With Stegman’s Old Boys qualified for the League Cup and assured a third place finish no matter what the results, Sunday’s match against equally ensconsed River Otters had the look of a match between two teams content to let things happen. Add in a heat index of 103 degrees at kickoff and lethargy was certainly the expectation.
At the kickoff, the SOBs certainly lived up to the expectation, but the home side did not.
Immediately under the cosh, the makeshift back four repelled all attacks before, after a good ten minutes, the Old Boys began to find interest in the proceedings. With Jon Scott providing serenity in possession in the middle and an eye for the killer ball, the SOBs had the platform to attack. George Hanscom and Rob Peichel began to influence matters and with a quarter gone the match looked more even especially in the midfield, but River Otters looked the more dangerous.
Both sides traded blows, but it was River Otters, again overwhelming the midfield, who struck first. A finely struck ball from the midfield released the home side forward and he took advantage of the hobbled centerback Dan Hoedeman, struggling with the knee injury that ended his time in England, to find just enough space to squeeze his shot in on the far side.
A frustrating goal to concede, but the goal seemed to wake up the Old Boys.
Graham Campbell began to play into the game, using his pace to trouble the opposition defense. And with the Alexes, Haueter and Polukeyev, beginning to do good work on the flanks, the pressure began to build.
All too often, however, the Old Boys were predictably direct and struggled for the final ball.
And yet, they had River Otters pegged back and were winning corner after corner. And it was from a corner, worked short by Peichel to Mark Schmitt, that the Old Boys evened their account.
Schmitt picked the ball up on the edge of the area, moved the ball to his right foot and rifled a shot into the top corner. It was a strike of such stunning precision it took a moment to register that it had, indeed, gone in.
With the re-start of the half, the Old Boys were on top and looked the most likely to score.
However, the referee, dodgy from the beginning, changed the character of the game. Sending off the River Otters captain for dissent with 30 minutes left seemed to lift the home side, who were energized by the injustice. They began snapping into tackles and their upped work rate seemed to trouble the SOBs.
Still, the game could have turned for the boys in blue, but for their inability to finish hurting them again. Peichel played Hanscom through, only for Hanscom to be denied by a stunning save. Then Tesch worked an opening, knocking a floating shot off of the far post, only for Peichel to blast the rebound high, wide and hardly handsome.
The pressure was telling, but when River Otters took advantage of some slack marking to bury a corner, the Old Boys were undone.
With nothing really to play for, the SOBs couldn’t seem to summon the drive necessary to take the game to River Otters. And, with two minutes left, when an errant pass from Polukeyev was played straight to the opposition striker, who easily rounded Ryan Horstman in goal to score the third, the night was summed up.
“It was especially frustrating because we played a good game, looked the more likely and then fell apart alarmingly” said the Manager Jon Bisswurm, “but our goal for this game was to get a good workout and not get injured, and we accomplished that.”
“We can hold our heads high” said Nick Sindt after the game “despite the rather abject capitulation. This was a chance to try things out, to use some of the players more than we typically do and to prepare for the League Cup. Results are less important than preparation, and we got some great preparation from this match.”
“Considering our injury list, which I was added to midway through the match, we did well” said Dan Hoedeman. “A number of our players really stepped up and I think that we’ll be dangerous in the Cup.”
Stegman’s Old Boys (4-4-2): Horstman, Schmitt, Hoedeman, Sindt, Gorrell, Scott, Hanscom, Polukeyev, Peichel, Haueter, Tesch
Subs: Campbell, Johnson, Larson