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It was a bright and sunny November afternoon, a chill wind blowing in from, I don’t know, over there somewhere, and six doughty squads assembled for our final Festival of the year. With the Many Shades having invested heavily in their youth policy this year (that’s our increasingly well-attended Monday evening sessions for the employed/employable to you) we felt that we were probably fielding our strongest ever side for this 50+ Festival. A few of the older regulars were reported missing, presumed dropped.
We opened with a massacre of Southampton DFA. It was a massacre, in spite of the narrow 1-0 scoreline. Their goalkeeper played out of his skin, pulling off save after save to deny us the goal-difference boost we deserved. It took a goal on debut from Mark Hughes to break the deadlock, but really anyone could have been on the scoresheet if not for their ‘keeper. A bored John Kennett in our goal touched the ball twice.
Secure in the knowledge that Gosport Neanderthals had “only” drawn with a happily improving Bognor Regis Boulders in their first game, we were confident that we could take another three points in our second match. However, a defensive mix-up of “after you”, “no, after you” style was enough to gift them a goal, and no matter how hard we tried our enterprising football couldn’t break them down, losing 0-1.
So to Bognor Regis Boulders, and for once we actually turned our dominance into goals, helped it must be said by some calamitous defending for Lloyd Fowler’s early settler and Mark Hughes’ late closer. In between Pete Brown scored with a good finish to a clinical passing move, and 3-0 it ended.
Next up were Mountbatten WFT, and another of our infamously disastrous starts saw us 1-0 down in a matter of seconds, and but for a superb save by John Kennett moments later even further in the mire. A stern talking-to at half-time saw a reinvigorated Many Shades storm back into the match, equalising through another Mark Hughes goal. This was followed up with a superb team effort carving the defence open and leaving Dave Hall with the simplest of tap-ins to give us the lead. Shall we mention the even simpler tap-in Dave managed to put over the bar a couple of minutes later? Yes, why not? That’s why it only ended 2-1.
Our final match was against pre-tournament favourites Pompey ITC. We had to make do without influential youngster Ian Thakore for this game. He had tweaked a hamstring in the previous game, so the ever-reliable Barry Ingram stepped into the breach. In a ding-dong game with chances at either end, we came out with a creditable 0-0 draw.
It was Alan Hansen who famously said that you never win anything with kids. He was right, the youngsters couldn’t carry us to the top of the table, but we finished a creditable second behind Gosport Neanderthals whose victory over us was the difference. However that was enough for the Many Shades (along with third placed Bognor Boulders) to qualify for the Solent League Finals, to be played at Park Community the following Sunday. Pompey, Mountbatten, then Southampton finished 4th, 5th, and 6th.
Back to the Westleigh again, for yet another superb buffet from Suzette and Natalie Gray.
The Many Shades squad for this Festival was: John Kennett, Ian Thakore, Chris Poirrier, Barry Ingram, Jeff Hooper, Mark Hughes, Lloyd Fowler, James McIlwaine, Dave Hall, and Pete Brown. They were badly managed by Stew Russell, and loaned Pete Dolamore to Southampton DFA for the afternoon. Geoff Maunder took loads of excellent photos. Thanks go to the referees who kept order well - Dave Lester, Dave Rowbrey, John Morgan, and central timekeeper Barrie Gray.
- Written by Stewart Russell, Secretary of Havant & Waterlooville Walking Football Club