Saturday, February 27, 2010

Scout's honour

Slightly on the late side for this beggar who is also a bit of a chooser, Elche-Levante kicked off at 2100 hours and, thanks to Canal+,  the home side had an unheard of Friday evening opportunity to do their hated Alicante rivals a small favour. Somehow, (more later), their opponents for the evening had risen to fourth place in the table not many points behind Hercules at the top of the classification, so the Alicantino's would grudgingly be hoping for a home win. The usual match day routine at Elche is to arrive thirty minutes or so before kick off and mooch about a bit trying to look professional in the tunnel area before the teams emerge before squatting somewhere pitchside for photos as the game kicks off. Not tonight though, a nice, comfy seat in the stand beckoned for yours truly.

It doesn't half feel odd watching football like a regular punter and just enjoying the match. On a pretty chilly evening I was quite glad to be surrounded by other fans as I scoped out where exactly behind the perimeter hoardings the regular photographers had positioned themselves. On this occasion, my choice not to sit pitchside was governed by the opportunity to sit with a friend of mine, not just any old friend mind, this particular chap is good paid money to watch football. No, seriously, you read it correctly first time, in a choice of careers, only the beer tester at Stella Artois at Leuven in Belgium has more applicants than a full time football watcher. I'll try to explain.

Londoner Derek Bevan, 61, is a fantastic bloke, permanent Spanish resident and under contract to West Bromwich Albion FC from whom he takes a retainer plus expenses to suss out potential players The Baggies might want to snap up. His "work" involves visits to Second Division teams Elche, Hercules, Murcia, Levante, Albacete, Cartagena, and Segunda 'B' Granada. on a bit of a shite weekend he might also have to trot off to Valencia or Almeria, who, these days do the business in La Liga. The thing is you don't just luck into this kind of work, football people know football people, and without a hint of cronyism, (Bevan has also coached amateur football teams to a decent and successful standard), you catch a break. Ending up in non-league Norfolk soccer, Bevan became acquainted with Mark Bowen and Tony Spearing, themselves ending decent careers by the seaside. Bowen and Spearing were later to work for Blackburn Rovers under Welshman Mark Hughes, who quit the International scene after an excellent five odd years to take charge at the Lancashire side. Careers though never stand still, and, after Blackburn, Spearing successfully applied to WBA where, for the first time, a European scouting system was just being organised. Of course a scouting system needs someone to watch players, which is where Del Boy steps in. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, where were we? Oh yeah, high in the stands watching Elche square off against Valencian rivals Levante. To be honest Elche were always going to have one of those seasons, awesome one week and awful the next. A change of coach two months into the season preceded a decent run of form that hoisted them clear of the relegation battle. Shortly after Christmas though the momentum stalled and mid-table mediocrity beckoned with a full five months of the campaign remaining. Levante really did not look like a side pushing hard to occupy one of the top three spots to guarantee promotion, prior to the game they sat handily placed in fourth position, how they managed that is a bit of a mystery because they showed very little all game long.
Featuring one of the oddest strike partnerships in the league, freaky tall Rafa Jorda and pint sized former Elche man Ruben, neither of whom did much to threaten the Elche goal, Levante finished rock bottom of La Liga two season ago, the kind of form they exhibited this evening.

Twenty minutes before the end, the ineffectual but still very popular Ruben left to a huge ovation from the local fans, five minutes later Derek and I headed for the car parks too, secure in the knowledge both teams could have carried on until Sunday and still not scored. Full time - Elche CF 0 - 0 Levante UD

PHOTO - Derek Bevan in his work gear.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A load of old balls

For the last eighteen months, in between the occasional football match and that aggravating thing called work, yours truly has been cobbling together an account of the 2008/09 football season as told by an English bloke with a huge vested interest in a local amateur football club. Now those words have been muddled together to become the first draft of what I'm hoping will become a book, (of sorts). The thing is what took months and months to knockup takes no time at all to read back, at this point the scale of the proof reading/editing task becomes apparent.
On Friday afternoon, February the 19th I was presented with fifteen months of coffee and, (once or twice), beer generated musings in the form of a four part manuscript. Wow! was the initial reaction, I did that I thought as the chest puffed up in self admiration. Unfortunately, a cursory read revealed the truth, reading back over what you've written late at night with tiredness or alcohol creeping up unannounced, or feeling pissed off for whatever reason, doesn't make for good copy. In many ways the hard work starts now to try and "even out" the mood of the thing. Curiously, from memory, the last thing at night bits read better than the passages tapped out in happier moments.

