Week 21 of Division 4 NE of the East League and a match against top of the table Harleston. IESs sponsors, Ellisons Solicitors, were out in force to watch the 4th XI – including taking in the performance of one of the countries great legal minds (from a rival law firm). Harleston had secured promotion in advance of the game with Sudbury beating Bury St Edmunds in an earlies game – so they could afford to lose the match!
Inevitably the IES line up changed again. Page had recovered from his bad foot. Reid and Farrow were drafted in from higher up (alternatively known as being unavailable for an away game). Barber came in for his 2nd game of the season and people dropped out for a variety of reasons – Spurling, Russell, Arthur and Williams jnr for away games and Black to run around London on some board game challenge that didn’t involve alcohol (why one wonders!). Anyhow the starting line up was Barber, Kiel, Murray, Page, Farrow, Vince, Trenter, Williams, Whiting, Reid and the Maetsro. Meades started on the bench. Capitan Williams decided to try another line up experiment and tried 5-3-2 and again took the somewhat deluded view that he might be up to playing in midfield.
The first half saw a battling committed IES team hold out fairly comfortably against Magpies – despite Magpies dominating possession. Capitan Williams enjoyed his personal battle against McTiffin and Bensly (M) in midfield although as the half wore on Magpies greater numbers (2 more) started to tell – although some might allege their greater quality was a factor too. Two slightly soft goals meant it was 0-2 at half time. By this time Meades was on and Kiel played a 5 minute cameo at centre-forward showing Ried and Elsom that movement does help. Lascelles and Bensley (J) scored the goals.
Some tactical half time tweaks by Capitan Williams returned Kiel to defence, Vince to midfield and saw Farrow take responsibility for danger man Bensly (M) – a relative of Bensly (J) one assumes. The 2nd half wasn’t so successful – IES kept going manfully. But so did Magpies. Farrow’s 70 yard aerials kept arcing through the sky – and from to time IESs nimble strikers got to the ball. Sadly though amidst the aerials, Bensly (M) scored 4 and Livings another. But the highlight, following a scramble or three, IES won a few short corners and a penalty stroke. The latter led to a stand-off at the ‘not so ok – coral’ between Elsom and Reid. Who was going to take it? There was only one winner and as Reid slunk out the D, Elsom stuffed it down the centre at a loopy waist height and the keeper moved out the way (in sympathy maybe).
Not a lot happened thereafter – Reid took himself off – due to the need to get to a birthday party allegedly and not – as rumoured – in a huff as a consequence of penalty gate. 7-1 it finished – and arguably the score line flattered Magpies but they were certainly the deserved comfortable winners. As the table unfolded – East Coast’s promotion was also confirmed – to the delight of Whiting (he doesn’t like sand) – and Ipswich eased out of the relegation zone in their final game meaning Norwich City need a result at Sudbury next week to avoid the drop. IES remain in 8th and a win away at Thetford against bandana wearing Reece and co will result in a 7th place finish if UEA can beat Dereham away.
Turning to the final element of the report. Your reporter interviewed the Ellisons’ representative at length before the game – who had turned up specifically to watch the Maestro having heard so much about his game over their long acquaintance. Sadly – and astonishingly – he’d left before the end (with Reid maybe?) so an assessment of Elsom’s performance will have to wait till another time. Player of the match, Page again did well, his feet acting as magnets to the ball in the second half, Whiting wasn’t bad (compliment 4 of the season), Capitan Williams ran further than he has done for years but the award goes to Meades. In a really tough game, he played 75% of the game at right back, showed maturity, no little skill, got physically stuck in and demonstrated the faith that the team has placed in him this season was more than justified.
Next week the winners of the first 4th XI awards of the season will start to be doled out. Meades and Black are competing for “most improved player”. There is half a chance that Elsom will win “top scorer” and a 99.99% chance that Simpson will win “WhatsApp message” of the season – although the runners up spot in this category is open to new entrants. Other less obvious awards (“lamp stand impersonation” of the season maybe) are to follow at the team end of season event on the 4th April. Murray remains in leading spot for “own-goal” of the season. Trenter, Vince, Harris and the Maestro are vying for “goal” of the season – but your reporter has hopes that that award will be won next week – Scarff is rumoured to be returning after all. “Strop” of the season still has Whiting at East Coast in the lead. “Match report” of the season – well that could well be Dereham away. Blue socks anyone? There’s still a missing pair …… which means that Meades might yet avoid the “thief” of the season award.