Dunkirk Tricked & Badly Treated By Lit Up Woodbine…
Ashby Ivanhoe 1-0 Dunkirk
It was a dank Tuesday evening in Ashby, spiders’ webs clinging eerily to the boundary rail, the players emerging like wraiths from a crypt onto a pitch surrounded by late autumn darkness. Halloween… And Dunkirk would suffer frightful misses, gruesome shooting, ghastly nightmare frustration and by the time the Grim Reaper appeared to end their horrible sojourn in the Leicestershire moonlight, a haunting defeat had left the Boatmen with faces like repulsive, horrified, disbelieving pumpkins.
|THE TOSSING OF THE SPELLS...|
So many chances were squandered off target by Dunkirk that at times it seemed like cackling home goalie Dylan ‘Merlin’ Rees was casting evil spine-chilling spells upon the opposition like a wizard hovering over a cauldron inside a coven. When the ball did come his way, his ghoulish form petrified the Boatmen, like an ogre from a JRR Tolkien novel and they fired their spooked shots within the tumbling reach of the gloveman.
|DUNKIRK, RED UNIFORMS, RED-FACED...|
This was a supernatural evening, during which some kind of superstitious lore was at work, although in truth, Dunkirk really were profligate, whereas hosts Ivanhoe took one of their few opportunities, when Mitch Woodbine lit up the evening with a touch past stranded visiting goalkeeper Ryan Howes and slotted the ball home like a perfectly fitting coffin slipping into a cemetery’s open grave. In bright green, Ryan Howes looked like an apparition at times but he was rarely troubled otherwise by the home offense, although Woodbine was a threat on a few occasions.
|A SHORT BREAK IS TAKEN FOR THE PLAYERS TO HAVE AUDITIONS AS MODELS...|
Boatmen Tim Berridge and Adrian Lang were the main culprits for the guests, along with midfield bogeyman Oli Clark, who would have been morbidly upset to be on the losing team. Some fine last-ditch defending by Ivanhoe’s ‘old’ Trafford Pickering was also conducive to Ashby keeping their sheet clean, for his beastly, monstrous presence was enough to add another nail into the Dunkirk casket at times. Visiting skipper Ben Moore, rampaging like a macabre troll in midfield did his level best to haul his team from the depths of defeat’s tomb but even his influence would subsequently fail to find that magic potion for scoring…
|THE MONSTROUS TRAFFORD PICKERING (LEFT):|
HUGE ARSE & 3 LEGS...
Ashby failed to attack at all for the first section of this encounter, whilst Berridge and Lang both troubled the netting hanging from high behind the goal-frame, like the web of Aragog from the mist. Lang sliced one left of the target, Berridge cut inside and shot a low 20 yard effort past the left upright, then his 25 yard free-kick deflected off a defensive wall into the web and Lang drove over the right angle of bar and upright. McKenna Parton was also affected by the witchcraft, lifting another 18 yard effort high into the webbing. Finally though, Ivanhoe forged a chance and it was ominous for Ryan Howes that he was forced to race from goal to deal with a pass by Alex Ford but collided with Woodbine and luckily for the ‘keeper, the ball rolled over the byeline. He would suffer two more frightening excursions…
|A FLAMING PUMPKIN DROPS ONTO A ROOF...|
A shot by Kane Peden, wearing 14 but surely on Halloween night it should have been 13, was blocked comfortably by Dunkirk’s Tomby, sorry, Toby Moore and a left-wing corner by the hosts saw Dan Matkin’s glancing header too angled and the ball flew across the face of goal. From this point, until the interval for trick and treat lick and sweets, Ashby defended and Dunkirk’s finishing remained dreadful. Merlin Rees flung out a left boot to kick away a low Lang cross, Clark flicked a header on for Lang at inside-right but he drove his effort wide of the left stick, before on a run at inside-left, Lang was brilliantly tackled by Pickering. Merlin Rees clutched a Clark drive like he was clutching a severed mummy’s head, a low centre by Oli Robinson flew across the goalmouth, Clark set up a fine chance at inside-right for Lang but the forward sliced his shot badly high into the webbing and then, finally, the Boatmen looked like they would thwart the demons and score…
