A new era opens
PFFC 4 BBC FC 5
This was a new experience for me. On a previous sabbatical from the team in 2002/03 I was able to leave things in the capable hands of the temporary management duo of Paul Kayley and Joe Boyle, but I knew in the back of my mind that I would be returning later. Now, after a permanent move upstairs (at least that’s where I think I’ve gone), I’m free of the pre-match routines and stresses and no longer have to be at the ground 45 minutes beforehand. Just as well, as Willesden Green is pitifully lacking in gaffer-like transport and I had to wait 20 minutes for a taxi. When I finally arrived for this first league fixture, against the BBC, we were 3-1 down. Rina had headed an equaliser but two more strikes had put us behind and another soon followed my arrival, after a long ball through the middle had split PFFC’s defence.
This was an experimental formation, however, with new signings Gary, Matt, Rico and Tom (as a substitute) all making their debuts. The match also saw the return of Tony, who last appeared as a midfielder two seasons ago and who now returned, as a second-half substitute, in central defence. It may be a new era, but some things never change; from 4-1 down PFFC slowly won back the initiative. A great strike from Gary, cutting in from the left, made it 4-2 and gave hope just before the break.
The second half saw the Thinkers play with more assurance going forward, while remaining a bit suspect at the back. A typically tenacious challenge from Rina brought a yellow card for his opponent, whose knee rammed into his ribs. Our Italian-cockney versatility player, whose physical presence was much missed at the end of last season, now had to leave the field and later had a long wait in the outpatients department. In the first fixture last season, Bryan was involved in a freak accident after colliding with the perimeter fencing and also spent the night in hospital. In fact, in the very first PFFC fixture in 1995, one of our players left the field with a groin injury after barely touching the ball: next year’s opening game may therefore have a few superstitious absentees.
In any case, from the resulting free kick, Ally grilled a low drive into the corner to make it 4-3. The game had turned and the pressure on BBC’s defence – though not quite the battering it has received from the government in recent years – was mounting and providing some alarms for their larger-than-life goalkeeper. Dodo was making a big impact on the left after replacing Rina, a switch that moved Gary up front. After Kieran hit the bar, maestro Neil James turned in the rebound with a sublime finish. The prospect of Neil linking up with Clarkey has got the hacks talking.
It was now 4-4 and there was seemingly only one team in it, with memories of previous comebacks – Inter Aztec, Marks & Spencer, Air France and Warner Brothers – flooding back. This time, however, it didn’t happen. A quick counter-attack caught the PFFC defence napping once again and the hard work proved to have been in vain.
Overall, though, there were many positive points to take from the game, with the new boys fitting in well and with some key players yet to return. Getting the right balance, particularly in defence, now seems the priority. So, not so much ‘unlucky’ as ‘promising’, as Filippo put it in his post-match text message.
PFFC (4-4-2): Matt; Andy (Tom 75), Damo, Rico (Tony 60), Owen: Ally, Kieran, Rob, Gary: Rina (Dodo 70), Neil. Sub not used: Marco