The club was losing money faster than someone who loses money very quickly, so the team bus was laid up for the visit to Veternik. It was only on the other side of town, so a fleet of bicycles were borrowed from local residents and the team set off to a ticker-tape parade – well, a few disgruntled locals threw rubbish at them as they cycled by. I had obtained most of the bicycles, and ensured that we were one short. As the man responsible for the error, I followed behind in a horse-drawn cart, relaxing on a pile of rotting vegetables as the driver told me in broken English of the scene up ahead. He muttered: “Agghhh, shit hit him. He wobble. Man angry, empty piss pot on them, small child spitting”. I figured we were getting into Veternik territory. The night before, Angel told me of a previous manager at Novi Sad who had lost the first game against Veternik. The fans had stripped him naked, painted him with hot tar, and dragged him through the streets tied to a donkey. The police had found him in a ditch the next morning, with one of his testicles removed. The offending gonad was in a paper bag, in his mouth. Realising who he was, the police officer simply moved on. He had lived, but had to leave town. I feared for Boris. She reassured me; it had been a home game. For an away game, he would keep his full complement of testes!
The day started off with an offer from Vucje for reserve team player Stevan Niciforovic. The coaches felt he was not good enough to stay, but Boris had to try and squeeze an extra bit of cash out of them! At two o’clock the signing of defender Srdjan Aleksic was announced on a free. The defence had been inconsistent, and Boris felt some experience might be the key. After the bicycle charade, the team seemed eager. They were, I discovered, eager to go home.
Boris opted for an unchanged team from the previous bore-draw. He seemed convinced that had been a glitch and nothing more. Srdjan Aleksic (Alex) made the bench, which was a gamble, but he surely couldn’t be worse than Peasant, who he replaced? Boggy the Elder and The Invisible Man were still out with injuries.
The pitch was like a bog. Conditions were going to be difficult. The game was clumsy, until the 18th minute when Danilo Tadic picked up the ball on the left, moved into the box and slotted it past Boggy the Younger as if he was a statue – a statue made of crap! The silence from the Novi Sad end of the ground was all encompassing. After the celebrations had died down, I heard – for the first time – the song of hatred; 2,500 Veternik voices joined as one, crowing: “Sing when you’re ploughing, you only sing when you’re ploughing”. It was a punch in the knackers for Novi fans.
Veternik had a few more good chances, and more by luck than skill the first half ended 1-0. Boris ensured that his half time talk was simple. “The conditions are crap, so pass long, and be aggressive. Be gung-ho and get back into the game”. Five minutes after the restart, Branko picked up the ball in midfield and set off on a run. It looked like he would trying to dribble the length of the pitch but Darko had an other idea, knicked the ball off his foot and passed to Janker, who tapped in for his first ever senior goal. The 32 Novi fans went wild. If the conditions were shit, then The Pig relished them! On 63 minutes he picked up a free ball deep in the Novi half, and picked out Darko who took the ball to the box. The Pig had set off in wild pursuit, anticipating some scraps to feed on. Darko’s shot was parried by the keeper, and returned to the feet of the striker. He simply crossed it toward the on-coming Pig, and suddenly Novi Sad had taken the lead. Not content, The Pig set off on a run down the right hand flank a few minutes later, with a cross past the keeper to Darko, obviously to return the favour. Before the ball reached him, Ilijah nipped in with a tap in, and Novi Sad has a two goal cushion. The fans went mental. The cry went up: “You can stick your fucking tractors up your arse”!
Two minutes later, Tadic, who had been the major danger for Veternik, scored his second, and a further two minutes saw him add his third. With the score at 3-3, and with 19 minutes to go, Boris decided on a few changes. It was obvious that hat-trick scorer Tadic had to be marked heavily. New boy Alex was the best marker in the squad, but it was a huge gamble. However, it had to be done if the threat Tadic posed was to be eliminated. The Turd came on for The Impaler, who had been quiet, and Alex took over from Mirkin. On 82 minutes, Janker was moving into the Veternik box. However, he had ignored team mates and was going nowhere. Veternik’s Milisavijevic didn’t recognise this, and pulled him down. It was the best Novi Sad could have hoped for, and when he was shown the red card, you couldn’t help but feel that there was a glimmer of hope. The Pig slotted away the penalty; the celebrations were muted as no one wanted egg (or shit) on their faces. The referee added five extra minutes and Veternik took the attacking option. However, the long ball ensured they were pinned back, and with Alex doing an effective job on Tadic, it left the less than inspirational Ivelja on his own. He hadn’t managed a shot all match, and even the Novi Sad defence could keep him covered for five minutes. A 4-3 victory meant the tar pots were covered for another day in the streets around the Deterlinari stadium.
News came through that Mladost Apatin had broken their losing streak, defeating Becej 4-1. It made the trip the next weekend a little less palatable. However, in the meantime Novi Sad had the cup game against local giants Vojvodina, who were also currently undefeated in the First division. Because of the financial hardship the club faced, the decision was made to once again cross town on bicycles. Also, an appraisal of youth players saw Bojan Tintor sent packing, with 12 other players offered to clubs at around 10 per cent of their value. As Boris said: “It is time flush away the crap”. Then, he promptly signed Bojan Cosic (Terminal Disease), an otherwise unwanted defender. The signing was much against the advice of Vasa, who was seeing power shift toward Krakov because of the team’s undefeated status. Before we set off to Vojvodina, I asked Boris if he thought we could win. He shook his head.
Changes to the team were Alex in for Mirkin and The Turd in for The Impaler. New boy Terminal Disease was on the bench, replacing Ninko the Kid. In the pouring rain, Vojvodina commenced a lesson in football. A fourth minute goal that would have not looked out of place in the English Conference showed that Vojvodina were different class, and a rout looked on the cards. However, Novi Sad managed to fight bravely, and nearly equalised when Ilijah forced a magnificent save with a powerful long range shot. Coming off the pitch at half time only 1-0 down was almost like a major victory. The problem for Boris was what to do. Carrying on in the same way would see Novi Sad lose; the need to score was paramount. Janker was in no condition to continue, so Knobber took his place, and Josser had offered little resistance so Terminal Disease, although lacking fitness, entered the fray.
The second half was a mess. Vojvodina had one wayward shot, Novi Sad had one on target that was easily saved. The second half rout or fight-back, depending on which side you were on, never materialised. The cup dream was over, the team was knackered after two hard games in three days, Mladost Apatin had won again, and Novi Sad had three days to recuperate before facing them. Alcohol was required. The journey back across town was marked by the voices of the disenchanted: “Sister, let me tie your hands together, to stop you hitting out. Growing inside you is our glorious future. Bit hard on the turnip so you don’t scream, in case someone should pop in through the back door”.
NB. As I said before, this is not my own work. It is Vic Flange’s. The original work can be found on TheDugout, right here. TheDugout is dying, so I’m rescuing the story and giving it the attention it deserves.