On Friday night we played a semi-final against Head. As usual, I was terribly nervous beforehand. Even on the afternoon of the previous day, I only had to think of the game and my stomach plunged two or three floors.
On the drive to the game Paul, our fearless leader, started sketching out his plan for a new system of subs - swapping two players at a time instead of one. I really hate tactical theorising - I am not a thinker when it comes to sport. Tell me my job and I'll do it. But it sounded to me like a complication we didn't need.
We dominated the first 10 minutes without scoring. I was in goals by then when the lanky bloke who usually plays in defence for Head took an early shot. I was just trying to narrow the angle at the time and was on the wrong foot, expecting I had another second to get set. It went into the bottom corner.
I was on the bench when Cam scored just before halftime, and the half finished 1-1. It was obviously going to be very tight.
Early in the 2nd half I put us ahead after Brett put me through with a well-timed ball. Very soon after I got another, can't remember how. 3-1. There was not long left and I thought we might have done enough to hang on. Just while I was thinking that, their nippy forward Always-Wears-Long-Pants-Guy, got round me very easily and scored, for 3-2.
Our new sub system was not going well. We almost conceded a goal when the game restarted after one of our substitutions. We were all daydreaming while their goalie simply rolled the ball to an unattended forward but he messed up the simple chance. Not long after Long-Pants scored again from a free kick. Adrian had hovered too close behind him and been pinged for a "tackle" from behind. 3-3. I was off again at that stage.
With 3 minutes left I went back on and scored again, 4-3. As usual I was trying to do too much, got caught and involved in a messy scramble. A gap opened up and I toe poked it in. One minute to go, and I thought we had done enough. We tried to hold possession but coughed it up. In trying to win it back one of our guys clouted the ball into Long-Pants' knee and it rebounded into the net. 4-4.
I don't know how many of the others on court knew what a draw would mean, but I didn't. I assumed we would have a short extra time or penalties. It wasn't until the hooter went and we were shaking hands that someone announced that Head would go through to next week's Grand Final because they were above us on the ladder. I really wish I had known how it worked.
I was disappointed about it, but I quickly realised that we hadn't played well enough to win so it was a fair result. We missed plenty of chances and mucked up some substitutions. Our defence and midfield was pretty good, so I guess I carry the can for too many shots straight at the keeper.
In the other semi one of the teams could only field three players. a) That puts in perspective the low, low level we are playing at, where a team all-but-forfeits a knockout final. And b) the team that won that semi are not world beaters. If we had gone through to play them next week i would have put the house on us to win. Sigh.