St Peter's III 5 - 1 Queens III
The sweet smell of expectation (for once not down to the freshly washed kits) hung over Marston today for the match between a top-of-the-league Queens and second place St Peter's. Both sides saw record attendance, at least in terms of squad numbers – a reflection of the importance of the match to both teams. With Peter O'Connor having gone AWOL (rumours are suggesting he has flown back to Argentina to 'be with his family'), Hugo Gordon had his first start as captain of Peter's, looking to national compatriot Robbie Keane for inspiration.
It was St Peter's who came out of the blocks fastest. Just one minute into the game, Nathan Turner's corner somehow found the back of the net – despite a deflection, the Dubious Goal's Committee awarded the score to Turner after ruling that the ball was going in anyway. Just two minutes later, the unstoppable Daniel Dobrov somehow escaped three defenders before his deflected shot again whistled by the keeper. James Ghaffari, perhaps inspired by his '1970's fireman' moustache, was next on the score sheet, getting on the end of Tom Hobbs corner to rifle a half-volley into the net. All over the pitch the boys in green were dominant, with Adam Patrick pulling the strings in midfield, and Ramu Vathenen demonstrating again why some are ear-marking him as Ashley Cole's future replacement. But it was Dobrov again who finished off an extraordinary twenty minutes for Peter's after meeting yet another corner with a rocket off a far-post header to make it 4-0.
Unsurprisingly, such a start could not be maintained, and the rest of the half was fairly even, with few clear cut chances on either side. Many teams, having suffered such a poor start, would have given up. But Queens continued battling, at one point only denied by the woodwork. Their never-say-die attitude was eventually rewarded with a goal as the half wore on. But it was definitely Peter's who went into the half time break happiest.
However, when Queens re-emerged from the tunnel, it was like they were a different team. Demonstrating why they had gone into the game at the top of the league, they laid siege to the Peter's goal. Only staunch defending from the likes of Patrick Reihill (whose return to the lineup 'delighted the fans'), Rich Gallon and Rob Yates kept them out. And while Tom 'Brick Wall' Lewis may have given himself the moniker, he more than earned the name, providing a truly safe pair of hands in goal. Thanks to these stern defensive efforts, Peter's were able to withstand the pressure, and as the half wore on, a raft of fresh faces once again turned the tide in their favour. Keir and David were rocks in defence, Theo Barry-Born and Yatu Yoga raced up the wings, and Nick Talbot and Mark Whitgift were commanding presences in midfield. Kimmy Tang-Wright was twice unlucky not to score – a goal was ruled out for offside before his shot cannoned off the post into the relieved Queens keeper's arms.
Gordon's decision to substitute top goalscorer Dobrov with an out-of-position Will Scargill raised eyebrows, but the young man from Stoke soon rewarded his captain's confidence in him by heading in from close range to earn his first goal for his college five minutes from time.
The final scoreline was perhaps unjust on a Queens side who deserved more, but Peter's were ultimately deserving winners. Fortress Marston still stands. And now top of the league, undefeated and having taken 15 points from 15 so far this season, perhaps the dream of promotion does not look so distant.