Strong Reds caught by sucker-punches
Sporting Falcons 5 PFFC 2 (cup)
It had been some weeks since PFFC's last league match, and an early Sunday morning game against a solid Sporting Falcons team (a team we've struggled against previously since our return to the Grafton league) was the perfect opportunity to see the impact of the previous few weeks' training sessions. Some good progress has been made over the last month or so - especially with the work that has been put in on passing - and the team's set-up and Andrea's team talk were focused on continuing this good work.
We started with Kadeem in goal, Owen at left back, Andrea and Damian in central defence and a welcome full return for Will at right back; the midfield consisted of Henry on the right and Ömer on the left, with Simon and Ally sitting in the centre; while Matt played behind James up front. Angel, Leandro and Michele starting on the bench.
Falcons started the match on the front foot, with two lively - and at times over-keen - strikers attempting to make bursts behind our defence at every opportunity. PFFC remained calm though, and started off passing the ball confidently around the defence: Will, Owen, Andrea and Damian were not afraid to pass back and forth to retain possession, and Kadeem provided excellent chat and support as another passing option. However, just as we began to find our rhythm, a free kick was given away just inside our half on the left-hand side of the pitch. Andrea had spoken before the game about the importance of not giving away free kicks in such areas, and this only proved the danger of not heeding these words as, from the free kick, a Falcon player rose in the six-yard box to head home.
With the prospect of another defeat to the Falcons in players' minds, it would have been easy for heads to start dropping even at this early stage. Yet the team picked itself up and showed great determination to create a few half-chances on the back of some wonderful interplay between Ally, Henry, Simon and Matt. Indeed, Matt and Henry were causing the Falcons defence - a relatively slow defence, who did not like players running towards them - all sorts of problems.
Midway through the half – and, it's fair to say, against the run of play - the opposition doubled their lead. A slip at the back led to a break and a good finish by one of their strikers. Despite this sucker-punch, PFFC hit back quickly. With lots of space in the centre of the park, Ally, Simon and Henry were finding time to play neat passes and make good runs into the final third. Eventually, the good work in the half paid off when Henry deservingly got his name on the scoresheet. After some hard work getting into the penalty area and battling through the Falcons defence, he nudged the ball beyond the keeper. The team were back in the game, confident and on the front foot.
It would be interesting to know how many times we have managed to concede goals within five minutes of scoring. Whatever the percentage, it increased on Sunday through what must be said was a quality strike from one of the opposition strikers - from just outside the penalty area on the right, he managed to hit a dipping shot just below the crossbar and into the net. PFFC headed for the half-time team talk feeling slightly aggrieved after what was, overall, a good first half performance.
With the emphasis of Andrea’s team talk on continuing to play in the same vein as the first half, but pushing further upfield, we took to the pitch with Leandro replacing James, Michele coming on for Owen and Angel replacing Ömer. With the Falcons defence not looking comfortable when on the back foot, and PFFC playing some good football on the deck, the game soon became even more interesting with an early goal from Angel, who got on the end of a bobbling ball at the back post and passing it into the net. The score was now 3-2 with still plenty of time left.
However, the curse of the GWFM (Goal Within Five Minutes) struck again. A Falcon corner from the left took numerous ricochets in the six-yard box before, somewhat unfortunately, landing at the feet of an opposition player who toe-poked it home.
It's not an exaggeration to say that the PFFC defence hadn't actually had that much to do in the match so far, and were generally comfortable and still passing the ball around at the back. Simon and Ally had taken charge of the midfield, winning the ball on most occasions and being first to the second ball. Some half-chances fell to Henry, Leandro and Matt, who were battling away, but were not taken. The team continued to push forward and some gaps began to appear in our formation. A one-on-one between the Falcons striker and Kadeem resulted in an excellent couple of strong and brave saves from Kadeem to stop their lead being increased.
Sadly, with what proved to be the last kick of the game, the score became 5-2. A quite bizarre penalty incident involving an accidental kick to a Falcons striker in the nether regions resulting in a penalty which was scored at the second attempt.
Still, there are far more positives than negatives to be taken from this match. The team played some excellent possession football throughout, really building on the games of keep-ball played at training. Going forward, with the likes of Henry, Matt, Leandro, James, Ömer and Angel playing neat passes and getting past defenders as they put fear into the opposition, we look strong and able to score against any team. If we continue to work on defending from free kicks and corners, as well as staying firm after scoring, we shall definitely win games like this in the future.
PFFC (4-2-3-1): Kadeem: Will, Andrea, Damian, Owen; Henry, Simon, Ally, Ömer; Matt; James.
Subs: Angel, Leandro and Michele.