Anyway, that's my problem not yours, I wrote it and I need to fix it. The point of this shorter than usual blog is to enlist the help of friends, football fans and any other readers, (who really should get out more), to conjure up a decent title for the finished product. As you can see from the attached image, the project does have a working title but a bit of an obvious one, and, from what I've seen of the first printed pages, "A load of old balls" sums up things perfectly. Obviously, I need something quite a bit better, which is where you come in.

Briefly, to try and help you out, the book chronicles my travels with Santa Pola CF, home and away during the 2008/09 season, together with various different visits to other local football clubs and other football themed chapters. I just need to call it something. "A load of old balls" was just what I used to find it again quickly on my lap top and pen drive, but that's far from an ideal title for a book. I have no shortage of my own ideas for the final title, but sometimes when you brainstorm somethng, the answer may be elsewhere. Leave a comment here if you want to make a book title suggestion or have any questions. The preferred choice of title will be acknowledged in the forward to the book.

Just to be clear, any surplus revenues over my costs will be shared between local charities and Santa Pola Club de Futbol. This will never be William Hill Sports Book of The Year but simply a bit of a laugh by a footy fan who takes the piss out of everything, himself included, in a way that everyone can enjoy.
Top - Initial cover design by Nano Tirri
Bottom - Me, photo by Mark Welton

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Welcome to the (concrete) jungle

If you were to believe the Wikipedia entry for the town of Aspe, aproximately 20 kms from Alicante, you would never even consider visiting what, in essence, is a small but perfectly pleasant inland town. In point of fact the Wiki' words are possibly one of the biggest crocks of shit ever to appear on t'internet. Presumably the author/ess isn't a resident, visited the town out of season just after a massive row with his/her partner, it was raining and he/she had a hangover. With it's orange tree's on public streets and typically beautiful parish church, Aspe is no worse than any other similar sized town and considerably nicer than many others.

On Saturday afternoon February the 13th, a coach party arrived in the town, but not to buy cheap underpants at the market or spend some time in Mercadona with loads of elderly Brits though.The bus contained the players and management of Santa Pola CF, in Aspe to take on the local team in a scheduled five o'clock kick off at the stadium on the edge of town. Trust me, Aspe IS a lovely place, but it hasn't half got a shit football ground! To call the "Las Fuentes" facility ugly would greviously offend people like Carlos Tevez or Ian Dowie, who would hate to have such a dreadful place compared to them. A waist high wall, most of  which long ago lost it's coat of white paint, protects the playing surface, which in turn is surrounded on three sides by high, derelict industrial buildings featuring rusty corrugated roofs without an intact glass window between them. The whole place is reminiscent of 1970's Vladivostock, even the small trees behind each goal do little to lift the depressing aura which would still pervade the place on even the sunniest of summer days. Fittingly, the afternoon of the match was perfect for the surroundings, cold, damp, gloomy and miserable.

Looking at the state of the pitch, uneven, bare earth in places, straw coloured and with a smattering of anaemic looking grass, the eventual result against a team rooted to the foot of the table could probably have been predicted. Neither team were really helped by a match official who, for want of better words, made some curious decisions that on balance seemed to favour the home side. With the man in black out of earshot, a couple of local fans took it upon themselves to berate the young female referee's assistant with foul language and vile insults, to her great credit she not only ignored the morons but rose above them to perform admirably in pretty trying circumstances. Of the thirteen or fourteen card carrying decisions referee Conejero made only a few were actually correct, including red cards for a man from each side. Carlos for Aspe left early after trying to emulate John Fashanu with an elbow to the face of Monsa and Miguel for Santa Pola walked off before he was told to following a shocking tackle on Pablo, who somehow, was still able to use both legs at the finish.

