A scrappy ending
PFFC 3 Warrington 3
It was back to Willesden and back to school for the last game of the season. Although almost June, the unique Willesden micro-climate meant that it was one of those cold wet and windy evenings familiar from last season. The pitch was part of the City Academy, a school within Marco free-kick range from our old pitch and which, throughout last season, I had assumed was a plastics factory. All gleaming chrome and 'elegant curves', it looked a sterile and entirely unsuitable place for learning. It is one of the new academies which are partly built by private finance and I wouldn't be surprised if we were playing on the 'soccer pitch brought to you by Burger King'.
After a Spinal Tap moment when the whole team got lost trying to find the changing rooms, the game began. Neither team had anything to play for and in a spirit of end-of-season generosity, Filippo offered to play for the opponents, who only had 10 men. Released from the threat of relegation, Philosophy seemed to relax and play with confidence. Within minutes we were 2-0 up and it began to look as if we were heading towards that Philosophy Football rarity – a comfortable victory. Firstly Gibbo, starting up front for the first time, found the top corner of the net from just outside the area. Dennis then reminded us that he is the senior striker in the side, by rolling the ball past the keeper for the second.
Even with the wind behind them, Warrington did not look dangerous but became increasingly physical. Following a corner, Filippo headed towards our goal and one of his new team-mates helped it on its way over Owen with a looping header. Just before half-time they scored another, although the details of the goal entirely escape me.
By half-time any remaining good will had disappeared and Marco was even suggesting a boycott of the second half. Certain players had been targeted with off-the-ball kicks and blocks that had gone unnoticed by team-mates (including me) who couldn't understand what the fuss was about. There was uncharacteristic division, reflected in the debate as to whether Filippo should remain on the opponents' team. It was generally agreed that it had been a mistake to give them a player and Filippo sat out the second half. Damien, who seemed to have had enough, decided to join him. Rasmus came on in the centre of defence and Mauro replaced Dennis up front.
Playing against 10 men and with the wind behind us, the game should still have been won. However, some of our key players were now so wound up that the relaxed football with which we started the game had been replaced by a mixture of frenzy and apathy. We still managed to regain our lead when fox-in-the-box Gibbo headed in a rebound after Marco had hit the bar, but Warrington seemed to thrive in a more fractious game.
There were chances on both sides but unfortunately all our best ones fell to me. I will recover with the help of expensive therapy but am still haunted by images of gaping goals shrinking before me and of balls perfectly placed on my head by Ally, being magically sucked wide of the post. Warrington forced a number of goal-mouth scrambles and Owen made a couple of good stops.
Inevitably, Warrington equalised, although through some form of denial I have again lost all memory of how this came about. The kicks continued and the game petered out into yet another score draw. It was a bad-tempered and frustrating game which we should have won. Not a great end to the season. Still, the shower facilities were good, but probably provided courtesy of L'Oreal shampoo.