1st game v Ulleskelf
The five man squad was set up with Backhouse in the goal, and Cartwright and Lee playing behind Haigh and Shacklady. The competition hosts played in their traditional mixed blue jerseys forcing the Stags to don their orange bibs over their alternate blue and black vertical striped shirts. However if the Stags had conceded the choice of shirts it was the only thing that they did concede because after the whistle was blown to start the game every ball was scrapped for as if it was the last.
Eager as always to get started was the street fighter himself, Shacklady jnr. It should be made clear though that the descriptions of scrapping and fighter are used only in the context of explaining a desire to win. This was a contest that was hard but fair. Busy and bossy throughout this match, Shacklady again tormented his opponents by repeatedly drawing them in before whipping the ball away with a twist and a turn and then starting another attack.
One goal settled the contest and much credit must go to keeper Backhouse who was the catalyst. In a one on one he pulled off a good save before hoofing the ball down field. Shacklady latched onto the bouncing ball and hit a goal bound shot which the keeper trapped between his legs. Always alert, Shacklady followed up to poke the ball over the line before the keeper was able to lay gloves on the ball.
Haigh was a massive contributor to the win and his impressive displays were only to get better as the tournament continued. At the back Cartwright and Lee protected Backhouse to the extent of keeping a clean sheet.
2nd game v Sherburn
The Stags kept the same formation in this match against their local rivals.
Sherburn were to score first but there was plenty of time for the Stags to regroup and get back into the match. Looking for a second Sherburn were denied by a Cartwright challenge who conceded a corner. From that resulting corner Shacklady was able to bring the ball clear before intelligently passing the ball to Haigh who took the ball half the length of the pitch before smashing the ball top bins to level the score. In this match Shacklady proved his credentials of a top class creative midfielder. There was no showboating here. When there was a pass to be made he made it and inevitably it went to Haigh who was hungry to take the ball and run at the opponent. Haighs individual performance in this match in particular was worthy of high praise. Shacklady was to set Haigh up at least half a dozen times but that’s not to say he only had to finish. On each occasion Haigh had to apply control, strength and skill to score and he did it with aplomb. The third was the best. Shacklady raided the right touchline before measuring the perfect cross which was dinked by Haigh to the side of the keeper and into the net. Haigh bagged all four goals in the four one win.
Judge Shacklady passed the sentence and Haigh performed the execution.
3rd game v Wheldrake
The Stags took to the pitch hoping to maintain their winning start to the competition. It was clear from the off that Wheldrake were going to provide stern opposition. After a couple of half chances to each team Wheldrake took the lead and shortly afterwards they doubled that lead. Haigh attempted to half the deficit but missed by inches with a shot from an almost impossible angle. Lee then kept the Stags in the game when Wheldrake looked destined to score a third. With the attacker clean through and about to strike, speed merchant Lee nipped in to take the ball, literally, off the would be scorers toe and out to safety.
Later Cartwright won the ball and passed to Shacklady who raced clear and with only the keeper to beat attempted to take the ball around him only for the bumpy pitch to cause him to lose control of the ball and the opportunity to score. Late on Haigh tried his luck from distance but try as they might they could not reduce the two goal deficit which is how the game ended.
4th game v Collingham
With fatigue beginning to set in Cartwright was to swap the keeper gloves with Backhouse. The fresh legs of the former keeper supported the tiresome work which continued from Haigh, Lee and Shacklady but this wasn’t enough to prevent the opponents from storming into a three goal lead. Haigh bravely pulled one goal back before the break. With Shacklady harassing the opponents and Lee popping up both in attack and defence to keep Collingham honest only one more goal was conceded and the Stags can count themselves un fortunate not to have closed the gap with Haigh hitting a post and having another shot well saved near the end.
5th game v Brayton
The final game pitted the Stags against Brayton. The kick off was contested with a rock paper scissors routine. Haigh lost the novel contest which proved to be an omen as Brayton managed four goals in the game without the Stags being able to register a reply. The Stags though were now running on empty and Shacklady, who had the gloves in this game, could do little to prevent the loss. The nearest the Stags came was from a Lee shot after a clever Backhouse pass.
The Brayton team were proudly sponsored by fast food giants MacDonalds but by the end the tired out Stags were certainly not “luvin it”
Overall however playing with no substitutes throughout the tournament the Stags did remarkably well and were deserving of their medals at the end.
Up the Stags!
By Dave Cartwright