With Rutherford’s recent form guide reading DLLD, title hopes were over but the search for a top 3 place was still on. What wasn’t needed, then, was a calamitous oversight from the hierarchy in reading the fixture list. 4 hours from kick-off against winless John Phillips, a surprisingly-strong team was assembled and marched down to the new Holywell crumb in the rain.
New captain Harry Barber insisted on a 3-2-3-2 formation, much to stalwart left back Alex Martin’s confusion. Die-hard Leeds fan and goalkeeper George Tipping is used to disappointment and was therefore unsurprised at how the first half hour played out. There were no shots on target from either side, despite Rutherford’s midfield trio of Aitken, Roberts and Sanchez (who was back from a footballing sabbatical) dominating possession. Alex Bare-Back Rickenbach took a whack and was replaced by Owen, but 30 seconds later Rutherford found themselves 1-0 down after a sharp counter-attack. It stayed this way until the interval. For those wondering – John Phillips haven’t won a single point in IMS football for 45 weeks. Disaster and embarrassment was looming.
Tinkering of the formation occurred at the break. Netherway came on at left back, Owen went wide left, Catlow right wing and Azam came on in central midfield. The changes soon took effect with Catlow, who mistook breaking his elbow for a slight bruise last weekend in the tame draw with Telford, wrong-footed JP’s full back and found the bottom corner in typically one-footed fashion. 1-1.
This left captain Barber behind in the top scorer stakes, and led him to immediately step up his game. Delightfully put through by soon-to-be-single Aitken, who cancelled a Valentine’s date to partake in the game, Barber beat the impressive keeper to put the Reds in front for the first time. 2-1
Despite this, something was still awry in the tempo of Rutherford’s game. The arrival of the Faraday posse on the touchline, who were baying for a JP equaliser, didn’t help – and nor did newly-installed manager Noah ‘homewrecker’ Bergman’s insistence on switching the formation once again. JP began pressing further into Rutherford’s half and were rewarded with a well taken goal by the left midfielder. 2-2 with 10 minutes to play.
Lazlo Henry and Sam Themistocleous were now on the field as the Reds’ desperate search for goal number 3 continued. Catlow made a complete mess of a presentable opportunity, and Aitken fired wide after creating a yard for himself in the D. With 2 minutes remaining, Faraday laughter ringing in the Rutherford ears and Coach Bergman’s trousers turning brown, Themistocleous found himself on the right wing. Some partly-unintentional skill led him to the by-line. The ball was pulled back to where Catlow, Aitken and Henry were all set up for one last smash. It was Henry who took responsibility and found the corner of the net, with a surprisingly helpful hand from the JP keeper. 3-2.
Nervy final moments were safely negotiated by Connor and Stewart-Green at the back, and a relieved Rutherford held on for win number one of the new calendar year. JP probably deserved better and it’s a surprise that their goal difference stands at -32 from their seven games.
According to the schedule, the next IMS ‘A’ Team fixture for the Cherries is Friday 20th at 6pm on Holywell. Players and supporters are advised to put this in their diary now, just in case management again fail to remember. Rutherford now top of the league, but have played up to 3 more games than the title challengers.
FINAL SCORE: John Phillips 2 – 3 Rutherford (Catlow, Barber, Henry)