In the first game of 2019 and after a six-week winter break, Shanghai Marlins took on the SPL’s newest team, SPQR Da Marcos.

It was a disappointing end to the year following a humbling defeat to rivals, Lions. But the Marlins were keen to bounce back in style and put on a statement performance to rediscover the belief that this team is capable of retaining the league title.

For a change, a number of players were able to benefit from a training session the week before the match to dust off the cobwebs and shift some of the Christmas turkey.

A big squad of 17 committed to the game and were far better prepared than the Lions game, even if Social Secs Harry Swain and James Moss turned up wearing matching jackets.

Gaffer Carl Edwards and Adam Christy gave the pre-match spiel before the squad carried out one of the more focused warm-ups. Every player in blue knew what was needed in this game and were ready to deliver.

Once the tic tacs finished their prolonged huddle, the teams shook hands and the game was underway.

With both keepers unavailable, the Berlin Wall, Max Baier, returned to the side, while Steve Fong – who would have no problems dealing with “Diana Ross” on the wing (Edwards 2019) – was also able to make his maiden appearance of the season.

The Marlins were keen to come out of the blocks hard and fast, to let their opponents know that they’re in for a game.

After a couple of near opportunities, it was Mossy who broke the deadlock with a curling effort into the bottom corner following a pass from Pete Roberts.

Mossy then went from scorer to provider when he played Pete Rosselli through down the right channel. The weight of the pass was such that the beanpole forward could make use of his long legs, reaching the ball before defender and keeper to lift it into the empty net.

Rosselli then grabbed his second of the game following the Marlins’ first corner. Toby Rossiter won the initial ball via his beak, then Swainy helped it closer to goal for an easy David Nugent tap-in.

The Boys in Blue were dominating the territory and ball as they looked a constant threat in attack. Didier Njewel and Rosselli were linking up well and should have extended the deficit further.

Edwards was able to maintain a high tempo and freshen up the team thanks to the depth and quality of the squad.

Unfortunately, SPQR pulled a goal back with a good near-post finish. The three-goal advantage should have been restored but the referee had a different interpretation of the law to everyone else which denied Jamie Lally a deserved goal.

Half-time arrived and Edwards just reiterated what was working well and how they can improve in the second period. The Marlins were set on victory and knew the next goal would prove pivotal.

Within five minutes of the second half, that all-important goal arrived when Njewel latched on to Birthday boy Matt Gilvary’s flick on to coolly slot home for his first Marlins goal.

Moments later, one of the best team goals in recent history saw Lally tee-up Mossy for a fine drive beyond the hapless keeper. A series of one and two-touch combinations got the goal it warranted to all but seal the win.

SPQR to their credit didn’t give up, and the Berlin Wall pulled off a couple of big saves as the game went through a hectic period. They got a goal back thanks to a piece of good fortune when Jon Heaney tried to clear the ball like it was the pumpkin that cut his finger just days earlier. The ricochet played their forward through on goal and he duly finished much to the Marlins frustration.

The killer blow arrived when Njewel won a penalty and Mossy completed his hat-trick from the spot, wrong-footing the keeper along the way.

Edwards being the team player that he is, didn’t bring himself on until the final 10-minutes, but that was enough time for him to grab a goal. Dragos Olaru fed Rosselli who flicked the ball into Edwards’ path for a tidy near-post finish.

Rosselli then joined Mossy on a hat-trick following a great ball by Olaru to cap the scoring and finish with an emphatic 8-2 victory.

The Marlins aren’t in action again until the 17thFebruary due to the Chinese New Year break, but will have five games in six weeks when they get back, which should see an increase in rhythm and sharpness. If the effort and application of Sunday was the minimum standard, then this Marlins side can repeat last season’s achievements.

Man of the Match:Jon Heaney
A fine defensive display full of determination and energy saw Heaney win countless challenges and begin attacks with driving runs from the back. If that’s his fitness levels after six weeks without a game, there’s only one message for upcoming opposition forwards…sorry about that. 

Post-match
Dave Watson had to return to his never-ending swimming meet whilst nursing his cramp and polishing his Oscar.

Fourteen members of the squad were able to head back to Blue Marlin for a well-earned drink and more than 11 Long Islands.

Heaney’s better-half, Steph, proved she is a true Marlin by downing her Long Island quicker than the Man of the Match and promptly winning Harry Swain’s Hero of the Day!

 

A few Zombies, JT’s wine tasting corner, a revisit to the Bus tour playlist and a couple of speeches filled the evening with joy, laughter and a realisation that this Sunday Funday is what the Shanghai Marlins is built on.

Roberts found a novelty place to store the portable speakers, Rese and Ehlis continued their winning streak of the finger game in a cameo appearance while Mossy found a way to knock some lights…again.

Before the Suzhou boys could leave, they needed to relieve themselves and Rossiter deemed it wise to do so at the entrance to the team’s sponsors’ restaurant, falling one level shy of shitting on your own doorstep. Thankfully, Rosselli was leaving at the same time and able to divert him to a more suitable location, albeit not the toilet facilities indoors because that would make far too much sense. The DJ Nonce.

It was a fantastic response to what was a difficult end to 2018 and that has now reset the standards of expectation both on and off the pitch from hereon in. Enjoy the break, maintain the fitness and attend the February social prior to our next game against Japan if you can.

Up the Marlins!