HIGHWAYMEN HANDED A HIDING
By tim walters
Herne Bay's 2s, sorry I mean 3s, no sorry, I really meant 4s give the Club six of the best
BEHC Highwaymen 0 Herne Bay Men's 4-ish 6
This fixture did have that feeling of inevitability about it, a bit like standing outside the headmaster's office in the days of Billy Bunter, awaiting the inevitable punishment administered via a thorough caning. Needless to say, the visitors from Herne Bay duly obliged, turning up in full strength for a fixture that would see them crowned as champions of Division 2, though to be frank, this particular outcome seemed a nailed-on certainty from the moment they "restructured" their playing squads back in November. The aggregate score over the two matches this season was 0-10, which just about sums up the ability gap between the two teams, though there has been much to admire in both the attitude and spirit of the losers in each of these hefty defeats. The pattern of both encounters was similar too, with Herne Bay out of sight by half-time, and BEHC making a courageous fist of things in a far more even second half. As it was, six of the best were duly administered, and a record league defeat for the team was duly avoided thanks to another stand-out display from keeper Tom Conway, who seems to get better week by week. And as always, the headmaster's uttered assurance to his imminent victim that "This is going to hurt me more than it does you" is complete nonsense. Herne Bay's internal disciplinary issues have seen a swathe of higher-team players put into detention in their 4s squad, which has now gone 12 unbeaten as it saunters off to the tuck shop in Division 1, where there don't at present appear to be any similar-sized bullies to stop the bandwagon.
There is no shame in losing to a better team, and Herne Bay are of course worthy winners of Division 2 in 2018-2019. The game itself was a close-run thing ... well it was up until the push-back at least. But joking aside, the visitors were able to pick off their opponents almost at will in the first half, constantly rotating substitutes, always seeming to have to have a spare man or two in attendance, and pulling the home team's narrow formation apart at the seams. However, the home side did their best to take the game to the visitors, with Ravi Wickramasuriya again making a number of strong runs into enemy territory, and Greg Dowse alongside Graham Green stemming the tide for long periods. Richard Cleall conjured up some Dumbledore-esque magic with his stick, even if forward progress was often at a premium, and sammy chana also put in some admirable covering throughout proceedings. Christian Manito came closest to scoring and looked the team's most likely option, particularly in the second half when the men in red were camped in the Herne Bay D for a number of short corners which the visiting keeper did well to repel. Matt Robinson and Pat Gainey did what they could in difficult circumstances, but goal chances were at a premium despite their best efforts.
The defence had a rather busy day in the staff room, often chasing shadows as well as real bodies, but Phil Kinch and Steve Miller never gave up the fight, and the whole team is to be thoroughly commended for not crumbling in the second half and therefore avoiding total humiliation on home soil. They uttered not a whimper of pain and resisted the temptation of sticking a copy of the Yellow Pages down the back of their shorts, taking the punishment and still coming back for more. The goal difference may have taking a bit of a mauling, but the badge and the the shirt came out of the ordeal greatly enhanced.
And just to prove that there is always some good news even as the last throbbing pains of having your backside handed to you are still much in evidence, the season is anything but over for the Highwaymen. It looked like defeat against Herne Bay would end the team's chances of finishing the season as runners-up, but now not so after yesterday's other results in Division 2. The Highwaymen can indeed end up either 4th or 3rd in the table, but if they win both of their remaining two fixtures, then second spot is now absolutely guaranteed. Burnt Ash and the Dynamos will be tricky opponents, but the possible outcome of the 2018-2019 season remains exactly as it was at 13.30 on Saturday - game on!
Now where did I leave my pea-shooter?
Tom Conway (GK), tim walters, Phil Kinch, Steve Miller, Richard Cleall, Greg Dowse, Christian Manito, Ravi Wickramasuriya, Graham Green, sammy chana, Pat Gainey, Matt Robinson, Chris Bernard and Stephen Gilbert (C).
Tom Conway - kept the score to single figures with a string of fine saves, and could do little about the ones that beat him. Another fine performance from the Highwaymen's keeper in a great personal season.
Seneka and a Herne bay representative both did a fine job in the blustery conditions, keeping the game moving and quelling the visitors' early attempts at a running commentary with the minimum of fuss.