Like the world’s most marketable club driven by huge spending power, Shanghai Marlins put out a depleted squad in this final league match to focus on the upcoming cup competition. The only difference being their manager (Steve Fishwick) doesn’t hang his players out to dry in the media, nor does he bother moaning about the referees.
Just 12 players were available for selection as Fishwick sourced a pair of size 11 boots for pub born pool boy, Harry Swain. The outcome, a simple swap with goalkeeper Dale Johnson who according to James Moss, was donning his new Air Johnsons (c).
The game had to be played on Waigaoqiao’s dog of a pitch which was more bobbly than a teenager’s forehead because the carpet at Jinqiao was hosting a load of kids with deluded ambitions of one day playing in the World Cup. #buildmorepitches
Fortunately for the Marlins, Johnny ‘Bieber’ Dicken was flown in from the U.S of A to provide Fishwick with a rotation option of sorts.
The younger, fitter and quicker Century Park – who also had a small squad – arrived for the 3:00 p.m. kick-off while the Marlins’ formation and line-up was essentially dictated by the personnel available.
There was little to choose between the sides during the early exchanges as Shanghai Marlins sat deep enough to thwart Century Park’s pacey attack.
At the other end, Moss came close with an effort from just outside the box before providing an assist for Swain’s opener. The Pirate ship ride fanatic opened his Marlins account as he somehow managed to head the cross into the far cornaaaarrrrgggghhhh!
Unfazed by his footwear, Johnson took a goal kick only to see his right-shoe mimic most of his clearances as it barely cleared the area. Zing!
Fishwick’s men were probing for a second as Andrei Ghicu was denied by a fingertip save. But just shy of half-time, the Marlins conceded an equaliser when Century Park’s left-winger reached the by-line before squaring for a simple tap-in.
And just a moment later when Dicken nearly got in behind the opponent’s backline, they counter-attacked to take an undeserved lead and the wind out of Swain’s sails.
At the break, Fishwick encouraged his troopers to enjoy the game despite the adverse circumstances and avoid a collapse similar to that against Lions, also at Waigaoqiao.
Unfortunately, within a few minutes of the restart, it was three-one as the league’s top scorer fortuitously found himself clean through on goal.
Within 10 minutes, it was four as Century Park’s captain snuck in at the far-post to convert a deep cross but the Marlins refused to lie down.
Despite a lack of options, they persisted in good spirits – apart from Mossy who wanted to show how high he could kick a ball before receiving a yellow card. The Marlins were unlucky not to grab a consolation when Swain was denied another goal after heading Moss’ cross onto the crossbar with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The defeat was little more than pride with the league cup now taking president starting with this Sunday’s quarter-final against ERS.
Birthday celebrations for captain Dan Griffiths were extended beyond a few beers at Waigaoqiao as the majority of the squad returned to club headquarters Blue Marlin for more food and drinks.
For the hard-core Sunday Fundayers, those celebrations didn’t end until gone 2:00 a.m. no doubt ensuring a particularly unproductive Monday.
One club stalwart was absent after another addition to the Shanghai Marlins’ Academy. Adam Helling-Christy and his wife Missy welcomed beautiful (we’re assuming as they all look the same at this point) Bennett Frances Helling-Christy to the world last Thursday. Everyone associated with the team send their best wishes and look forward to Bennett’s first Sunday Funday with all the other academy members.
Man of the Match: Harry Swain
Scoring his team’s only goal and nearly producing an even better header while wearing Johnson’s 100% record boots was impressive enough. But couple that with his physically dominant display in the middle on an unfavourable pitch and it’s no wonder Marlins veterans are earmarking the Donny Pub Pirate as Will Doar II. Given the home comforts of being surrounded by beers and drunks, it was no surprise to see Harry enjoying himself late into the night fuelled by the Long Island Iced Tea that comes with the MOTM award. One suspects his head felt like it was on his favourite ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach the following morning!