Happy landings at last
Air France 1 PFFC 2
Willesden’s semi-detached, half-timbered sprawl may not register strongly in the tourist guides, but for PFFC it clearly offers a more fertile environment than Hackney’s fabled marshes. In a tight and ultimately thrilling encounter last night Air France were toppled by a weakened but willing Thinkers side facing the new mid-week challenge with admirable resolve.
While the intellectual and organisational core of the club awaited news in far Bologna, it fell to Brian to handle things on the night with a squad reduced to eleven as kick-off approached. He did so with great composure and maturity. The dank conditions and pushed up defences created a tense midfield confrontation and both sides found it difficult to carve out significant goal-scoring situations. Through balls were regularly over-hit on the fast, wet surface. Eric, often isolated up front, chased without reward and nothing could be made of several set pieces.
The Thinkers shaded the first half, especially in midfield, with better passing and a more effective shape than their individually skilful opponents, but all that solid work was undone by a moment of ill-luck in the final seconds, when Lele, in attempting to block, could only turn a skidding low cross in under his own bar to create a half-time atmosphere of frustration which Brian did well to control and redirect.
During the interval Air France made personnel and positional changes and were in no hurry to re-start, their highly fortunate lead producing in them a degree of over-confidence which perhaps led to their undoing. The Thinkers stuck to the task and maintained a strong collective spirit as general fatigue opened up the game. Though Adrian was forced into more of the action at the back, both as sweeper and shot-stopper, Philosophy’s attacking punch also increased.
A dipping drive from Ally was just too high but showed what was needed, since the Air France keeper was clearly suspect, but few would have predicted the manner of the equaliser fifteen minutes from time. Gibbo, collecting in space wide on the right, sent a high, hopeful lob into the goalmouth, which plunged out of the floodlights, through the keeper’s fingers onto the goal line before bouncing gloriously up into the roof of the net. A difficult trick to repeat, but highly dramatic none the less.
Suddenly the initiative was with Philosophy and, now seriously rattled, the composure of their opponents began to disintegrate. Dan almost won the game when his sharp finish to a sweeping move was palmed into a post, but the Red Men were not to be denied. Another flowing attack drove through the blue defensive line and Jamie, put in by Bryan, fired the winner between the legs of the French keeper. The whistle went moments later, and the Thinkers’ joy was complete.
(PFFC 4-4-2): Adrian; Lele, Brian, Bryan, Vipul; Gibbo, Jamie, Ally, Ronan; Dan, Eric