All posts by steve.fishwick@astrazeneca.com

February 26th – Shanghai Marlins 4-2 Japan

A cobbled-street-like pitch at Waigaoqiao hosted a game that saw a dramatic battle between Shanghai Marlins and Japan.

The Marlins went in search of their third consecutive win of the calendar year. There were a few absences for the 2015 Champions which included manager Steve Fishwick who was chasing Storm Doris in England and negotiating the possible transfer of Wilson Scott to Kings of Leon. Something the playmaker reminded him about with a well-judged voice message that simply went, “Steeeeeeeeeevvvooooooooo!” Jon Banks, was unavailable having caught his son’s concoction of viruses while Dan Griffiths kicked a curb and lost.

As a result, Pete Rosselli with the help of stand-in captain, Simon Moore, and the slightly injured, Matt Banks, took charge of what can best be described as herding cats. The first issue was working out who was able to play and where. Dave Watson once again showed why he’s so greatly appreciated by his teammates as he went in goal, while Pete Roberts played out of position at centre-back alongside Moore.

mobile-phones1
Have you seen any of Mossy’s phones?

Debutants Nic Brauer and Ash Smith ensured the Marlins had a squad of 13.5 to choose from. However, that was based on the pillar of self-pleasure, Watson, bringing James Moss to the game on time. The muppet donated yet another phone to China’s black market following a heavy Saturday night. But when you’re in love and in possession of several turtle necks, nothing else matters.

Fortunately, the two Northerners arrived five-minutes before kick-off and were able to dress themselves accordingly.

Given the state of the pitch and opposition, the Marlins were instructed to play percentage football in search of territorial advantage against their Japanese opponents. A few minutes in, the boys in blue took the lead thanks to iMoss’ free-kick. Just over 20-yards from goal, Galaxy Moss side-footed with power into the bottom-left corner on the keeper’s side.

Shanghai Marlins continued to probe for a second goal but the conditions weren’t conducive to a particularly pretty game of football. Japan, meanwhile, posed a threat from corners and used a more direct approach as they too were unable to play their typical triangles.

With around half an hour gone, Japan were level following some fancy footwork by their left-winger. He cut onto his right and squeezed his shot past Watson from close-range.

The Marlins had several opportunities to restore their lead before half-time but were thwarted by blocks, saves and interceptions. Jamie Lally was particularly unlucky to see a right-foot snap shot go narrowly wide having shown great acceleration to reach Steven Fong’s through ball.

At the break, the team were encouraged to carry on with the direct approach as they looked the more likely to score again. Avoiding overplaying at the back and looking for more measured balls up field was going to be fundamental in their pursuit of victory.

The second half saw a bright start by Shanghai Marlins as they dominated the territory. An inconceivable back pass provided Gui Leclerq with a chance to rifle one home but a goal-line block ensured that didn’t materialise.

Jack Sanders nearly tapped-in a spilled effort having made a lung-busting dash from left-back.

Watson came to the rescue on one of the rare occasions Japan entered the Marlins’ defensive third. His save avoided a goal against the run of play but he could do nothing about their second big opportunity of the half with 20-minutes remaining.

Rosselli and Côme Doleac had just come on in search of a winner only to see Japan break through within 60-seconds of their arrivals. The well-taken, first-time lob gave Japan an unexpected lead.

A few minutes and a couple of saves from the Japan keeper later, Matt Banks rightly put Leclerq back on as the Marlins went to three at the back.

A quarter of an hour from the end saw Marlins win their hundredth corner. Both Scott and Blackberry Moss had been delivering great crosses all game without the returns they deserved. Fed up of the disappointment, the Bearded Magician put the Kings of Leon rumours to one side and scored directly from the set-piece to make it 10 for the season.

With their tails up and time on their side, Shanghai Marlins went straight back to their half, ready and waiting for the restart.

Moments later, it was 3-2 to the Marlins following some smart build-up play. Leclerq received the ball on the left, holding it up before playing a square ball for Xperia Moss who blasted his shot in off the bar. Cue a celebratory run off to the corner flag – probably in search of his phone – and a bear hug from a delighted Lally.

With the clock ticking, it was all hands-on deck. The defence weren’t taking any chances whilst Fong was covering plenty of ground in midfield. Lally had filled in at left-back – his fourth position of the day – to revert to a back-four as the majority of balls aimed for the corners.

As the game approached injury-time, Watson commanded his area to claim a lofted ball with great conviction. Rosselli was signaling for him to fall on the ball and kill some more time, but the ambitious Geordie showed great vision and even better execution to play a dropkick down the right-channel. Rosselli’s first touch forced him to consider a run to the corner flag before realising that he had Leclerq in support against one defender. As Peter Crouch’s body double got closer towards goal, the defender continued to block the angle to Leclerq so Rosselli took aim and beat the keeper at his near-post to confirm victory.

It brought a dramatic end to an ugly but competitive game. The Marlins dug in and churned out the sort of win that title challengers need to produce over the course of the season. With plenty of players to return and a better pitch to play on, they’re only going to get stronger!

