If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can meet with disaster and triumph and treat those two impostors just the same.
Yours is the Earth and everything in it. And - which is more - you'll be a Villan, my son!
After a lengthy yet pretty drive past downland and coast, we arrived at the not-so-pretty Bulverhythe Playing Fields, with a changing room at least 3 degrees colder than the oustide air temperature and a pitch that looked like it had been picked up and savaged by a rottweiler. The cup quarter final was upon us, and despite coming up against a side that hadn't lost since September, we had a strong squad and hopes were high. An early arrival had allowed us to see the best of what Hastings had to offer, which seemed to consist of a knackered pink water slide and a greasy spoon. Nevermind, we were there to play the beautiful game, and once that whistle blew our focus was on nothing else.
We came blistering out of the blocks. The first 20 minutes saw us putting them under relentless pressure. We were winning battles all over the pitch, much to their disdain, by playing good passing football and keeping our heads in a somewhat hostile environment. They set their stall out early, with their game plan appearing to consist of fouling us whenever possible, calling us naughty names and hurling abuse at our lino when they were caught seven yards offside again. However, we failed to make our dominance count, and despite some decent openings it was they who carved out the best opportunity of the half when Adam saved wonderfully after their excitable striker was put through.
We continued to play well though, with Josh at right back particularly dominant, linking up well with Simon in front of him. Mark and Sam again put in a huge stint in the centre of midfield, while 'Jarmers' Jarman tore around like an epileptic emu. He suffered for it too, taking studs down his shin in a bad challenge that should have seen a second yellow for their midfielder after just 20 minutes.
[caption id="attachment_958" align="alignnone" width="150"] Michael Jarman[/caption]
At half time it remained goalless, but we all felt that we had the measure of them. Kicking uphill and into the wind in the second half proved more difficult disruptive to our game than expected though, and more even 45 unfolded. We continued to play some nice stuff on a difficult pitch, moving the ball from side to side, but just getting a bit stuck in the final third, with their deep lying midfielder shielding their back four well.
Then, twenty minutes in, disaster struck as their striker collected the ball in the box, stopped suddenly giving Jack no time to do anything other than nudge him from behind, and over he went. Penalty. Soft? Possibly, but there was no point dwelling on it. Adam was sent the wrong way and they are one to the good.
We carried on pressing hard though, continuing to have lots of possession but unable to cut through their final lines. Bill rang the changes, bringing the attacking options of Drew, Emre and Sean on, then throwing caution to the wind pushing Victor up to centre forward with five to go. Unfortunately it backfired, with Hastings breaking forwards, their sub finding himself with a yard of space in the box and burying it in the bottom corner.
[caption id="attachment_959" align="alignnone" width="150"] Bill Clifford[/caption]
And so it was we trudged off. Beaten yet by no means conquered. Heads were held high. We'd played exactly the way Bill asked us to - with strength and commitment, but not being dragged into any petty squabbles. Did the better side lose? Of course this writer will say absolutely, but the scoreboard doesn't lie, so congratulations to AFC Hastings. Another encouraging performance from the mighty Villa 2s though. What a pleasure to play alongside you all, my sons!