Clapham came into their inaugural league fixture of 2024, the home game that never was, knowing that a loss against Claygate Hounds would see their opponents climb above them in the promotion chase. Fortunately, the boys from Norbury proved more lethal than a Lidl ‘Bag For Life’, coming away deserved 4-2 winners after a first-half display which showed all their latent firepower.
It didn’t take long for the returning Matt Cefai to find his scoring boots, registering from 20-yards scant minutes after kick-off, profiting from a defensive slip-up and David Davies’ previous diligence in clearing the flanks of infant roustabouts. Cefai would also score Xaverians' second, this time from a near-impossible angle, following an unfortunate and entirely avoidable Hounds equaliser (details remain fuzzy amid a swirling nimbus of blame and conjecture). The Clapham playmaker’s effortless (and I do mean effortless) brilliance galvanised Clapham’s passing game, founded on the newly-formed bedrock of goal guardian Adam Spooner, Neuer-eqsue between the sticks. A dazzling conflation of calmness and simmering hatred, the lanky net-sentinel initiated countless Xaverians moves, supplying tasty feed for some subtle midfield dalliances, the ball pirouetting around the engine room of Ronald Ohene and Martin McGourty (and subsequently Isaac Harold) like Jason Quinn frequenting an all-ages disco, or, perhaps, Alex Jayes cock-a-hoop and camouflaged in the queue for an early-bird army conscription.
With Cefai temporarily spent from all his unrelenting defensive duties, it was up to Mark Hignett to stretch his legs, breaking away for a scintillating solo effort, sweetly caressing the ball home to make it 3-1, before replicating the very same break from deep, but this time only to see his shot cannon off the bar. Fortunately, Andy Douglas was on hand to bundle home the scraps, clearly mistaking the ball for a bumper bag of dripping and coal.
The second half saw Claygate rejig their formation, partially nullifying Clapham’s attack, though with the beneficial corollary of also minimising their own threat. Only a speculative long-range shot from a Hounds midfielder carried any real bark, finding the corner of the onion bag with scant minutes to go. Our boys in green-and-blue looked comfortable as they saw the game out, despite recurring deep anal fissures incurred by both Steve Gordon and Joe Le Taxi. Fortunately, new recruit Andrew Sinclair was on hand, replacing both defenders simultaneously without ever breaking sweat.
A good win was celebrated in fine style at the Hounds home hostelry. The opposition fielded nearly two full sides at the pub, and yet struggled to handle a late-night Clapham contingent of Allen, Ohene, Grady and Spooner, duly fortified on pig fat, potato grease and Louis XIV levels of vainglory.
Clapham Old Xaverians Veterans (4) vs Claygate Hares Veterans (2)
Man of the Match: Adam Spooner