Man of the Match: Jamie Lally

February 19th – Shanghai Marlins 6-3 Krauts

Five weeks since the 10-0 victory over Moksal Magic FC (formerly Super48), Shanghai Marlins took on Krauts in surprisingly warm weather at Jinqiao.

Steve Fishwick had to put out a makeshift back-five through a combination of new arrivals – including Dan Griffiths’ latest production – and players playing out of position due to absences and injuries.

That included the league’s best goalkeeper, Dale Johnson, who was still nursing cracked ribs from the previous match which has limited the custodian to heavy drinking, bad jokes and fewer acts of self-pleasure. Covering in goal was Johnson’s former flat mate, Dave Watson. The Geordie who would be idolised by Nazi’s for his looks alone – they’re also big fans of ice-skaters – stepped up to display great team spirit, once again doing Dale’s dirty work. It was like he never moved out.

Shanghai Marlins welcomed a couple of new faces and a familiar one. The captain’s better-looking, fitter and nice brother, Matt Banks, returned to the side he represented once last season. New boys, Jack Sanders and Harry Swain also increased the British quota.

Fishwick reiterated the importance of being level-headed against a team that has often brought out the more aggressive nature of the game. This was also in reference to the corresponding fixture which saw the Marlins finish with nine-men. He also warned his side against long-balls over the top for Krauts’ pacey players to run onto.

Referee, Kevin Doherty, got proceedings underway and it was within the first minute that Krauts tried the anticipated tactic. Fortunately for the Marlins, stand-in captain, Simon Moore, was able to clear the ball from under his crossbar to deny the opening goal.

That appeared to wake the Marlins up and by the 10-minute mark, they were ahead. James Moss – who grabbed a hat-trick last time out against these opponents – made a late run from midfield before prodding home past the keeper.

A quarter of the game in, Shanghai Marlins had doubled their advantage thanks to a combination of Moss and Wilson Scott. The opening scorer clipped a well-weighted pass over the disjointed backline to allow Scott a free run on goal from the right. The Bearded Magician managed to keep his composure despite some unorthodox positioning by Krauts’ keeper.

Andrei Ghicu then extended the lead to three as Krauts’ offside trap failed to do exactly that. Ironically, the talented Romanian passed into the far corner as the Marlins looked to be coasting to victory.

But with less than a minute remaining of the first-half, Krauts got one back following a goal-mouth scramble.

At half-time, while disappointed to have let Krauts back into the contest, Fishwick was generally pleased with the performance. He emphasised the need to move the ball a little quicker and to avoid passing one another into trouble, particularly across the defense.

A few minutes into the second period, the Marlins restored their three-goal cushion thanks to Gui Leclerq capitalising on a goalkeeping error. What made it more impressive was the fact the Frenchman scored via a header despite a neck injury limiting his aerial prowess. You just can’t fight instinct.

Fishwick introduced Côme Doleac for the tireless Jamie Lally but Krauts would profit from another fortuitous goal with a little over 20-minutes remaining. A shot from distance took a wicked deflection and despite Watson’s best efforts, he was unable to prevent the ball from going in off the post.

Soon after, Pete Rosselli replaced Leclerq and the beanpole striker had several opportunities to help his side get the all-important fifth goal. First he failed to find Scott with a squared pass between the defender’s legs and then he failed to take the foul from the last man – too British and in need of some training from Loic Chudy. A right-foot cross miraculously found Ghicu alone in the box but the midfielder took too long to shoot which subsequently allowed the goalkeeper to smother his attempt. Rosselli then had a chance to finish a brilliant cross by Lally from the left, but his glancing effort could only clip the far-post.

These opportunities were largely thanks to the ever running of Moss and Pete Roberts in central midfield as the duo took on a three-man midfield that weren’t so willing to track back.

Despite being put under lots of pressure by Krauts through set-pieces where they looked to utilise their height-advantage, the Marlins were able to score their fifth of the game with less than 10-minutes remaining.

A long ball up field by Moore saw Scott win the flick on for Rosselli to run onto. His attempt to toe-poke past the onrushing keeper was blocked before falling to Doleac. The Frenchman passed to Scott who from over 35-yards out, lobbed the back-tracking keeper with aplomb.

Moments later, Scott completed his hat-trick with Doleac once again the provider. As Rosselli went for the near-post, Doleac found Scott in plenty of space at the back-stick, allowing the playmaker to take a touch before side-footing in.

Like the first-half, Krauts – who to their credit, never gave up – got a goal back in the final minute with a well-taken finish having escaped the Marlins’ offside trap.

Doherty brought an entertaining game to an end as both teams shook hands. The win sees Shanghai Marlins keep up with Century Park and Lions at the top of the Shanghai Premier League but the boys in blue will need to show a more ruthless streak in front of goal against Japan’s tighter defence next week!

Man of the Match: James Moss

November 27th – Shanghai Marlins 3-3 Century Park

The pristine pitch at Century Park continued to be treated like a dictator’s palace with Shanghai Marlins once again forced to get changed on the wrong side of the fence. The squelchy conditions made it even more frustrating for Steve Fishwick’s men as basic sportsmanship and etiquette continue to be ignored in favour of (insert valid reason here) by the Century Park hierarchy.