Five hundred odd words into this blog entry, you could be forgiven for asking, "well, what about all the goals?" and that's a perfectly reasonable question to which the short answer is there weren't many, or rather, any!! Santa Pola ended up playing the better football by far, but a passing game on a surface better suited to mountain biking isn't easy, especially when the team you're trying to pass the ball around exhibit the finesse of Mike Tyson. No doubt at all in different circumstances, Aspe would have done things a little differently, but when you're deep in the ess aitch one tee at the foot of the table you have to scrap for things and as the poor form continues you scrap even harder. Through no fault of their own Santa Pola were dragged down to the level of the home side and didn't get anywhere near their performance of a week before, not it must be said, for want of trying. Full time Aspe 0 - 0 Santa Pola

Aspe's home ground is more like a concrete bungle to be honest, but bless 'em, they've got to play somewhere and I really wish them well, this time in 2009 they set off an unbeaten charge up the table which surprised me and quite a few others to ensure their Preferente safety for another year. Given a straight choice between Albatera and Aspe, you're talking "no brainer". Maybe the chump on Wikipedia got his A's a bit muddled up, the two towns are miles and miles apart, perhaps his words were meant to sum up Albatera.

Top - Aspe is a nice town whatever the internet tries to con you into believing.
Middle - Marcos tries to ignore his surroundings by looking straight ahead at a Santa Pola corner.
Bottom - By not reacting, this young lady made fools of two locals oafs.
Just above - check out the salubrious seating area behind German

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can we play you every week?

About a week or so ago I wrote here about a medical condition seemingly unique to football fans, no doubt  there is probably a scientific name for the ailment brought to public attention by Sir Alex Ferguson but I'm buggered, (excuse the phraseology), if I know what it is. Once in a while, nowhere near often enough to be honest, you watch a football match and from early on you have a good feeling. So far this season, it's only happened twice in twenty fixtures involving Santa Pola. Game twenty one added another to that total and left me beaming for the rest of the weekend.

Hercules B were the visitors and for ninety and a bit minutes they found themselves being slapped around by a Santa Pola side who were quite simply excellent from the opening whistle. When the two teams met for the first time back in September last year, Herc B were a little unlucky to lose by a single goal, a trademark hammer blow by left midfielder German. That result was one of six defeats in Herc B's first eight games, since then they've improved considerably and began to make steady, if not spectacular, progress up the table. Today though, just as then, German was different class and played like a man possessed. So good were so many Santa Pola performances a man of the match award wouldn't have been easy.

Maybe it didn't help Hercules' cause that coach Angel Linares was banished to the stand following a red card the previous week at home to Mutxamel, by the looks of things his team quite missed him pitchside, they certainly didn't seem capable of responding to temporary boss Salvador Javaloyes. In spite of a major pounding though they actually managed almost forty minutes before conceding and sloped off at half time a single goal down and with no inkling of what was about to engulf them.

For a brief few second half minutes Hercules B responded to the ferocious bollocking they had plainly just received and looked like they might actually make a game of it. But, by the third of three corners they forced in quick succession they must have exhausted themselves, physically and mentally, as they conceded an outrageous goal to the oldest man on the pitch. Defender Juan easily dealt with that third corner and released Chema deep inside his own half who proceeded to run at the startled opposition. Ignoring colleagues left and right in decent positions,  he continued to charge forward leaving a trail of devastation behind him, eventually the final two opposition players held up their hands in surrender and allowed the thirty five year to slot an incredible goal. Had his team-mates not stopped him to have a bit of a celebration he would have continued on and on I reckon, just like Forrest Gump. Run, Chema! Run!

More by luck than judgement Hercules pulled a goal back, in large part to a rare defensive lack of concentration, it was a decent goal too, Rubi picked a spot from the edge of the 'Pola box and sent a delicious curling shot beyond Julio for 2-1. Elsewhere I described their goal as a stay of execution, actually it was more like pulling a tiger's tail, today that tiger was Santa Pola and their retribution was swift. Scruffy goals or tasty goals, they're all the same to Paloma, his first was stuffed over the line amidst a pile of bodies, his second and 'Pola's third was altogether much better. German laid a decent ball off, and, on the run the home number ten swept the ball home before Herc' 'keeper Cristian had a chance to move. Not long after the same Hercules B player kept the score from being a massacre, twice pulling off decent stops as Santa Pola moved forward with an arrogant swagger.

As good as he had been, Cristian had no answer to the fourth and final Santa Pola goal, and, fittingly the brilliant German capped his best display of the season by scoring it. 4-1 then and the "German-ator" left
the field shortly after to huge applause and headed off for a well deserved soak. I might have chosen the wrong football song lyric as the title for this piece, maybe I should have picked "you're so bad it's unbelievable" I think they're the correct words!  You probably get the picture, Hercules B really weren't very good at all.

