Skipper: Tom Holmes
Player of the Year: Tim Neville
Where did it all go wrong?
A harsh question that. With a comfortable top half finish in the bag and a cup giant killing achieved!
And, though Tom Watkins has probably claimed otherwise, no members of the 9s team have been found in bed with Miss World this season. Still, for those closely involved it is hard to look back on the season without a sense of ‘if only’.
It possibly went wrong in about the 75th minute of a tight opening fixture with eventual champions Wilsonians. With the score at 0-0, a drilled cross pinballed around the Poly box and eventually went in off a shinpad to break the deadlock. The Poly then threw everything into getting an equaliser, but as so often happens, the visitors were able to break twice in the last 2 minutes and give themselves an undeserved 3-0 first day win.
It started off a poor autumn in the SAL, with a mixture of bad luck and off days meaning the lads got to Christmas with only 3 points on the board from a whipping of the whipping boys, HSBC. So let’s skip that for now and talk cups. After easily dispatching a chaotic Old Parms side in the AFA first round, the SAL cup gave us a tough draw away at HSBC 7s, runaway leaders of the division above us.
And cups draws having a sense of humour, the AFA set us up to face the same opposition at Chiswick 2 weeks later.
At HSBC the lads performed creditably and matched the home side for possession but couldn’t find a way past a tight home defence and outstanding keeper, eventually succumbing 0-3 to more late counterattacks.
At home though, facing a different custodian, we smelt the opportunity for revenge. O’Beirne turned home an early Poly corner and a Watkins penalty gave us breathing space soon after, but we then had to battle desperately for what must have been close on 80 minutes to hold on to that lead. But hold it we did and the high-flying visitors, who were to only drop 3 points in their division up until late April, rarely looked like finding a way through. The cup run went no further than a battling surrender to another more highly ranked set of opponents (Old Meads), but it gave us a welcome morale boost at a time when luck, real or manufactured, wasn’t going our way.
New Year, New Purpose
To say we ‘turned things around’, or even ‘bounced back’ doesn’t really do justice to the early part of 2013. A messy, but just about deserved, 2-1 victory over the 8th team in the first game of the year lit the fuse. We then won seven league matches on the spin, with gritty 2-1 and 1-0 victories over Civil Service and BB Eagles the most satisfying, whilst high scoring wins over the division’s weaker teams had us doing our sums to see how we might catch the division’s top two.
But it was not to be. An off day against the 8s in early March gave them revenge and burst our bubble. More weather interruptions and injuries took the edge off our performances and the season finished with dampness befitting the climate most of it had been played in.
If we started on a downbeat note, let’s finish up on a high. Compared to other Poly sides this season was uneventful. In Premier League 2012-13 terms, we were probably West Brom, never in any real danger at the bottom nor at any risk at the higher end, despite brief flirtations with both. But there are other ways to measure success. The team spirit and bonding was excellent throughout the season.
There was new blood in the form of Grant Paling and Sean O’Beirne, excellent additions to the squad, whilst established players like Barry O’Connor, Tim Neville, Dan Jansepar and Jay Holmes had probably their best seasons. Danny Louki returned, older and tougher from his tour of duty in Mansingh’s squad and most hearteningly, former player of the year Rob Holmes Reed reappeared, 2 years after a serious skiing injury threatened to end his football career – and quickly looked like he had never been away. And last but not least, the old dogs – names withheld to spare the guilty – still found they had a bit of footballing life left in them.
So could we make it easier to sex up the 2013-14 writeup by going on to win something next year?
You bet we are going to try. Bring it on!