Manor Youth 2 – 4 Kensington Dragons U14 Eagles
If your pampered Prem star fancies a winter break then he can always join the Harrow Youth League where snow and rain had seen off two key fixtures in as many weekends. But whether £100,000-a-week would have bought you half the spirit we saw on Sunday is quite another matter.
After ten minutes we were two goals to the good and getting better – which was when the opposition’s tetchy goal-keeping colossus decided to intervene, colliding with our gliding striker to put him out of the game. No red card, no penalty, just a beautifully struck free kick which the marauding man-mountain, this time alert to the difference between man and ball, tipped over the bar. It was a sequence of events to crush many a workaday team. How do you manage a physical side for over an hour a key man down and no subs to ease the pressure? Simply produce the finest passage of play yet seen by the Eagles management on the playing fields of West London, forcing two more goals and countless saves from the beleaguered leviathan between the sticks.
The second half told a different story, with the opposition pushing their bruising behemoth up to the Manor Youth front line. A lucky strike and an off-side mix up meant our lead was suddenly cut to two – and for a moment all our class and graft seemed to tilt in the balance. Could we hold out against the odds? Would this routine match, suddenly transformed into one of our most heroic displays, have one more sting in its itchy tail? Your average Prem star, with his cash already banked, would have baulked at the task before him. But not your Eagles, not your men of mighty spirit who took knocks to knees and heads and legs in the defence not just of a lead in a football match, but of values we have now come to embody each and every weekend: spirit, defiance and, that most precious virtue of all, imagination. In the face of an impetuous Manor Youth, Dragons Wisdom and Spirit prevailed. Surely a victory for all who love this strange and wonderful game.