The Narwhals travelled to the familiar waters of Putney Leisure Centre on a warm Monday night to face the old adversary Avondale 2s. True to form, Avondale fielded a full squad of 13, and as usual a hardy 9 (including a late cry on from John ‘Punchy’Holah) turned up to represent Narwhal nation.
One could consider the following hour as the plight of an early round Masterchef contestant, including grand ideas and flourishes of quality, infused with collapsing desserts and timing issues keeping John Torode and Greg Wallace interested, while ultimately falling short of culinary achievement. This was more than a Britain’s Got Talent cat whisperer with 4 ‘No’ votes, but Cowell would have recommended several improvements.
The game started as ever with a swim off. Perhaps a simple amuse bouche, probably involving Parma Ham and pineapple. The texture was wrong and the judges didn’t like the cut of the pineapple. Avondale ball. The ensuing 4 minutes saw dropped starters and items left in the oven, as in spite of organised Narwhal defending, Avondale cruised to a 2-0 lead. Phil ‘Floater’ Richards led the Narwhal rally, finishing a fine outside shot to bring a goal back. Avondale scored again as the quarter expired, 3-1 after starters, with John and Greg accepting the offering without being too impressed.
Improvements came with the first main course. The defence tightened up, with a strong press and some fine defending of the pit by Punchy. However as is often the case, the Narwhal attack remained a flavourless Jus. Maybe that is harsh – perhaps the judges would have felt it lacked complexity when added to the solid roast duck foundation the defence had cooked up. We conceded 2 goals this period, and Dan scored 2 hard earned goals from the pit. It was becoming clear that missed chances would come back to haunt us, with several players finding the woodwork (Rob ‘Woody’ Loveless an ever present culprit), over the bar (Punchy) and into the keeper (Chrissy Mann). One particularly memorable disaster involved a “fantastic” counter attack from Ed ‘Gimli’ Gamble, but the pass was not forthcoming, and a golden opportunity was missed. Overall a passable dish, 2-2 quarter, 5-3 half time score.
The third period, a second main course, proved to be akin to the difficult second album. The basics were still there, a well cooked chicken in defence providing a solid foundation to the dish. Here again the accompaniments were all wrong. There was no fusion of flavours in attack, and timing proved an issue. Dan worked hard in the pit to get open, but the pass in was frequently hesitant or indeed absent completely. The Avondale drop afforded Floater plenty of space on the arc, but again service was far from silver and too often he didn’t get the ball. A crown in the jewel of this underwhelming effort was when Woody had broken the length of the pool, only to be flustered by the onrushing keeper and blast a classic rising disaster over the bar of the open goal and into the stratosphere. Zach lost phone signal as satellites were taken out of orbit, and Rob had egg on his face, and fluffer sealed up. Gamble earned a major as the quarter ticked down, deciding a gourmet Portuguese meal wasn’t for him this week.
Overdone potatoes and poor seasoning meant Avondale pulled ahead again, 2-1 quarter and after the 3rd course (the weakest dish) 7-4 Avondale.
Desserts can make or break a fine dining experience, but perhaps the Narwhals efforts had left them too much to do to advance in the competition. Their effort in the 4th quarter however, was much improved on previous rounds. Again building on a solid defence (the chocolate bomb that didn’t collapse), the counter attack was the dark red fruit coulis that made the dish such a success. 2 goals from Nick ‘20-20’ Shute and another from Dan meant a comeback was on the cards. Fatigue set in however, and it was clear our hardy 9 wished we could have turned out a well fed 13 to provide some late game relief. Avondale managed another 3 goals this quarter, turning the screw on a tiring culinary team. Very conscious of his impending flight to the Algarve, having attracted lots of attentive defence to go with his wayward shooting all game, Woody found himself unusually open on 8m. Today was not the day to add a trip to Portugal to the already secured fluffer award, so with the usual overly long wind up, a bounce shot the the far top corner saved him a flight. This earned moment of the match, but earlier shooting woes meant a triple crown was never on the cards. The game ended 10-8 to Avondale, in what was a bruising but exciting game. Man of the match this week was Dan for his efforts in the pit (making that meringue with a furious egg beater), being open far more often than he got the ball, but offering an ever reliable stream of attack for a team who recently have been struggling with creativity. Off to Portugal were Chris and Zach, with a few weeks to top up the tan before our next encounter.