|LANG: A FEW PRESS-UPS...|
A low Parton corner, a bit of a dolly I guess, led to a hack by Clark and a scramble involving defensive Boatman Joel Howes, before a low shot from 7 yards by Clark in the ensuing melee was superbly cleared from the goal-line by Ivanhoe’s Harry Stewart. And then the hosts banged a ‘pass’ through the middle, Woodbine beat the hurtling Ryan Howes to it and nudged it past the horrified goalie before tucking the loose ball neatly into the net. Unbelievably, shockingly, Ashby led…
|WERE THE ASHBY PLAYERS TOO EMBARRASSED EVEN TO CELEBRATE MUCH?|
A back-header by Joel Howes to Ryan Howes then evaded the rashly advancing goal-tender and a corner was conceded by the Boatmen, as nerves began to tremble and shadowy forces continued to plague Dunkirk, but the flag-kick led only to a shot too high by Josh Robinson. Home skipper Jordan McCourt had been influential in midfield for his team and as the half ended, his pass right to Josh Matkin led to a centre and then a shot by the skipper but once again Toby Moore got in the way and the referee, dressed bat-like and in black for the occasion, blew his whistle for half-time.
The chilling evening began to affect those splendid spectators who had avoided the Champions League matches on TV, lit their lanterns and made their way to the jinxed NFU Sports Ground. Dunkirk’s break probably included calling up the warlocks and witches of Lenton to provide some aid during the second period, whilst Merlin Rees no doubt donned his cowl and chanted his wizardry, stirring his hubble, souring his bubble, doubling his toil and thus spelling trouble for the Boatmen, who were a-drifting, a-wailing, a-screaming and a-fearing in distress.
|MERLIN REES' PUMPKIN IS HEATING UP NICELY...|
And so to the second period of bloodcurdling, grisly horror for Dunkirk… Nearly having conceded in the opening moments when Peden was allowed room on the left but had rapped a low shot into the side-netting, the Boatmen conjured up another chance for top goalscorer Berridge. Will Rawdon, the attacking left-back reached the byeline, fed Berridge but the forward dragged his low drive from 12 yards wide of the right upright. At least the hosts responded this time with an effort by McCourt from 23 yards, following a feed by Woodbine but he too shot off target, albeit not too far wide of a post. Dunkirk then caused hocus-pocus in the home 18 yard box from a left-side corner but when Pickering headed the ball blear, Clark nodded his attempt at goal wide.
From then on, in all honesty it was a case of the Boatmen being bedevilled, for their finishing failed to improve, as between attacks, Merlin Rees scattered his runes inside the goal-net and murmured unintelligible, scary, fearsome rambling curses upon his adversaries. This approach worked, too…
Berridge fed Parton at inside left and his drive flew way too high, Clark passed to Berridge and he dragged a low shot a good way past the left upright from 20 yards, then Lang, flagged offside anyway probably decided to show that there was no hex on the home goal by slotting the ball into the net anyway… But he missed, across the face of goal. At this juncture Marcus Shepherd replaced Ivanhoe’s Dan Matkin but soon, Lang and Oli Robinson combined well on the right for the guests and this allowed Clark a shot at the far post but miraculously Merlin Rees fell to block the ball, almost dropping his wand, before fine skills by Berridge, cutting inside from the right saw his low effort strike the face of the right stick, roll back for him to convert, but, er, he drove the ball a yard or two over the target… A phantom glove surely kept those two efforts away from Merlin’s net. Surely?
