Profligate hacks triumph in close-fought conference curtain-raiser against Tory MPs

Posted On: 
1st October 2017

Fresh from hammering Labour in Brighton, the Lobby XI ran out 2-1 winners - but were nearly left to rue a series of squandered chances.

Lobby captain Rob Merrick lifts the trophy after a not particularly famous win against the Conservative XI
Credit: 
Matt Dathan/Twitter

Shorn of their best ringers players by a combination of work and personal commitments being more important, a make-shift team of journalists took on a team of Tory SpAds, MPs and former parliamentarians at Manchester City's incredibly plush training ground east of the city centre. 

The hacks should have gone ahead after five minutes when the Sun's Matt Dathan gathered an incisive through-ball and raced in on goal, only to be defied by a smart save from Sherwood MP and stopper extraordinaire Mark Spencer.

Despite being a constant menace playing off the shoulder, this was the first of a series of gut-wrenching misses from Dathan, who was spotted after the game furiously searching for his shooting boots.

The hacks took a deserved lead 20 minutes when a rightwing free kick from PoliticsHome's John Ashmore 

Fifa-qualfified offical and Tory MP Douglas Ross was the man in the middle and infuriated colleagues by awarding the journalists a penalty after a crude shove on talismanic right winger Richard Wheeler.

The left-winger is normally regarded as something of a dead ball specialist, though chiefly due to an inability to run, head or do much of any consequence with a moving ball

Unfortunately for the press, Ashmore blasted it straight at keeper Mark Spencer, who produced a superb reaction save to tip it over the bar. 

The rattled Tory backline somehow got to half-time with the deficit at just 1-0 thanks to a combination of blind luck and rubbish finishing. 

Soon after half-time the MPs were level after a clearance fell kindly for the Tory striker to finish with aplomb. 

It was harsh on a backline marshalled expertly by the Daily Mail's Jack Doyle.

Undeterred the hacks ploughed on, with the Independent's Rob Merrick and Labour mole Luke Sullivan continuing to dominate the midfield.

They got their reward largely thanks to The Sun's Alain Tolhurst, whose scintillating free kick rebounded off the bar to Dathan, whose header was cleared only as far as PA's Wheeler.

One of the game's many right wingers swivelled and fired home for all of 4 yards - and win the battle of Lincoln with former MP Karl McCartney.

The lobby saw out the game with a few more missed chances, while the Tories looked a threat on the break, particularly down the left (hur hur). 

While the Labour result flattered the press team, this hard-fought victory arguably did the same of their opponents, who had Spencer to thank for keeping the scoreline respectable.

The 2018 match could be a different affair, however, as Tory captain Guy Opperman wryly quipped: "We might be so many MPs next year".