TITANS match report by Laurence Taylor
2-3 Win vs Tulse Hill and Dulwich
Despite being depleted by injuries and covid test results, the beer train contingent was at its highest for the season as Titans ventured away for yet another late game time, this time at league leaders Tulse Hill & Dulwich.
Revenge was on our minds as Titans had narrowly and perhaps unfortunately lost the home leg 2-1 earlier in the season.
Pre match team talk in the glorious spring sunshine was bolstered by the passing of a late fitness test for skipper Jatin and focused on the importance of the simple art of keeping the ball, moving them around.
The momentum of 4 wins on the bounce was clear to see as Titans for once started without their usual sluggishness and dominated the early possession and territory.
Tulse Hill strangely lined up allowing Titans to push forward and effectively play with 3 at the back, with right back Howie Wilson roaming in space high up the pitch, linking well with Wiz and the hard running forward line of Big Hands, Woody and the selfless movement of Jez.
Some strong tackling from both sides did not allow many chances although the whistle count was clearly against the Titans for puzzling reasons. Midway through the half the flash point of the game, as the umpire, either flustered by the speed of Titans movement or the bright sunshine, green carded centre back Laurence and then sweeper Peds was yellow carded for ‘protesting’. Titans down to 9, under the cosh as the opposition sensed their chance as they duly upped their game and pressured the Titans goal.
The pressure told and a short corner led to Tulse Hill taking a slightly fortuitous lead.
On the back foot and still down to 10 the game had changed and despite the hard graft from left half Greg, the pressure again told and from another home short corner, a p-flick was awarded as the lifted slap hit was cleared from the line by the body of Ali.
Waving away protests that clearly the first shot at goal was not a flick and was high, the umpire added to the confusion by allowing the flick to be taken when keeper Justin was not even ready or looking.
Further protests ensued and a still bamboozled umpire called the captains together as Titans politely discussed the ethics of the game, that was threatening to become a farce.
Missing our usual umpire liaison in chief Biffi, Skipper Jatin stepped on from the side to inform the umpires that they needed to up their game and treat both sides the same. Despite this the umpire was in no mood to change his decision but thanks to the generous sporting nature of the opposition they intentionally did not trouble Justin on the retaken flick.
Confusion over and steeled by some tough talking during the break in play from Jatin and Laurence, Titans stormed back, moving the ball around the back and taking advantage of the space still afforded on the right.
From one of these passages, Howie started and finished a flowing move from the back with swift interchanges and a shot from the top of the D to level up the game.
The confidence was back and the remainder of the half saw Titans control the ball and keep the opposition moving with any sign of danger on the left swiftly snuffed out by the grit of left back Ali.
Half time again came maybe at the wrong time as it disrupted the flow of Titans game, but the team talk message was clear – just keep doing the same, the oppo are blowing, only mistakes will let them back, but the game is there for the taking.
The second half continued with Titans still having more of the possession and creating the better chances but Justin had to be alert at short corners and at one of these pulled off a fine save to divert the ball just past the post with his stick.
Ten minutes in and a move saw Jatin tricking his way into the D only to be fouled to gain Titans first corner of the half.
Push out, stop, push back to injector Howie who neatly slapped the ball against the backboard for a 2-1 lead. Zig Zag not required today.
As in recent games, the aerial ball from the back was put to good use and as Peds stepped further forward the pass of the game was his aerial into the D to a lurking Shami whose first-time defection was just past the post.
That would have made the game more comfortable and Tulse Hill were now starting to fire again but Ali P was in fine form at left back still with his strong tackling and banter with his opponent..
The half time mention of mistakes came back to haunt Titans midway through the half as following a session of keep ball, Peds inexplicably passed to the opposition to pick up, enter the D and despite a few last ditch tackles, slot the equaliser home.
After the game, Peds claims he was blinded by the sun, but others were not so charitable in their explanation.
The momentum and steeliness that the Titans have shown in the last 4 wins now came to the fore and the setback was put to one side and the crisp passing and running picked up.
From more pressure a short corner was gained. Jatin began one of his mazy runs again attacking the D only to be fouled again and this time a direct hit from villain turned hero Peds went straight through the keeper to take it to 3-2 to Titans.
Ten minutes to go and squeaky bum time but from 1 to 12 the determination and desire was clear to see – the outfield players putting in a running shift to ensure the game was closed down, aided by some tactical switches as legs tired.
A couple of half chances at either end could have seen the score change but the effort paid off as the whistle went and Titans celebrated a storming victory over the top of the table side.
Discussions about a quick beer in local and then home due to the late start, but it seemed a shame not to go back and drink the opponents beer.
Sadly, no tea to eat so more beer, some tequila and English bar tapas had to be consumed as Titans outstayed the opposition in the bar as well as on the pitch.
Final game against the old foes of Indian Gym will be interesting (if that’s the word!) and Titans will need all their effort and team spirit of the last few weeks to ensure a great finish to the season.