12:10, Sunday afternoon. The referee’s whistle blew for the last time and instantly alleviated the final jinx from the collective shoulders of two generations of Queen’s Head players. It was the Pub Clasico, and Misty Moon hosted the Queen’s Head. Two of Chesham’s most popular establishments, alike in stature, poles apart in quality.
Queen’s Head FC, now into their third season, have made considerable progress since their formation; from waiting patiently for their first win, an emphatic 4-0 over FC Eagles and a taste of a successful future ahead, to lifting their first silverware last summer, a disciplined victory over the now top-flight Dinamo Chequers in the Junior Invitational Cup final. Club first after club first had been achieved, record after record had been broken, but one aspect of the Queen’s ever developing history remained unchanged through the generations – from the school of 2012/13 through to Queen’s Head nuevo – Misty Moon FC remained undefeated against the Church Street side. Five games. Five losses. 12:10.
A sense of cautious optimism permeated the hot and humid atmosphere at Bellingdon Village Hall ahead of the 10:30 kick-off. The Queen’s Head of last season managed to run Misty close on the two occasions the clubs met, and with the home side newly promoted and struggling to adapt to life amongst the Sunday League elite, the visitors sensed that a long overdue victory could be there for the taking.
It soon became clear that although Misty Moon had been dropping points in the early stages of the new season, they hadn’t lost any quality in their personnel. The home-side lined up with a typically strong starting XI in a typical, flat, 4-4-2. Queen’s Head, in the unfortunate absence of the caring and watchful eyes of owner and chairwoman, Lisa Walker, and fellow oligarch, John Walker, set to the field in an unfamiliar but cohesive combination of players. Notably, it was Joe Matthews, after an excellent two-week promotion to caretaker manager in the absence of Phil Meier, who saw his excellent work both on and off the pitch rewarded with a start in the right-midfield slot of a flexible 4-4-2, which involved striker, Casey Birkett, dropping deep to forage and force mistakes against a Misty back-line that looked vulnerable to lapses in concentration.
And so at 10:30 Queen’s Head kicked off. At 10:31, after a smart, overtly attacking move which almost lead to an own goal and resulted in a corner for the hooped away side, Misty decided to start playing, too.
Every credible success story needs a protagonist, and every member of the impressively organised and sharp Queen’s Head team who featured and supported filled the role well. The back four of
Ollie Buckingham, Alex Jones, Dave Wild and Phil Meier expertly dealt with the fast pace of the Misty attacks ahead of Darren Kelly, who has entered the new season in exceptional form.
It was David Goss, however, fresh and fully immersed into a brand new air of confidence, who underlined the collective quality of a team sensing a historic first win over the Queen’s rivals by winning a penalty following an intuitive run, which he duly converted. Lift off.
Soon it was two, with Goss chasing and forcing a mistake from the Misty goalkeeper before finishing acutely into an open goal – a move which began with a David Luiz-esque piece of nonchalant brilliance from manager and left-back, Phil Meier, who decided against heading a stray through ball, choosing to chase back and turn between two attackers before sending the ball on its way up the pitch.
A commanding lead. Not an unfamiliar early scoreline in the Pub Clasico, as Queen’s Head held a similar scoreline in the early stages of a home league match versus Misty Moon last season – only to be pegged back before ultimately, and painfully, losing 4-2. Soon history was to repeat itself. A deep and dipping cross managed to plant itself directly into the very top corner of the Queen’s goal. Later a brief moment of confusion in the box lead to a Misty equaliser. 2-2. Crash landing.
The 4-2 scoreline recorded at Westwood Park last winter was difficult for the still developing Queen’s Head team to get over. But, significantly, the months that followed allowed Queen’s to learn from their shortcomings. The midfield of Joe Matthews, Dan Benning, and Ben Mack rallied, upset Misty’s rhythm, closed players down before the home side could unleash their characteristic long balls through to their pacey attackers. Pedro huffed and puffed on the left of the midfield four before finding momentary pockets of success in a more advanced role. Soon the collective quality of a team transformed would shine through.
Louis Street entered the fray, maintaining the solidity of a defence hell-bent on snuffing out would-be attacks. Louie Shanahan added an invaluable level of intensity in closing opponents down as well as supporting Queen’s attacks with a high energy.
The second half saw Sam Nolan introduced, whose quick feet immediately caused problems for Misty – and it was a Nolan ball which found David Goss, who sprang the offside trap and completed his hat-trick. 3-2 to the visitors.
Ashley Cole featured heavily in the second half, tirelessly chasing opponents high up the pitch and forcing errors in what is usually a watertight defence.
Soon it was four. Goss was bundled over for a second time in the box and powerfully converted his penalty. A glut – for the first time in the club’s history. Another record. But by this stage all that mattered was chasing the all-important, now three season long, scalp. So many times plucky performances have yielded undeserving defeats at the hands of Misty Moon FC, so many times the monkey’s remained unshaken from hooped backs.
The ever-reliable Graham Noble was brought on and did an outstanding job in an unfamiliar right-back position. As the Misty attacks became more desperate, the brighter the centre-back pairing of Alex Jones and Dave Wild shone; continually outleaping and outsmarting the frantic Misty attackers. The midfield link-up between Dan Benning and Ben Mack was exceptional; with Benning doggedly fighting for possession while Mack expertly orchestrated attack after attack. 2013/14 saw an overwhelming change in personnel at Queen’s Head, while the squad has largely remained the same since, it feels like the club has progressed even further; it’s not so much a generational matter anymore, but Queen’s look smarter, slicker than at any other stage – a real Queen’s Head 2.0.
A rare one-on-one opportunity for Misty was dealt with by an extraordinary save from Darren Kelly before normal service was resumed at the other end of the pitch. David Goss appeared to have taken a leaf out of the Casey Birkett school of hunting for space and finding the ball out wide – it seemed to be paying dividends as he forced some smart saves from the Misty number one. Louie Shanahan later almost looked to have wrapped up a conclusive win as he arrowed a shot narrowly over the far corner of the goal.
12:10 and the final whistle was greeted with a roar from both the Queen’s Head players and support. The final taboo had been lifted. So too had the monkey from hooped backs – a Clasico victory over two years in the making.
David Goss picked up Man of The Match for what was a hard working and prolific display. But the manner of victory, over a premier division team, over rivals, will take centre stage. The wins over fellow premier division side, Dinamo Chequers, proved that Queen’s Head should start taking themselves seriously as a team destined for a big future in Chesham Sunday League. Now the Misty Moon have finally been dealt with, it’ll be time everyone else starts taking them seriously, too.