Following the surprising defeat two-weeks ago, Fishwick was searching for a term coined by  the ugliest man in football (Iain Dowie) bouncebackability. The Marlins’ manager just wasn’t expecting it to be displayed on more than one occasion during the game.

Unfortunately for the Man City lover and Man Utd hater, his squad diminished during the course of the week due to work commitments, injuries and illness. This resulted in a squad of 15 players which included the slightly injured duo of Jon Banks and Dale ‘Ginger Chaser’ Johnson as well as two new recruits, Côme Doleac and Tom Elsden.

Prior to kick-off, Fishwick reminded his players to keep their heads even if they concede. Within the first 15-minutes, that request was very much tested.

It was a steady start to proceedings as Century Park passed the ball back and forth across their backline until it reached growth-spurt 2000 for a long ball into the channels. That tactic essentially led to their two goals that for Shanghai Marlins, felt undeserved.

After the second goal, Banksy had to come off such was the extent of his hamstring injury and cue the respectfully aggressive entrance of Dave Watson.

With a little over half an hour played, Wilson Scott latched on to James Moss’ ball before drilling home from a difficult angle.

At 2-1, the Marlins were very much in the tie but the unwelcoming home side restored their two-goal advantage with around five-minutes of the half remaining.

Another body blow that would knock most teams out like one of Jamie Gerrard’s doomed opponents. But Shanghai Marlins aren’t like most teams, a simple check of their fashion sense on a Saturday night and narrow range of vocabulary would confirm that. And despite half-time fast approaching, they still managed to once again reduce the deficit.

Mossy – the man who chins TVs, often by accident – was played in over the top by Andrei Ghicu before dragging his shot past the keeper.

At half-time the score was 3-2 to Century Park. Fishwick maintained the positivity, keen not to lose the momentum Mossy’s goal brought with it.

That momentum was increased a somewhat over five minutes into the second period following a clear foul on debutant Doleac.

One of Century Park’s more experienced players reacted by manhandling the referee which warranted a straight red card. Suddenly the game was evened up as Century Park could ill-afford to try and maintain possession for quite as long as they did when they had 11 men on the field.

From then on, Shanghai Marlins pressed for an equaliser while Century Park looked for a quicker route to their pacey wingers on the counter.

Despite the pressure, the Marlins were foiled by some good goalkeeping as Gui Leclerq, Elsden and Jamie Lally were all denied the much sought-after equaliser.

Amongst all the chaos of the second half, Marlins’ keeper, Johnson, pulled up with a calf-injury that restricted his kicking ability throughout the game. Banksy took responsibility and got suited up to fill his own shoes that Johnson was wearing. The Scouser has performed the sort of retreat this season that’s commonly associated with Wayne Rooney’s hairline and any French Army.

As time was running out, Mossy played a long ball into Century Park’s penalty box. Pete Rosselli tried to get a flick on and in doing so put off the keeper’s attempted punch. The ball fell kindly for Elsden who capped his debut with a coolly taken goal to draw the scores level.

The Marlins’ tails were up, as they could sense a dramatic winner was on the cards. Sadly, the referee had other ideas as he added one-minute of injury-time despite the fact that it took several to calm things down during the sending off, a few to replace Johnson in goal and countless substitutions by both sides.

Alas, the final whistle blew and both teams had to settle for a point. Century Park would be pleased to have held on given they were down to 10 men for the majority of the second half. Shanghai Marlins, meanwhile, can take great pride in not only bouncing back from their last game against Lions, but also responding twice to being two-goals down against the team that had yet to concede until this match.

Naturally, the boys in blue would have wanted the win but there’s more than just the points to take from this game. Shanghai Marlins are back on track as they enter the Christmas break to get positively Neil Ruddock…drunk and overweight.

Men of the Match: Dan Griffiths and Tom Ryan put in solid defensive displays throughout the game and deservedly shared the honour as voted by their teammates.

November 13th – Shanghai Marlins 1-7 Lions

It’s just like watching Brazil

As Shanghai Marlins arrived at Waigaoqiao in dribs and drabs, they were welcomed by a surprisingly warm Sunday afternoon despite it being mid-November. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the only surprise of the day as they took on reigning champions, Lions.

The hour leading up to the 2 p.m. kick-off saw a variety of transports used to arrive at the pitch at equally varying times. James Moss cut it tightest with a dart around the enthralling cricket match with just a few minutes to spare.

Manager, Steve Fishwick, had a total of 15 players to choose from which was pleasing given the number of absentees that forced a slight reshuffle of the pack.

Having seen Lions drop two-points against Japan a fortnight ago, the Marlins knew this was an opportunity to extend the gap between them and their rivals.

The opening stages were scrappy and there was no opportunity for any fluency as the referee impersonated a traffic warden with the big boss in town, fully equipped with a new shiny whistle. The frequent and often unnecessary stoppages (advantage and contact is allowed in football) were mutually unappreciated by both sides.

