Hambledon Reserves 4 Keens Park Rangers Reserves 3
Goals: Seamus Leonard hat-trick
Bookings: James Mullins
Man of the match: the team
It is hard to decide who, exactly, had the worst day after this undeserved defeat but as much as the post-match beers weren’t quite as sweet as usual it has to be a toss-up between co-manager James ‘Mungo’ Blackburn and James ‘Mark Thatcher’ Mullins.
Events began to disintegrate long before kick-off when keeper Mullins’ gear box went ‘bang’ ten minutes after leaving the house. For those who don’t know him ‘Thatch’ (a joke for you younger readers) works in the car business and is usually seen in an array of swanky, but highly impractical, sports cars so this caused great amusement until Mungo realized he might have to reprise his role between the sticks.
“Slip, slap, sloppy”
But while Mullins waited for the AA Mungo was also waiting for a number of outfield players to turn up. While most of the stragglers arrived, Radu announced via text that he couldn’t make it only half an hour before kick off! This meant a hasty re-shuffle of the available deck that saw Dan Way go in goal and Seamus Leonard promoted to the starting eleven. Having had a full complement his now left a solitary substitute in Liam Harrison who reluctantly ran the line in the heat.
As bad as things were in the build-up the game itself was going quite well against a side vying for the league title. The ressies – Callum Toone in particular – were defending well against the pace of the Hambledon forwards but their pace proved too much for Mungo who pulled his hamstring. The only person ‘happy’ with this was Harrison who gleefully handed lino duties to a grumpy Tigger.
Unlike Tig, Ryan ‘Chinga’ Mitchell was enjoying himself down the wing and he was unlucky, having sold the defender a good dummy, to hit the crossbar. It was looking like it might not be the ressies day as it was then midfielder Tommy ‘factor 15’ Newell’s turn to get injured having twisted his ankle. But with no substitutes left he had to stay on the field and swapped places with Way in goal.
Incredibly, for all the chaos, the ressies then took the lead after some strong play from Jonathan O’Shea created a chance for Leonard who hit a lovely shot from the edge of the area into the top corner.
Poor old Mungo did not get to witness any of this and he’d gone to swap places with Mullins so he could get to the ground and before he’d arrived things got even better for the ressies. A ball behind the defence was allowed to bounce and, having beaten the defender for pace, Leonard lobbed the keeper to make it two-nil at half time.
By now Mullins had turned up in Mungo’s car and re-claimed his spot in goal. All that was required was a clean sheet and the ressies were home and dry but a matter of minutes into the second half Mullins’ day got worse when he gave away a penalty just after O’Shea had missed an excellent opportunity to make it three-nil.
This setback aside the ressies were still the better team and the third goal arrived after a stupendous cross field ball from Chinga found Way who lobbed the ball into the six yard box to find Leonard who out jumped the defence to head the ball in. The supporters, including a battered and bruised Leonard senior, were cock-a-hoop and, surely, matters would continue to go the ressies way?
And they did, until the last twenty minutes when a combination of Hambledon’s fitness, the ressies inability to retain possession in the oppositions half and the referee’s 20-20 ‘vision’ saw the game turn on its head.
The second goal in an improbable comeback was, from the ressies’ perspective, most unfortunate as a long throw that had been missed by everyone in the box hit Adam ‘pumping serious iron’ East on his clearly overdeveloped chest and went inside the far post. Then the referee, unlike everyone else it seemed, decided that Mullins had saved a shot from distance that had sailed over the bar. And yet, as poor a decision that may have been there was little excuse for the ressies to still be moaning about it when the corner was taken giving a Hambledon player a free header.
If not dropping, KPR heads were now wobbling and passes were no longer finding their intended destination. Ultimately, the inevitable happened when a decent move down the right flank was placed, despite Mullins getting a hand to it, into the far post.
The frustration was beyond tangible and one had to feel for all the players who had put in such a good performance under the circumstances. Newell and East have sunburn to contend with and Mullins has a new gearbox to pay for along with his booking but, maybe, we should all feel extra sorry for the limping Mungo who had arrived back at the ground just in time to witness the final indignities?
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