Red Hall Drive – 08/11/2017: Hardly Athletic 1-5 Classic XI
Henderson Hall – 15/11/2017: Hardly Athletic 0-10 Oxbow Lakers
It has been a very pleasant fortnight for myself and the Hardly Athletic squad. With no games since the 10-0 drubbing against Oxbow Lakers on 15th October and the idea of weekly training all but dead, we have been able to relax, recuperate and forget about being Newcastle University’s worst football team™.
Before the well-earned break, Athletic faced two games that would define our season. First up was a relegation grudge match against Classic XI – who, at kick off, were below Athletic on goal difference. Expectations were high, and many felt that this would be the opportunity to get some points on the board and silence the calls for the manager’s head.
To no real surprise, it was not. Classic XI ran away with the game and were deserved winners. Athletic’s only period of pressure came after Jonny Eccles’ tidy goal made the score 2-1 towards the end of the first half. Displaying a real poacher’s instinct, Eccles converted from a goalmouth scrap and seemingly provided Athletic with a way back into the match. Unfortunately, this was not capitalised upon and the interval came at a very bad time for the trailing side.
Full time, however, could not have come earlier. Classic XI dominated the second half and the referee’s whistle was a sweet relief – indicating that we could flee to the safe haven of the Benton Ale House (other pubs are available). Quite frankly, there is nothing funny about losing 5-1 to a team who (apparently) had never won or drawn a game of football, but Classic XI deserved their victory and were a pleasure to play against.
After dusting ourselves down, the following week brought a tough fixture against Geography Society’s Oxbow Lakers. A comprehensive 10-0 defeat is the worst in the club’s short and bleak history – overtaking the 8-1 loss against Jesmond Tutu earlier in the season.
A sparse squad of 12 arrived at Henderson Hall (maybe people are getting tired of losing week after week) and the afternoon got off to a very bad start. A breakdown in communication meant that Athletic’s right back and number ten had driven to Close House in Northumberland, a mere twelve miles away from the ground in Heaton.
A makeshift starting eleven was assembled, which involved playing centre half Henry Clark as a striker. Clark managed Athletic’s only shot on target in the first half, putting himself in contention to start as a forward again – his zero goals this season is level with any of the team’s other strikers.
Athletic were 4-0 down after fifteen minutes and any hope of finishing the season with a single point quickly disappeared. This seemed to spark a realisation among the team that there was no point in trying to win and we were better suited to embracing the farce that is our club.
As enthusiasm increased, the team’s discipline deteriorated. This came to a head when centre half Will van Woerden almost killed Oxbow Lakers’ striker with a remarkable chop tackle. Van Woerden was lucky to escape without a booking and we hope that he will not receive a retrospective ban from the FA.
A bruising, but liberating couple of weeks for Athletic – at least our delusions of grandeur have finally been put to bed.