But on the half hour mark, the Marlins broke the deadlock thanks to one of the few passing moves of the game. Michael McGirr found himself in the pocket of space between the Lions midfield and defence which allowed the white feather to slip a pass for Pete Rosselli towards the right channel. The lanky forward had temporarily lost his marker and with both vocal and physical support from Wilson Scott who was making a run through the middle. Rosselli back heeled a first time pass for the Bearded Magician to curl his shot from the edge of the area. The Lions keeper couldn’t get a strong enough hand onto the effort as it bounced over the line to give the Marlins the lead.

There were few clear chances during the first period but Shanghai Marlins looked the more threatening in the final third and deservedly led at half-time.

Fishwick, whilst pleased with the general performance and score line, wanted more intensity from the boys in blue, citing a flatness that isn’t common for this particular fixture.

The start of the second half saw Marlins threaten to double their lead through set-pieces with the Lions keeper often caught out of position. But less than ten minutes after the break, Lions were level.

A corner to the far-post was headed in from point-blank range and that triggered a monumental shift in momentum.

A few minutes later, Lions took the lead with a well-struck shot to the far corner. A couple of minutes after that, it was 3-1 when a lunged volley (might be a thing) drifted into the far top corner.

Shanghai Marlins were shell-shocked at the transformation but with half an hour remaining and a less than convincing Lions backline, there was still time to make a comeback.

But despite a couple of near misses that would have made the game interesting, another lapse of concentration saw Lions score a fourth then a fifth with 75-minutes gone.

It became a matter of restoring some pride but as a team, that didn’t materialise. Those wearing blue shirts may as well have been cones as their opponents showed their ruthless streak to claim two more goals and run out emphatic winners.

Ironically, the Marlins found themselves desperate for the frequently blown whistle to bring an end to proceedings. It’s a first, and hopefully last, capitulation for a team often associated with battling until the end and always competing.

There was little that could be said apart from Fishwick correctly pointing out that if the players aren’t willing to put the effort in then neither is he.

Things nearly got from bad to worse when Mossy thought he’d lost his phone and some of the players had left the kit and balls in a taxi. But just before Mossy was about to put on the waterworks, his phone was found after it was handed to reception by a good citizen. The taxi driver showed his virtuous side by returning to Blue Marlin with the kit and balls, refusing Simon Moore’s offer of 100rmb as a thank you by instead requesting one of the balls such is his love for the game.

The positives didn’t end there as the majority of the squad displayed its famous team spirit by heading back to Blue Marlin for a much needed drink. The upcoming get together will also provide another opportunity for rebuilding bridges and strengthening team unity ahead of their next fixture against much fancied Century Park on 27th November.

Until then, the Marlins have some time to dust themselves down and decide whether this match paralyses or galvanises. How they respond to this setback will determine whether the league is lost or won.

October 30th – Shanghai Marlins 12-0 Galacticos

Steve Fishwick’s Shanghai Marlins ventured to Waigaoqiao to take on Galacticos in their fourth game of the season.

There was mild concern that the Marlins would be low on numbers due to absentees and suspensions. Fortunately, it was just another case of Captain Banksy miscalculating, much like he does when ordering post-match drinks or measuring his penis. He means cm not inches.

The 16 players (eventually) provided Fishwick with the luxury of squad rotation for a match his side were odds on favourites to win, even with Dave Watson deputising like a Geordie Claudio Bravo for the cat-napping, digital-watch illiterate, Dale Johnson.

Johnson’s need for an early afternoon snooze forced Adam Christy and Dan Griffiths to arrive at the pitch with little time to warm-up, or in Dan’s case, prepare his latest Ryan Gosling look.

It was the first time the boys in blue had played at Waigaoqiao and the field was far from conducive to the style of football the Marlins like to play, which only Banksy is fully aware of.

With Banksy and Tom Ryan displaying their team spirit and babysitting skills on the sidelines due to their one-match suspensions, the game got underway.

It wasn’t long until Jamie Lally opened the scoring with a left-foot drive that was too hot to handle for the Galacticos keeper.

Around 10-minutes later, Peter Rosselli converted Lally’s cut-back following a surging run down the right. Rosselli’s shot managed to find a gaping hole in the roof of the net but with assured conviction and a reputation for not being a bell-end, he made his way back to the halfway line as a sign to the referee that it 100% went in.

Shanghai Marlins had to wait a little longer before Steven Fong opened his Marlins’ account with a penalty which he had won despite his best efforts to excuse the defender’s clumsy challenge.

New daddy, Tony Love, came on to score a brace before half-time with two close-range efforts, but disappointingly, no Bebeto cradle celebration.

At half-time, Fishwick encouraged a faster tempo when possible having earlier alluded to players not just going for the glory goal. Johnson got excited until he realised the Gaffer had said “goal”, not “hole.”

Soon after the break, Lally doubled his tally for the match with a deflected effort that fellow Scouser, Banksy, was keen to note as an own-goal. The chance was set-up by Gui Leclerq but instigated by Griffiths’ (Gosling’s) cheeky back heel.

Wilson Scott, with boots that wouldn’t look out of place at a Saturday Night Fever themed party, went clear down the right channel and slotted past the onrushing keeper.

James Moss – who had hit the post during the first half – made it lucky number eight (Chinese reference, culture vulture) with a lob that peaked at 7-feet off the ground. The keeper’s suspect positioning and handling skills ensured Mossy added to his season’s tally of three.

