It is surely not since the gloriously dark days of and the summer league that the abandonment of a football match was threatened due to the aggressive actions of someone in a Logica shirt. In the two decades that have followed those balmy summer evenings being chased around the Lea Valley park by psychotic IT professionals wielding a variety of weapons from corner flags to sharpened logs, Logica have developed a collectively nice persona that has seen them descend the Sunday morning football pyramid with impeccable manners. Even the descent of 's red mist rarely resulted in much beyond the air turning blue.
But all that changed on Sunday, when a hitherto long-forgotten competitive streak exploded amidst a hail of handbags, leading to the abandonment of Logica's match against the Dogs of Battersea with several minutes still remaining on the clock. The men in the yellow shirts with fetching green trim cannot sadly take all the credit, for these staggering events would surely not have come to pass without the intervention of the man in black, who was either a fair few (yellow and red) cards short of a full deck, or simply unable to cope with the gentle cut and counter-thrust that characterises amateur football matches played on a Sunday morning anywhere in this fair isle.
Nor, sadly, did this outbreak of aggression and physical presence signal a return to the kind of winning ways that had accompanied the regular 21-man brawls sparked by ' spirited attitude. When the referee ran off burbling to the changing rooms, Logica were already 5-0 down, a result that was unfortunately allowed to stand by the Sportsmans League mandarins after Monday night's lengthy inquest.
There had been little to indicate such a dramatic climax in the nearly eighty minutes of gentle and good natured football that had preceded it, except perhaps for the yellow card erratically brandished by the paranoid official at regular intervals. Struggling to raise a team, in his remote management role was again grateful for last week's Man of the Match 's willingness to play, and indeed a bare XI was only mustered by virtue of two more of 's Saturday team-mates, and , being prepared to help out. himself underlined his quite remarkable commitment to our lost cause by driving back injured from a wedding in Yorkshire, and taking his somewhat belated place on an otherwise empty Logica bench.
The Dogs have struggled a little for form since topping the table in late Autumn, but still proved formidable opponents. It was to Logica's credit that they matched the promotion-chasing visitors early doors and even caused them a few problems. was winning everything at the back, and were providing a twin threat on either flank, whilst and were adding some steel in the middle of the park.
Indeed, the latter's ability to pick out, umm, a peach of a long pass nearly opened up the Dogs' defence on a number of occasions. With the merest look up, the midfielder was able to pick out or pealing away from the last defender with unerring accuracy. , should perhaps have done better with the best of these passes, controlling the ball well but then hurriedly shooting high. and himself also fired half-chances too over the bar, before another pass set clear only for the Battersea keeper to spectacularly clutch the Logica striker's fierce drive at full length.
That was as good as it got for the home side. As has so often been the case this season, a bright opening was stopped in its tracks by an opening goal from the opponents. A quick throw-in did the damage, allowing a pacey forward to break into the Logica box and tuck easily past the exposed in goal [0-1].
Logica were still competing, however, and it took two excellent goals to treble the Dogs lead by half-time [0-3]. had already been booked for having the temerity to query an offside decision, and 's name also entered the book for even more inexplicable reasons in the wake of the third goal. Battersea's lively forward had sped past three challenges before firing home clinically. 's had been the last, but there had been no contact, nor any malice, and so the reason for the yellow card that he was shown remains a complete mystery. Half time soon followed, during which caution was advised as some recalled that this was the referee who had lost the plot with in a game just before Christmas.
, restored to the Supremacy for these last few games of the season, quickly got back into the groove by substituting himself at the break for a well-earned fag. Despite 's abilities and enthusiasm, Logica collectively lacked the conviction that they could turn things around in the second half. There was the odd tentative foray into enemy territory, but they spent much of the second half defending, and perhaps did well to restrict a Dogs side now bursting with confidence to just two more goals [0-5].
So the match was petering out quietly towards a depressingly familiar Logica defeat, when it all suddenly and unexpectedly kicked off. It was who lit the fuse with a late tackle from behind in midfield. The tackle was probably more a case of bad timing than any vicious intent, but a yellow card would (for the first time this morning) have been completely warranted. But as is so often the case on a Sunday morning, the victim took exception and some verbal retribution was quickly followed by a hand raised to 's face. The Logica player responded in kind, and soon the majority of players on the field were either wielding their own hand-bag or wading in to try and separate the wielders.
was not slow in showing support for his team-mate, and soon found himself grabbed by Battersea's rather tall centre half. Unsure whether this was a calming or aggressive gesture, a spectator (who was later claimed to be Priestley's uncle) was soon sprinting from the side-lines to 'help out'. It was at this point that the referee lost any remaining semblance of order. Brandishing a red card at as he left (although not to the Battersea man for also raising an arm), the referee made a bee-line for the dressing rooms, announcing over his shoulder that he had abandoned the match.
There was nothing to be done. Bizarrely what had been a pretty good-natured encounter had ended in farcical abandonment, with the shell-shocked only able to stand bewildered and declare this to be the first sending off of his career.
Fortunately the smooth tongued stand-in was able to bring more reason to bear at Sportmans's League HQ the following evening. Hands were held up and punishments were accepted. The scoreline was allowed to stand, the feared severe financial penalties were not imposed, but Logica are likely to be docked one of their meagre haul of four points for causing abandonment with the aid of a large Gucci accessory.
By accepting their punishment there and then, Logica at least were not placed under suspension, and are free to face the high-flying London Eagles next weekend on Wandsworth Common. Whether such an outcome is a good thing or not may well have become a point of some debate come Sunday lunch-time.