This gave the manager a chance to see how the team would fare in the final, where Henry has also decided to put the needs of himself above that of the club, who have been so kind to him ever since he was a young lad. Top work Henry.
Despite this change to the line-up, Parkwood started sharply. Constantly forcing them back into their own box when they had the ball, and pressing the home side relentlessly, when out of possession. Chris (Lethal) Grizzle was leaving the Long Lane left back bamboozled down the Parkwood right, and if it wasn’t for Michael Maietta’s inability to make an overlapping run, the Long Lane defender would have been asked to be subbed within the first 15 minutes. The constant probing and delicate through balls finally came to fruition, as Nathan Parke played a sumptuously weighted through ball to the forward run made by an on-rushing Parkwood midfielder. Ben Malyon had beaten the offside trap, and gotten himself inside the area and one v one. A quick glance up to see the keeper almost at his feet already, meant he lifted the ball over the keeper and into the empty net. Or so he thought. The Long Lane keeper flicked the ball with his outstretched arm in what would have been a miraculous save, but unfortunately for him the backtracking Long Lane defender ran straight into the airborne ball as it cannoned off his thigh and into the empty net. A clear own goal, but try telling Ben that, as he made sure it got added to his goal tally for the season. Younger brother Tom Malyon repulsed by this.
Despite the constant pressure, Parkwood struggled to score a second. The Long Lane keeper making some very good saves, frustrating the top scoring Parkwood trio. Finally an inspired switch up from a Michael Maietta long throw (good for something at least), as Tom Collins replaced Nathan Cross in coming up for the set piece. All the work on the training ground paid off, as the ball fell to Collins after being half cleared, who managed to fire in from about 8 yards, past the bodies in the 6 yard box and it was 2-0. Parkwood had some breathing space, despite not really being tested all half, and not ever getting out of 2nd gear.
The half time team talk was a strange one. 2-0 up yet not playing anywhere near our level. To everyone’s amazement, Doug Scott was right, but throw enough sh*t at a wall and some of it will stick I guess. We needed to up the tempo, as Long Lane were there for the taking, and Parkwood, without becoming complacent, needed to close the gap on goal differences that had opened up at the top of the table.
The second half started much how the first had ended. Parkwood well on top and threatening with virtually every flowing attack. A few more fine saves from the Long Lane keeper kept the score at 2-0, as did the woodwork, after Tom Malyon again was left without a goal, after spotting the keeper off his line and trying his luck from just inside the opposition’s half. The ball bouncing off the crossbar and going off for a goal kick. However, the wait for the third wasn’t too long. As Tom Malyon picked the ball up from the left flank and with his left foot smashed it in at the near post, with the keeper diving the wrong way, across his goal. 3-0 up, cruising, and it seemed like only one team was going to get the 4th of the game. That was until Tom decided to go from hero to zero. Looking to pick out a man in space as Parkwood attacked, he succeeded. Just a shame that this man in space was in fact wearing a Long Lane kit. He passed out to their forward who had made a decent run down the right, and took one touch before dinking the ball over Jacob Quieros who almost managed to get to the lob, but it was too late. It was 3-1 and Parkwood really needed to get a 4th to kill off any slight hint of revival.
A few changes to freshen things up and to help kill the game did exactly that. After a few more half chances the ball came into Nathan Parke, who was about to lay in Ben Malyon for a repeat of the first goal. Only problem was, the Long Lane defender had also spotted Ben’s run and decided to grab an assist himself. He played a lobbed pass over his central defensive partner’s head and Ben Malyon tucked it away under the keeper’s legs for his 1st/2nd of the match. It was high fives all round as the game was drawing to a close and that all but sealed the win.
This left just enough time for the metaphorical cherry to be placed on top of the metaphorical cake. After some more brilliant build up play in and around the Long Lane box, Parkwood patiently worked the ball from side to side, awaiting an opening. Then it came. A through ball to Alfie Hughes-Martin, back after a long break due to the birth of his daughter, Lyla, and some nifty footwork enabled Alfie to cut in from the left and place the ball calmly into the bottom corner. This was of course followed up by the remaking of Bebeto’s baby cradle celebration. Parkwood were 5-1 up with minutes to play, and this is how it would end.
By Ben Malyon