NO QUARTER GIVEN AS HIGHWAYMAN FINISH THIRD (AGAIN!)
By tim walters
As you were, gentlemen, in "A tale of two keepers" ...
BEHC Highwaymen 1 BEHC Dynamos 1
With the wisdom of hindsight, the result of the final match of the season should have been no surprise for any number of reasons. This was the third time in the past four seasons where the Highwaymen have drawn fixture number 18, and the third time in four years where the team has finished third in the table as a result. On all three of these occasions, three other teams have been the beneficiaries of these home draws - two from Holcombe and one from Burnt Ash - who each respectively ended up in second place as a result. And as if to emphasise the point, three of the last four league encounters between the Highwaymen and the Dynamos have ended up as 1-1 draws too.
So was it a case of disappointment or achievement at the end of a long, hard season which saw the teams end up 3rd and 4th in the table, exactly as they had been a week earlier? In truth, probably a bit of both, although the Highwaymen will look back at two narrow 0-1 defeats on their travels, both to goals in the last five minutes, and some truly twisted umpiring at Marden as the real reasons for not securing the runners-up slot with games to spare. A draw was certainly a fair outcome against a very strong Dynamos team that only contained a mere four starters from the previous week-end's match, which just goes to show how much Club members enjoy the prospect of turning over the BEHC legends of the Highwaymen. However, it is to their huge credit that the men in red never gave up, battled to the end, and could have even won the match just as easily as they might have lost it.
That neither of these eventualities came to pass was a direct result of the two goalkeepers. The Dynamos had James Kelly on loan, and he showed why he normally plays four teams higher with a series of great stops, particularly with his left kicker during a series of short corners in the second half. At the other end, however, man-of-the-match and Highwaymen regular Tom Conway put in an even better display, stopping everything in sight, making a brilliant one-on-one save to deny visiting striker Andy Cooke, and shovelling everything to safety via stick, mitt and kicker. He could do nothing about the unfortunate deflection that set up an easy tap-in for the visitors on 16 minutes, but was definitely starting to suffer from the effects of dehydration in the warm and sticky conditions as the game wore on. Eye witnesses thought they heard a slight hissing noise, akin to the opening of a pressure cooker, when he took his helmet off in the second half for a glug of water, but he returned refreshed to the fray regardless.
Midfield stalwarts Greg Dowse and Graham Green rounded off fine personal seasons with trademark displays, and the team was also able to welcome back Andy Rose after a long injury lay-off which meant the team had been deprived of his services since the second half of January. With Christian Manito lining up alongside him, this gave the home team a strong midfield quartet which was tested to the limit in the opening quarter, as the home side were pressed back inside their own half by the dominant Dynamos. But parity was eventually restored against the run of play by a gem of a goal, a pinpoint thread-needle pass by Mark Ainley slicing open the visitors' rearguard for striker Matt Robinson to sweep home the ball first time from the left-hand edge of the D. This signalled a slight change in the balance of power, although chances were at a premium until half-time as the score remained 1-1.
The home teams's best period of play came in the third quarter, as the Highwaymen were able to get Pat Gainey and sammy chana more involved in pushing forward, the former leading the line well, but often without much support. Ben Corsie did well again, his industry up and down the right flank helping to compensate for the lack of Mssrs. Wickramasuriya and Baker, but the result was still in the balance thanks to the Dynamos' keeper. With the game getting more and more stretched, the smart money was on the younger, faster, fitter Dynamos forcing the break, which, but for the heroics of the home goalie and the intervention of the right-hand post, looked increasingly likely. To their immense credit, the home defence never crumbled, with Richard Cleall and Phil Kinch once again showing why the team had the second-best defensive record in the division after runaway winners Herne Bay. A succession of short corners was conceded late on, as the number one runner took a battering, but still the thin red line held on. As the last of these dribbled harmlessly wide, the final whistle blew on a memorable season, and keeper Tom Conway dribbled down prostrate onto the LMG astroturf.
And so ended another tremendous season, where interest was kept alive till the last minute of the last game, and the Highwaymen achieved their highest ever league placing in the Kent Open divisions. But for injuries and misfortune the team would certainly have managed to finish second, but all credit to the hard-core 8-9 virtually ever-present squad numbers who contested a total of 25 competitive fixtures, including 7 friendlies, and represented the Club with pride, passion and dignity throughout.
And none of this would have been possible without the huge amount of work, week-in, week-out, from captain Stephen Gilbert, a man who has probably got a BEHC badge engraved on his heart and soul, and who always manages to get a full squad out on Saturdays, and a very happy one with excellent team spirit at that.
And to everybody's relief, team correspondent "The Scribe" must reluctantly now put down his quill pen for the next five months, whilst researching even more meaningless trivia for the 2019-2020 season.
Have a great summer.
Tom Conway (G), Phil Kinch, Richard Cleall, tim walters, Greg Dowse, Christian Manito, Andy Rose, sammy chana, Ben Corsie, Matt Robinson, Mark Ainley, Graham Green, Pat Gainey and Stephen Gilbert .
Tom Conway - he kept the team in it, in particular during the first 10 minutes and the final quarter of an hour, although he was not exactly idle during the 50 minutes in between! His reading of tight angles and one-on-ones gets better all the time, and he has turned in stand-out performances all season.
Annette Christie-Golding and Seneka officiated fairly and evenly, as always, in a fiercely competitive, but sporting encounter, where both teams went for it. The plethora of cards against the home team may give the impression of an overtly physical affair, but it was not, and certainly the majority of decisions just seemed to go with the visitors on the day.