Top - German is prevented this time
Middle - Santa Pola are like a box of chocolates, you never know what your gonna get
Bottom - That man again, this time delegado Rafa Fuentes Dols helps with the goal celebration.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ronnie Rosenthal, did you see that?

A few years ago now, in 1992 to be exact, Israeli international Ronnie Rosenthal, whilst playing for Liverpool, made the kind of name for himself he was never able to forget. Such was his infamy most football fans can instantly recall without recourse to YouTube, how he somehow managed to hit the bar from about six foot away with neither the Aston Villa goalkeeper or any of their defenders anywhere near him. Well, move over Ronnie son, there's a new kid on the block and he plays for Elche.

Each season the Spanish football bible, daily football newspaper Marca, awards the highest goalscorer in the top two divisions the "Pichichi" trophy, a prize Elche Club de Futbol have only ever won once, way back in 1959. Fast forward to 2010 and the Franjiverdes now have a live chance of grabbing the prestigious Segunda A award for a second time. Striker Jorge Molina joined the club when his previous outfit, Polideportivo Ejido, were unable to reclaim their Segunda A status following relegation and has fitted in pretty well. 22 games in, the Spaniard from Alicante has notched eleven league goals and is the divisions joint top scorer. On Saturday February the 6th Elche hosted Numancia at home and Molina played.

Another pretty dismal crowd of under six thousand watched a pretty uninspiring game where Elche shaded a goal-less first half against a Numancia side that were effective but never eye catching. For twenty five minutes the two teams traded chances
with neither able to land a knock-out blow. On the half hour Jorge Molina did something that would definitely have brought a smile to dear old Ronnies face. I'll pick up the story.

Ghanaian midfielder Wakaso found himself on the end of a cut back from forward Trejo, from just outside the Numancia box the popular African twatted a shot in the Numancia keeper, Eduardo, did well to keep out with his left hand, the ball loped up to the nearby Molina, who, a couple of feet out and under no pressure, somehow shoved the ball onto the bar, whereafter a couple of adjacent colleagues tried to spare his blushes but to no avail. I think they call it a goalmouth scramble. See what you think with the game highlights here, fast forward to one minute forty odd seconds to see Molina attempt to emulate a very well known ex Liverpool and Tottenham striker.

Five minutes after the game restarted following the interval, and two minutes thirty into the highlights, Numancia scored and not without a little help from Willy Caballero, Elche's Argentine, (and usually very good), goalkeeper. Barkero slapped in a bit of a hit and hope shot from quite a way out that moved a little bit on it's way, unfortunately, Elche's resident Gaucho could only shovel into his own net for the games only goal. Once you've checked out how not to score, keep watching because a short time later Willy boy, without meaning to, takes all the attention from his striking colleague.

Final score Elche CF 0 - 1 CD Numancia

PHOTOS: A couple of chumps who play for Elche

PS - They really aren't chumps, between the pair of them Elche have won games they had no right to. I sincerely hope the Segunda A top striker isn't decided by a single goal, Molina has been so good all season so far.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Squeaky bum time

Fresh from the disappointment of Thader gatecrashing the party, Santa Pola headed off to Pinoso to take on the local team of the same name and to reacquaint themselves with their former manager, Anselmo Serrano. Under the clubs former regime, the likeable Serrano was sacked in March 2009 after a dismal defeat away to Alone. It says much about his coaching abilities that Pinoso snapped him up almost immediately.

I quite like Pinoso, I don't think it's a small town blessed with the most attractive women, but the people are friendly, the cafeteria clientele don't gawp as though you have two heads when you walk through the door and their footy ground is quite a nice one. Situated on the edge of town, the estadio Perfect Mira is a bit scruffy but quite quaint too and probably hasn't changed much in fifty odd years. A covered stand runs the length of one side of the pitch, on the other, seperated by a concrete wall, sits a five-a-side pitch surrounded by high fencing. Beyond the smaller, plastic pitch is where it starts to get really pretty. Less than a couple of kilometres from the ground, the campo in the near distance tips up alarmingly and becomes a green hillside dotted with cottages and small dwellings. As the winter sun sinks rapidly out of sight, in the gathering gloom the hillside twinkles with lights, all of which are accompanied by wafts of smoke from wood burning fires, the smell of which is unmistakably Spanish.  Anyway, that's enough of the prosaic shit, I need to explain why I stole a phrase first uttered by Sir Alex Ferguson.

