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In contrast to the last final, it was West Derby School (WDS) who took the initiative with an early probing run by Owen Griffith, who, after a slide rule pass by young DT pupil Connor Pye, cut inside like a pair of scissors only to be foiled by a great stretching challenge from Heenan’s young Scottish right back ‘Gnasher’ McNeilson. Buoyed by this excellent defending, a slick move played out from the back by the speedy neat passing young Heenan players only failed when the Terry Butcher-alike WDS defender Kieran Osbourne showed McNeilson at the other end that he was just as capable of a challenge so fearsome that, when witnessed by local woodland natural inhabitants, would send said wild creatures into early hibernation!
After these early exchanges, the game fell into a familiar pattern as both teams took it in turns to run at each other’s defence, with the Heenan players looking the more likely to score. In fact, they would have, but for Gabriel McGinn’s superb interception as he cut out what looked like great pass to stop left winger Len Shackleton from running in to slot home. Just as the tenacious McGinn was winning the ball Alisatair ‘Bite Your Legs!’ Crippleton did just that to him (well, not literally!) as he caught the pint size player on his ankle. Despite the challenge being about as subtle as removing the top of a lightly boiled egg with a sledgehammer, the referee, who rumour has it works during the day at Specsavers, didn’t see the offence and allowed play to continue!
No sooner had the ball advanced upfield towards the WDS penalty area when a free kick was awarded against Adam Hollinshead for having the temerity to run alongside an opposing player without impeding him! At this moment, stuck in time, there were two things you could see from the moon. One, was the Great Wall of China and the other was that Adam Hollinshead was absolutely nowhere near the player he was alleged to have fouled! The subsequent lofted free kick by the curly haired kid, Perry Perm, saw keeper Leach stretch but he could only palm the ball onto his bar. Unfortunately, for the WDS boys the ball fell for the grateful Spaniard Mucho Gratias who said “Thank-you very much!” as he nodded the ball over the line to open the scoring.
This sparked Heenan into action and the WDS defence of McGinn, Hollinshead, Osbourne and Smith had to move as a line with the expertise of a synchronised swimming team in order to cope with the superb passing and movement of the young Heenan players.
The referee, allegedly an ancestor of Blind Pew, from the classic novel Treasure Island, continued to penalize the WDS boys, signaling with his elbows all the time to infer our lads had somehow used them to gain an unfair advantage. At least it was either that or he was practicing some dubious dad dancing moves for the impending wedding function of his good friend Mr. Magoo! Whatever it was Mr. Zack quite rightly voiced his opinion at the poor decisions going against his lads, but, as you’d expect, with respect and authority. However, this wasn’t good enough for the ref, who, when he had a good old look and eventually found out where on the line Mr. Zack was, read the riot act to the normally calm young Greek manager.
As Heenan continued to press forward the WDS boys were relieved to see a huge duck land on the pitch to stop the fluency of the Heenan flow. As the enormous bird settled, Heenan defender ‘Crusher’ McTavish, cousin of ‘Gnasher’ McNeilson, showed a more sensitive side as he tried to usher the duck off the pitch with a few Neanderthal grunts. This duck was big enough even for the referee to see and the fact that his game had been interrupted was driving him ‘quackers’! Obviously scared of McTavish the duck saw sense and quickly waddled off the pitch. When play restarted Perm played Kalshnikov in. His ‘quacking’ bullet like shot made even Osbourne ‘duck’ out of the way and it ‘flew’ just over the bar. (Ouch!!)
It was time for WDS to sort themselves out and they did this to a certain extent as Exauce Baruc and Griffiths started to combine to create some good openings for the young West Derby team. Dark-haired Swede Lewis Kristiensen started to take control of proceedings in the midfield and this was starting to frustrate the Heenan boys, who fell victim to a couple of Kristiensen challenges that would have made tough Scottish boys McTavish and McNeilson wince with fear. Surprisingly, Lewis wasn’t pulled for any of these challenges. Maybe the ref didn’t see them? I’ll rephrase that! The referee definitely wouldn’t have seen them! Similarly, Ramon Smith was lucky to stay on the park as he dragged back diminutive German midfielder Midge Itte just as he was about to bear down on goal.
