….but having some youthful fresh legs in your team is a welcome addition.

Saturday afternoon saw the first league game for the Mens 4s and the Mens 5s with the YHA fixture schedulers kindly ensuring a home game for both teams by allowing them to play each other in their curtain raiser.  I am not sure who was home and away but the 4s commandeered the home dug out and played in the day-glo fluorescent orange whilst the 5s spread themselves in the other 2 dug outs in black shirts and enjoyed the hospitality in the bar afterwards generously sharing the Michelin starred teas.

The Invincible 4s, fresh from their unbeaten last season when they won the league (but then bizarrely due to a lower league restructure don’t seem to have been promoted) were missing a few regulars with some also called up to support the 3s.  The 5s were also looking to start where they left off last season with a top half position, and were a mix of the usual old lags and the next supply of talented juniors coming through the Simon Sutton production line.

Indeed the average age of the 5th team was around 35, but this cleverly disguised the fact that half the team were under 15 with 4 league debutants, and half the team were over 50.  The age difference between youngest and oldest in the team was 57 years although the 5s were actually including 2 international players in their ranks (Wales and Scotland over 70 Masters players….).

Skipper Poll had a fraught week trying to raise 11 players, not helped by 24 or more players not being available in higher teams for the club.  For the first league weekend of the season, this level of unavailability is disappointing, primarily as it meant the 5s had to drag me out of retirement to warm up the bench.

Another challenge was the lack of a second umpire at the start time, with Jim Cockburn having been held up in traffic coming back from umpiring at Huddersfield (Jim – if you are running late, end their game early next time, although this may have then not seen the mens 1s late comeback in the final 3 minutes to secure an away victory).  President Poll kindly agreed to step in as temporary umpire to ensure a prompt start whilst simultaneously trying to impersonate John McEnroe with his natty headband.

The first half began cagily with both teams getting to know each other and few shots on goal.  The pace of Thomas Poll was a constant threat for the 5s and his ability to dribble the full length of the pitch after a 12 hour shift at Leeds Bradford Airport was commendable allowing young Joe Grier and Matty Snow to quickly recognise that the best way to attack was to use their searing pace too.  The 4s were solid as ever at the back with the experience duo of Crocker and Sibley protecting the confident Miles in the net.

Miles was quick to point out that the last time he let in a league goal was 10th December 2016 and the last time he let in more than one goal in a league game probably stretches back to before half the 5th team were born.  As the half progressed, the 4s finally made the breakthrough with Allan Carvalho opening the scoring despite several brave saves by debutant Mikey McWilliams in goal and some stout defending by Tim “Skully” Ball and David Akroyd.

This should then have been the signal for the 4s to march on and add to their tally but the 5s had other ideas and after another mazy run by Tom Poll he played a 40 yard inch perfect pass to one of the 5s forwards loitering in the D.  A thunderous shot beat Miles at his near post before he had time to move and the 5s were back on level terms.  As the game went on, with the 5s juniors growing in confidence, it was clear that the predictable win for the 4s was by no means a certainty.  Max Holley and Finlay Holden made good in roads down the right hand side of the pitch and the usual solidity from Dave Margerison prevented further shots on goal.  Just before half time, Carvalho doubled his tally (having rather entertainingly put one reverse stick shot into the gardens of the overlooking houses) and the 2-1 scoreline at the interval gave both teams hope for the second half.

The second half saw the 4s suddenly strengthened with the appearance from nowhere of a couple of subs who allowed player rotation and fresh legs to take advantage of a tiring 5s team.  Sniffer Phillips continued to apply pressure to the 4s back line and a flurry of short corners which the 4s managed to defend in a variety of ways (feet, breaking early…) still could not produce an equalising goal and eventually the 4s scored a couple more on the break with a well taken hat trick for Carvalho after several saves from McWilliams had denied him and one of the subs applying the finishing touches to another attack.

But the spirit in the 5s was raised when a training ground short corner move saw Poll senior hammer in a thunderbolt of a pass to young Finlay Holden sliding in at the far post to beat Miles once again.  Spirits were raised, Snow and Grier in particular continued to drive away with electric running and clever stick work but a final goal for the 4s gave them sufficient daylight to see out the victory.

The 4s write up may paint a different picture but it was good to see a friendly yet competitive game at the lower end of the club supplemented by several pints of Black Sheep in the bar afterwards as on pitch rivalries were forgotten and the Adel spirit was evident.   More importantly, it was also encouraging to see some of our talented junior players start out in their senior careers at Adel with many of them already displaying the ability and potential to rapidly progress to higher teams in the club but for the moment its always a pleasure to play along side those with quicker legs!

Thanks to all the parents encouraging both teams on the sidelines – in some cases I hope you are able to supplement the numbers on the pitch in future weeks.