Man of the match Lally would go on to complete his hat-trick by rounding the keeper after capitalising on a defender’s inability to clear Rosselli’s through ball.

Scott then finished off one of the goals of the game to make it 10. Leclerq had been longing for a Hollywood assist throughout the second half and the Bearded Magician duly obliged when his well-timed run, allowed him to barrel chest the inch-perfect 40-yard ball and open up the goal for a tap in with the keeper left stranded.

Mossy got his brace for the day after finishing a move that saw Leclerq and Scott combine around the Galacticos penalty area.

With several minutes of the game remaining and Johnson enjoying a quiet second half in goal, Lally couldn’t help but get into an argument. However, for once it wasn’t with himself. The forward didn’t take too kindly to what he perceived as unnecessary complaints when a tall and slim Galacticos player suggested to the referee that Lally had trodden on his foot. The words, “F**k off you lanky twat,” naturally saw Rosselli’s ears prick up, only to realise the phrase wasn’t directed at him for a change.

Not to be outdone by Lally’s jealous potty-mouth, Leclerq had the final say with the last kick of the game by providing a real thunderbastard from 25-yards out. The Frenchman was getting increasingly frustrated with his shooting throughout the second period but channelled that anger into a shot that three keepers – three of this keeper anyway – couldn’t stop. The ball flew into the top-right stanchion. Blink and you’d have thought it hit the bar. Both teams gasped as the referee brought proceedings to an end.

The comfortable win might not have fully tested the Marlins but they’d be glad to get more minutes on the pitch together ahead of a crunch game against reigning champions, Lions, in two-weeks.

October 16th – Shanghai Marlins 6-1 Krauts

After a break for the National Holidays, Steve Fishwick’s Shanghai Marlins took on their sponsor rivals, Krauts, at the Jinqiao pitch in their third game of the season.

Determined to come out of the traps early on and utilise his squad of 15, Fishwick opted for an anti-Mourinho (attacking) line-up that would go on to stamp its authority on proceedings.

James Moss opened the scoring following a one-two with Peter Rosselli before beating the Krauts’ keeper from the angle. It was Moss’ first goal for the Marlins and the start of what would turn out to be a very good game for the young Englishman.

Soon after, Jamie Lally capitalised on a goalkeeping error that not only doubled the Marlins’ lead but also forced the bizarre substitution of Krauts’ keeper who was understandably far from impressed by the decision. The disgruntled goalie had spilt Tom Ryan’s in-swinging cross allowing Lally to open his account for the season with a diving header.

Moments later, the Krauts clawed one back as they were able to create a chance from one of their many attempted counter-attacks down the wings. Their centre-midfielder halved the deficit as he struck his shot into the corner following a pull-back from the left.

Not to panic like Dale Johnson receiving a bill, Shanghai Marlins once again built up from the back and looked to get in behind their opponents’ full-backs with some neat interchanges in the attacking third. Lally managed to work his way down the right before cutting back onto his left and clipping a cross into the box. Rosselli, having held his run, headed into the corner from close-range to restore his side’s two-goal cushion.

The game’s first flashpoint arrived with around half an hour gone when Ryan and a Krauts winger clashed after the former had played a pass out wide. Referee, Kevin Doherty, sent both players off for violent conduct, reducing the teams to ten men.

Despite the adjusted formation, the Marlins still controlled the game and were close to extending their lead on several occasions. The only threat from their opposition came from a pacey winger who wasn’t quick enough to beat Marlins’ keeper Johnson when a long ball was played over the top.

Unfortunately, the Marlins lost midfielder Ash Reid as he pulled up with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that has ruled him out for six months. It was a blow for the boys in blue with the midfield producing a very composed, balanced and solid display up until that point.

Minutes later, Moss nearly doubled his tally with a delicate chip having collected a loose ball on the edge of the box. Only the crossbar denied his best impression of Phillippe Albert but he wouldn’t be denied for long.

Andrei Ghicu was regularly involved throughout and provided the assist for Moss to break the Krauts’ backline before beating the keeper to the ball and eventually scoring into an empty net.

Half-time came and only one team wanted to stop.

The second period was much the same as the Marlins probed and probed in search of another goal. There was still the threat of a counter-attack, particularly down the Krauts’ right, but the back four, which included Peter Roberts filling in at left-back like a Welsh James Milner, was well-organised.

Although, one break through the middle saw captain Jon Banks commit a professional foul which left the Doherty no choice but to award him a second yellow card reducing the Marlins to nine men. Probably wasn’t a coincidence that two Scousers were sent off on the eve of a Liverpool v Man Utd match. Although this game was definitely more exciting.

In spite of the numerical advantage, the Marlins were still a threat in attack and a fifth arrived when Ghicu received the ball from Carl Edwards on the left-wing, and delivered a cross that should come with a kleenex warning to the back stick for Jamie Gerrard. The ever-running Ironman rose like a salmon to head back across goal, leaving the substitute keeper stranded.

It wasn’t long after that when man of the match Moss deservedly completed his hat-trick after racing through on goal thanks to a well-timed run and an even better ball over the top by Ghicu. Moss showed great composure to coolly slot past the keeper and bring an end to the game’s scoring.

