WorldNET, is an annual football tournament run by the Internet Football Association (IFA) for teams of football supporters representing their respective clubs. The competition began in 1996 (then as EuroNet) as a response to suggestions from FA Chief Graham Kelly that English football fans would not behave during Euro 96. From that original twelve team tournament the competition has grown annually and this year featured a total of 80 teams, 64 in the main competition and sixteen in a separate veterans tournament. This year Doncaster’s representatives, the Donny R’sonists, were making their twelfth consecutive appearance.
Teams generally approach WorldNET in one of two ways. There are those who are in it to win it, take the tournament aspect very seriously and look to return to their respective clubs with trophy in tow. And then there are those who treat the weekend as more of a football social, a chance to play football against some new opponents and generally have an enjoyable weekend to signify the end of one season and the start of another. Doncaster have had their moments on the pitch, Cup semi-finalists in 2003 And Plate runners-up in 2006, but have always used the latter approach to the annual event.
In fact it may have been the ready acceptance to the social side of the tournament that got the R’sonists off to a poor start in their opening Saturday group game against St Johnstone. Although blessed with a late start time of 11am the R’sonists were still caught napping as the Scotish side took the lead inside the opening two minutes. Steadily the R’sonists regained themselves and began to enjoy more of the possession, but luck was not to be with them a fact reiterated when Callum Smith got in on goal only for his shot to strike both posts before rebounding into the keeper’s hands. So the opening half an hour game ended in a 1-0 defeat.
Donny had a quick opportunity to make amends as they were back on the field within forty-five minutes for their second group game against Dunfermline. Although more resolute at the back this time the R’sonists were still struggling to create chances and the closest they came to a goal was as the Dunfermline keeper spilled a Smith corner back towards his own goal. So, no goals for, but thankfully no goals against as a 0-0 draw gave Donny their first point of the weekend.
Sadly though other results meant Donny went into their last group match knowing that they would be unable to finish in the top two, and were already destined for an early start in Sunday’s lesser Plate competition. The R’sonists opponents QPR however were still chasing a place in the top two, and were also approaching the tournament a little more seriously than the rest of the group. A frustrating niggling game ensued and was eventually won 1-0 by Rangers through a second half penalty.
So for the first time in a long time the R’sonists propped up their group table having failed to find the net throughout the opening day. And the weekend went from bad to worse as the R’sonists were drawn in the first section of Plate fixtures, handing them a fixture against Grimsby Old Skool and the terrifying prospect of an 8am kick-off.
So after an hour spent rousing various hungover and sleeping team-mates the R’sonists assembled on an early morning dew soaked pitch for their first knockout fixture. Spirits having been risen on route as one of the Grimsby players was spotted struggling to focus as he smoked a cigarette and another was found stranded outside the accommodation block unable to meet key and lock.
Though depleted through injury and unavailability the R’sonists were still the stronger side and controlled much of the game against Grimsby. Chances remained at a premium until late in the second half when Andy Sheldrake won the R’sonists a penalty. Sheldrake stepped up to take the kick himself but his shot ended up closer to the net on the pitch behind that we were actually on and so the match entered golden goal extra-time. With a shoot-out seemingly on the cards the R’sonists made one last push and Trevor Charlton’s low pull-back was converted by Rob Newton at the far post to put the R’sonists into the second round.
At the more reasonable hour of midday the R’sonists returned to the pitch to face an ominously young and fit looking Crystal Palace in the second round. The R’sonists began well enough but were twice undone on the break as Palace swept in two first half goals. Undeterred though the R’sonists created chances of their own after the break with Rob Newton unlucky not to round off an excellent run with a goal. However when the ball did find the net it was Palace who struck, a third break away goal rounding off a 3-0 win.
Palace eventually went out in the semi-final stage to the eventual Plate winners Welling United. The main competition was won by West Brom B, whilst Bury claimed the Veterans’ trophy. The Donny R’sonists may not have been the finest exponents of football in Headingley this weekend, and they certainly were not the most prolific, but as ever they can take pride in having approached the tournament and each game in the correct spirit.
R’sonists Squad: Andy Harriman, Louis Bailey, Alan Brown, Paul Buckle, Matt Harriman, Jonathan Orridge, Glen Wilson, Ian McKenzie, Alan Cullingworth, Trevor Charlton, Paul Cuffling, Andy Sheldrake, Joe Stevens, Matty Findlay, Rob Newton, Matt Smith, Callum Smith, Joel Gills