On a cold, rainy, and quite frankly miserable Wednesday afternoon for Intramural football, only one team could be crowned Cup Champions. For just over two hours, the Longbenton 3G pitch had transformed into a colosseum of noise, an atmosphere that would put the Bernabau to shame. Dozens of shivering fingers grasped their Carling cans more tightly with every Baltic second that passed, loyal supporters lining the outside of the pitch to create an auditory wall to the battleground in the centre. This was it. The final of the Intramural cup. Politics Thistle, placed third in Division 2, lined up in their navy blue and red kit; Division 3 runners-up Tekkerslovakia, the physically larger of the two teams, set up in their bright red shirts and black shorts. As the rain relentlessly barraged the bodies of fans, players and officials, the whistle was heard, and the game begun.
A game that was clearly going to be cagey, mainly due to the poor conditions and cautiously reserved tactics by the two teams, started as it meant to go on, with little to nothing happening in the first 5 minutes. Alfie Hester had other ideas. The ball broke to Thistle’s not-so-pacey right winger, who clearly had his shooting boots on. About 25-yards out and to the far right of the pitch, the odd socks of the midfielder struck the ball with venom. With the help of the Tekkerslovakia goal-keeper’s poor positioning, the ball rippled the back of the top left corner of the net and the crowd erupted in celebration. Did he mean it? Who cared? An unbelievable start to the game. Politics Thistle one. Tekkerslovakia nil.
A very territorial game resulted for the next 40 minutes until half-time, neither side really creating chances, Thistle slightly edging the possession statistics. The start of the second half saw a reinvigorated Tekkerslovakia, who came out clearly the more motivated team by their half-time team talks. The reclusive style of football frustrated players, and the game began to take a more aggressive turn with both sides putting in dangerously late challenges, resulting in an inevitable yellow card for one Tekkerslovakia central midfielder around the hour mark.
A corner was awarded to Tekkerslovakia with 15 minutes left on the clock. A left-footed in-swinger saw Thistle players leap to clear their lines of danger, as set pieces looked to be the only opportunity of any further goals being scored. The ball curls over everybody and heads towards the back post, where the rising ginger head of the Tekkerslovakia captain makes aT clean connection as he rockets the ball into the top corner of the net, leaving the Thistle goalkeeper with no chance. A fantastic goal, and a proper centre-backs goal. Their physicality had finally paid off. Tekkerslovakia had equalised.
After more reclusive football, the ref blows for full-time. “Penalties”, he shouts.
Hearts were in mouths. After three missed penalties from both sides, it becomes sudden death. Tekkerslovakia step up to equalise after a firm penalty from Thistle’s Charlie Shaw flies past the keeper leaving him stuck to the spot. Tekkerslovakia step up… and miss! A fantastic save from Lewis Maxwell, who will become a Thistle legend after his last game for the club.
“Politics Thistle win 4-3 on penalties!”, screams the ref as he rushes off to avoid the post-match celebrations.
Over 50 Thistle supporters extatically charge onto the pitch and pile-on their heroes. Tekkerslovakia were as shaken as the beer from the Thistle supporters. Their heads in their hands, Thistle’s drinks in the sky. A rendition of a chant named “Up the F***ing Thistle” rings around Longbenton as Politics Thistle are crowned 2019 Intramural Champions. Many fathers of the Thistle players who had travelled for the final were visibly reduced to tears, James Dady’s father stating that he couldn’t believe his son had gone to reach the heights of first-choice left-back for Politics Thistle.
Tekkerslovakia, obviously feeling defeated, will compete in the Intramural Shield final, hoping to redeem themselves after a very convincing performance. It just wasn’t their day. A day to remember for Thistle, a day to put right in the next final for Tekkerslovakia.