The Marlins extended their 100% run ahead of their next match which is in two-weeks’ time against Galacticos. That’s then followed up with a double-header against reigning champions Lions and last season’s runners-up, Century Park in what will be two competitive and exciting fixtures.

The following is a link to James Moss’ hat trick sealing goal:

img_0714

September 25th – Shanghai Marlins 3-1 ERS

Following a three-week break interrupted by China’s structurally odd National Holidays and a belated Opening Season Tournament, Shanghai Marlins took on ERS in their second game of the campaign.

Gaffer Steve Fishwick had a squad of 17 to choose from despite the absence of Jamie Gerrard (towing a car around a triathlon), Pete Roberts (working) and Steven Fong (catching grasshoppers) to mention a few.

ERS controversially came just above the Marlins in third last season with the 2015 Champions unable to play their final game of the season due to scheduling issues. But the last encounter between these sides saw the Boys in Blue comfortably win 5-2.

Captain John Banks wanted focus and concentration from the very beginning so up stepped Dale Johnson in the Marlins’ goal who suitably obliged by putting his first pass into touch. James Moss jaw the funny side of it, Banksy did not.

But fear not as Johnson did what no other man can and restored his 100% record with an inch perfect throw out to the right, triggering a counter-attack. The Scunthorpe supporter smiled from ear to ear like David Dickinson after picking up a car boot sale bargain.

The Marlins’ early pressure was then converted into a goal when Wilson Scott clipped a delightful ball into the centre. Michael McGirr dummied it and Gui Leclerq controlled the pass, took aim and scored.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t much later that Scott would go down injured after jarring his knee. The prognosis is a few weeks which just so happens to be when the Blue Marlin derby takes place between Shanghai Marlins and the Krauts.

With around ten minutes of the half remaining, Leclerq doubled his and the Marlins’ tally after McGirr’s cross evaded Pete Rosselli as well as ERS’ keeper and defender at the near post. The Frenchman was left all alone at the back stick to calmly pass into an empty net.

Half-time came with little incident or concerns for the Marlins’ defence.

The second half saw few opportunities for either side but McGirr nearly recreated his overhead kick from the Japan game only to miss the ball completely. The White Feather had told himself never to try it again after scoring a few weeks ago, but he just couldn’t resist.

Soon after, ERS got a goal back on the counter and reduced the deficit to just one goal.

Rather than panic, Shanghai Marlins tried to get their foot on the ball and hold their opponents at arm’s length.

And it was Johnson who just like every woman on a Saturday night near him, needed the full length of his arm to tip an acrobatic effort onto the far-post and maintain his side’s advantage.

That advantage was restored to a two-goal cushion when Banksy’s sliding tackle turned into his best pass of the game as Jamie Lally refused to give it up. The Scouser scampered down the right wing with the ball just staying in and headed for the byline. He crossed with the outside of his foot as Leclerq dashed for the near-post before scoring with his knee to claim his hat-trick.

In desperation, the French side resorted to long-balls which Shanghai Marlins’ defenders and Johnson dealt with superbly.

They weren’t helped by the frequent and often unnecessary stoppages by a referee who frustrated both sides but at least he was consistent.

The Marlins held on for a deserved victory to make it two wins from two. Another three-week break with the Blue Marlin derby on the horizon.

September 4th – Shanghai Marlins 2-0 Japan

It hadn’t felt that long since the end of last season until you realised that during the same period…

> Lionel Messi retired then returned to International football.

> England stuck to tradition by prematurely leaving an international tournament, this time losing to a supermarket chain endorsed by 2001’s mum of the year, Kerry Katona.

> Brexit happened…kind of, which saw David Cameron replaced by scary sounding lady with ‘T’ and ‘M’ in her initials. Reeeeemind you of anybody?

> Donald Trump continued his pursuit of the US Presidency with a flurry of insulting, contradictive, sexist, incestuous, hypocritical and racist remarks. He’s still in the race.

> And the equivalent of Djibouti’s GDP for 2015 (over a billion pounds) was spent on transfers by Premier League clubs during the summer.

So after a nice rest – unless you’re Jamie Gerrard who insists on doing daily decathlons for a holiday – the Shanghai Marlins and a few new recruits rolled up to Jinqiao to take on age deceiving Japan.

Andreij Petrescu, James Moss, Carl Edwards and Dragon Steven (Fong) made their debuts for Steve Fishwick’s side on what was another hot and sunny day in Shanghai.

Marlins’ eight-strong Academy was also out in full force to provide a welcome distraction from the irrelevant football.

The opening stages of the match saw Shanghai Marlins control most of the possession but fail with the final delivery. Jamie Lally headed over while Moss shot just wide.

Japan’s agile keeper parried a couple of efforts out for corners following decent strikes by both Moss and Wilson Scott.

Around the half hour mark, the Marlins found the breakthrough their dominance deserved. The Bearded Magician (Scott) curled in a teasing cross that forced Gerrard into the kind of dive often associated with Michael Phelps. The ball ended up at the feet of Gui Leclerq whose strike was somehow cleared off the line. The rebound fell to Mike McGirr who managed to drag his shot wide enough to hit the grounded keeper before ending up in the back of the net. One-nil to the Marlins and very much an own goal!

