In front of their largest ever attendance (fourteen), swelled by the fruits of Allstar seed, the Northern Allstars took to the field at Grove Farm on Saturday 5th July. With the pre-match photo and Champions League-style handshakes over, Mince tested Sid with a shot straight from the kick off. More pressure followed in the next 10 minutes, but Jack and Shaggy were unable to make the most of some excellent defence-splitting through-balls. And then, against the run of play, Team Sid grabbed a goal from a looping Greeny header after a huge punt up field. Greeny grinned his way back to the centre-circle, enjoying the grimace on Sheff's face. Mr Green's joy was short-lived though as divine retribution put paid to any more telling contributions. Appearing to have been shot by a hidden assassin poor Greeny could only limp out the remaining minutes of the first-half with what was later reported as a torn hamstring.
Meanwhile, Paul Mullen had been merrily watching the spectacle from the Boots industrial estate overlooking Grove Farm, his eyes alerted by the Tangerine tops kindly provided for the day by debutant Eamonn. He sped down to join in, what then became, an unconventional first-half mauling by Team Sid. Warning signals should have sounded when Graham Jackson's annual attempt to curl in a 25-yard shot into the opposite top-corner of the goal almost looked worthwhile. First, Cookie scored a powerful header from an in-swinging corner, after Mince failed to pick up his run into the box. Rubbing salt into wounds shortly after, Graham hit a low right-foot shot from the edge of the area past a now forlorn Billy, as Team Sid took a 3-0 half-time lead. [To read Graham's modest account of this goal, click here.]
Victories by Team Excalibur in the previous two years were built on sound defending, but a positionally wayward (and dangerously unfit) midfield had cruelly exposed their shortcomings. As should have been expected, Team Sid's midfield stroked their balls at will, with another debutant Steve Boydell enjoying a quietly effective understanding with brother Gary. Never was Team Sid's dominance more dramatically evident than when left-back Max audaciously shot from outside the penalty box, after a 30-yard cavalier dash up the wing.
Swift instructions at half time ensured a more disciplined approach by Team Excalibur. Jack, who was still able to run, dropped into midfield, with Mince playing a holding role in front of the centre-backs, Jez and Deslick. In response, Sid replaced the injured Greeny with his son, Andrew. It all seemed to be going well for Excalibur, when Eamonn toe-poked home a penalty area scramble early in the second-half to peg back the score to 1-3. However, whilst Team Excalibur's defence was now firm, this was offset by a marginalised attack already struggling to evade the imposing figure of Shaun Hulme in Sid's rearguard. And on the rare occasion Excalibur strikers broke free, they were often presented with the choice of attempting to shoot and potentially decapitating young Andrew in the process, or allowing the ball to be cleared from danger - a cunning defensive ploy from Sidney.
After Jack had attempted to dribble past the entire opposition, Sid sensed the evident frustration and promptly exchanged himself with Lee to adopt the position of a roving right full-back. And mighty effective it proved. Tearing down the wing he miraculously avoided all challenges before cowardly sending over a low cross into the box as Jez approached. Mince thought he had it covered, but stretched in vain, and then looked round in horror to see Cookie take the ball in his stride and confidently place the ball to the right of a now goal-keeping Shaggy.
Mercifully, the score remained 4-1 for the remaining 10 minutes as Cookie conspired to miss the opportunity of a hat-trick when presented with an almost identical chance in the dying seconds. This failed to dent the impression of his overall performance, and Mr Ian Cook was duly presented with the coveted golden boot, as Man of the Match, after the game.
Note: for legal reasons this match report above will not appear in any edition of The University Magazine.
To read the Post Match Post Script, click here.