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K’s Gain a Point at Nyewood Lane

When Pep Guardiola’s awe-inspiring Barcelona side took Real Madrid apart in November 2010, many argued the sport of association football had peaked. The movement, the pressing, the skill and the finishing could, quite simply, not be bettered. Jose Mourinho’s men flailed across the Nou Camp turf, hapless and helpless.

Barca’s 5-0 win that night also provided a prime example of just what a ‘false nine’ could do. Lionel Messi was the man, drifting between the lines, dropping deep, dragging frightened defenders out of position and allowing team-mates to run beyond; just as he too could do, if necessary. He created two goals and had a hand in two more, firmly cementing himself as the greatest player on earth in the process.

Such acclaim will probably never be bestowed upon Peter Dean, but at Bognor Regis on Tuesday night he willingly took on the Messi role, gamely false-nineing his way around the glistening Nyewood Lane turf like a Soviet spy, camouflaged as a journeyman non-league striker who had seen it all before.

Bognor’s pre-match scouting clearly hadn’t factored in this Tommy Williams curveball, because for a while they seemed perplexed by Dean’s awkwardly peripheral, lurking presence, not least when he shot straight at the hosts’ keeper midway through the first half. Injuries to striking trio Pelayo Pico Gomez, Jake Kempton and Ricky Sappleton had forced the manager’s hand.

But the flat cap-wearing Williams (perhaps a sartorial nod in the direction of Dean, who wore similar on the bench on Sunday?) didn’t stop there. Oh no. In came Harold O’Damety – Harold Odametey’s Irish brother from another mother, so said the Bognor teamsheet – in the ‘false ten’ position. He too roamed back and forth, at times the furthest K forward, at others the furthest back.

Though short on chances, this was an excellent advert for Ryman League football. Defences rarely come out on top at this level but here they did, not least thanks to the wonderful, reassuring solidity of Alan Inns and Sam Page. In goal, Rob Tolfrey made one spectacular first-half save in front of the polite, unbraying home support. He had little else to do, though, principally because so many Bognor efforts were blocked before they could reach his goal.

Injury-riddled, only able to name three subs, and playing an in-form side that were coming off the back of a 2-0 win at league leaders Grays – this was as good as any Ks performance this season, in its own, curious way. Roared home by the beat of some improvised bin-bashing and the trembling terrace excitement at the possibility of a new, Jam-inspired Dan Bennett song, the Ks dug deep and got a deserved point. Maybe, just maybe, we have a team on our hands…

Match report by Rupert Cane.

Published Wednesday 12th September 2018