Cobras Conjure Up Win Over Spencer
By Simon Sladden
SHC Cobras 2 – 0 Spencer Harlequins
Game of tricks with a couple of treats
POM Richard O’Connor
Cobras slithered onto the pitch mildly spooked by their first night match – a case of nyctophobia – “fear of the night” (courtesy of Dictionary.com’s top seven spooky words) on All Hallows’ Eve. The new pre-match ritual, a DJ performance from the ROC with questionable tunes, left us more in a superstitious somber-state than the psyched, adrenaline-fuelled, action-ready enchantment we were hoping for. Nonetheless, skipper Wizard Hamper, gazing into his cauldron (no white-, sorry, magic Ouija-board for tactics this week), fired us up instead with words of encouragement, mainly fantasy, and we were ready for pushback.
Meanwhile, keeper Andy, had clearly misread the fancy dress calendar and forgoing a prime opportunity to come as a robo-style zombie for Halloween, instead elected for the ‘fresher’s week’ vibe of Papa Smurf, in his quadruple XXXXL white over shorts perfectly complementing his royal blue kickers – I suppose uniquely scary in itself.
Possession was strong in the first half – of the ball that is, though you may have been forgiven for thinking Gregor’s temper was also possessed at various times throughout the match; one moment elated with our solid structure and performance, the next, vocally outraged at the opposition’s blood-thirsty determination to behead us with dangerous balls.
Multiple short corners passed with limited success. Their ghost-like keeper averted any hope of a goal by magically appearing wherever Ben, Alex, Robbie or Rhino fired the ball (we didn’t help ourselves with some ROC tops and Robbie ‘Trembling’ Trimble slipping over on occasion). Additionally, a particularly berserk Grim Reaper made an appearance for the opposition, forgetting his hockey stick and instead opting for his trusty scythe to hack away at Rhino’s stick at the most inopportune of moments, denying him the perfect chance of a strike at goal. It was a strong and promising performance in the first half, yet, unfortunately, a story of just tricks and no treats against an equally ‘tricky’ opposition.
As we gathered once again, around the leaky cauldron for Wizard Hamper’s lesson at the Halftime School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to learn the fate of our second half (although not as leaky as HM Government’s imminently due announcement of Lockdown 2.0), we were overcome by an ethereal haze. Was this the magic of Hamper’s wizarding words of wisdom transforming us into some sort of fanatical frenzy in order to convert the tricks of the first half into magical treats for the second? Alas no, it was just the bonfire smoke from the local bowls club next door, who were squeezing in a last-minute pre-lockdown Halloween social, bonfire and all. Although considering the cackles coming over the fence and our hazy trance, I am not sure what they were burning!
During our lesson, Technical Professor William ‘Dumbledore’ Tsolo interjected, casting a spell containing wise words along the lines of ‘width’ ‘passing’ and ‘diagonally’… the perplexed look on many faces was palpable - did this mean we were only destined for the treats of ‘Diagon Alley’?
As the halftime class was dismissed we were left worrying… “Would our aged Papa Smurf keeper maintain his clean sheet record and be able to distinguish the ball through the smokey haze on a pitch with floodlights that better resembled a witch’s dimly flickering candle, and that were outshone by the (aptly) blood orange full moon?”
The second half opened strongly with a glimmer of hope that Hamper’s words of magic and wizardry would provide us with the treats. Ollie ‘Bat Outta Hell’ Stacey had clearly been taking notes studiously at half time. Following a superb ‘Tsolo’ effort by William from the half way line, Ollie mounted his broomstick in a flash and screamed right across the D at lightening pace in a sterling effort to deflect William’s precisely placed finishing slap from the top of the D, only to be evilly denied a goal by a witch’s hair width. Still nil-nil, the Cobra’s were intent on finding the treats Dumbledore promised at halftime.
Finally, Dumbledore’s spell connected with the ROC when, in a moment of inspiration and sheer power, following a sweet diagonal pass from Ben, he managed to penetrate their ‘ghoul’ keeper to put Cobras a well-deserved 1-0 up – proudly noted as his first league goal this season. ‘Diagon Alley’ really was the source of these treats after all. Eager to find more and maintain this hard-fought lead, Cobra’s defence shielded any attempt of an attack from the opposition with a particularly spirited performance from Mongoose guest star, Adam Chalkley.
It was not long after the first taste of a treat that we were close to unwrapping our second. Numerous notable forward runs from Alfie Riley provided the keys to unlock their defensive crypt. It was, however, the ROC’s assist pass to the Rhino that produced a spine-chilling second goal, with the precision strike just beating the keeper and ricocheting in off the post – surely now victory was firmly in our grasp?
A few fiery exchanges took place between our defence and their main striker who can only be described as Chris Martin’s vampire-like doppelgänger. Clearly frustrated with his team’s predicament of being 2-0 down, his best insult was to call Wizard Hamper a ‘whining girl’ as he tried to tame the bubbling cauldron. In a last-ditch attempt, the opposing Harlequins launched a speculative long pass from their half to catch us off guard, but it ran long and was left to innocuously roll out the back. Until Rhino let out an unnerving shriek… “POST!” The ball was bending back towards the goal and looked like it might bounce back into play. Was this the opposition’s chance of a break in a bid to steal our victory?
All was good, however, as the spirits were with us and the ball rolled out uneventfully, with Papa Smurf on high alert, despite his visual challenges. A clean sheet protected and the Cobras ended this sporting chapter on a high with a 2-0 win.
Following his studious attitude, lightening pace in his deflection effort and inexplicable supernatural ability to appear anywhere and everywhere on the pitch at all times, Ollie ‘Bat Outta Hell’ Stacey was voted a close second for this week’s MotM. It was, however, Rich ‘Tenacity’ O’Connor who was crowned this week’s superhero after his perseverance and, eventually, his howling screamer that put those crucial points on the board.