Shore Villa Tigers 6-3 AC Hoylake Galaxy
It rarely ends well for us when we play Shore Villa, but although the result says otherwise, this one did end on a high.
It's always a tough game against Shore Villa Tigers - the team that pipped us to the title last season (OK, they finished ten points ahead of us in the end, but still...) is always well-organised in defence and quick on the break, so it wasn't the best game to be going into after last week's narrow defeat to West Kirby United Panthers Green (or WKUPG, as we'll now call them for the sake of the word count).
But, you have to play everyone twice (or three times, if the league fancy shaking things up for no apparent reason), and so we went into the game with confidence high and a full squad ready to take the game to the Tigers.
The game kicked off on one of those massive pitches at Plymyards - anyone who's played Sunday League will know how tough they are to get up and down as an adult, so it was no surprise to see our under 13s finding to tough to get out of their own half during the opening period.
Even so, Galaxy were keeping the Tigers at bay with relative ease, until the first of the morning's contentious (wrong) refereeing decisions went against us - James Roberts was shepherding the ball out of play when it hit a bobble just before it bounced over the touchline for a goal kick, but Tigers shouted for a corner and the referee awarded it to them.
In fairness, I can see how the referee could have thought it hit James before it went out, and good on the Tigers players for shouting for the decision, but there was an air of inevitability they'd score from the resulting corner. They did.
Shore Villa Tigers 1-0 AC Hoylake Galaxy
Shore Villa then doubled their lead soon afterwards - I'm not going to lie, I can't remember how it went in - but Galaxy pulled one back almost immediately, as Daniel Melling curled a lovely, defence-splitting pass through to Luke Davis, who powered into the area and clipped a lovely finish past the Tigers 'keeper.
Shore Villa Tigers 2-1 AC Hoylake Galaxy
Self-belief was now surging through the entire Galaxy team who, instead of hastily clearing the ball at every opportunity, were getting it down and playing some lovely football that Shore Villa were struggling to cope with - until we were undone by the second, decisive, poor refereeing decision of the day.
As an attack broke down, the ball was lofted clear by a Tigers defender and into the Galaxy half, to a player who was at least a yard offside. But, despite protestations from the Galaxy touchline, he was allowed to run through on goal and restore Tigers' two-goal advantage.
We were hardly playing a George Graham-style offside trap - it was sheer luck that the Tigers' striker was offside - but offside he was and stood the goal shouldn't have (try saying that last bit in Yoda's voice, works much better).
Now I know refereeing is a tough gig - essentially, you've two ungrateful crowds to upset - and although the ref had a decent game overall, he got two big decisions wrong. To make matters worse, our line was told in no uncertain terms that it's only there to flag for throw-ins, which is fair enough, but referees can't be getting obvious calls like this one wrong. But this one did, so...
Shore Villa Tigers 3-1 AC Hoylake Galaxy
This knocked the stuffing out of the team, who visibly wilted, and Tigers added another before half time (again, no idea how it went in, it seems I only remember the dodgy ones!)
Half time: Shore Villa Tigers 4-1 AC Hoylake Galaxy
If we were to get anything out of the game, we needed a big performance from the team, and that's exactly what we got, as every player lifted themselves to put in a solid second half showing - none more so than Joshua Carruthers who smacked in Galaxy's second goal from outside the area. The ball broke to him and he put his laces through it first time, leaving the keeper with nothing to do but pick it out of the net.
If you want an idea of how good a hit it was, this Alan Partridge commentary nails it - in fact, Josh hit the ball so hard, he injured his foot in the process and had to come off.
Galaxy were back in the game, and pushing for an equaliser when Tigers broke and were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Their number three lined up a shot and smacked it towards the top corner, only to force a brilliant save from Thomas Foston in the Galaxy goal.
It wasn't long before Tigers did increase their lead again though, with a brilliant solo goal from their left winger, who picked the ball up on the half way line and evaded a couple of chances on his way into the box to slot past Thomas. And then Tigers (undeservedly) went 6-2 up soon after - that's not sour grapes, by the way, Tigers are an excellent team, who played well and took their chances, they just weren't worth a four-goal lead for this pundit's money. But, the stats don't lie, so...
Shore Villa Tigers 6-2 AC Hoylake Galaxy
There was just time for a late flourish from Galaxy, who scored a third through Leo Haines - that's two-in-two for Leo - after he was played through by Josh Carruthers, who had by now recovered from hitting the hardest shot ever, or at least since this one.
Final score: Shore Villa Tigers 6-3 AC Hoylake Galaxy
In the end, Tigers did enough to register another comfortable win over Galaxy, but the second half performance and the way the team battled until the final whistle, despite the scoreline, stands us in good stead for next week, when we face another of last season's bogey teams in New Ferry Rangers Orange, in our first game at our new home at Acres Road.
Bring it on!
Man of the match - Noah Gairing
Last week's Man of the Match, James Roberts put in another great display, as did Daniel Melling, who Tigers really couldn't cope with, and Joshua Carruthers who scored a screamer and set one up. But Noah Gairing played a blinder at right back for Galaxy - his best display during his time at AC Hoylake - and is growing into a solid defender.