After a successful start to the season the previous Saturday, it was less so this last weekend, but no less enjoyable. With uncertainty around the longevity of the season with Covid closing in again, we’re just making the most of it while we can. It all kicked off with the early game at West Epping Oval, with its space-age facilities, the 15s blessed with early 8.30am kick offs every week.
It was a wet start to the day, but West Ryde Rovers 15/1 were off and running, surprising their illustrious opponents Epping FC and taking a deserved 1-0 lead. Parity was restored at the break and the home team pressed home their superiority to take the lead. A comedy send off – a yellow for mocking an opponent and then another for kicking the ball away – gave Rovers some hope, and their numerical advantage saw them press, a penalty awarded with minutes remaining. Rovers were already planning their assault on the goal for the final few minutes to grab a winner, but hadn’t counted on missing the penalty. The ten men of Epping then danced upfield and in a three on one situation, grabbed a third. Great performance from the Rovers though, they really gave Epping a fright.
With Zach off refereeing for the rest of the day, all eyes turned to the Over 35s, and their home game with North Epping on the hallowed LH Waud turf. LH Waud is named after the founder of West Ryde Rovers, and his daughter Karen still turns out for the club in her 60s. Playing on that field is always special, but this one was a tough day at the office.
The Rovers started slowly, and playing four at the back, found themselves swamped in midfield. One goal down at the break, the team reverted to the usual three at the back and got more into the game. A hatful of chances to both teams were wasted before an own goal made it two and West Ryde were out of it. It took a couple of beers for the smiles to return and Rusty’s variety esky was emptied as the Covid marshal patrolled.
Saturday night was a rare opportunity to take in a 9.30pm kick off at Cheers Bar for Watford v Newcastle, shouting obscenities at a TV screen surrounded by fellow Toon fans. Met Paul (I think it’s Paul) and his son Sam who were down from the Central Coast for the game. Turns out he was a member of the East Midlands supporters club just before the time when I was travelling to Toon away games with the same mob. We knew the same names and had very similar experiences. He also scored a copy of Jarrod Black Guilty Party and got a signature in it too. He’s going to love the book, it will be right up his alley. Anyway, Newcastle put in a good first half to comfortably lead at half time and then threw it all away in an abject second half that saw Watford win via two penalties. Poor!
Sunday morning saw Aurelia resume her GSAP season in a hard fought 1-1 draw at Christie Park, the home of North West Sydney Football, Gladesville Ravens and Eastern Suburbs sharing the spoils. They were good value for their lead before trying to play out a little too slowly from the back and were pegged back, a draw the right result. Zach had another two ref games – he’s discovered his need for money – and he finished as I arrived for my appointment. Over 30 division 3 women, Putney Rangers against West Ryde Rovers, again at LH Waud. It was surprisingly warm, a storm due later in the day, and both teams had only one sub. What followed was a tense battle, Putney always too lively for the Rovers, and 2-0 was a deserved result. You always know the players are finding it tough when they’re asking you how long left after ten minutes of the second half. The game after was played in monsoon conditions – got lucky there!
That was the weekend over and done with, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. A photo popped in my inbox from Jules, wandering around our mutual home town of Morpeth in Northumberland with a trio of Unashamed Football Novels.
It is always an absolute pleasure to see a photo of a book on location, this one was special. I used to go with my Dad to Storey Park to watch Morpeth Town back in their Northern Alliance days. Admission money was paid in a glass vase and it was proper grass roots football. Now the club has risen through the ranks and plays its football at Craik Park, where I used to turn out for Morpeth Villa Juniors, the field surrounded by a black cinder track, home of the Morpeth Harriers running club. Morpeth took out the FA Vase in 2016, a national competition for clubs of a certain level, and the whole town cheered them on at Wembley to success. I also used to work with Donny Carmen, up at Temple’s farm in Hepscott. He has the stand named after him at Craik Park and was a real character around town. Thanks for the blast from the past Jules!
Midweek saw Aurelia’s training called off after the East Coast low dumped a load of rain on Sydney, but somehow the 35s training still went ahead at Meadowbank Park. A sloppy field didn’t detract from a good run around to keep the body supple ahead of the weekend. Aurelia was away so missed training on Thursday for the Ravens, but Zach had training for the Rovers 15s, and extensive penalty training after the weekend’s events! Then it was off to Olympic Park, to Sydney Football Centre where the Sons of Pitches defeated the Legends 4-1 to record their first win in six to reignite their finals hopes. Always good to chew the fat afterwards over a quality beer, good men-time, good for the soul. Very late finish though, eating dinner at 10.30pm.
Aurelia was back for Coerver training on the Friday, ahead of a blank weekend for GSAP – somehow they have three byes this season – bit of a kick in the teeth after waiting so long for the season to get underway. Sydney FC got the A League back underway with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over the Phoenix. Zach has a game and then back-to-back AR appointments from 11am this Saturday. Then it’s Over 35s in the afternoon, one more AR stint for Zach on Sunday and one for me to finish the weekend off. This is what it’s all about. Football is back and we hope it’s here to stay. Up the Rovers!