Within ten minutes, the lead was doubled when Gerrard headed an out swinging corner back across goal. McGirr then did his best David Platt impression with a fine overhead kick, leaving no disputes over the scorer this time.

Half-time arrived along with a much needed water break.

Fishwick had one of his biggest and strongest squads to rotate so fresh legs weren’t an issue against a side that refuses to give up or stop running.

Early into the second half, McGirr had a chance to put clear daylight between both sides but his chipped effort came back off the crossbar and was cleared to safety.

A sluggish second half livened up when Gerrard and Ash Reid put in a couple of tasty challenges. It certainly got Edwards riled up as he went all Rick Flair on us with a couple of encouraging woos!

Despite a couple of scares, Dale Johnson rarely looked troubled in the Shanghai Marlins’ goal. The charismatic man-child produced some fine distribution throughout, earning him a share of the man of the match award with new arrival and PA, Moss.

Gentle Geordie, Dave Watson returned from a summer of meditation to put in a typically solid performance. His cultured lug down field nearly put Lally through on goal but the Japanese defender did just enough.

With less than ten minutes remaining, Pete Rosselli was teed up by Scott’s lay-off but the beanpole forward dragged his shot well wide when taking a touch would have been a better choice/attempt at goal.

The final whistle was blown and Shanghai Marlins claimed a steady three-points to get their season underway.

Next week will be the official season opener with a small-sided tournament and ceremony. The Marlins will be hoping for more success having won the last three tournaments held by the Shanghai Premier League.

June 5th – Shanghai Marlins 5-2 ERS

On a day as hot as Dale Johnson with his shirt undone and a naked chest covered only by numerous medals, the fight for third saw chasers Shanghai Marlins take on current occupiers, ERS.

After prematurely enjoying their end of season party just two days earlier, the Marlins arrived at Jinqiao having barely recovered. Johnson was still finding unsuspecting waitresses to “fanny smack”, Dan Griffiths was happily throwing leftover drinks on people’s legs (Rodolfo Ossandon), Jon Banks was still peeling himself from off the Blue Marlin floor while Wilson Scott was picking out curtains at old people’s homes for his latest shirt.

Manager Steve Fishwick had a squad of 15 to choose from for the first half an hour before Ash Reid and PJ headed to their other game.

The Marlins gained an early foothold in the match as they looked to impose themselves early on. ERS appeared content to try and counter-attack against the reigning champions but it wasn’t enough as Shanghai Marlins dominated the first 45-minutes.

Jamie Lally provided the assist for the opening goal as he ran down the left channel before finding Pete Rosselli with a perfect cross. The beanpole striker nodded in from close range to give his side the lead.

Manager’s Player of the Year, Griffiths, then doubled his side’s advantage following a great corner by Players’ Player of the Year Scott. The ‘Rock’ in defence slid in at the far post to tap home, expertly avoiding a Phil Babb incident with the post. The manner of his celebration proved it was his first of the season as he mimicked an exaggerated ejaculation from an amplified penis. Perfect for the families in the area to witness.

Jamie Gerrard extended the Marlins lead to three with a well-taken goal. Reid’s pass saw Gerrard break the offside trap, cut in from the right and comfortably slot home with his left-foot.

Three became four when a swift attack was coolly finished by Lally. The Bearded Magician’s well-disguised pass played the Scouse striker in who then slotted past the keeper at the near-post.

Pete ‘Top-Knot’ Roberts made his long-awaited comeback following a broken back and nearly scored minutes after replacing Reid. The Welsh midfielder shot wide after Rosselli teed him up inside the area.

The boys in blue were running riot, as the French side appeared to be imitating some sort of general strike in defence. ERS had no shape, unlike the ones Cathal Grimes was pulling off on the Blue Marlin dance floor.

With a little under ten minutes before the break, Rosselli made it five with a simple finish from inside the box. Lally was again the provider after taking on half of the ERS defence. His deflected effort broke to Rosselli who side-footed first time into the far corner. ERS tried to claim offside which Simon Moore backed at half-time, although that’s the same Simon Moore who drunk Banksy under the (pool) table on Friday.

The Marlins lead was deserved as the squad was now reduced to 13 players. Johnson – who was still aiming for his first clean sheet of the season and reminiscing his karaoke performance – was due to be replaced by Fabio Gillue in goal at some point during the second period.

As is often the case, a big half-time lead makes it difficult for the leading side to maintain their performance levels but the Marlins would have managed that had the goal – like Loic Chudy – been a few inches bigger.

Gerrard was the first to strike the woodwork when he headed on to the bar following another great delivery by drum-invader Scott. Chudy then struck a near 30-yard free-kick against the underside of the crossbar with the goalkeeper flapping like Dave Watson against Gremio. Moments after the free-kick, Gerrard struck a thunder-bastard effort against the near-post which got everyone excited. The ERS keeper did well to avoid losing a finger and getting out of the firing line!

Johnson was safely off and eventually had a clean sheet to his name despite bundling into the goal with the ball at one point. ERS then got one back when the Marlins’ defence failed to clear their lines. Gillue was left with little chance as the French player drilled his shot from close-range.

