The Italians have a phrase - "strappare la sconfitta dalle fauci della vittoria". It loosely translates as "to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory". On Saturday, the Zaks did not so much snatch defeat, as buy it flowers, treat it to dinner and a show before taking it to bed for a night of passion.
Things started badly for the Zaks when star summer signing, Granger "Il Padre" Church declined to actually turn up, leaving us with a 13 man squad including the already-immobile Van Der Gaag in a leg brace and a new joiner, Tom, who essentially couldn't use one hand. To quote Harry Redknapp, the Zaks were truly "down to the bare bones" after a mixed summer transfer window.
Fortunately, Doddsy, the man whose bones are typically accompanied by gravy and potatoes, decided that he would actually save some shots, and with new boy Seb and the ever loquacious Christophe taking control of the middle, we managed to take an early lead. THIS IS HANS and new signing Mark "Rubber" Jubber combined to put the ball past the Southgate keeper, who was noted by the Zaks as having "literally the worst chat in the world". Fortunately he was the one Southgate player who seemed determined for the Zaks to win, allowing Rubber to roll into an empty net.
However, this being the Zaks, catastrophe was only minutes away. Tom "The Trebuchet" Smith underwent a fairly major malfunction with his aerial radar, playing in the Southgate forward for a simple equaliser. He may have prevented the disaster, but his insistence on "holding the pose" meant that the bemused 'Gate striker just walked past him as he castigated himself.
Shortly thereafter, we coughed the ball up again and opted to defend by "running around in circles a bit". Southgate got wise to this tactic by simply passing to each other and then ultimately into the unguarded net, the Zaks having declined to attempt to make a tackle inside their own D.
However, Macca has been working on his drag-flicks almost as hard as he has been working on his personality, as he seeks to convince a member of the Ladies' 5th XI that he is a normal human being. Whilst the latter is probably a lost cause, the drag-flicks are actually quite good now and he levelled us up before the half-time whistle. 2-2.
Stand-in captain Paul Dickson then echoed his idol and favourite Prime Minister with some Churchillian oratory at half-time, though managed to avoid any references to the vital role that Sir Winston played in the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 because it doesn't fit his or the Guardian's narrative.
Dicko's words actually seemed to do the trick however, as within moments of the second half, we'd scored twice. Rubber took advantage of some generous umpiring and ironically, a lack of protection, to play in Seb for a 3-2 lead, before Nick finally put away one of his 13 chances to provide an excellent cushion for the Zaks.
It was Czech football personality Josef Csaplar that first put forward the theory that "2-0 is a dangerous scoreline", which in the Czech Republic is known as Csaplar's trap (Czech: Csaplárova past). However, if a 2-0 lead is a dangerous scoreline, 4-2 is a positively terminal one for this Zak Hond team, who for the second game in succession fell into the "Pearson Ravine", contriving to blow a two goal lead yet again.
First, Spoony took a stick to the head, or in the words of the strenuously-appealing-and-yet-apparently-magnanimous Southgate forward, he "put his head where my stick was". "Head height" was what most people would call it. Losing our defensive linchpin was bad enough, but things went from bad to worse when Nick was slide tackled, Danny Tiatto style, on the edge of the D. Given Nick would have struggled to hit a cow's arse with a banjo on Saturday, it's unclear why Southgate bothered tackling him at all, but his X-rated response to the challenge saw him green-carded.
Southgate took full advantage, scoring once when the Zaks were down to 10, and then shortly after Nick's return. They continued to hammer away as Doddsy made an improbable number of saves, culminating in a last minute short-corner to Southgate. T-Bag wasn't too worried, thinking we were still 4-3 up, but the rest of the team were aware that the game was on the line. Unfortunately, despite a fluffed injection and an initial Doddsy save, the ball was bundled over by the Southgate forward to seal the win, 5-4.
Our day ruined, the Zaks then started trying to ruin it for everyone else. Having secured a large quantity of Beef flavoured Hula Hoops and several rounds of Sambuca, the lads then eventually made their way to New Joiners. Macca, in his role as host for the evening, was unable to speak (or indeed do anything except sweat profusely), Doddsy and T-Bag took on the Men's 3s in a rancorous game of Beer-pong. Doddsy then declined to do a forward roll of any kind, which put a dampener on the evening for most people.
All in all, a fairly classic Zaks day out. Hockey that ranged from the exceptional to the comical, reflected in the post-game performances. We wouldn't have it any other way. (Forward) Roll on next week.
MoM - Dodds. Busy this week.
DoD - Nick. Truly lamentable finishing.