After the farcical double-booked scenes on the PEC the week before, the Rutherford Football A Team finally got their league campaign underway on the front crumb in the wet, against a Gables side full of off-campus freshmen. Everyone was relieved to discover roll-on subs is indeed a thing this season – none more so than IMS stalwart and Manager Scott Williams, who had picked a 17 man squad.
A few eyebrows were raised at the lack of Rutherfreshers in the starting XI, with Williams sticking to players he had heard of. Al Roberts, Tom Mclachlan, Harry Barber, Lewis Catlow, James Morgan and Tom Aitken were the starters with previous IMS experience.
This experience counted for little in the opening 15 minutes as Gables, perennially at the foot of the IMS table, took a surprise lead thanks to a bullet header from a decent corner. The Rutherford defence are yet to master the ugly side of the IMS game, allowing the Gables chap a free run at the inswinging cross. 0-1.
Rutherford started looking dangerous with Irish right back Gareth Connor pinging in some top crosses towards frontman Barber. He eventually got on the end of a looped ball after winning a 50/50 with Gables’ keeper, and slotted home into the empty net with aplomb from half a yard out. All square after 20 minutes.
A goal apiece would have been a fair reflection of the first half but Gables’ right winger, who was wearing glasses that resembled Barnet legend Edgar Davids, latched onto a second ball from a long goal kick and expertly chipped the helpless Morgan in net. The sparse Gables crowd explained that he had never done this before – the scorer’s look of complete shock said it all. Rutherford 2-1 down at the break.
AU superstar Tom Jelliffe used the half time interval to explain to the Rutherford boys how to play football; a notably useful nugget of information was to ‘try to keep the ball better’. There were many polite nods of agreement amongst the freshers, presumably because they are too new to voice up an opinion of their own yet. Hopefully this will change.
Rutherford increased the urgency in the second half, with Tom Aitken and Al Roberts excelling in the middle of the park in particular. The Gables keeper decided to pick up the ball outside his area, gifting the Reds a free kick which was whacked home off the wall by Roberts to restore parity going into the last 15 minutes. Game on.
The talented (if unfit) Sam Themistocleous switched wings as Catlow moved to the right to team up with Gareth Connor, and Catlow’s pace began causing problems without any hint of an end product. Coach Williams rung the changes in the final stages, throwing on old-timer Henry Buckley on the left hand side for freshman Adam Walker (who had a solid debut) and Lazlo Henry up top for Barber.
Buckley made the difference, ambling into the box before being helpfully scythed down by Gables’ ex IMS All-Star 2012 triallist right back. Penalty. With 3 minutes on the clock this was going to be the pivotal moment, and all of Rutherford’s 5 attackers wanted the chance to be the hero. Catlow demanded the ball and thankfully tucked it just inside the post, before wheeling away to celebrate in front of absolutely noone in the corner. Not even his teammates joined in. A couple of nervy moments ensued but centre backs Eugino Kimbzy and Tom Stewart-Green, who both mixed class touches with potential moments of calamity throughout, helped see Rutherford home. RESULT: RUTHERFORD 3-2 GABLES.
An underwhelming but important opening result for Rutherford then, who are already 3 points ahead of Cayley in the league. The big lads of Royce await at 7:30pm on Saturday, when Rutherford will have the chance to go top.
James Morgan (GK)
Gareth Connor, Tom Stewart-Green, Eugino Kimbzy, Adam Walker
Sam Themistocleous, Tom Aitken, Tom Mclachan (capt), Al Roberts, Lewis Catlow