|THE NURTURING OF ANGER...|
Parton was removed by Dunkirk for the introduction of George Bosworth and here, perhaps was the answer, a fellow with a surname celebrating a famous battle and now, doubtlessly, the spirit of fallen soldiers, their skeletal cadavers, would rise from Bosworth Field and tackle the forces of Merlin the Rees… Er, well, no, actually, for Clark dragged a close range shot wide from a central position, maybe 10 yards out, an Oli Robinson shot struck Stewart and Berridge fired too high from the resulting corner. Rees parried a Bosworth shot and grabbed the rebound, Pickering stopped a Berridge effort but the loose ball bounced wide off the unfortunate Clark, but then the visitors did go close to an equaliser.
|BEFORE THE SPELLS WORKED...|
Bosworth’s left-flank centre was touched clear by the leaping Merlin’s wand and then from Oli Robinson’s right-wing cross, Bosworth would score, surely? No, Merlin swooped like a demon to somehow turn the low drive over the goal-frame. Joel Howes got a boot to the flag-kick, just 2 yards from goal but the ball missed the target and frustration was becoming even more rife for the Boatmen, yet suddenly they were defending for their lives, as Peden shot against Ryan Howes’ gloves from an angle on the left and the loose ball was scrambled clear. Back to the charmed goalmouth Dunkirk went and Berridge’s right-side corner grazed Toby Moore’s head but struck the skull of Clark on its way wide of the left upright…
And then the Dunkirk coach, whose irritation and annoyance had gradually risen throughout the contest to a-screamin’, a-yellin’ and accusin’, finally lost it big-time, when the referee’s assistant-bat missed the fact that Josh Matkin was already offside when a through-pass at inside-right was played, thus negating the fact that the ball had deflected off a defender. The forward ran on, Ryan Howes advanced, the ball popped up off the goalie’s foot and only a fine, alert piece of defending by Toby Moore cleared the effort from his goal-line. There was still time for Rawdon to fire a 15 yard drive at Merlin Rees’ gloves and that was interesting for both he and Bosworth had at least managed to work the wizard…
And the game ended. The bats collected the ball, Merlin Rees lifted the curse on Dunkirk’s shooting, mounted his broomstick and flew home for a slice of pumpkin. The Boatmen merely left the field like zombies being turned away from a Michael Jackson video, their hopes dashed by the spirit of Hallowe’en.
Berridge and Lang will score more goals this season and the otherwise impressive Clark will too, but on this day, despite the bellowing from Ben Moore and the agitation from the dugout, on this day of all days, ‘luck’ (whatever that is) deserted them totally.
Ivanhoe were well served in defence of course, with the immense Pickering and sidekick George Wesley organising so well. Skipper McCourt was generally defensively involved too, as well as instigating the Ashby breaks. Woodbine was a willing runner and of course was the match winner but what of Merlin Rees? What a game he had… As he exited on his broomstick, I’m certain I saw a message trailing in his wake reading:
‘Dunkirk’s hopes: R.I.P.’
Me? Tackled the A42 and M42 home but naturally it was closed between junctions 9 and 6. Thanks for that.
Where was Merlin when I needed him?
Chobbling on his laughing pumpkin no doubt…
DYLAN ‘MERLIN’ REES, ALEX FORD, HARRY STEWART, KANE PEDEN, TRAFFORD PICKERING, GEORGE WESLEY, JOSH MATKIN, JORDAN McCOURT (CAPT), DAN MATKIN, JOSH ROBINSON, MITCH WOODBINE.
MARCUS SHEPHERD, LOUIS STARKEY, ELLIS BENJAMIN, TOM NOLAN, JOSH JOHNSON.
RYAN HOWES, OLI ROBINSON, WILL RAWDON, OLI CLARK, TOBY MOORE, JOEL HOWES, McKENNA PARTON, LEWIS WILCOX, TIM BERRIDGE, ADRIAN LANG, BEN MOORE (CAPT).
GEORGE BOSWORTH, PAT NEWSOME, DAVE ROBINSON, BEN GOWING.