Yes, you read that correctly. In the same week as Scotland winning the World Cup and Joleon Lescott winning the Ballon d’Or, Hardly Athletic beat Treble Pogba and Koke by five goals to three.
Of course, the latter ‘news’ items are mere fantasy, but Hardly Athletics’ win very much happened, with the magic taking place on an extremely wet Saturday afternoon at Cochrane Park.
Kick-off was scheduled for 2:30, and in typical Hardly fashion, they were without a full compliment of 11 players with five minutes before kick-off. Cue manager Rory Ewart running to lost property to ask for some spare shin pads and borrowing a size 10 pair of boots (apparently two sizes too big for him) in order to make a miraculous start for Athletic, having retired many, many years ago.
As for the opposition, Treble Pogba and Koke had been warming up with intensive drills for the previous 45 minutes. They had five subs, a rest list of players not selected, hosted weekly training sessions, and, most notably, all turned up wearing the same kit.
It’s fair to say that even a non-betting man would be struggling not to back the Trebles; they looked slick, uniform. Momentum was very much against Hardly, with the opening 15 minutes being a cagey affair and much of the action being played in the final third of Hardly Athletics’ half.
An opportunistic moment led to a brief chance for Athletic. Chance met, chance taken. Omar Akram prodding home to give the game its first goal. First blood Hardly.
The remainder of the half saw Hardly employ a no-nonsense “get rid” tactic, think Stoke City early this decade and you won’t be far off. Amazingly, the tactic proved to be paying dividends, with an unlucky faze of play leading to the Pogba’s scoring on the 35-minute mark.
With most of the Hardly players looking to secure even stevens for half time, an amazing Cruyff-like turn from Omar Akram led to a through ball being dispatched by Callum Spooner for Hardly to take a half time lead of 2-1.
Coach Ewart’s game plan was simple for the second half, “launch the darn thing and win the second ball.”
This tactic, whilst not pretty, worked to dramatic effect for the entire second half. Hardly were able to find the net on two more occasions, James Stansfield and Mike Marsh winning the second ball after monumental clearances from keeper Will Channing. In between both of those Mike Marsh scored a tidy free-kick from the edge of the box to complete a brace of goals for him.
The Koke’s did manage to reply with each goal, resulting in a 5-3 final score. The players looked ecstatic but perhaps would’ve celebrated more had they had some subs to aid with tiredness. Dead on their feet but the job was done. Three points were Hardly’s.
Particular mentions must go to the centre-back partnership for the day, Tom Nash, usual centre mid, filled in purely because he was “tall”. He used that ‘tallness’ to devastating effect, keeping a tight ship at the back. Alongside him, Rob Litster was immense, his clear communication, with timely challenges, led to a number of goal-scoring opportunities being thwarted.
At the time of release, Hardly’s next game is against ACS Tigers on Saturday 30th November on Cochrane Park grass pitch. As always, any support would be much appreciated by players and coaches alike.
Last modified: 28th November 2019