Walden took the throw in and Lowry stepped to the ball with only the success of deflecting it. The ball went flying toward Walden territory but was quickly returned to the Lowry side of the pitch via a defender. A Walden mid-fielder caught it against her chest, dropped it to the ground and dribbled a few metres before booting it up to Moira, who was wide open at the top of the penalty arc. Lowry had fantastic energy, but they couldn’t keep up with the weaving in and out, the stopping and going, turning and quick passing of Walden’s girls. A completely unexpected and rather aggressive slide tackle brought Moira toppling to the ground before she could pass to Sam, causing the ball to fly wildly out of bounds once again. “Seriously?!” A stream of anger shot through Sam’s body as her palms were face-up in question at the ref. Was he going to call that one? She dashed over to the team captain and offered a hand to pull her up. When the senior girl was on her feet Sam redirected attention to the Lowry girl. “Bloody git,” Sam muttered. “What did you say?” “You can’t dribble, but you have super-human hearing. How fortuitous for you.” Moira grabbed Sam’s arm and pulled her away from the Lowry girl. “Holloway. Stop. Now.” “She bloody did that on purpose,” Sam's voice raised as she stepped closer to the Lowry girl. The crowd spotted the beginnings of an altercation and their voices dispersed into nosey chatter as seats were abandoned for a better view. “Best mind that temper,” the girl taunted. “I wouldn’t want you to do anything that would cause your coach to spank you.” “Oy!” Sam pushed past Moira. “Shut your stupid gob.” The Lowry girl chuckled when she saw Sam try to break free from the team captain’s grasp. “Dear me, what language. Do you eat your cucumber sandwiches with that mouth?” Sam used the arm that wasn’t in Moira’s grip to shove the Lowry girl in the chest once. Hard. “I said shut it!” The crowd reacted with general simultaneous disapproval. “Samantha.” Moira pulled the junior away from their opponent with a firm tug. “Bleeding git!” Sam called from her restrained position when the Lowry girl carried on laughing. “Keep talking. Keep going. I’ll make you stop in a minute.” The referee blew his whistle, which of course caused attention to be more closely drawn to the squabble. Moira looked down at Sam with an expression that was reminiscent of misunderstanding. Sam hadn’t realised the slip of her council estate dialect there, but the team captain heard it. “I’m going to thrash you, Holloway. Calm down this instant,” Moira ordered, as she put her hands on the junior’s shoulders. Sam was breathing hard and seeing red. There was no calm down button. “Thrash her good,” the Lowry girl said, and spit on the grass in their direction. “I hear Walden loves to thrash you lot.” “That’s it!” Sam made a break toward the Lowry girl and the crowd oooooooo’d as the scene intensified. “What the hell do you know about Walden? Eh? Nothing, that's what.” "Samantha, ignore her." “Oy! Oy!” The ref sprinted over and blew his whistle to catch their attention. “Control your bloody temper,” the Lowry girl said as she frowned and put her elbows out in defense. “Then shut your bloody face!” “Right! Right!” The ref arrived between them and dropped the whistle from his mouth as he put both hands out to keep the girls at a distance from one another. “She shoved me, sir,” the Lowry reported pathetically. “She’s running her mouth." Moira exhaled and looked across the pitch at McAllister, who still had his arms folded across his suit. He made no move to intervene. He usually didn’t. What needed to be said and done would be so off the pitch, after the game and in his study. “You don’t shove other players, young lady, no matter what it is their saying,” the referee warned Sam with a firm point of his finger. “Slide-tackling every bloody time we get the ball, calling names and bein’ abusive is grounds for shoving. You’re letting them do all sorts of rubbish moves,” she answered back. The ref raised both of his eyebrows but before he could tell Sam off, the Lowry girl replied. “Slide-tackling is completely legal you bloody idiot.” “Mind the language,” ref warned. “What did you just call me?” Sam advanced only one step because the ref still had his arms out to keep the girls from getting too close to one another. Moira also had one of Sam’s arms in her grip. “Right. That’s it.” The ref pulled out two yellow cards and held up one for Sam and the other for the Lowry girl. “What! She slide-tackled me during a header! How is that even relevant?” “It’s a legal bloody move, stop moaning about it! This is a contact sport!” Sam and the Lowry girl verbally disputed the cards whilst several players moved in to keep their teammates in order. Moira was now physically restraining the junior player with both hands and apologising to the referee. “Samantha. Samantha. Walk away.” “Want to keep on, do you?” The ref asked the girls as they went from arguing with one another to