So the eagerly awaited semi final was here, the Friends and family stand had hired a minibus, we asked for one with particularly dirty windows so we had something to do on the long trip to Deal. After a quick Spoons breakfast we were off, a nice cold day as usual but with our assorted beer coats on no one seemed to mind. On arrival at Deal we found the pub nearest the ground for some mulled wine and a warm by the fire. A few locals were slightly bemused and I had to personally talk one out of calling the zoo as in his words he’d never seen such an ugly species of animal.
Anyway, nice little stadium really, not so the pitch but as we know Sheppey will never do things the easy way so it seemed fitting.
The crowd of 140 ish was made up of about 110 Ites, a few locals who only popped in as the wrestling wasn’t on telly and two men and a red setter from Canterbury.
Sheppey were starting with two new centre backs, Big Johnno, clearly signed from The land of the Giants and Dave Cook who I’d heard of as being a decent lad and definitely one for the future (or not depending when you read this) in place of the Colonel and the injured playboy that is Ralphy.
Canterbury had in their starting eleven a veteran of 6 games in 3 spells for Sheppey Darren Marsden, a great player who could cause us problems given time and room.
The game started, Sheppey quickly into their stride looking confident from the off despite their recent lack of form, Girty as usual getting on the ball looking to release the fit again Bradshaw at every opportunity. Mahoney in midfield, the ever willing runner covering more space than the inside of Harry Kane’s head, Capt Batten and Hich driving the team on. Then it happened, Canterbury had barely touched the ball so the last thing you’d expect to happen would be for them to score, they didn’t, the Shrewsbury Shifter did, getting behind their defence Dan drew the keeper, he had that much time, and slipped the ball past him into the Holy Goalies net 1-0. Cue wild celebrations from the two stands full of travellers. Canterbury, coming from the Holy City were clearly not used to such noise, the red setter who I later learnt was named Colin tried to rally his team but gave up saying there’s no “pointiff “ the other two won’t join in. Sheppey still dominant pushed on, on the rare occasions Canterbury threatened, big Johnno the Baptist turned defence to attack like water into wine with a firm but assured approach. Then the miracle of the second coming, a great move involving Hiccham, Timmy and The elusive Remmell ended with Bradshaw breaking free to score easily 2-0 with only 30 minutes played, he was really rubbing their “ Moses” in it now. The travelling ites buoyed by not only the performance but 6 hours in the pub cheered every pass, determined that we wouldn’t throw this away and then two minutes before the break Bradshaw chased down the defence like a man possessed stole the ball and again slotted past the keeper who by now had been beaten more times than the Fritzl kids. 3-0 at HT and the team trooped off for a well deserved pint with a standing, for those of us who still could, ovation.
The second half was in truth never going to live up to the first, the home side had found their feet and at last put the boys under pressure. Again the defence of Johnno, Cook, Brunty and Girt stood up to all they could muster, the chances dried up like a 60 year old nun and the game settled into a midfield battle that neither team got on top of. Marsden as usual proving their best player despite the disparaging chants of the crowd, well me mainly, but in truth he was never afforded the space as in previous returns. The half was punctuated by a few subs, Coops on for Timmy, Josh Froggatt getting a run but the game seemed to be petering out until Sheppey made the Cardinal sin of allowing the hosts to score a consolation which barely raised and eyebrow let alone a wagged tail due to the fact that Colin had long gone. 3-1, slightly took the gloss off the game but the final beckoned.
Very pleasing, went for the jugular from the start against a higher placed team. The new centre halves looked imposing, the midfield did more running than a council estate kids nose, and the forwards were on top of their game. A final against Whitstable was the reward, we owe them one definitely and April 8th can’t come quick enough.
MOM. Difficult as the team performance was outstanding, nobody played below their best and everything on the day clicked. Bradshaw though was different gravy, they never got to grips with his pace and tenacity and to score three against the Vatican eleven was the icing.