It’s a strange, topsy-turvy world. In a week when we bade farewell to two very different and sometimes polarising historical figures in the forms of legendary diplomat Henry Kissinger and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan this fact was in focus more than ever. There is something deeply intriguing about the perceived importance of both. One the architect of some of the most important decisions in global political history and the other a genuine icon of Rock and Roll excess. Two ends of the spectrum of humanity, and yet somehow both significant in their own way. And this gulf of what it means to be human and subsequent rollercoaster of emotion also extends its tendrils, certainly at least for my own current purposes, into the world of Under 14s football. Bear with me…I’m sure I've got a point to make here somewhere…
For TAFC Lightning last week didn’t go so well. Any hopes of another thrilling cup run were dashed brutally, and yet the previous week they had played some sublime football and come away with a 6-0 win against the same side that they would meet again today, Reigate Priory Youth Harriers. The rollercoaster ride was in full swing, and what goes up, must come down, and then must come back up again, so, as the team assembled in Reigate there was a palpable hope that another victory should be on the cards.
With some late withdrawals due to illness and injury, Lightning were left without the luxury of any substitutes, and as Shane MacGowan himself once sang “Now the winter comes down, I can't stand the chill”. The weather was indeed bitterly cold and, as a result, no one was complaining about having to play the full 70 minutes - at least everyone would be able to keep warm.
Lightning lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Samuel between the sticks, a back four made up of George on the right, Chris and Daniel W in the middle and Jake on the left, sporting a brand new brutal buzz cut that brought to mind David Beckham running out against Leicester City in March 2000. The midfield was comprised of Sam on the left, Jack on the right and Joseph in the middle and the front three was made up of Stanley on the right, Stefanos on the left and Vansh in the middle. Game on!
Obviously mindful of the threat that Lightning presented following the last meeting of these sides, Reigate started strongly, forcing Teddington onto the back foot early doors. Samuel made an excellent early save and the Harriers won a brace of corners, both of which were defended successfully. Lightning then found their composure and Jack went on a fantastic run, only to push his shot agonisingly wide of the Reigate far post. The game continued in an end to end fashion and Stefanos nearly found a way through the defence but was repelled.
Lightning were looking lively and Jack continued to battle away. Vansh then got a chance from distance but fired it inches over the bar but then Jack got another bite of the proverbial cherry and this time kept his composure excellently to guide it into the back of the Reigate net and put Lightning 1-0 up. With danders firmly up, Teddington continued to apply the pressure and then an inspired ball from Jack found Stefanos who made good on his promise made in the car on the way to the match that he would score a goal today by netting Teddington’s second.
At the other end of the pitch Daniel W made a heroic goal line clearance to spare Samuel some blushes and Stefanos made another good break, but couldn’t find a way though. Then, however, Stanley got a chance in front of goal and saw it home to make it 3-0 to Lightning. This was more like it! The ghosts of last week’s horror show were definitely being exorcized.
Reigate fought back but their shot went wide and George continued to channel his inner Kyle Walker at right back to prevent any further incursions down the left hand side. As the whistle blew for half time the three goal lead was both welcome and thoroughly deserved. But as we all know from bitter experience this was a game that was far from over!
Half Time – Reigate Priory Youth Harriers 0-3 Teddington Athletic Lightning
Lightning began the second half with the same alacrity and intent that they had shown in the first and the ball fell to Sam who, obviously somewhat too keen to get his name on the scoresheet, launched one from distance that flew dramatically into row Z. However, Jack then got another break and executed an absolutely poetic feint as he approached the Harriers’ keeper to take it around him and plant it into the back of the net and put Teddington 4-0 up. Samuel made two more good saves at the other end as he tried to cling on to his clean sheet. Joseph attempted to recreate his Jude Bellingham effort from two weeks ago, firing one from well outside the area, but his aim, this time, was sadly not as true. Then, the Harriers got a break and struck one past Samuel to make it 4-1.
Teddington continued to battle away. With a faint sniff of a comeback, Reigate began to shoot on sight, which actually played into Lightning’s hands as all their attempts were repeatedly off target. Lightning then broke through the Reigate defence again and Jack put another into the back of the net only to be cruelly denied by the opposition linesman, whose outspoken confidence in his own interpretation of the offside rule was not necessarily shared by anyone else, apart perhaps from the opposition’s manager. This was followed by another offside decision that, in the absence of VAR, we’ll have to just add to the ‘questionable’ pile, but as Teddington legs started to tire, it was the impetus Reigate needed to break again and score another to bring the score line to 4-2.
Twenty five minutes were left to play and it looked like the early confidence that had been felt by the Teddington Faithful was destined to be tested! Reigate had another chance that went over the bar, but George and Stanley were linking up well on the right and Jake was piling in with genuine intent to thwart any further Harriers’ attacks on the left. Jack was caught offside again, although this time he actually was offside. Chris continued to defend strongly and calmly but then Daniel W, who had man-marked the Harriers’ number 3 excellently all game, unfortunately brought him down in the box and a penalty was awarded to Reigate. The penalty was subsequently scored and with a mere four minutes left on the clock, bums were starting to get somewhat squeaky.
The time ticked gradually down, but right at the death Reigate won a corner. As the ball flew into the box, Samuel got fingertips to it and Joseph headed it away to deny the Harriers an equaliser and Jake hoofed the ball off the pitch as the final whistle blew. Lightning had done it! They had put in an admirable battling performance to hang on to the victory and were back to winning ways. Another three points had been chalked up and some really good football had added another chapter to their history. As Henry Kissinger once said “History knows no resting places and no plateaus”…but I think we all know what he was actually saying…Onwards and Upwards!
Full Time – Reigate Priory Youth Harriers 3-4 Teddington Athletic Lightning
Goals – Jack (15’, 47’), Stefanos (19’), Stanley (28’)
Player of the match – Joseph – Fought like a lion and never gave up.