Flexible foe folds under red pressure
PFFC 2 Visa International 0
After the high of winning the London League Division one last season, Philosophy Football FC were about to take their first tentative steps into the big time. The Premiership. Not since those eventful few months in Camden Sunday league in Hackney had the Thinkers' mouths watered with the prospect of amateur football action of the highest standard. We were about to take our place amongst the greats of Invisible and Warrington and were about to stand up and be counted.
The pre-season had gone not without the odd hitch, involving venue changes and a complete overhaul in the methods of training, but generally, it had set the team up with renewed enthusiasm and fitness for the task ahead. The previous friendlies had been encouraging for Philosophy but the first competitive match against Visa would prove whether or not the team could hold its own in the top flight.
The team lined up proudly, all in blue, looking the epitome of professionalism, barring the disconcerting sight of Filippo in 'those' glasses. With these visual aids, he was surely stretching his philosophy of putting the opponents at ease, but the results justify his decision. A makeshift defence of Ally, Filippo, Damian and Ronan stood behind the solid middle four of Dan, Marco, Kieran and Al, who would hopefully be setting up plenty of chances for Dennis and Mauro up front. Behind them all, a competitive debut for Brian in goal set up a strong starting eleven that, mentally, were at least one-nil up before a ball had been kicked.
The game started with Philosophy in the ascendancy. The defence were gelling quickly, and with Damian's stewardship gained a good understanding of when to hoof and when to play out. The first breakthrough came when Dan placed a lovely right-foot shot past the keeper after strong play from the middle of the park and the Thinkers found themselves 1-0 up without breaking too much sweat. Visa responded strongly, utilising their two best players up front to test the debutant shot-stopper, but stop the shots he did, and after an initial round of pressure, he was not to face another shot for another two-thirds of the game.
By this stage, Marco and Kieran had control of the midfield and were supplying the flanks with balls for the wide men to capitalise on. It was the left winger Dan who played a lovely ball through to Mauro late on in the first half which he duly rifled in past the keeper, and the Blues were 2-0 up. Half-time arrived with a confident Philosophy team (plus subs and crowd) enjoying the break and commenting that their lead was deserved and should do the same in the second half.
The second half commenced with only one change, Adam coming on for Cornish Al on the right; a straight swap which would consolidate the good form the team had showed on the wings in the first half. Philosophy were confident now and though the Visa strikers tried to break the defence down, the back four never panicked, resulting in frustrations being expressed to their opponents and each other. Two more changes would follow midway through the second half; Tamber for Dan and Vipul for Ronan. Like for like; Philosophy were not about to endanger their two-goal advantage with any foolhardy changes from the bespectacled Direttore Tecnico.
With about 20 minutes to go, a sudden burst of activity was seen at both ends and in the middle of the park. Visa's strikers had finally gained a slight advantage on the Philosophy back four which resulted in a couple of shots, but Brian was commanding in his resistance and, although Visa won the odd corner, the Blues defended with a structured and strong defensive formation resulting in no real danger. Then it was the turn of Dennis to ruffle Visa's feathers with a well taken opportunist's goal, unfairly ruled out by the referee. Philosophy then had to suffer the final 10 minutes with ten men as Marco limped off with a bad knock, but those ten men stood firm until the end.
As the final whistle blew, the skipper looked round at his men and the release of joy was apparent from everyone. The result was not won over this 90 minutes, but began long ago when the first pre-season training took place at Regent's park some months prior. The preparation had shown to be a success with a strong squad (some 18 players turning up) and strength in depth throughout. If this first match is anything to go by, the team can take great comfort in knowing they are in a league in which there will be a strong competitive edge, but also one in which an air of fair play and sportsmanship can be enjoyed. The journey with Philosophy Football continues.
PFFC (4-4-2): Brian; Ally, Filippo, Damian, Ronan (Vipul 60'); Al (Adam 46'), Kieran, Marco, Dan (Tamber 55'); Dennis, Mauro.
Subs not used: Arliss, Eric, Owen, Federico