who’d reluctantly donned the gloves. Then, on a rare foray into the opposition half late in the game, we nicked one courtesy of the enigmatic Leo Morton, himself home from uni as well. Twenty more minutes of the Alamo (one for the kids there) and we’d seen it through with the best scoreline in football, a hard-fought 1-0 win. 

I played many games with Lawson before this, but I never played with him again. He was never interested in uni football, with its ties and drinking games, despite all of my attempts to get him there, and he suffered from a viral attack on his heart a few years later which massively impacted his health. He was an inspiration on the pitch when I played with him, particularly that night: twenty years old, hadn’t played in a year and an absolute rock. He was an inspiration off it too, grateful for every day amongst his health issues. Mark passed away unexpectedly in August 2019 at the age of thirty-eight, just weeks after being told there was the potential of a brighter future and recovery from his heart issues. Twenty-two years of friendship with a great bloke that started with this great game, the last time I got to experience being on the pitch with him. That’s my greatest game.

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