Image credit Martin Brooks @ trippingovertheball.blog
After my little cameo for Long Melford Reserves a couple of months ago, I was once again ready to hang up my gloves until I got a message out of the blue asking me to help out with the first team, who were a bit short on numbers.
The Long Melford first team play in the Thurlow Nunn (Eastern Counties) League, step 5 of the non-league pyramid and at a level where many players are paid to play – some up to £250 a week if rumours are to be believed.
The manager decided to play one of his outfield players in goal, rather than take a chance on me, which I can understand to some degree as I have no experience at this level and he has never seen me play. However (and with no disrespect to the guy who played in goal whatsoever), I can’t help but feel that I would’ve been able to do a better job due to nearly 20 years between the sticks, but oh well.
Melford really were thin on the ground with myself, the manager and one player making up the entirety of the bench. Having secured their status in the league, they were just looking to see the season out and build again for next year. In complete contrast, the day’s opponents were high-flying Stowmarket Town, with bags of money, a squad with great depth and a striker with over 50 league goals this campaign, were still chasing faint hopes of promotion – despite amassing likely over 100 points this season, ‘Stow’ are still outside the top two with Coggeshall Town and Felix & Walton above them.
All this made the hosts strong favourites and it certainly showed. Stowmarket dominated the first half, netting three times before the break to go in with a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Their quality really shone through. The quality of football wasn’t anything special, there was a lot of “over the top” but it worked for them as it really suited their style of play. Creative playmakers in the middle of the park, speedy wingers on the flanks and the ever-threatening Mayhew in and around the penalty area.
To be fair to Melford, they came out at the start of the second half and got a goal back almost immediately. Any faint hopes of a comeback were soon extinguished though as the home side went one to grab two more goals and seal the win with a 5-1 scoreline.
It was interesting to observe the game from the dugout, hearing the discussions between the management team, listening to the tactics, the highs and the lows of it all. Yes, I was disappointed not to play a part in the game, but it was still good to be involved. Everything from taking part in the warm-up, kicking the ball around at half time and just being in the dressing room during the team talks was a good experience.
With numerous goalkeepers normally available, chances are that it was a one off for me, so looks like me career has peaked after all, but you never know…