The quarter-final of the SPL Cup took place at Waigaoqiao with the Marlins looking to claim one last trophy for their departing manager, Steve Fishwick.
Unfortunately, due to injuries and other commitments, Shanghai Marlins had to start the game with just 10 players as they awaited three others to arrive from work.
As a result, keeping things tight with just Pete Rosselli up front was the aim of the game while ERS had trouble accommodating a few new faces into their line-up.
Marlins veteran, Jon Banks was playing at the back with his sleep deprived brother, Matt, who headed back to England the following day to remind his parents who’s the better son.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Marlins were organised and fairly composed in possession. The extra focus of being a man short inadvertently saw a better, more disciplined performance.
Utility man, Jamie Lally, went clear down the right-wing only to be unashamedly clipped by ERS’ left-back. Even though it was a few minutes into the contest, the referee had no choice but to dish out the first booking of the game.
ERS’ left-back went on to commit one too many clumsy challenges and subsequently received his marching orders. Although even then he struggled to know where or when to go. With less than 15 minutes played there was a reversal in the numerical differences, which following Andrei Gichu’s late arrival, went in favour of Shanghai Marlins.
Ten minutes later and the boys in blue were ahead thanks to James Moss’ composed finish. The tree-trunk thighed midfielder made a late run into the box to convert Rosselli’s pass before side-footing into the corner.
The goal made up for Moss’ earlier effort that remarkably went out for a throw-in. #blameabobble
Fishwick’s side failed to really stamp their authority on the game in spite of the extra player. But they did double their lead with the goal of the game shortly before half-time.
With Harry Swain and Pete Roberts kitted up and on the field, a couple of Marlins’ players were able to take a rest.
Roberts and Moss exchanged passes in ERS’ half before Lally broke the offside trap down the left. The Liverpudlian then drilled a pass across goal for Côme Doleac to bundle home from close range. It was a great team move and especially impressive given the state of the pitch.
At half-time, Fishwick cited the second goal as an example of what the team can do through simple football and good movement. Unfortunately, that wasn’t replicated during the second period as ERS to their credit gambled with their 10 men to try and force a way back.
Dale Johnson – who had already pulled off a fine save at 1-0 – continued to be impenetrable as it wasn’t Saturday night nor was he drunk enough…yet.
But the Marlins were getting increasingly frustrated until their third arrived which all but sealed victory and progress to the semi-finals.
Gichu was played through down the left by Moss’ quick free-kick, and the Romanian’s mishit cross deceived the ERS keeper who could only parry the ball into the near corner.
For the remaining 15 minutes, the game really opened up and Moss grabbed his second goal just a few moments later.
Jack Sanders’ cross found Moss all alone at the back stick and the turtle-neck wearing, walking chin, had the time to take a touch and provide an emphatic finish.
Moss was desperate to get his hat-trick which like his girlfriend, led to some ill-advised decision making.
There was still time for some more drama before the final whistle as Banks Snr pulled the ERS attacker back to concede a professional foul. The curly-haired attacker took his position title literally by trying to push, punch and kick out at Banks. This left his tired younger brother seething as he stumbled across the bobbly pitch to defend his family so he can further validate himself as the better son to Mum and Dad later that week.
Swain and Roberts were on the bench at the time but got involved quicker than the former in a pub based game or the latter in a vest-sale at Millets. They took responsibility as angry peacemakers as it all ended a little unsavoury.
Thankfully, the referee – who correctly sent off the ERS attacker – brought matters to an end soon after as both sides shook hands. That included Banks who sought out the offender to put matters to bed, a place Matt was desperate to retire to.
Following a nail-biting draw, Shanghai Marlins will take on MMFC at the Dulwich School field on Sunday 11th June which is preceded by Lions’ match-up with Japan.
The last piece of silverware needed to complete Fishwick’s collection remains a possibility.