LOST TANGO IN DARTFORD
The future’s bright … the future’s orange!
Burnt Ash Men’s 6s 0 BOEHC Highwaymen 2
As Alan Hansen once said after the first game of the season, “You’ll never win anything with kids” … although the Manchester United team in question went on to actually win the Premiership title that year. Such lofty goals might be beyond this particular vintage of the BEHC Highwaymen, but it was great to welcome back the perennial youngsters, Graham Green and Pat Gainey into the fold for the first time in over a year, even if it meant that the average age of the squad did tip over the 29 mark as a result. Burnt Ash usually provide the first opposition of the season by means of a pre-season friendly, although this year – thanks to the vagaries of the fixture list – they are also back at College Meadow for the first league fixture in three weeks’ time, following their relegation back into Division 3 after a winless season one level higher in 2016-2017. That particular match will of course be on home turf, which means that the hosts have yet to see the bright new “red” playing shirt with more than a hint of orange in it. But the question before the September friendly was rather one of who was going to get “Tango-ed” first this year, even if the Highwaymen were rocking up in white away shirts on this occasion.
The team had a distinctly familiar look about it, with 8 of the starting 12 from last season’s final game taking to the field, although keeper Tom Conway must now feel a bit like the one lone helper in a care home. At least he had the familiar forms of the evergreen Phil Kinch and Steve Miller in front of him in defence, whilst Chris Bernard and Greg Dowse took up the wide berths either side of the four diamond geezers in the ………. errrrr ….. midfield diamond: Richard Cleall, Ravi Wickramasuriya and the aforementioned workhorses, the “GGs”, Mssrs. Green and Gainey. This left captain Stephen Gilbert and Raj Sphull as the out-and-out forwards, the former having mined a rich seam of form during the summer season on grass. On paper the squad looked less full of “pace” than it did “pacemaker”, but this did not stop the BEHC Heathens from borrowing three of the squad for their own pre-season friendly beforehand. There is not always a great amount of mobility in the team at the best of times, even less of upward mobility of individual players to higher squads at the Club, although one exception is Josh Clark, who probably thought he had left the Highwaymen behind for good before three of them lined up alongside him for the midday pushback.
As for the game itself, it was certainly as competitive as any league fixture, and the visitors could, and should, have found the back of the net on more than just two occasions, as both the numbers of shots taken and short corners won hit double figures. There was plenty of fine build-up play, with fine cameos from a number of players, but it was the backbone of the team that caught the eye, especially Steve Miller and Richard Cleall, though two of the wide men, Graham Green and Greg Dowse also put in outstanding displays, the former deservedly winning the man-of-the-match plaudits, the latter – in his second match of the day – scoring the vital second goal to calm the jitters in the second half. Pat Gainey had already flashed a shot narrowly wide of the left-hand post before making sure 60 seconds later to give the Highwaymen the lead halfway through the first half, but for the next half-hour the visitors’ finishing did anything but match up to some highly inventive approach work.
But overall this was good stuff from a squad which may have a better idea of its available resources within the next week or so, although it is a shame that there is no further friendly fixture before live hostilities start in earnest on October 7. It could well be that the old advertising slogan was right: “The future’s bright, the future’s orange!”
Tom Conway (GK), Tim Walters, Steve Miller, Phil Kinch, Richard Cleall, Chris Bernard, Ravi Wickramasuriya, Greg Dowse, Graham Green, Pat Gainey, Raj Sphull and Stephen Gilbert (C).
Graham Green – the mercurial “GG” himself, showed his thoroughbred class after a lengthy absence, particularly in a classy second-half performance.
Both from Burnt Ash, and really good and fair to the two teams throughout proceedings.