Saigon Ashes: Saints 2 Raiders 1
Ky Hoa Stadium, September 13, 2014
Attendance: Literally dozens (including groundskeepers and random punters)
After losing the Ashes last year for the first time ever in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD, the Saints needed no big team talk before resuming “friendly hostilities” with long term rivals, the Saigon Raiders, which is lucky as everyone arrived 10 minutes before kick-off and there was no time for a team talk. “Let’s get a quick touch,” said someone to someone else before someone else said that someone else who may or may not be called Ben Hulbert hadn’t brought the balls.
No matter. Who needs a ball. We're all about the preparation and tactics. After consulting vice captain Ben Hulbert, club skipper Steve “I’m Going Straight to the Pitch” Shaw named the team as the Saints stretched. Going with a revolutionary 4-4-2 formation, the Saints pressed and worked the large pitch to try and open up the Raiders with Chuck Mellow Roger lively in the middle of the park and Roel the Flying Belgian working the left flank. With the tallest front line town, Aidan McNally and Webmaster Stokes brought a combined total of 12 feet 8 inches in aerial options so obviously the Saints tried to keep it on the deck. With the ball bouncing somewhere in between in the air and on the ground, the webmaster kneed the ball to send Aidan away from the halfway line. He made it to the by line by edge of the box before pulling it back to Chuck who pinged it off the post completely on purpose to set up the Saints’ Spanish maestro Adrian Paz Franco who coolly picked a spot and rifled home a shot from 15 years out. From start to finish it was a move that quite clearly came straight from the training ground.
The Honourable Chairman, Benjamin Peadon also made some fine saves in the first half helping the Saints to go into the outdoor dressing room at halftime one-up. All the talk was of a good start to the second half and getting that all important second goal. It came quicker than the Saints could have hoped. Again Aidan proved troublesome for the Raiders, working his way on the right (something he did all day long) and pulled it back across the goal. Chuck looked likely to shoot but he heard the call from Ben Hulbert who had wandered up from left back. Chuck’s simple but classy back heeled flick teed up the vice-captain who creamed an absolute peach into the roof of the net from outside the box. That’s right: another fairly standard training drill in action: two-zip.
The Saints were bossing the game everywhere – the defence, Ian Pavitt, Dr. Iaiain Campbell, Alex Crane, Ben Hulbert, including important defensive shifts from Darrell and Simon on the flanks, were all outstanding, and Skipper Shaw was tireless in midfield with his young apprentice Sean Skene also putting in a great shift. The Saints were also still creating opportunities. Chuck was sent clear by a hoof over the top only for a Raider to flatten him out when clean through. Slightly aggrieved that this player had escaped any kind of card, Chuck decided to query this with the referee. After being blanked by the ref, our young American unleashed an expletive-based sonic scream inches from the referee’s face in an effort to transform the referee’s perception of the universe and his interpretation of the rules of the game. The logical outcome would be the ref realising the error of his ways, reversing his non-decision and producing a red for the Raider, perhaps apologising to Chuck for good measure. Unfortunately, it backfired ever so slightly and Chuck got a straight red.
But even down to 10 men, the Saints created plenty of opportunities, Sam Green was unlucky a couple of chances didn’t fall kindly for him in the box. Adrian and Aidan combined beautifully to set the latter up but he skied his effort + young Dom outsprinted the defence to glance a header over the onrushing keeper only to see it go inches wide. The Raiders pulled one back – only a deflected shot that clearly didn’t come straight from the training ground -- to make sure the last five minutes were torture for the players on the side-lines and our fans (nearly double figures thanks to Roel’s growing harem). The Raiders managed to waste a couple of chances probably because Ben Peadon looked distractingly nervous in goals and thankfully the ref blew it up, returning the figurative Ashes to the Saints’ imaginary trophy cabinet.
A famous victory required the consumption of light ales in a number of venues across town with everyone wearing their new Saigon Saints-Game On polo shirts, which entitles every squad member to work either behind the bar at Game On or alternatively parking motorbikes whenever they feel like it.
Next week: Saigon Sevens