HIGHWAYMEN DO IT FOR DAVID
Gallant Club men serve up a low calorie victory
BEHC Highwaymen 1 Canterbury Friars 0
The Highwaymen may now be fairly cantering over the horizon with the Division 3 trophy and a 9 point lead at the top of the table, but this was a bit more of a controlled trot in pace terms. Stripped of the pace and panache of the missing duo of Green and Wickramasuriya, and again with no Andy Rose in the centre of midfield, this was always going to be a tough assignment against a Canterbury Friars team who are as good as anyone in the division and gave Saturday's hosts two extremely tough matches in 2017-2018. The men in green and white must truly hate the sight of the BEHC red shirt, having succumbed to four single goal defeats against both the Highwaymen and Dynamos this season, but that just underlines how narrow the margins have been in a very competitive and even league since early October.
Fortunately Sammy Chana was back for this game - despite a quick detour to LMG via A&E - and the team were also able to call on the services of Phil Goode following the late withdrawals from the squad. But a balanced menu this was most certainly not, and master-chef Mark Ainley had to be very creative with the ingredients at his disposal, deploying central defender Steve Miller as a right-sided midfielder, where he absolutely excelled throughout, and even moving the resurgent Pat Gainey to a right-wing berth in the second-half, a subtle adjustment to the seasoning which reaped considerable benefits as he repeatedly grilled the Canterbury left-back. Prior to that, the mix had been a tad stodgy, with too many moves crumbling centrally and in urgent need of a bit of spice to liven them up. To his eternal credit Matt Robinson did indeed oblige on this front, turning in a strong-running and pacey performance, particularly in a superb first half where his speed of foot and thought consistently caught the eye. The unrelated Peter Robinson put in a decent midfield shift too, alongside a sufficiently overworked, but highly impressive, Greg Dowse, who eventually hat to retire to the bench with cramp after threatening to get a saggy bottom whilst lying prone on the Eltham College astroturf.
The stalwarts of the team, the men who have been in the Highwaymen's kitchen from the very outset of the team's league career, were at last able to savour a game where they took to the field as champions, and huge credit is due to the evergreen duo of captain Stephen Gilbert and his Michelin 4-star side-kick Richard Cleall. Oddly enough, the statisticians came up with an interesting fact covering the team's league record: prior to this season, the Highwaymen had never been involved in a 1-0 result, and this has now happened twice, yesterday's win following up on the season's sole reverse by a similar score-line at Herne Bay.
But once again, hats off to the at times hard-pressed defence who somehow managed another shut out. Phil Kinch had a fine game at right-back, putting in some great blocks and using the ball extremely well in possession, and it is no coincidence that when you have a class player in the centre of defence like Matt Wilde, the opposition have to feed off a strictly low-calorie diet - his record for the Highwaymen this season? Played: 3; goals conceded: 0. 'Nuff said. Equally responsible for the clean sheet on Saturday was the brilliant Tom Conway, who pulled off a couple of great saves, both made to look less spectacular only by his excellent positioning and good decision making. His speed off the line cut out further danger on another couple of occasions, and he has had a fantastic season, as the "goals against" column in the league table testifies. Like a classy bottle of claret hidden in the chef's pantry, he has gotten better and better over time this season, maturing into a potential early vintage, and earning his man-of-the-match award with an appellation controlée label to boot.
And the only goal when it came? A trademark short-corner bullet from Phil Goode which beat everyone on the stroke on the half-time - really just food and drink to him!
And so now ensues a two-week wait for the final league match of 2017-2018 which will decide the runners-up slot in an absolutely unforgettable season for all involved.
Amateur sport has the ability to take its participants to a different place in life, where teamwork, equality and winning are all that matters for the duration of a match, but where the final result, the personal grievances and the individual aggression matter not one bit upon retiring to the bar. This also means that real "teams" do not forget the tribulations of former colleagues, and it was with considerable sadness that the squad learnt about the tragic circumstances in David Hayter's family from Stephen Gilbert just before the push-back.
We wish David and his family well at this most difficult time ... yesterday's win was for him, and it was in many ways highly appropriate that the victory bore many of his trademark hallmarks.
Tom Conway, Tim Walters, Matt Wilde, Phil Kinch, Richard Cleall, Phil Goode, Steve Miller, Sammy Chana, Stephen Gilbert (C), Greg Dowse, Peter Robinson, Pat Gainey and Matt Robinson.
Tom Conway - fantastic performance from a great keeper and a genuinely classy human being.
Both Seneka and Annette Golding whistled with aplomb, serving up a excellent two-course banquet of umpiring, nipping any dissenting customers in the bud whilst keeping their menu cards in their pockets. Very, very good indeed.