Chudy thought he had retained the five-goal advantage only to be wrongly flagged offside. This was after Johnson – who found himself back upfront after his extensively well-publicised exploits against Lions – unselfishly crossed for his teammate.

With just minutes remaining, Gillue reminded everyone why he isn’t a natural goalkeeper as he and Watson exchanged enough pleasantries to allow the ERS player to nip in and score.

The final whistle was blown and the Marlins find themselves in pole position to claim third spot with two-games remaining and a five-point gap to close.

May 22nd – Shanghai Marlins 1-2 Lions

The Marlins arrived at Jinqiao with third-place still up for grabs as they took on league leaders, Lions.

A very muggy day made it as moist as the dance floor once Dale Johnson’s strolled through with half his shirt undone…he’s prone to spilling his drinks because he’s a clumsy twat.

There was a real family feel to the day with several kids (some of which were produced by Marlins players) turning up. Injured captain, Jon Banks, bought a pop-up tent, which inevitably took longer to put away than the 2 seconds to assemble. Even that proved an initial problem…

It was very much a makeshift squad of 13 with three new arrivals and Roland Broughton looking to sweat off his hangover. He could have done that just sitting on the sidelines with travel-lovers, Wilson Scott and Fabio Gillue instead of ‘marauding’ up and down the pitch from centre midfield.

The game was scrappy with few chances for either side. The Lions had to win to continue their pursuit of the title currently held by the Marlins but they struggled to breakdown the resolute defence, with Dan Griffiths and Loic Chudy proving hard to penetrate without at least a couple of Long Islands in them.

Lions took the lead via a tap-in with ten minutes of the half remaining. The French side capitalised on a loose pass to catch the backline out of position and beat Johnson in a two-on-one situation, something the goalkeeper often dreams about or watches online when his imagination is tired.

Despite the Marlins threatening from set pieces (as usual), they remained a goal behind at the break.

100% Johnson was replaced by Laurent in goal as agreed prior to kick-off, while James – another new player – replaced 14-year-old Steven for the second half.

Early in the half, Jamie Lally latched onto a knock on by Pete Rosselli before cutting across the defender and along the edge of the box. Unfortunately for the self-criticising Scouser, the keeper was able to gather his effort.

The boys in blue were more threatening in the second half but failed to end up on the right end of any goalmouth scramble. They also had numerous freekicks as the Chinese referee (his nationality is relevant) blew up more often than a jobs worth traffic warden dressed as a policeman with a love for the sound of his own whistle.

Lions should have doubled their lead but were thwarted by some intelligent defending and good goalkeeping. Although, neither of which had any influence on someone completely missing the ball with an open goal at his merci (French joke, lol).

Sensing a need to change things (because Lally had shouted at his shoulder too much), manager Steve, put Marlins’ greatest ever number 10, Dale Johnson, onto the field to change things up. This wasn’t a Steven Caulker up top in the last five minutes, or a Gary Doherty put it in the mixer move, this was a game changer (often the wrong way). This was the athletic alcoholic Johnson being given the freedom of the pitch to do what his heart desires and stamina will allow.

His first piece of action saw a pass that deceived more than a few. The man that sees Messi referred to as the Argentinian Johnson showed just why that actually, genuinely, sincerely happens. Mere mortals would play the simple ten-yard pass to Ash Reid, but only a misunderstood genius would loft the ball over him to find Broughton a further five-yards away from the opponent’s goal.

The French had eventually scored a second to all but seal the game despite the heroic efforts of this makeshift Marlins side. With just several minutes to go, the game felt as done as Cameron Jerome’s Premier League career.

But as quick as you could say, “Dave, your speed lines are phenomenally dreadful and I’m truly curious as to what thought process triggered such an approach to shaving those atrocities into near albino blonde hair,” Johnson turned up.

The man who inspired Jorge Campos, Jose Chilavert and Rogerio Ceni to be more than just the kid you chuck in goal because he can’t do bugger all on the pitch, picked up the loose ball on the edge of the box following a great run by young Aiden.

Johnson had a gauntlet of defenders to beat but he remembered they were predominantly French and therefore likely to roll over. And so they did, but only because of his snakehips and (accidental) dummies leading to desperate lunges.

Un, deaux, trois, quatre, they dropped like flies, and so did Johnson, nearly, as he somehow dragged himself towards the byline before sliding in ahead of the keeper to lift the ball over him and into the net.

It was a goal that inspired Maradona to score his famous World Cup strike against England, even though it happened 30-years ago.

The world suddenly realised that you don’t compare Johnson, you compare to Johnson. You might often be better than him at near enough everything, but there’s no stronger metaphor or simile in football.

If anything, it deserved to at least be worth two goals but the Chinese ref, jaw on floor, couldn’t gather himself to even consider the obvious adjustment to the rulebook.

Lions were roaring at the final whistle and they’re likely to go on and claim the title, but the real winner here was football. The sport Johnson created out of his backside when he had too much vindaloo. No one rested on the seventh day, they were too bloody busy watching Dale Johnson dance, stumble and shimmy his way to footballing folklore.