Tuesday 26th May 2015 ko 18.30
Coventry Alliance Premier Division
FOLLY LANE OLD BOYS 2 (Jones 44 Fitzharris 50p) Pidgeon sent off 45 (violent conduct) Fitzharris sent off 90 (violent conduct)
WHITNASH TOWN 2 (Wilkinson 30 Scott 83) Watkin missed penalty 90
Recently I saw a comment on Twitter about this game. It said something along the lines of “It’s not often you see a league’s season boiling down to a final game shoot-out for the title.” I allowed myself a wry smile, this was the third such shoot-out I was to witness this season after the tense afternoons at Harold Wood and Dowty Staverton! This one was to surpass both of them.
I should begin by giving you the situation before the last game of the Coventry Alliance’s season.
Club Pld Pts GD
AEI Rugby 28 69 +91
Folly Lane 27 68 +68
Whitnash 27 67 +79
So if either club won that would give them the championship, but intriguingly the draw would allow AEI Rugby to retain the championship on the fine margin of goal difference. The interest was obvious, and I don’t think even with all the work I’ve done with GroundhopUK I seen that many people watching a game round a roped-off pitch!
The tension was palpable as Folly Lane made the better start, but it was Paul Wilkinson that opened the scoring for the visitors. On territory Folly Lane’s equaliser looked deserved even if there was a hint of offside about the build-up. However in the celebrations words were exchanged and Dan Pidgeon kicked the ball Fabregas-style in the direction of the Whitnash bench, and was dismissed. Ultimately it was he and his team’s indiscipline that cost them the title.
For the majority of the second half Folly Lane made light of the reduction in numbers, taking the lead via Kieran Fitzharris from the penalty spot, but as the half wore on they visibly tired, Whitnash grew in stature, and Lee Scott’s smash home from a corner was justice on the balance of play overall. The goal made it obvious where the AEI faction were standing and as I strolled over to where they were, Whitnash were denied what looked a clear penalty only to be awarded one a few seconds later as normal time slipped into time for stoppages. That was too much for Fitzharris who lost his cool completely, threw a few punches, and was restrained by his teammates as he was dismissed.
The crowd took a collective deep breath as Craig Watkin stepped up to take the penalty. And yes, the history books will show that he missed it, but the truth of it was that he did little or nothing wrong. He aimed bottom right, but James Wardle in goal for Folly Lane dived full length to stop the shot, fumbled slightly, then grabbed again to stop the ball from crossing the line.
The AEI contingent cheered, then endured an agonising further couple of minutes of injury time before the final whistle sounded and the party could start in earnest. That was in contrast to the Folly Lane and Whitnash supporters who looked stunned, and that was also the case for the 100-or-so hoppers there. We negotiated the packed car park just grateful we’d been there to witness this. It was one of those evenings where if you were anywhere else you’d made the wrong choice.