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Oakley United 2 v 1 Musselburgh Athletic

I believe, if offered a point before a ball had been kicked, management, committee and the supporters would have bitten one’s hand off. I make no apologies for this statement because the players of Oakley United were up against a team that had been beaten only once this season. Out of a total of 16 games played, they had secured maximum points on 13 occasions, drawing the other 2. Oakley would have to be at the top of their game, each and every player, if they had any hope of grabbing that much sought after point.


MoM: I decided to get this out of the way early. Did a forward deserve it more than a defender? Did someone in the midfield deserve it more than either of them? Or from another perspective, did any player not deserve the mom award more than another? The answer to all of the above questions is NO.

In today’s game against the top of the table, Musselburgh, there were no out and out superstars. In today’s game, there were no players that were carried. In today’s game, every player did exactly what was asked of him. If only this had been the case, picking a MoM would have been a little easier.

As it was, not only did every man involved in the game give what was asked of him, each and every player involved in today’s game gave their all. They gave what was asked and then some. Each player walked off the pitch at the end of the game exhausted, drained worn out. They had fought for and given their all for the Oakley cause. No player will be singled out today. For if it hadn’t been for each and every one of them producing their displays of bravery, passion, determination and commitment, this game could, and probably would have swung the other way. Musselburgh were, correction, are a class outfit but in all fairness, Oakley wanted the points more and duly took them.

The game started at a frantic pace and never lessened until the final whistle. The strong westerly wind did add a little spice to the game but also helped dry out and firm up the ground from the deluge it has received throughout the night. All in all, the prospect of a rejuvenated Oakley against the might of the proven Musselburgh superstars made for a superbly entertaining Saturday afternoon.

Oakley, from the whistle, started on a very high tempo which saw minor chances from Lee Celentano and Greg Sinclair go harmlessly pass the oppositions post. Musselburgh playing two up front; one out and out with the supporting striker in the hole seemed to give Kevin Conners at left back an inordinately large area to work in. This was quickly spotted by the goalkeeper, Martin Parkyn – still suffering the after affects from the previous week’s illness, who used his left back on every available occasion. This option provided Oakley with a means of delivering a quality ball into the danger area, deep into the heart of the Musselburgh defence. Clever movement from both forwards gave K Connors several options of which he chose wisely a high percentage of the time.

First goal bound strike went to Oakley. A lovely piece of interplay between Brian Ritchie and Ryan Blackadder saw the latter send a deftly hit angled lob over the heads of the defender on to the foot of the on rushing Brendan Cusick. Cusick did not hesitate and with a decidedly soft first touch, cracked a fierce, left foot shot which saw the visitor’s keeper make the first of some spectacular saves he would pull off during the afternoon.

At this point it has to be pointed out that Parkyn in the Oakley goals made some stunning saves throughout the game also.

Greg Sinclair’s goal was a culmination of some constant pressure being applied by the O’s. In the 30 th minute, after some sterling work from the wing play of Peter Fyfe, the ball was crossed into the visitor’s six yard box. After a few attempts at clearing the danger, the ball fell to G Sinclair. With his back to the goals, the striker turned sharply, leaving 2 defenders with no chance of getting a challenge in, and loosed a curling a shot, with his right instep, into the top of the far side net. The keeper had no chance. 1 – 0.

One may have excused the Os for sitting on their lead and attempting to “see the game out” even from as far away as 60 minutes to go – but not Oakley. The O’s continued to press the game which resulted in several half chances but ultimately their second goal.

A timely interception from the right back Chris Hughes saw him leave his opponent behind and launch a new attack. His pass along the deck found the ever vibrant Ritchie who continued the motion of the ball through to the onrushing Cusick His cross/drive into the box created mayhem in the Musselburgh defence allowing Celentano to quickly nip in and header home from 4 yards. 2 – 0

Musselburgh did have a few half chances; the best one being a superb header from the centre forward which brought out a fantastically acrobatic save from the goalkeeper, Parkyn.

Half time 2 – 0

Musselburgh did step up a gear in the second half. Not too many clear cut chances were recorded but a definite shift in the tempo and possession was recorded.

As the game progressed and Musselburgh pushed for their opening goal, Oakley did seem to step back a little further than looked comfortable. This made for restrictive midfield play which was spotted early by Oakley’s defensive pairing of John Sinclair and Craig Lumsdon. Realising their midfielders were beginning to bear down on them, they chose to miss them out and sail passes over their heads directly into the paths of the willing strikers. This option nearly bore fruit, on more than one occasion.

On one of Musselburgh’s many forays deep into the Oakley half, a foul was won; a couple of yards outside the penalty spot, just off right centre. After some time was allowed for the player on the ground to receive some treatment, the free kick was taken.

Oakley formed a wall of 4 but it was to prove not enough. The visitor’s striker, Chrissie King, strode up and dispatched a low, curling shot around the wall and into the net – catching the fingers of the diving keeper on the way in. 2 – 1 (70 mins)

Game on.

Yet again, one would have expected Oakley to pull all players back but this was not the case.

Substitute Alan Moody, on for a completely shattered G Sinclair, broke the shackles of 2 defenders and laid on a pass for the flying Fyfe which saw him strike an unstoppable shot that should have burst the top of the net. Had it not been for the Musselburgh keeper that is? He produced a miraculous save that, even long after the game has finished, I still don’t know how he reached.

5 minutes later, the O’s midfielder, Ritchie, ghosted past 2 defenders bringing the 3 rd on to him. This left space for Fyfe, just outside the defender. The midfielder slipped the ball passed the defender teeing up Fyfe. To expect 2 wonder strikes, one after the other, was I fear a little much with his resultant shot this time being wide of the target.

Apart from a few minutes of “dancing” at the opposition’s corner flag – Blackadder and Moody with 2 defenders as their partners – nothing further of note happened.

Jubilant Oakley players, management and supporters alike were pleased, to say the least, to hear the final whistle.

On a parting note:

Something I do not do very often; a word of praise has to be given for the refereeing display by the man in the middle. Did he make mistakes, almost certainly, were they intentional, definitely not. The referee produced a performance that saw him float through the game where he was, dare one suggest, invisible. The game flowed, their was no nasty dissent, advantage was played where applicable and the couple of bookings handed out to the players of both teams could never be questioned.

We all know referees are a necessary evil. We train hard throughout the week looking forward to the weekend and the trials and tribulations this wonderful game will bring. Unfortunately, all too often, all that hard work, time and energy is ruined by the “person” in the middle.

This chap in the middle on Saturday was not a “person”, he was a referee; a referee with some common sense. A referee, who spoke to the players, gave reasons to the players and ultimately received respect from the players.

My word to the whistler in the middle of today’s game between Oakley United and Musselburgh Athletic – respect.