“A friendly game between sister companies” is how it all started almost 15 years ago. Downfast Demolition (as we were known back then) accepted this proposal, in the name of comradery and good working spirit between us and Thanet Waste (as they were then known back then), companies run separately by Wesley Ray and Spencer Ray respectively.
Unbeknown to us, this was no light hearted challenge. A gauntlet had been thrown in the most serious of manners, and a challenge had been set that had not been taken lightly. Fuelled by a aggressive desire to win at all costs, Thanet Waste (or “The Wasters” as they are affectionately known to us) began an intensive training regime designed to remove all risk of defeat from the equation.
Match day arrived, and an un-trained and under-prepared Downfast Team stood lazily on the pitch, in T-shirt’s bought from Asda that same morning. The relaxed and jovial mood was soon obliterated at the sight of The Wasters jogging onto the pitch in formation, with such precision that it was like they had been drilled by the most battle-hardened Sergeant Major.
In an instant, the hard realisation that they had been deceived was felt among every player in the Downfast squad. Not a word was spoken among them; nothing needed to be said. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, they decided among them that on that day, they would not be lambs to the slaughter. Boys became men, and in spectacular fashion, DDS overcame all odds and beat the well-oiled Wasters Machine using nothing but pure heart and determination.
The Downfast Victory was a bitter pill to swallow for The Wasters; even after years had past the mere mention of it would make them wince. So traumatic was the loss, that amnesia set in for many of the Wasters Team, with many of them refusing the cold hard facts about that glorious day, or even that it had ever taken place. Despite numerous attempts on our part to extend the olive branch, no rematch ever looked likely to take place.
Time passed by, and both companies expanded. Downfast grew into DDS, and fire in the hearts of the heroic squad of yesteryear had only embers remaining. Thanet Waste grew into TW Services, using all the local young blood to feed its expansion. Spencer Ray soon realised, by pure coincidence (allegedly) that there were some common denominators among the staff he recruited: they were all young, sunday league players.
The sour grapes of defeat had brewed for fifteen years into a bittersweet wine of vengeance. Drunk on the lust for revenge, a plan was once again hatched, and wheels were set in motion so that this time, TW Services would pop the proverbial cork into the face of DDS Demolition, and shower themselves in the champagne of victory.
A new 6 month training regime was designed, one even more rigorous and intensive than before. The TW Services team were young, they could take it. The win had to be a certainty this time, so a grand stage was required – Baypoint was hired as DDS’s execution block. Keeping to tradition, DDS were none the wiser that this fixture had been arranged.
Training was underway for the Wasters, and things were looking promising…. very promising. They looked sleek, agile and coordinated. Talent was bursting through the seems. This wouldn’t be a mere win, it would be a complete annihilation. With six weeks to go, confidence was sky high. So sure were they of victory that the temptation to twist the knife was overwhelming- just imagine how sweet it would be if we gave them time to prepare and still beat them.
DDS were casually notified of the fixture, and aghast at the opportunity they had to prepare. Notices were distributed calling for players to come forward, and the first training date was set. The turn out was poor – they didn’t even have enough players to get side together. Those that were there were mostly inexperienced, and for large part, the wrong side of thirty. To make matters worse, the training venue was shared with TW Services, and they caught sight of them in action, with three months training behind them. Needless to say, the morale was low.
The veterans of the victory from 15 years ago had to take action, their playing days were over, but the hearts of lions never age! The embers inside them had never completely burnt out, and once more they would be ignited in the face of tyranny. With great difficulty, the veterans pulled together a squad, and tried to inject into them the same passion that carried them into the halls of greatness so many years ago.
The day of reckoning had arrived, there was no turning back now. News of the repeat of the famous fixture had spread, and the stands were packed with spectators. DDS looked nervous under the spotlight of so many eyes, they knew they had a lot to live up to. TW Services looked completely calm and confident.
The inclement weather reflected the mood of the DDS players, it was biting cold with forty miles per hour winds. Sleet and rain stung the exposed skin.
The players stepped out onto the pitch, and TW Services won the toss. They chose to play with the wind for the first half, and the centre kick was theirs. Immediately, TW Services were all over DDS. They took complete control of the game, dictating it’s every ebb and flow. DDS would not be disheartened, with gritty determination they scrambled to hold things at 0-0. Twenty-five minutes in, signs of desperation were setting in, and TW Service conceded a free-kick from 45 yards out.
Tom Horne stepped up to take the free kick. He sent a swinging cross into the box, but the wind took hold of it and pushed it past the keeper into the net. It was a very lucky goal, that in no way reflected the ability of the player. But the insurmountable pressure had been relieved, and TW Services took the lead.
It seemed this was the beginning of the end, DDS seemed to have no answer for TW Services, and 10 minutes later they claimed their second goal. TW Services looked unbeatable, DDS seemed to have no answer for their speed and agility. DDS were not deterred, and with thirty seconds left in the first half, Mark Kemp managed to get himself on the end of a corner kick for a scrappy conciliation goal.
TW services jogged off the pitch in good spirits; nobody at this point would have predicted anything but a TW Services victory. Spencer Ray was even heard on the side-line promising his youngest son that he could come on and play only when they “were four of five goals up”.
Paul Downer, one of the only remaining squad from the original victory, recognised that they were staring defeat in the face – but he was not afraid. He took it upon
himself to rally his troops, and convinced his team that it was possible. A new leaf of life was instilled into the players, and the team that was sent back onto the pitch were testament to the Downfast team of old.
Tactical changes were made, Mark Kemp, was pulled back into defence from the midfield along with Dan Pettman who had been playing in a forward position for the first half. Paul Downer now sat at the front as a sole striker, surrounded by the TW Services defence. Moreover, it was DDS who now had the advantage of the wind.
The whistle for the second half blew, and DDS set off with such intensity that TW Services did not know what hit them. As TW Services tried to cling on to the lead, they started using some questionable tackles, and soon DDS were awarded a free kick in a promising position. Paul Downer hit a free kick that was completely unstoppable, the ball sailed round the defensive wall like a homing missile straight into the top corner. The game was tied at 2-2.
The signs of pressure were now beginning to show for TW Services. DDS may have fielded an older squad, but there were rough demolition operatives who were used to exposure to the harshest elements of the great outdoors. The majority of the TW Services squad came from the heated office, and didn’t even know weather like this existed. The unrelenting offensive pressure combined with the biting cold soon had TW Services losing composure. DDS played as one team, but TW services were eleven individuals.
Twenty minutes into the second half, a penetrating cross was fed over the top of the TW Services defence. Despite the TW Services defence being all over him, Paul Downer sprinted onto the end of the cross, chested the ball down and volleyed the ball into the top corner.
The lead was DDS’s, and at the point there was no stopping them. TW Services looked in state of shock. They tried to regroup and mount a challenge once again but at this point DDS were just toying with them. With 10 minutes left to play, Paul Downer decided that enough was enough and it was time to finish them. He intercepted a free-kick in the opponents half, dribbled it around the keeper and tapped it into the bottom corner with just enough pace to cross the line.
The final whistle blew signifying a 4-2 victory for DDS.