Playing long-time arch rivals on Saturday, half of the Saints decided that Friday night was the perfect time to go to Oktoberfest—Ho Chi Minh City’s annual tribute to the city of Munich’s festive orgy of beer, sausages and dancing on tables.
As one of the club’s Patron Saints, Duncan Ferguson, will tell you – nothing sets you up for a massive derby better than going out and getting completely ossified the night before the game. By obliterating your conscious and subconscious mind, there’s no chance of lying in bed with a dose of the pre-match nerves.
Those who went to Oktoberfest did us all proud. They poured beer on each other’s heads, they puked, they lost their phones; they made it home but don't know how they got there. They think they had a good time but can’t really remember. They arrived at the pitch looking like shit (those of us who hadn’t been out drinking felt hung-over just looking at them).
Skipper Shaw, who incidentally came straight to the pitch looking positively spiffing in his work clothes, announced we would be going with a 4-5-1 formation as we went through our meticulous pre-match ritual of stretching one minute before kick-off. Sam Greene, Steve Shaw and Chuck would sit in the middle of the park. Paul Hurley would slot into the “Borremans role” and Sean Skene would take responsibility out on the right. It was a midfield line up that had everything: youth, experience, one of Vietnam’s four Leicester City fans, a great American patriot, a modest man from Limerick… The Raiders would have to go over the top and there they would find a formidable defence who looked like a pack of convicts: Ben “I can puke on request” Peadon, Ian “Black Eye” Campbell, Ben “The number you have dialled is not in service” Hulbert and Sean “Actually, I went to the theatre last night” Campbell. Even if the Raiders could squeak through they would then have to put it past Sean Boyle, who’d been on the wagon since 9am.
The Saints caused problems from the off. Within minutes, a flick from the webmaster playing up top on his tod found the feet of Chuck “Suspiciously Mellow” Roger, who shifted the ball into the path of the onrushing Paul Hurley, who took a touch before unleashing a left-footed beaut of shot into the far corner of the net. The Raiders were at sixes and sevens defensively and soon after he’d scored his first ever goal for the Saints, Hurley would plunder the Raiders box and poach his second by getting to a loose ball first and poking it past the keeper. The Saints looked like they were going to put the Raiders to the sword but collectively sensing that this would be an anti-climax for the international media, they decided to gradually ease off and let the Raiders get a bit more of the ball. Some ponderous play just before half time in midfield went tits up when the Raiders best finisher nicked the ball off Skipper Shaw, who on a quick side note went straight to the pitch, and suddenly the Raiders were through on goal and back in the match.
The second half is easy enough to summarise: basically the Saints defended like beasts for 40 minutes (and that 40 minutes felt like hours) but the Raiders failed to score (despite making a few chances). Our subs all did important shifts as we closed out the game with Darrell, Dom, Ben Greene and Maxine all working their socks off. The ref finally blew up and the Saints are now unbeaten in three league games and sitting on seven points. We’re also unbeaten in five straight matches after beating Olympique in a friendly and the Raiders in the ashes last month.
Which reminds me of another true story: the Raiders advertised this year that if players joined their club, they would get to beat the Saints three times a year. Oops. That’s what you call a #marketing #fail.
After the match the losers trudged off to Oktoberfest to drown their sorrows in a litre-sized bier stein.
We went to Game On.
OH WHEN THE SAINTS…