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Runners-up! Boom!

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

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Last Friday six Webbies boldly went where they had unsuccessfully been before, and agreed to take part in a sporting event with O2 Royton! Back in May, we took part in a charity cricket tournament for Groundwork BBORUnfortunately, we code a lot better than we bat, and we were dispatched from the tournament very early on. More importantly, some vital funds were raised for a good cause, so the wound healed fairly quickly.

When our friends at Mahdlo Youth Zone called up to invite us to a five-aside tournament, we were excited to take part, though admittedly a little bit worried we were in for another drubbing. All the same, I assembled a dream team, and we donned our trademark-black branded football shirt for the event, which was organised as a fundraiser for Mahdlo by members of the youth club.

Joining myself were PMs Tinch and Ste, Projects Group Manager Fahim, Finance Director Craig K., and Head of Technical Development Shaun A. After some time spent warming up, a characteristically energetic speech from club chairman Terry Flanagan opened the event, followed by a mesmerising performance by Oldham-based freestyler Craig Gorey. The competition looked to be tough, and we were surprised last minute by a terrain change. Expecting to be playing in a sports hall, we all chose to forgo bringing boots, but ended up on the outdoor 3G pitch for all of our group stage matches. We were on first, and I sat out for my shift on the bench. Thankfully, I forgot to take photos of what turned out to be a 6-1 annihilation by Aspire’s team (honours go to Shaun Austin for the solitary goal), who somehow managed to rope Oldham’s answer to Gareth Bale in for the kick-about.

Disheartened, we sat down and rethought our strategy. Trying to match the tempo of our opponents had been our downfall. Aspire were strong, quick, organised, and took us by surprise. Before we knew it we were in far too deep to dig out, but we wouldn’t be taken by surprise again, electing to focus on sitting back and hitting our opponents on the counter. Up against North Lancs, Web Apps fought hard and dragged ourselves over the finish line in a 2-1 victory, where I feel obliged to point out I caused both goals – 1 a legitimate shot on goal, the other a misplaced cross that bounced off an opposing defender for an OG. They all count!

All of a sudden, we were offered deliverance from what had seemed destined to be an unceremonious group-stage dumping, a la England 2014. All that stood between us and advancing to the semi-finals were, you guessed it, O2. Perhaps fear of another drubbing drove us on, or perhaps it was the painful memories of May’s cricket, but we played our skins off. The final score was around 6-2 to Web Apps, if memory serves. Shaun in particular, probably galvanised by a thirst for vengeance, put in a commanding performance at the back and saw off numerous dangerous attacks from the opposition. Man of the match, though, must go to Fahim, whose acrobatic goalkeeping kept the gap as wide as possible. Who knew Project Managers were so aerodynamic?

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After a very brief break and some backslapping, the semi-final loomed, and it looked like we’d be on the back foot again with another terrain change. This time we lined up on the sports hall floor and I started on the bench to give a calf injury some respite. We came up against a tough Mahdlo team, who we struggled to keep up with. Craig Kennedy’s pace at the back provided more options going forward, and we managed to keep level with the home side, eventually ending the game at 2-2 after a strong attacking showing from  tall forwards Terence and Ste. The only penalty shootout of the tournament loomed, and Fahim incredibly saved all 3. A disputed penalty from Terence, which he insisted went through the dubiously located hole in the top corner, led to a retake, which put us through to the final.

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We weren’t surprised when our opponents for the final walked through the door; the impressive Aspire team from earlier had brushed aside all the competition throughout the day, but this would be their first match on the sports hall floor. Perhaps buoyed by their earlier victory, they offered us a 2-goal head start to play on the 3G, but we declined. The wider space and slower tempo football had been to the advantage of our game., and we hoped that would favour us more than starting in the lead. We started strong, and even though we conceded 2 goals early on, we hit back and the final was a close contest at 2-1, until we dropped another 3 to end at a 5-1. A comfortable win for a team that deserved to win, though we felt we had the opportunity to do better.

So, we were runners-up of a competition that, after our first game, we hadn’t expected to do very well in at all! Feeling quite proud of ourselves, we posed for pictures with the tournament’s organisers: youth club members and job-seekers from Mahdlo. My advice to local businesses – If you’re looking for a young people you can trust to get something done right, it’s worth seeing if Mahdlo know anyone who fits the bill. They have some incredibly talented young people with great potential, both as club members and working behind the scenes.