When you watch a football match involving a team you're really fond of, in my experience the match falls into one of three categories. Take for example Santa Pola, once or twice they haven't looked like winning and you resign youself fairly early on to an impending disappointment, in those kind of situations, the writing is on the wall, and, oddly you don't end up quite so pissed off. The best kind off footy watching experience occurs when your lot are playing out of their skins, the opposition are chasing their tails and being ran ragged. The first goal is quickly followed by a couple more and it soon becomes a question of how many to nil or one they're going to win by.

In some ways, group three is very difficult to enjoy. Pinoso versus Santa Pola fits neatly into that category and here's why. Two decent teams, playing attractive football, somehow, in spite of loads of chances each, the first half finished goal-less. Ding, ding, secounds out round two. More tension, opportunities for both sides, a few more outrageous saves from the home goalkeeper and, yet, Santa Pola rode their luck more than a little too. Today was the day though when centre-back Miguel decided nothing was coming past him, booming headers out and tackles that would have stopped an elephant inspired the defensive colleagues around him as Pinoso were thwarted at every turn.

With ten minutes remaining and still no score, three results were still possible and relaxation most certainly wasn't. Subconciously I'd settled for a point, with not long to go and the hard work done, there was always this nag Pinoso might steal a late winner. When that happens, trust me it's a pisser! In the end it was Santa Pola who almost broke some home hearts, Mario Fernandez rose to meet a cross which dropped behind him, on hand to lash in a shot from five yards was Santa Pola captain Monsa, somehow, Pinoso 'keeper Paco reached the fizzing ball, prevented it crossing his line AND clung on to it. Monsa stood there head in hands.

If that wasn't enough, Paco hoofed the ball upfield to set up one final Pinoso attack with seconds left, by this point I was willing, like you do, the referee to blow for time. Miguel, for about the fifteenth time in the match, made sure the ball stayed cleared by launching it out of the ground. Two consecutive Pinoso corners and a nail biting four extra minutes later, the welcome sound of three shrill whistle blasts rent the air and squeaky bums, local and visiting, settled down. Every local football club has a slightly backward gentleman who's work is to retrieve lost balls and ensure they are returned to the "Delegado" who sits pitchside at the centre line to liaise with both benches for changes etc, (in Albatera three quarters of the town would qualify for the job of retarded ball fetcher). Today, the educationally challenged chap scurried around all afternoon and was the busiest man at the ground retrieving footballs the 'Pola back line had scattered to all four corners, the kind of stubborn defending that earned the away side a valuable point.

Final score Pinoso 0 - 0 Santa Pola
Men of the Match: Paco/Pinoso - Miguel/Santa Pola

Top - Man United manager Sir Squeaky Ferguson
Middle - Paco, thou shalt not pass
Bottom - Miguel, class!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Whoops! That wasn't supposed to happen

A week or so after I counted my chickens regarding La Liga football at Hercules CF in the 2010/11 season, they, (Herc' that is), gently remined me football's a funny old game. Prior to the start, thirty points separated Hercules from Castellon in the Segunda 'A' classification, along with the rest of the divisions teams. So the scene was set then for three more points for the mighty Hercules machine as they trampled all over the bottom club from the northernmost of the regions three provinces. Unfortunately, for the Alicantinos, what actually happened was something akin to lowly Peterbrough heading off up the A1and "doing" leaders Newcastle United in the Coca Cola Championship at St.James Park.

Twelve and a half thousand odd people, a decent turn out for Spanish second divison footy, turned up to watch and ended up leaving for home mighty pissed off. Not to put too fine a point on it, how Hercules rose to the top of the table playing as poorly as this is a bit of a mystery. More to the point, how Castellon are deep in the shit trying to fend off Segunda B football next season playing this well is an even bigger mystery.

Perched pitchside, which goal to sit behind for photographs was a bit of a no brainer, top versus bottom at the Rico Perez in April last season yielded eight goals, not one of which was scored by eventually relegated Sevilla Atletico as Hercules kicked their visitors very hard whilst they were down. Before heading off to sit behind the goal of Castellon 'keeper Lledo, I rashly suggested to my one of the other photographers the score might be about to become a bit lop sided. Cock!!!

