The sun shone down on the strollers in Norfolk with a mixed age squad lifting the cup at a tournament held in aid of Age UK at LynnSport.
Understandably, with a squad that have not played together in ‘competitive’ games before, it took a few games for the lads to adjust and settle into a pattern and shape that worked, playing in a 1-3-1 formation. Even so, the team remained solid defensively and whilst not bagging any goals in the first three games, they kept clean sheets largely due to sound defending, backed up with some great work from keeper Paul Giffen.
Also, with small, tight pitches and minimal space to work in for the 6 on the field, goals were always going to be few and far between in this tournament.
Game 1: Strollers 0 Chinese XPats 0
A tight game with little by way of shots on goal. Our opponents in this one also showed lack of experience in walking football with challenges from the rear and side (both illegal in this tournament). A fair result, although we had a chance to steal it late in the game with a penalty for encroachment into the area. The penalty was saved by the Xpats keeper however.
Game 2: Strollers 0 Aylsham 0
Another tight game with few chances at either end. Strollers were on top territory wise but Giffen had to be in good form as Aylsham had some good chances when on the break.
Game 3: Strollers 0 Kings Lynn Red 0
By game 3 the squad had started to settle a little more and were the dominant team, however this was probably also one of our worse performances of the day as we gave the ball away from good positions time after time through poor passing.
Game 4: Strollers 1 Kings Lynn Yellow 0 (Baxter)
The one match break after the first three games allowed us to review the positives and negatives of our play and this was put to good use in game 4 against the Reds of Kings Lynn. A solid performance defensively, with players taking more time on the ball and improving our passing was the result and this improvement in play was rewarded when Ian ‘Billy’ Baxter buried a good shot to take all 3 points.
Game 5: Strollers 1 Kings Lynn White 1 (Barrett-Treen)
Buoyed by the previous game and with composure on the ball improving, the Strollers faced a very fit and skilful Kings Lynn squad. A very even game with keepers on both ends put to goes use numerous times. ColinBarrett-Treen took advantage of some good Stamford passing and put the lads a goal up. KL Whites then rallied and one moment of lapse in concentration enabled Kings Lynn best player on the day, to create a small gap to shoot and he tucked his effort away. Both teams had chances to increase the score line before the end but were thwarted by good saves from the keepers.
Game 6: Strollers 2 Erpingham 0 (Ross, Barrett-Treen)
This one was a chance to renew acquaintances from the WFA cup game with Erpingham in August 21 (which Strollers won 3-2). Given how close that game was we expected a hard work out from our opponents which probably inspired us to play our best football of the day. With the team now totally settled in to the 1-3-1 formation, and heeding requests to slow things down a little when in possession, we put several flowing moves together.
Allegedly one of these moves was finished in glorious style by Iain Ross, but I can’t vouch for that as your reporter was busy discussing defensive tactics with Billy Baxter at the time 😊. Iain assures me it was at least 40 yards out (a curious fact when you consider the pitch length was probably only a little over 30).
I did however see a fine finish from Colin Barrett-Treen, making space for himself and settling his body shape before picking out a great finish.
Game 7: Strollers 1 Paradise Pedestrians Ely 0 (Smith)
A quick check of the points table at this juncture revealed that a win in our final game would put us in a strong position to qualify for the final.
In the first bad tempered game of the day, Frank Smith took the limelight with a crisp finish early. Our lads then dug in and battled to protect this advantage. Ely players became increasingly frustrated, and tempers started to rise. No bad incidents resulted thankfully but the Ely lads did start to complain about everything, with the plaintive cries of ‘he’s running ref’ echoing around the pitch. (we weren’t, we were just taking advantage of the one foot on the ground rule which some of the Ely players don’t seem to understand).
Our midfielders did a great job in this match with Brian Dunkerley, Jez Hammant, Iain Ross and Frank Smith interchanging as requested and working tirelessly to shut down their opponents.
We shrugged this off though as we were now through to the final, playing our opponents from game 1.
Final: Strollers 1 Chinese Xpats 0 (Hammant)
As with the previous game against this team, chances were few and far between and when either team did get a shot on goal they found the keepers in form.
So 0-0 at full time and the game moved to 5 minutes extra time. With time ticking away and with thoughts turning to penalty takers, Jez Hammant found space on the left and went on a dribble. Just as he was lining up to shoot, one of the opponents made an extremely poor challenge from behind but Jez had enough balance to continue his shot as he fell and the ball whistled into the corner of the goal. Thankfully Jez was not hurt (probably pumped with adrenaline) and we saw the last minute or so out to lift the trophy.
Hats off to the squad of seven that brought this success to the club. Games were 15 minutes, and it was a fairly warm day so with the final we played 2 hours of football. The post-match beer at Wetherspoons was much enjoyed (and needed).
Giffen, Dunkerley, Ross, Barrett-Treen, Baxter, Hammant, Smith (manager Lovesey)