Red men fall prey to stronger Falcons

Sporting Falcons 4 PFFC 1

Henry Duck, 8 January 2011

The last match of 2011 saw Philosophy Football FC play out an intriguing match against Sporting Falcons, arguably the toughest opposition we’ve faced over recent seasons. Unfortunately the Falcons edged it on the day but the ongoing improvement of the club, not only as individuals but also as a team, was clear to see and the year ended with feelings of optimism and anticipation that 2012 could bring PFFC some of the success of earlier seasons.

It was fitting, then, that the first fixture of 2012 threw up a re-match against Sporting Falcons at the same venue. Not only was there the chance to shake off the glutinous indulgence which had undoubtedly occurred over Christmas, there was also the opportunity for some revenge. The players arrived full of confidence and belief that we could give a stern account of ourselves and get a result. However, illness had struck the core of the team prior to kick-off, and this forced some unplanned changes and a re-shuffle. Ally found himself in a state of deep deliberation as he consulted his notebook and reviewed the squad list. He subsequently decided that he would accept the daunting task of filling Andrea’s shoes at centre-back, a role which would require aggression, strength, passion and, of course, shinpads. Michele would fill the other centre-back position in front of the ever-present Kadeem.

The remaining defensive positions were filled by Owen at left-back and Rob at right-back. The heart of the midfield would be patrolled by Simon and Will, with Henry and Lawrence occupying the right and left wings, respectively. Matt would play the number ten role; slightly behind James, playing as a lone striker. This formation has worked well in recent months and, against a physical team like the Falcons, the guile and pace of the Philosophers could well make the difference. The Philosophers also had Andy and Ömer on the bench, which gave Ally strong options for the second half, when any lack of fitness would start to show.

During the last encounter with the Falcons, we were arguably the architects of our own downfall with unforced errors and silly mistakes giving Falcons the win. The pre-match team talk highlighted this and everyone was aware of what was required in all area of the pitch. To the action….

The game started at a good pace and it was clear to see that the Falcons showed us a lot more respect, and approached the game in a different way from that of our previous encounter. Lawrence and Henry were getting good service from the start and were getting a lot of joy on the flanks. Darting runs from both the left and the right resulted in dangerous balls through to Matt and James, and were giving the Falcon defence plenty to think about. During the first twenty-five minutes both teams defended and attacked well, and neither were able to make a breakthrough. The men in red found themselves defending numerous corners and dealt with them expertly, to the frustration of the Falcons.

On thirty minutes, the first key moment of the match occurred. The Falcons swung in another corner and yet again it was defended well. The ball was cleared but then played back into the feet of their brutish striker. I must have fallen asleep in the seconds which led up to this as I was playing him onside by at least three yards. Their striker received the ball at his feet, turned and slotted it into the corner of the goal: 1-0 Falcons. However, the referee somehow (and to my relief) decided that the player was offside and the goal was disallowed. This resulted in a somewhat irritating bombardment of sarcastic and condescending comments towards the referee from their number four and fourteen. To rub salt into their wound, the Falcons would be trailing in a matter of minutes.

Kadeem received the ball and sent a colossal kick downfield which cleared almost everyone. Matt was quickest to react and chased down the ball, which had now bounced about two or three times. Their keeper didn’t have many options so came out of his box to try to get to the ball first. Unfortunately for him, Matt was the faster, and nonchalantly side-footed the ball over his head which took one bounce before finding its home in the top corner of the net.

Jubilant celebrations followed from the players and the capacity crowd of four (Andy, Ömer, Rob and Alfie). However, the job was far from complete and we had to refocus and continue the match. Everyone gave their all until half time and showed really positive levels of belief and aggression to shut out the Falcons and, mostly, boss the game. Ally and Michele were playing brilliantly in defence and not only eliminated danger, but once they had done that, they passed the ball forward to Will and Simon quickly, and this created attacking options with support from the wingers. This frustrated the Falcons and allowed us to play the style of football we had been practising in training. The half-time whistle sounded and we trudged off for a well deserved break and refreshment.

On reflection, we should never have stopped for half time. The men in red struggled in the second half to regain the passing rhythm that we found so easily in the first half. The wingers became slightly isolated and much of the play was directed down the middle of the park. In spite of this, the men in red could have been two to the good when a chance fell to Henry, who could only poke his shot straight at the keeper. Following this, the Philosophers were agonisingly close to extending their lead when a Falcon defender headed inches wide of his own goal. The Falcons then got the bit between their teeth and started playing their type of football. Their increased levels of pressure were met with equal levels of discipline and commitment by the men in red. Andy came on to replace Rob at right-back and was instantly put to work in defending Falcon attacks down the wing.

The equaliser eventually came on 60 minutes when one of their players got the ball on the corner of the box and sent a delightful curling effort into the top corner. The equaliser was a bitter pill to swallow after battling for so long to keep us in the lead. Following the goal, the Falcons turned up the heat and the Philosophers soon found themselves behind when a scrappy goal was finally converted. This knocked the stuffing out of the men in red (in both senses) and despite a close effort from Simon, would spend the remainder of the game on the back foot. Ömer came on to to provide attacking support, but chances were very limited by this point as the lack of game-time in the run-up to this match was beginning to show throughout the team. A freakish corner somehow found its way into the goal area and a cool angled finish from their striker made it 4-1.

The final whistle sounded and unfortunately the champagne will have to be returned to the fridge. There have been very promising signs from our last two games against the Falcons and we are continually improving as a unit. However, they have also been a good indicator that we are by no means the finished product and still have work to do if we are to become serious contenders for the league title.