Things certainly began well enough for Herc', a competent albeit not that confident start, saw them open the scoring with a headed goal by Romanian striker Danciulescu after eighteen minutes. It was the last time they did. For the remaining seventy two minutes Castellon took the piss, starting about ten minutes later with an equalizer Roberto Carlos would have quite liked. Castellon captain, number 22 Pedro, absolutely tanked into the top corner a shot that would have broken the wrists of  Hercules goalkeeper Calatayud had he tried properly to get anywhere near it. I don't think Calatayud is stupid, the phrase "discretion is the better part of valour" immediately sprang to mind, along with the unpleasant motorcycle accident suffered by Spurs' counterpart Claudio Cudicini. At half time, the scores remained one apiece and Herc' trooped off to await the mother of all bollockings.

Whatever was said had little effect, Castellon scored again ten minutes into the half and led for the first time in the match. Then, a comedy moment none of the locals found funny. Montenegran top scorer Delibasic climbed high with visiting defender Rafita, nutted his opponent in mid-air, came off worse and was stretchered off. I think he was just about conscious enough to recongnise the red card waved at him by the referee as he lay there dazed and confused.

Very generously Las Palmas referee Hernandez Hernandez, no seriously that's his name, added on nearly six minutes with which Hercules could continue to make mistakes and give the ball away. To be honest he could have played a full thirty minutes of extra time, then had a penalty shoot out and Hercules still wouldn't have found the back of the net. Aside from a ten minute spell chasing the game near the end, they didn't come to life all game and got what they deserved. Nothing.  Full time Hercules 1 - 2 Castellon

Top - Del Olmo turns the Castellon full back
Upper middle - Castellon Captain Pedro gets in a header
Lower middle - Stretcher or not, Delibasic would soon be leaving
Bottom - So good they named him twice. Sr.Hernandez Hernandez at work

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Welcome home" said Gérard Depardieu.

A few weeks after the Santa Pola playing squad ended their work for the season towards the summer of 2009, another set of employees started theirs. That July, work started on the renovation of the Marineros home ground, the Estadio Municipal Manolo Macia in the town. Fast forward to early 2010, and the morning of Saturday January 23rd, a morning on which Mother Nature did a terrific job of disguising a bitterly cold day beneath a weak sun and blue skies.

Shortly after 12 noon, town Mayor Miguel Zaragoza Fernández and Valencian Autonomous Government Deputy for Sport, Don Bernabé Cano symbolically cut the tape and walked over the threshold, accompanied by about a thousand locals, football fans and journalists, to begin a tour of the remodelled stadium.
Inspection over, the dignatories made their way onto the pitch to officially declare the place open with a succession of short speeches and photo call with the two Santa Pola academy teams who had the honour of staging the first match on the billiard table smooth, grass playing surface.

Five hours later, and more than six months since the last competitve league game, C.D.Thader de Rojales arrived and promptly proceeded to ruin a gala day for the town of Santa Pola and it's proud football team. It seems Thader hadn't bothered to read the script or if they did, the words were studiuously ignored as the visitors romped to 0-2 victory, aided by two somewhat streaky goals.

Actually it was nothing like a romp for the away side, in a forgettable first half half punctuated only by a scruffy, to say the least, goal off the knee of Gerard Depardieu lookalike and occasional Thader full back Aurelio. Dear old Gerard knew nothing whatsoever about it and wheeled away in celebration, when, really he should have been deeply embarrassed and perhaps even a little ashamed. I certainly would have been.

Once the game resumed for the second half, Thader goalkeeper Toni staked a claim for man of the match on the back of about thirty five minutes of play. The battering started shortly after visiting defender Marcos was asked to leave by referee Iannopollo. Down to ten men, none of whom ventured very far forward, Thader were clinging on for grim death as Toni used various body parts, and, once or twice a couple together, to ensure his net remained intact. When your luck is out it's amazing how often two posts and a crossbar represent a far bigger target than a twenty four feet wide and eight foot high goal mouth. By now you can guess the kind of second half Santa Pola were having. It got worse four minutes into stoppage time.

The umpteenth panic stricken ball thumped out of the Thader box pitched halfway into the Santa Pola half, with perhaps the only mistake he's made all season long, the ultra reliable Carlos Fernandez conceded possession, and, while the hitherto bored home goalkeeper Pazos filled his nappy, Thader sub' Marcelino filled his size tens. And that was that!

Top - A couple of VIP's do the business with some scissors
Middle - The ugly French actor who opened the scoring
Bottom - Santa Pola players, coaching staff, the Mayor and his missus