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.