Willand vs Bemerton Heath Harlequins
I have a theory I’ve been ruminating over the last few days.
If you were brought up watching football in the pre-Premier League era, the chances are that you only recall three kinds of players.
For those of us who languished in the TV dormant era of the 1980’s and beyond, the first are those players who were so good that they transcended the footballing world into the national psyche; players that are still lauded today by Generation Z fans as being some of the world’s most skilful and gracious players despite having only seen them on YouTube clips and memes.
Names such as Pele, Eusébio, and Franz Beckenbauer on the national stage, and George Best, Glenn Hoddle, and Paul Gasgoine closer to home are still spoken about with a reverence reserved for the true greats.
It stick in the craw slightly that future generations will no doubt bestow the same honor on such luminaries as Harry Winks, Marc Albrighton, and Alex Iwobi, thanks to the inertia created by the evil trifecta of Sky, the Premier League, and whatever years FIFA game millennials happen to be playing this year.
The second group of players who remain relevant today have a much more eclectic patronage, having transcended the need to have any actual footballing prowess. They can be journeymen or Jules Rimet winners alike; the only claim to the zeitgeist is that they exist in club folklore.
Some of these players and their achievements roll from the memories of football fans with ease. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s winning goal in the Champions League final or Shaun Smith scoring a free kick from his own half to send Crewe hurling towards playoff glory at Wembley in 1997.
Some players become club legends for their longevity and loyalty, single club stalwarts like Steve Bull and Tony Hibbert, who need never buy themselves a pint in Wolverhampton or half of Liverpool, respectively.
And for some players, there’s no real reason why they become fan favourites other than just because. Who would have envisioned Peter Crouch becoming one of the most beloved footballers of a generation while he was playing for Aston Villa in the mid-noughties, or Billy Whitehurst, lauded as the hardest man in football, still spoken about with genuine affection on terraces from Hull to Doncaster to this day?
The final group of players that still permeate conversations that should really be reserved for the true greats of the game have nothing to do with football per se and everything to do with style. If I were to mention the names of Jimmy Hill, Alexi Lalas, Ian Rush, or Djibril Cisse, I’d wager that you’d not conjure up images of stupendous strikes or terrific tackles but beautiful beards and magnificent moustaches.
It’s a fact that some players will always be best remembered for their facial hair rather than their footballing heroics. And as someone bestowed with a bewhiskered outlook on life, I wholeheartedly concur with the practice.
This is, of course, a convoluted way of mentioning that next week sees the start of Movember, the fundrasing initiative that involves the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.
This year, Willand, led by captain Owen Howe, will be attempting to ‘grow the mo’ for this excellent cause, and I would ask you to check out his fundraising page for further details.
On to the game and the opponents came in the form of the promoted and high-flying Bemerton Heath Harlequins, who came into the game in 5th position but, much like Willand, off the back of a heavy defeat in their last game.
The South West has seen a merry go round of activity in recent weeks as clubs from coast to coast look to improve their squads and players look to improve their playing time, and Willand have benefited from the signing of Alex Moyes, acquired from Dorchester Town, who slotted into an attacking-looking Willand line-up.
The difficult conditions made it hard for both teams to play either short or long, the ball skidding or sliding dependent on the delivery method, but while Willand remained in the ascendancy in the early stages, progress was hindered, helped by some poor decisions when on possession.
The home team did conjure up the opening opportunity, Owen Howe flashing a header wide of the target after an excellent cross and they came close again in the 15th minute, a corner finding an unmarked Guppy loitered at the back post, but his header from what appeared to be a kneeling position was cleared before it could reach the line.
Willand finally made the breakthrough five minutes later, Guppy raiding the Willand left before crossing the ball from the byline, Bray out-leaping the Bemerton defence to head the ball home from under the bar.
Camilo almost increased the lead minutes later; good work from Moulden saw the ball fall at the Willand midfielders feet, his shot from 25 yards stinging the hands of Creese as he tipped the ball around the post.
While Willand remained on the front foot, Bemerton managed to find the equaliser in the 29th minute. A seemingly innocuous cross wasn’t properly cleared by the Willand defence before it somehow made its way across the goalline for the equaliser through a haze of white confusion.
The goal spurred the visitors on as they came more into the game, while Willand continued to create chances as the monsoon took a break, with Howe, Moyes, and Moulden all coming close before the break.
HT Willand 1 – Bemerton 1
There was a change for Willand at the start of the 2nd half, with Byrne replacing Milton, who picked up an injury just before the break, slotting in at full back with ever versatile Guppy switching to centre half.
There was an early chance for the home team to reclaim the lead, a mistake in the Bemerton defence gifted the ball to Bray, who flashed the ball across the penalty area, but there was no one in white waiting for the tap-in.
It was another Willand mistake that cost them in the 59th minute: a throw to the home team somehow contrived to send the Bemerton forward through on goal with no defensive cover, and the ball was slotted home well for the lead.
Things went from the sublime to the how did that just happen when, almost directly from the Willand restart, Creese launched a long clearance, the bounce of the ball somehow evading a static and out of position Burton, before nestling in the back of the net, giving the Bemerton keeper what I can only assume was his first goal of the season.
Willand stood tall, though, reducing the deficit when a sweetly struck shot from Moulden found the corner of the net and continued to push forward, but were beset with poor decision-making as they tried to claw their way back into the game,
Bemerton took advantage of Willand the additional space created and the contest was over in the 90th minute as the visitors took advantage of more Willand assistance in claiming their fourth of the day.
A Willand clearance somehow evaded their own defence, and the Bemerton substitute was on the spot and on his own to place the ball past Burton.
In the end, it was a disappointing result in difficult circumstances, but in truth, Willand were the architects of their own downfall, culpable in various degrees for all of Bemerton’s goals.
FT Willand 2 – Bemerton 4
Man of the match was Ashton Hewitt selected by match sponsors RJC Electrical thank you for your support.
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