May 27, 2018, 6:52 p.m.
Saturday, 28th April 2018, 2:30PM, at Hempnall #1
Home Match, Anglian Combination Division 3 - 2017 - 2018
Win, 3 - 1
On a damp, miserable, often rainy day, Hempnall FC knew this was a must win, or at least draw, game – a draw or win would see them definitely stay in this division next season, a defeat would mean finger nail biting times for all at the club until Blofield and Hemsby had finished their campaigns.
So, it was either Hempnall or Blofield, essentially, as the favourites for relegation – never could ‘must win’ have been a more apt description of this game in the minds of the players.
So, it was ‘which Hempnall would turn up’? That was the crux, as we knew that Hempnall have the squad to easily compete in this division, as shown recently with good wins against much higher placed teams.
Fortunately, it was the positive and enthusiastic Hempnall we saw today, the managers had clearly put something in the tea, as the start (and ongoing effort) was, in comparison to Wednesday, as different as chalk and cheese. Were we watching the same team? Apart from a couple of changes, yes we were.
From the off, Hempnall meant business and looked to take the game to Blofield, Hartle up front was winning much in the air, Billy Kelly, Dean Mortimer and Jamie Etherington were able to take defenders on knowing that their midfield colleagues, Adam Clarke and Wayne Collins were there to compete for second balls.
The back four of James Edwards (we always look a better team with him playing), Tom Griffiths (a revelation to the Secretary as a centre half), captain excellence Shaun Kelly, leading by example, and the now waif like ‘Beefy’ Bellingham, in what he, (and now me) considers to be his best position, were letting very little pass, and we, on the sidelines, were confident Hempnall could get a result in what was likely to be a very tight game throughout.
Though the joint Manager had a good game on Wednesday, we were pleased to see his protege, Taylor Davies, back between the sticks, and whilst he didn’t have as much to do as he often does, one crucial stop gave confidence that perhaps it could be Hempnall’s day.
For the first 30 minutes or so, Hempnall were generally on top but Blofield looked dangerous going forward, their attacks though ably snuffed out apart from the odd scare here and there, but hey, this is Hempnall, we like to keep the supporters on their toes!
Efforts from Mortimer and Clarke were the closest Hempnall came, Hartle put one over, Billy Kelly had a decent shot, and Davies at the other end was alert off his line to clear. Mortimer had a go, Etherington also had a close effort stopped close to the line, we were wondering whether we would have to suffer a 0-0 draw, or worse still, a breakaway goal – the ball just wouldn’t go into the net.
Then it all happened – after about 40 minutes, Mortimer latched onto a ball, ran at the defence and crashed in an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner for 1-0. The celebrations were somewhat joyous, the relief undeniable. That could be the goal to save our season?
Then, a couple of minutes later, with the defence clearly rattled; a shot from Collins was turned over by the keeper, and from the resulting corner kick, Billy Kelly drove the corner over with a vicious dip and swerve, similar to watching a better looking Ronaldo, fooling everybody to sail into the net for 2-0.
Unbridled joy from all, especially the noisy Mrs. Kelly.
So, it was 2-0 at helf time – job done? Don’t be silly!!
The second half started, presumably with an instruction from the managers to make the BRF suffer., the Hempnall players still with their minds in the dressing room, allowed Blofield to immediately breach the static defence to score within 30 seconds. Potential disaster, but did the heads drop? The short answer is ‘no’.
Blofield were certainly competing and had an effort bounce off the crossbar, but that was the closest they got, and with the Hempnall team all working extremely hard, Kelly and Etherington had the back four in their pockets; Mortimer as always oozing class, and Hartle was having his best game, winning much in the air.
A dubious offside decision ruled out Hempnall’s third when Mortimer scored what was a perfectly legitimate looking goal.
About 20 minutes into the half, Kelly, who had been creating havoc, had a shot which hit the upright, and there was Mortimer on hand to finish beautifully. Game over…..yes, it was this time.
The nervousness reduced from there, though we were all hoping the ref would spare us more anguish and blow the whistle.
One sad note was the injury to the excellent Wayne Collins, who twisted his knee – hopefully not too seriously, best wishes to him.
To sum up, this was the Hempnall we all liketo see – plenty of skill, a balanced, hardworking side, with a good team spirit.
Today, the defence was excellent – they treated us to a few heartstopping moments, but that is, of course, now customary!
The midfield was hardworking, probably the best I’ve seen them for a while, and Collins and Clarke are looking really good in the centre.
What can we say about the effervescent Billy Kelly (his mother could probably answer that better than me) – though on a serious note, the two Kellys today put in excellent performances to easily match any they have produced this season.
Etherington, back in the club, is rapidly becoming indispensible, he also drinks decent beer, endearing him to the Secretary.
I could go on, but today we saw what the team can do when they are in the mood.
MOM could go to a number of players - any of the back four, any of the midfield and any of the forwards!! The keeper wasn’t bad either (are we glad he came to our club early in the season?).
So, I’m going to leave it at that – all 11 can be today’s MOM.
See you next season for more in D3.