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