now questioning his call. The schoolgirls were alternating insulting one another from challenging the official with statements serving as weak justification for their behaviour. “You want to cheek me? Don’t touch each other. Right, that’s it. Off the pitch. Both of you. Off. Now. Get off my pitch.” An explosion from the Lowry girls surrounding their teammate in protest of the call was followed with Walden shoved us, sir. “Bollocks,” Sam retorted angrily, although the comment was blocked by Moira, who marched her away from the referee quickly. “Mr. McAllister is going to thrash the living daylights out of you. Stop making it worse,” the team captain told her firmly. The Lowry crowd gave a dramatic boooooooo as their player was sent off the pitch, whilst Walden collectively shook their heads at Sam’s behaviour as she was led by Moira away from the brawl. Walden didn’t allow boo’ing from their pupils or spectators. The stark difference in values was made apparent even from the crowd reaction. “Don’t make a scene. Just go to coach McAllister. Now,” Moira warned as she motioned with a nod of her head. While the Lowry girl received high fives from her teammates as she left the pitch, Walden players would be thrashed if they showed support for poor sportsmanship. Sam couldn’t look at McAllister or Phin as she walked off the pitch. Both coaches stood there like parents who wouldn’t even have to give the lecture of the century to convey displeasure or disappointment. Neither head nor assistant coach made the slightest move to intervene or question the call, which meant the wrath would come off the pitch, after the game. Sam’s eyes lowered to the grass beneath the polished shoes of her coaches as she walked straight past them and over to the empty bench reserved for starting players. One of the nine substitutes had been called up from the other bench and was now jogging out to take Sam’s position, causing annoyance to transfer from the Lowry girl to her own teammate. There was a reason the substitute hadn’t been a starting player, but apparently, a yellow card changed her fortune. Sam plopped herself down with discernible insolence. She pulled one leg up onto the bench beside her and roughly unfastened the lace with concentrated effort. Head and assistant coach looked at each other, and then McAllister gave the clipboard to Phin before abandoning his place. Mr. McAllister calmly walked over to the bench Sam occupied and slowly crouched down. His height towered over Sam even at the lowered position. Sam knew she couldn’t avoid him for too much longer. He was staring, waiting for her attention. She finished retying the lace and put her boot back on the ground before finally meeting his eyes. Like a lot of teachers and prefects at Walden did, McAllister let the silence remain for a moment as if reminding Sam that he was the one in control. And then it came. In a straight tone he asked, “Did you shove the Lowry girl?” The burn in her stomach intensified as she stared back at him. “But they - ” McAllister held a calm hand up to silence her and after another pause he repeated the question. “Did you shove the Lowry girl?” Her whole body was on fire. This was not going to end well. “Yes, sir.” Mr. McAllister was a very straight-laced and serious man, but there was a subtle shift from serious to graven when he was displeased. His face had that look – the one Sam had seen before in practice when she crossed him. The look said you’re lucky I’m not going to belt you right here in the stadium for everyone to see. You are extremely fortunate that I will allow you to be punished in the privacy of my study. Sam despised that moment: practically the whole school sitting in the stadium behind them, McAllister crouched down in front of her as if telling off a stupid child who had run out into the road to get a favoured toy. It felt horrible. She was glad coach Wiley wasn’t there. Before Walden, Sam wouldn’t have had a second thought about handling a mouthy opponent like the Lowry girl during a game, but this was four weeks into Walden. Yellow cards were a big no-no on this team and so was any kind of behaviour that brought dishonour to the coach, team or to the school. Walden had high standards for decorum in every facet of school life, both on and off the pitch. “You will remain here until half time.” “Sir, I - ” McAllister didn’t even have to raise an eyebrow and she stopped herself mid-sentence. However talented he was at hiding annoyance, Sam was instantly aware of it there and then. She grew up in a house where feeling uncommunicative emotions were required for survival. The unseen was often more obvious to her. When it was obvious she accepted her fate without another word of back chat, McAllister calmly rose from the crouched position and returned to the sideline beside Phin. The substitute player from the other bench was now in Sam’s place on the pitch and the throw-in was about to resume play.
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