Match Report
Repton School 3rd XI vs  Twycross House School Boys-U18A
On: Thursday, 19 Sep 2019
Venue: at Home

Wade, Hubbard (x2), Nefedov

The sound you can hear is the dropping of blood on your correspondent’s keyboard as he scratches his head maniacally, trying to work out what on earth has just happened.

We managed somehow to go into the break 2-0, having dominated the first half, then deservedly went 3-2 up, and could have comfortably doubled our score when, out of nowhere, we conceded an equaliser to what was pretty much Twycross’ only foray into our penalty area. When Jack Hubbard slotted home the winner with a few minutes to spare, it felt that some sort of normality had been restored, but, by that point, anything could have happened.

After the ¡No Pasarán! heroics of the weekend we started a little off the boil, if truth be told, and, while we always had the edge on quality and match-fitness, we were avoidably letting Twycross into the game, not winning 50-50s, nor contesting second balls. An honourable exception to this was Freddie Nelson, winning his first full cap for the One True Faith that is The 3rds Nation. The urgency, selfless tenacity and physical courage he displayed were exemplary, and set the bar for how we should aim to harry opponents.

This was the first outing for many of the 3rds on the sacred turf that is Lower Tower, and, if you’ve not brought your crampons, the slope can take some getting used to. Playing uphill, into a blinding sun, all that was missing was an Ennio Morricone soundtrack and Lee Van Cleef emerging from a heat-haze, spurs a-jangling. All that had seemed so effortlessly brilliant in the shadow of the Chilterns just wasn’t clicking in the more quotidian surroundings of DE65. Through-balls seemed to find a Twycross centre-back every time, and we got caught in possession in the centre of the park in a way that would have been unconscionable only five days ago.

We made life harder for ourselves than we needed to, however, as we were not pressing Twycross’ defence enough, and there was no-one to pounce upon the Leicestershire ‘keeper’s spills in the box. In defence, we were in control of the channels, but vulnerable to long-balls through the centre, and Twycross twice exploited this vulnerability to score and then double their lead, against the run of play.

As long as held our nerve, and scored early in the second period, I felt that we were still well in the game as we went into the break, experiencing a collective sense of exasperation and confusion as to our predicament. Attacking downhill in the second half, we soon increased our dominance of the game, and two goals came in quick succession, first as Will Wade simply would not give up – we’re back with La Pasionaria, again – won a tussle in the area, rounded the keeper, and walked the ball into the net. I’m sure he slowed down as he approached the goal, just to add to the drama.

With our confidence rising, and anchored by an increasingly assured and well-coordinated centre-back pairing of Will Wilkinson and James Murphy, and the peerless Oli Scutt in the Claude Makelele/Matt Murphy role (you pays your money, you takes your choice) we started to play with greater fluency and patience. Sam Yates once again pulled the strings at no. 10, and Jack Hubbard and Josh Thompson-Dykes caused our visitors no end of problems in the final third. As we confined Twycross to their own half, two of the many contenders within the side for the title of Greatest Living Englishman started to impose themselves on the game, and made all the difference.

Sam Jenkinson, one of our senior players, returning to the fold after injury, and Alex Mair both terrorised the Twycross full-backs on the overlap, giving Jack and Nikita Nefedov, on the wings, options and space in the danger-areas. As Sam and Alex metronomically beat their men, got to the bye-line and fizzed a succession of balls across the face of the goal, we should not have been flattered had we scored eight. At times we snatched at shots, but how we had not put the game to bed by the 50-minute mark remains something of a mystery.

Parity was gained when Jack bundled the ball into the net after Twycross had failed to clear their lines, and then, minutes later, as we swarmed forward, overwhelming Twycross with numbers, Nikita cut in from the left, pounced on a loose ball and rifled it home from a tight angle.

Surely that was the not-so-distant rumbling of an avalanche.

With Matty Lewis joining Sam Yates in the centre of midfield, we started to dictate play even more, as they threaded balls through to Nikita, Jack, Josh, Alex and Sam J, and Twycross’ defence were on their heels.

The Revolution eventually consumes its own - even Robespierre ended up on the guillotine. For reasons that I still cannot fathom – perhaps we were hypnotised by our own dominance – we failed to deal with an isolated Twycross attack, and were pegged back to 3-3. For a second, the nightmare scenario suggested itself as a possibility, but, such was our composure, technical accomplishment and physical fitness, that when the ball broke to Jack on the edge of the area, it felt inevitable that he would stab home his second and our winner.

In all, this was not the prettiest or most convincing of wins, but, crucially, we felt our way into a rhythm, and found a way to get ourselves over the line. We shall have to raise our game in the coming weeks, but this is a team growing into itself, and one that can look back on a very positive start to the season.