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.