Kevin Costner, that great luminary of American cinema, once said that, “Real heroes are men who fall and fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they’ve stayed true to their ideals and beliefs and commitments.” Never was this truer than on Monday afternoon, when Joao Pedro Martins de Carvalho overcame the impediment of an unpronounceable last name to score a memorable goal to underline his commitment to NF and bring them a deserved tie against NH.
In a tight first half, NH were dominant, although they couldn’t convert their pressure into goals. Dave Clark, deputizing for the unavailable Raul Cadena in goal, threw himself about like a whirling dervish, and made several memorable saves to deny H. Kellogg, Garrison and Tewari also all made memorable debuts in front of him, forming an impassable wall of steel. Warren ‘mad dog’ Brown was a revelation- snarling and sniping at the heels of attackers like a bulldog. Paulson, despite his inability to kick the ball straight, was a sparky presence up front and came close on several occasions. He was aided by the wily Isis Nyong’O, who played with admirable finesse. Berrien, by contrast, played in her usual physical style, roughing up several would-be tacklers.
Half time came not a moment too soon for NF. They used the break to regroup, and began the second half vigorously. Mace, in particular, lived up to his name, blinding several defenders with his pace off the mark and remarkably white cleats which looked like they ought to belong to a ballerina (Mace prefers to remain silent on the issue). In contrast to Mace’s grace, NH began to resort to underhand pantomime villainy, particularly from their Iberian contingent. One late tackle on Clark was particularly hilarious. Despite shouts from the sideline of ‘he’s behind you’, Clark was bemused that he was tackled at least fourteen seconds after he had released the ball.
The game needed a goal, and got one early in the second half. NH scored from a scrappy free kick which squeezed past several bemused NF defenders. NF scrapped away, and came close on several occasions.
Then, with five minutes remaining, Martins de Carvalho struck. Having
spent the first half preening and looking like a gigolo in his slick, all black outfit, he decided that enough was enough. He picked the ball up in his own half, waltzed past several defenders and sent the ball crashing into the top corner, leaving the NH keeper with little chance. This was a contender for goal of the season, and raised NF to new levels. In the dying minutes, Clark and Phillips came to the fore, using their height and ‘bulk’ to good effect. Shortsleeve played with feline foxiness and Burnett showed touches of poise and grace that belied his ludicrously fluorescent T-shirt.
In the closing seconds, Phillips came close with a towering header. Sadly though, it was not to be, and the game ended tied- NF remain unbeaten.
Bring it on!