Last week saw our annual Accrington Stanley Community Trust Charity Staff v Students football match take place, with both sides keen to earn the bragging rights amidst wintery playing conditions.
There was a very brief pitch inspection with the playing surface full of snow and the temperature being -3 degrees Celsius. However, after a quick shovelling of the touchlines, plus a call of “look, the ball is rolling,” the game was called on, with the announcement causing mixed emotions amongst the staff, with some clearly wanting to stay within the office and its toasty temperature.
Nonetheless, once out on the pitch, all the players were raring to go. It was a cagey first 10 minutes to the match as both teams cautiously tried to figure each other out, but we didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal as the Staff took the lead through Martin Fearon, who found himself with space in the centre of the box and his shot found its way past Mitch Marshall via the means of a deflection. 1-0.
Consequently, the game quickly opened up and soon the staff had a glorious opportunity to double their lead as Matthew Fearon found himself with the ball just inside the 18-yard area, however he was unable to emulate his brother’s earlier heroics as the resulting shot was scuffed wide.
Two minutes later, it would be the goalscorer Fearon who struck fear into his opposition’s eyes once again. Finding himself on the edge of the box, the ambitious attacker applied an audacious attempt as he tried to lift the ball over Marshall’s head and into the far corner of the net. The young keeper had other ideas as he acrobatically tipped the ball wide.
The Staff side kept piling on the pressure as they had two more big chances in quick succession. First, Stefan Wilson showed great speed to run onto a long ball over the top, beating the keeper to the ball, but only succeeding in hooking the ball just wide. Seconds later, Matt Parkinson swiftly set himself to shoot from just outside the area, with his right-footed curling effort smartly saved down low by Marshall.
Eventually, the pressure proved too much for the Students, with the Staff’s lead doubled in spectacular style. The young side failed to clear a corner with any conviction and as the ball fell to Sam ‘Roberto Carlos’ Morris 30 yards out, there was only one thing on his mind. Morris rolled the ball out of his feet and sent a rasping drive towards goal, with the ball flying past Marshall, cannoning off the underside of the crossbar, and nestling into the far corner of the net. A grand goal for a grand occasion, 2-0.
That was more or less the last action of the first period as the referee blew for half-time, with the Staff side going into the interval very pleased with themselves whilst the Students were wondering what sort of wintery whirlwind had hit them.
As the second half began, it was clear the young Stanley side were determined to overturn the deficit, as Ethan Gordon forced keeper Ash Bryan into a smart save at his near post. As the younger side kept pressing, they left themselves open to counter-attacks. Unfortunately for them, it would be their downfall.
Martin Fearon was soon at it again, as the Staff attack overpowered the opposition defence, leaving the attacker with time to shoot from close range. Once more, his effort was deflected past Marshall and into the net for the Staff’s third of the match. Some call it lucky, others call it calculated. 3-0.
Heads had started to drop in the Students’ defence as the Staff once again overpowered their opposition. Kristian Whalley waltzed through into the box and despite the best attempts of the defence to cynically foul the forward, Whalley stayed on his feet and finished with aplomb, with the match surely over as a contest by now.
Football is rarely ever a straightforward game and the momentum of the match would drastically change after just one substitution. Lee ‘Cafu’ Walsh had done his duty at right back and departed the field thinking he’d left the defence in good hands, but it turned out to be a bigger gamble than ever expected.
Soon after the Staff team was slightly rearranged, the Students saw their opportunity to come back into the game. Owen Duxbury had an effort well saved by Bryan, with a follow up effort being sent over the bar. Just a few minutes later, their new found vigour would be rewarded. A ball over the top of the tiring Staff defence led Jack Massey to be one-on-one with Bryan and he the striker never looked like missing, classily finishing into the bottom corner. 4-1.
The pendulum had well and truly swung by this stage, as only another minute passed by the time Owen Duxbury was handed the freedom of the 18-yard area to fire a sweetly hit strike into the top corner past Bryan, giving off the feeling that this was more than just a second consolation goal. 4-2
With ten minutes remaining, the game had fully opened up with end-to-end action. There was sure to be at least another goal in the game but would the Staff put the game beyond doubt? Or would the Students improve their chances of a miraculous comeback? The answer would soon arrive, in comical style.
Ash Bryan found himself with the ball at his feet in his own six-yard area, under relatively little danger with only one opposition player within 20 yards of him. Unfortunately for Bryan, Jamie Sanderson decided to pressure the keeper’s kick, with the ball hitting Sanderson square in the back and sailing over Bryan’s head into the goal. A calamitous goal setting up a grandstand finish. 4-3.
Nerves were jangling for the final moments of the match as the Students looked to find a famous equaliser but there would be no fairytale this time, with the young side unable to muster any attempt of note before the referee blew the final whistle, handing the Staff a great win after a thrilling 90 minutes of action.
So the acclaim belongs to the Staff team in 2021. Can the Students bounce back next year? Only time will tell, but this year’s stunning victory for the staff is certainly one that will live long in the memory.