After more good work from the powerful Baruc the ball fell to Connor Pye on the edge of the box who slashed swiftly at the ball only to slice it wide. On the line, we felt it was only a matter of time before an equalizer came, especially as Lewis Kristiensen was doing a great impersonation of Ngolo Kante, such was his control on the game. This gave Luca Vasco-Snow the room to (like a surgeon in a big hospital) operate more! Liam Irwin had a couple of chances but couldn’t quite finish. Baruc and Owen Griffiths looked threatening but the latter took the ball wide and couldn’t quite guide it home.
Unfortunately, this inability to capitalize backfired and Heenan’s confidence started to grow. Just before half time, not long after a great Tom Leach save from close range, the ball was half cleared and rolled out of the WDS penalty area only for Ivor Greatshott to hit the ball first time. It flew into the net like an Exocet missile. Not even Leach could make it stick.
Half time: West Derby 0 Cardinal Heenan 2
At the interval, Mr. Corrigan and Mr. McGrath reminisced about the good old days. The pair of misty eyed codgers spoke fondly of a time when you were allowed to kick the odd defender and goalkeeper and be thanked (nay, praised!) for it! Mr. Handihill and Mr. Donga looked on at the old pair with bemused indifference, though Mr. Handihill was heard to make the valid point that Heenan seemed to have someone to pass to at every opportunity, pointing out that this was bound to tell in the second half. Sadly, his prophetic words came true (I suppose they would if they were prophetic!).
The early part of the second half was like a chess game as a real stale mate set in as the metaphorical pawns, king and bishops across the park battled for strategic dominance. One moment it was Heenan pressing, only to be thwarted, then WDS’s turn to apply the pressure, only to be negated by the Heenan back four of McTavish, Crippleton and McNeilson the toughest trio since Siddall, Skelton and Leybourne, the feared teaching threesome from Geography!
Like a man fitted with a bionic hand, Baruc suddenly regained his touch and made a series of impressive runs, letting Irwin in on a couple of occasions, only for the right sided player to narrowly shoot wide.
Griffiths started to grow in confidence as the Heenan back four tired a little. Kristiensen continued to impress and put in a couple of challenges that old timers McGrath and Corrigan would have been proud of back in the day (the 80’s for Mr. McGrath, the 50’s for Mr. Corrigan!). At this point Mr. Donga left, having had flashbacks of his previous week’s ankle ligament damage escapade! Mr. Handihill bowed his head sheepishly and quickly changed the conversation.
At right back McGinn was like a mini rottweiller, snapping at the heels of the Heenan forwards like his life depended on it. Despite being two down the WDS boys continued to battle. Even forward Exauce Baruc was seen making a superb tackle just ten yards from his own penalty area. The referee, who had forgotten his contact lenses, let many a poor challenge go from our boys, in their fight to try and stamp (not literally, it must be said!) their authority on this game as the minutes ebbed away.
Osbourne and Hollinshead were like a couple of Trojans in the centre of defence and it was a shame when a rare mistake from one of the lads, a back header that fell short of Leach, led to Heenan’s Peter Rabbit hopping in to neatly lob the ball over the keeper’s head.
Despite this, the WDS midfield continued to dominate and control the middle of the pitch. Connor Pye swung in a couple of crosses deserving of better control and finishing and it was becoming more and more likely that it wasn’t going to be their day. Indeed, Pinocchio Gepetto, the Italian youngster, known as the Puppet Master because he’s always pulling the strings, nearly extended Heenan’s lead when he took a thirty-yard free kick that whistled just over the bar.
From here on in, it was obvious that the WDS lads didn’t have a chance of pulling back the deficit but it was good to see that they still tried hard, a great attitude, indeed, the only attitude, to have.
As the game was in its final stages, the WDS rearguard was left exposed as they tried to push forward and a superb passing move resulted in a clinical finish from Kalashnikov who unloaded another right footed bullet to make it 4-0. Check mate to Cardinal Heenan!
Barely two minutes later it was full-time. The appreciative crowd, mostly WDS supporters, gave both teams a polite round of applause. The Heenan boys picked up the trophy and as the hordes moved away from the pitch, the referee had two ground staff come along to show him the way back to the changing rooms.
Next year the boys will be another year older and wiser and it’ll be interesting to see what they can do against this cracking young team from across the district. They’ll be upset now but they will live to fight another day. As it is, reaching two school’s cup finals in the same year is a great achievement. Well done to all of those involved and it has to be said that the better team won on the day.
As for Boy of the Match, McGinn was very good, Pye too, but for his overall consistency and impact Lewis Kristiensen seemed to be the majority choice for the punters on the line.
Full-time: West Derby 0 Cardinal Heenan 4
John ‘Motty’ Motson