All the talk in the world of football this week has been rather Ronaldo-centric, the fact that the 36-year old’s homecoming against Newcastle fell into the 3pm Saturday slot caused a headache for many.
The super fans/worshippers of Ronaldo were united in paying over the odds for tickets to see the Portuguese legend in the flesh, some tickets to Old Trafford were said to be priced at £2,000. Armchair football fans were angered that they weren’t able to watch it from the comfort of their own home or watering hole due to the long-standing football blackout.
The football blackout follows the rule that no Premier League, Football League or FA Cup matches be broadcast on live television on Saturday between 2:45 pm and 5:15 pm. The purpose of such a blackout is to encourage fans to turn their attention locally and on Saturday (September 11) that meant 455 of said fans descended on Hartsdown Park for the spectacle of Margate FC vs Leatherhead.
The reports from Old Trafford compared the atmosphere to one of a carnival. If Old Trafford was Rio then HDP was at very least Notting Hill. The first half got underway and although both sides had their moments and a couple of corners apiece but the blues looked the more solid.
Embery the number 9 started the match and rightly so as he’d scored a superb hat-trick midweek to confirm Margate’s progression in the FA cup, but Embery gave the ball away in the middle of the park and Leatherhead’s number 9 gathered turned and ran at the blues’ back line, weaving and jinking convincingly as men with a low centre of gravity tend to do. The striker managed to get his shot off but dragged it wide, which produced a huge ‘wheyyyyy’ from the Margate ultras behind the goal.
Margate fanatics were in fine voice and beery spirits and were the highlight on the first half an hour. 34 minutes in and forget Ronaldo, our very own Champions League winner Ben Greenhalgh resembled Ronaldo of yesteryear when he dribbled his way down the left-hand side and delivered a deadly cross that found its way eventually to Thompson to slot in Margate’s opener. Before the celebrations had come to a close James Bessey-Saldanha had managed to be in possession of the football beyond the keeper and with an open goal to pass into 2-0!
The clouds parted and the sun illuminated the last ten minutes of the first half. Leatherhead’s number 9 tried a long-distance shot only to be blocked, number 11 struck a venomous effort that flew over the bar.
Half time came and went, news of Ronaldo’s goal spread around the terraces whilst on the pitch the half time penalty show saw Graham make some quality saves as well as some dubious dives.
Play got back underway and an injury to Richards saw Greenhalgh fall back into defence oddly and meant that Margate was not as dominant in midfield as usual. Leatherhead got a grip of the game and number 9 Alexander Sami tapped in to make it 2-1. An hour and six minutes had been played when Margate won a free-kick and Greenhalgh trotted up to take it and delivered a delicious ball into the box which was there to be attacked, and although no Margate players met it one of the Leatherhead players did an own goal and the Gate’s two-goal lead was restored.
The carnival atmosphere was apparent, the Margate fans were louder than a mid-week gig at Dreamland. When Biffy Clyro came to town in August the Scottish rockers had a few thousand singing along to their well-known hits but the Margate fans belting out ‘let’s go *** mental, let’s go *** mental’ on a Saturday afternoon was arguably louder and more joyous.
72 minutes of play had been revelled in by the Margate fans when the opposing number 7 faked a shot and chipped in a cleverly disguised ball to …. Of course… number 9 who finished calmly. 3-2. The carnival mood might just be cancelled and in my head, I foresaw a last-minute goal by the superb Sammi followed by Adebayor-Esque celebrations.
Margate though came again and when Kamara found Palmer who has the stepovers to compete with Ronaldo, on this occasion had the delivery as well digging out a great ball and finding Embery who met it on his head but glanced it agonisingly just wide. Embery came close again minutes later only to be denied by a great save.
An odd wrestling match broke out between the Margate’s formidable centre back Lewis Knight and widely reviewed ‘well gobby’ Adam Green of Leatherhead, both were yellow carded by the ref in the 78th minute but that was far from the last drama of this game.
The announcement came over the PR system that Margate’s number 7 the lively industrious and technically gifted James Bessey-Saldanha was to be awarded the Man of the Match and within seconds of the announcement he was running down the wing much to the defender’s woe.
Sheer determination and pace meant Bessey-Saldanha was able eventually to get the ball into the mixer where it was headed away but only as far as the edge of the box. The ball fell to the calm head of Blackman who always seems to make the right decision as he headed not frantically back into the six-yard box but calmly into the path of Bola.
Vance Bola fresh from the bench burst away in explosive round a couple of defenders and from outside the box produced yet another thunder of a strike which went straight into the top corner and was celebrated with a hell of a cheer. Vance and Monty sticking to the carnival vibes celebrated in the corner with some samba dancing, joyous scenes. 4-2.
The full-time whistle went capping a cracking afternoon of entertainment HDP put on for its visitors; six goals, own goals, absolute rockets, exciting football, player scraps, a bit of non-league banter, cracking atmosphere, it’s for exactly these experiences that the football blackout exists.
If people could have watched some premier league kickoffs at 3pm down the pub with their mates, maybe they would have but they would have ultimately lost out as this was one to remember and one enjoyed by all who follow the gate.
The Margate players clapped the fans at the end of the game as the PR system blazed the anthem ‘The boys are back in town’ but that is far from a reference to Manchester’s new/old number 7 but the likely lads in the Libertines sponsored kit who are still unbeaten and now third in the table.