Date: Saturday 8th October
Starting Line-Up: Clark, Haddon, A. Clarke, Pally, Utting, Denno, Bradders, Salty (C), Hill, Moody, Burt
Subs: Ramsay, Joe D
In well-worn Ian Holloway parlance, this Cubo win was akin to being vomited on by a prostitute. Outplayed for large periods of the game by a younger and fitter, Balham side, AFC Cubo summoned on the years of experience present and exhibited fine smash and grab technique.
Pre-match, the writing had been on the wall for the boys in baby blue. As the youthful Balham FC diligently carried out a pre match warm up involving dynamic stretching, close knit ball work and a small sided game, Cubo responded with Netball, X-factor discussion and a racially insensitive team talk.
OR (Cubo responded with Netball and X-factor discussion, liberally punctuated with loud welsh swearing and demands to ‘stick one on them early doors’ from the player manager) Just in case anyone from the league/the other side ever reads this.
When the game finally kicked off, despite the insistence of Mark Bradley that the best, and indeed only, way to deal with a youthful opposition was through ‘inappropriate touching’, Cubo dominated the opening exchanges through more conventional means. In the first minute, a good interchange between Salty, Hill and Moody down the left allowed the latter to release a fierce shot at goal which was well blocked by the Balham Centre half. The Cubo boys felt that notice had been served that both sides on the pitch could play and moments later they had their reward.
A well-worked move resulted in a ninth minute corner which was floated high into the box for Clarke to convert as Pally busied himself assaulting the young goalkeeper. It wasn’t the first time a set play would cause the Balham defence trouble and nor was it the first time Cubo’s methods, particularly those of the player-manager, would be called into question.
From this point forward, the game settled into a regular pattern. Cubo showed fight, determination and grit all over the pitch and sought to disrupt Balham’s passing game at every opportunity. When they did receive possession, the Cubo boys attempts to get the ball down and play in the time honoured baby blue way were all too often thwarted by a Balham side who were quick to close down and moved the ball at speed.
Once again, Cubo’s work-rate was outstanding. Despite Balham having the majority of the possession, the Cubo boys fought hard and unexpectedly almost doubled their lead on 32mins when Denno went close with a long range chip over the Balham keeper. Stirred into action by this chance, Balham responded with a flurry of attacks culminating in an excellent chance for their centre forward to pull the scores level on the brink of half time. Once again however, the sun shone on the boys in baby blue and they went into the break still holding the lead.
As the second half began, it was clear the pattern of the game would be continued with Balham launching wave after wave of attacks against the cubo defence and the embattled midfield with the Balham No.10 the centre of all their good play. In response, Bradley was given the role of man-marking the No.10 – a move which did much to reduce the crafty playmaker’s effectiveness (that’s the No.10 by the way, not Bradders).
On the 65min, fresh legs were introduced to equation in the form of Ramsey for the unlucky Denno. With Stevie T busy filling the Gary Doherty role (if you don’t know Wikipedia it) for the 1s, Burt and Moody fought hard to hold the ball up front but welcomed the introduction of Ramsey to assist in their task with Burt dropping into midfield and Salty to the right.
Despite the change, the pattern of the game remained much the same and as the last 15 minutes approached, many in the ground would have had doubts about whether Cubo would hold on. A good Cubo chance on 80mins nearly sealed the game for the boys in baby blue with Ramsay unlucky to see his glancing header clip the outside of the upright on a rare
foray into the opposition half. What followed next will be gracing rolling sports channels across the globe for many weeks to come.
A long through ball found the Balham No.10 who, despite being man-marked effectively for much of the 2nd half, found himself all on his own on the Cubo left. Seeing the danger, player manager Pally took matters into his own hands. As the playmaker advanced and then overran the ball, Pally put in a fair challenge. Frustrated by his wasteful use of possession,
the No.10 then threw himself onto the floor in front of the advancing centre back. Pally, too fully into his powerful stride to stop, continued on his path and trampled over the top of the young boy. In the resulting melee, unluckily for the no.10, one of Pally’s size 12’s connected with his ankle bone, sending the No.10 into a torrent of high pitched abuse aimed at Pally and the referee. Cue disgraceful scenes across Wimbledon Common. The Balham team claimed the boot to the ankle was deliberate, Pally insisted not. The Balham players protested vociferously, the cubo boys lept to their manager’s defence. A woman ran onto the pitch screaming. A linesman tripped over a water bottle. All the time, the crocked no.10 lay on the floor shrieking. When the game restarted, regrettably, the No.10 was never quite the same player again.
With Balham’s main threat now ‘neutralised’, their challenge to Cubo’s lead slowly ebbed away. Save for a last minute goalmouth scramble in which Cubo’s woodwork was rattled and keeper Clark dived three times at imaginary balls – Balham ceased to seriously threaten Cubo’s goal again and the boys in baby blue held on for a famous victory. Pretty it wasn’t, but once again Cubo’s grit, determination and team spirit shone through as they deservedly went into the hat for the next round.
Final Score: Balham FC 0-1 AFC Cubo 2nd XI
Scorer: Alan Clarke
Man of the Match: Pally
Match Report: AC