Saturday, December 5, 1981

Christmas looms large

It was almost one when I got up. I was disgusted and annoyed with myself and hardly had time to wake up properly before setting off for Cardigan Park and Athletic's match against first-placed Cotton Bank Trinity.

Robert and Carol were already there when I arrived and they seem to have got over their troubles: they were both in good moods. Cotton Bank were quick and skillful, and at times really did outplay us. They had a goal disallowed after fourteen minutes and scored after twenty, a superb goal. Ackroyd kept Athletic in the game with some brilliant saves: one in particular from a 35-yard shot was just unbelievable. Things looked to be petering out to half time when, as these things happen, I saw the ball arc across the goal mouth in slow motion and Hughes head it in for an equalizer! We all went wild with delight and the whistle was blown almost immediately.

The second half was really memorable. Athletic attacked much more and it was end-to-end stuff. Newlands had a header cleared off the line and at one point, with the crowd going wild, we had three corners on the trot. I could feel the excitement building. But eight minutes before the end Cotton Bank went 2-1 up. Robert said “that’s it,” but three minutes later, McArdle was sent away on the right, rounded two defenders and then the keeper, and shot in from a really acute angle. What a goal! Incredible! 2-2! Relief surged through the crowd.

Burning feelings of intense emotion in the last few minutes, the crowd shrieking their heads off, desperate goalmouth scrambles, a minute to go . . . time passing so, so slowly . . . then a scrambled, rebounding ball was in the back of the Athletic net and the home crowd rippled with despair, the Cotton Bank fans on their feet. “The bastards have scored!” The whistle went to applause from both sides. 2-3. Athletic still third.

Brilliant game, so exciting.

Robert & Carol came home on the bus with me to stay the night. My plans to go see reggae evaporated in indecision and I spent the evening playing dominoes and Scrabble with Robert. Dad insisted that they come to our house for Christmas. Suddenly, Christmas looms large in everyone’s plans.

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