In their last game before a five-week break, Shanghai Marlins took on Galacticos who despite their position in the table, were unfortunate to suffer a late 1-0 loss last week to another of the three title candidates, Century Park.
Due to a variety of reasons, the Marlins only had a squad of 13 available on what was the first wet Sunday in a long while. It was also Tom ‘Chopper’ Ryan’s final game before flying to his 56th floor sea view serviced apartment in Hong Kong. Not bad for a man whose former classmates dreamt of being a bellboy in a hotel of such heights.
It was also potentially a final outing for Matt Banks who may be in Chengdu for the remainder of the season. Fingers-crossed Jon Banks’ (Banksy) ventriloquist puppet can make the final few games!
Manager Steve Fishwick emphasised the importance of getting a victory in order to keep the pace with Lions and Century Park, particularly given the low numbers and Galacticos most recent performance.
Fortunately for the Marlins, they were able to get off to the fast start Fishwick wanted when Ryan clipped a well-weighted ball over Galacticos’ defence. Both Banksy and Pete Rosselli were looking to get on the end of it with the latter placing a first-time effort into the far bottom corner.
It turned out to be the assist that opened the floodgates and a fitting ‘finale’ for Ryan who has immersed himself in the Marlins’ culture since day one. That’s not necessarily something to be proud of, mind.
Soon after, Banksy doubled their lead with a well-struck effort from distance that according to Fishwick – who was doing his best wolly with a brolly impression – crossed the line despite the keeper getting a strong hand to it. Supposedly, the ball came back off the stanchion which Rosselli duly followed up and tapped in just to make sure. Referee Kevin, allegedly awarded the goal to avoid the inevitable torrent of abuse from Banksy that only his brother and Ryan would understand.
Rosselli turned provider with a cross into the corridor of uncertainty from the left. James Moss was on hand to cushion the ball home and not lose his phone in the process.
It was Banksy’s turn to provide an assist when he slipped a pass through for Rosselli between both centre and right-backs. The beanpole forward beat the keeper who was caught out of position.
Rosselli grabbed his hat-trick having earlier been berated by a Steve McClaren impersonator and the injured Ash Reid – who would later display the numerical ability that’s only rivalled by Banksy when totting up his number of assists (one) – for being too unselfish. The tee-total tosser received Andrei Ghicu’s pass before turning past the defender and drilling into the bottom corner.
Five became six when Harry Swain – the recent recruit who was presumably born in a pub given his drinking and pool skills – considered an overhead kick from a loose ball in the area only to instead help it over a defender for Rosselli to swing in a right-volley from six-yards.
Half-time arrived with Shanghai Marlins in control despite squandering several other opportunities and Banksy insulting Xabi Alonso with a long-range effort inspired by the Spaniard’s recently confirmed retirement.
Fishwick encouraged more of the same football but highlighted the need to get both wingers – Ash Smith and Côme Doleac – more involved.
Captain Dan Griffiths had done a David Haye and broke his little toe during the opening period. Despite soldiering on for the rest of the first-half, the Shrewsbury born, Ryan Gosling lookalike, and serial sleeper, could no longer continue and was subsequently replaced by fellow Marlins veteran and Toy Story’s Woody, Adam Christy.
The second half saw an inevitable drop in performance but only in the final third as the Marlins lacked the clinical edge displayed in the first 45 minutes.
Despite several players being guilty of failing to convert presentable chances, the Marlins still found ways through with Rosselli getting the first of the second period. He tapped in the rebound after the Galacticos’ keeper could only send Moss’ low-drive into the air.
Smith then scored his first for Shanghai Marlins following some neat link-up play between Moss and Rosselli. The Stoke City, Ray Parlour lookalike, gave the keeper no chance as he drilled a clean strike with his left-foot.
Rosselli then got his sixth when he finally converted one of Moss’ passes. Taking the ball from the right, the flat-track bully placed his effort with the outside of his left-foot, ensuring his right remains a predominantly standing foot and little else.
Moss – who was earlier denied by the crossbar in attempting a Hollywood goal – scored his second of the game to make it 10 with a well-struck volley into the top corner following Jack Sanders’ cross. Definitely better than Banksy’s goal.
Chasing an imaginary number conjured up by Reid’s unorthodox approach to Maths, the Marlins went in search of more goals as they finished the game strongly. And much to the delight of all those watching, Ryan scored his maiden Marlins goal having read Rosselli’s swing and a miss before showing textbook technique to side-foot back into the far corner.
The final goal of the game saw Shanghai Marlins reach 12 and Moss complete his hat-trick following Smith’s second assist thanks to great perseverance and a cut-back.
It was a comfortable and generally efficient performance by the Marlins who find themselves top of the league having played a game more than both of their rivals. The clean sheet was also welcomed thanks to some steady defending as well as the reliable goalkeeping exploits of Dave Watson and Banksy.
Next up for the Marlins is the challenging tie against ERS. Fishwick will be hoping to have more of his squad available and that they maintain their fitness during the extended break.
Man of the match: Pete Rosselli
For Ryan’s send off, the team pitched in to reward his dedication to the cause with some typically scouse fancy dress and a toy helicopter. But to avoid any accusations of bullying, he was joined by his MINT sidekick, Moss, who had blue versions of the curly wig and tracksuit.
The duo found themselves sharing long islands (Lady & the Tramp style), displaying a broad range of Chinese vocabulary and struggling to stay cool under the intense heat of Blue Marlin’s air conditioner combined with the previously mentioned wig.
Games of cheeks were celebrated like a 180 at the World Darts Final and killer pool saw Moss acting like a baby in more ways than one. First throwing his toys out of the pram because he’s crap at pool, then shitting himself at the possibility of losing not one but two phones.
Pub boy Swain took the prize money which he proceeded to buy shots for those still standing, in Griffiths’ case, like a tipsy flamingo.
It was another Sunday Funday that for many resulted in a Monday Mongday. But life could be worse, you could be awarded manager of the month…