PFFC 0 Viacom Outdoor 1
In his football writer’s wisdom, Filippo had begun to see it coming. A team finishes the first half having dominated and demoralised the opposition – only to have failed to convert their chances. In the second half they find they are looking down the barrel of defeat, by a single, late, soft goal. And unfortunately for Philosophy, Fil’s insight didn’t fail him here.
There was a distinctly positive air among the PFFC line-up at kick-off. Players were feeling fit (well, they gave that impression anyway) and ready to hassle and close down Viacom Outdoor’s attack. After a three-goal tally in the previous game, there was optimism about hitting the net, too, especially with last-gasp hero Gibbo posted alongside Mauro up front.
And it was a bright start. Space on the right and Viacom’s confusion in central defence gave early chances to PFFC’s forwards. Clarkey, Mauro and Kieran had extremely near misses. A ball was cleared off Viacom’s line, and their keeper accidentally saved with his shin a shot he knew nothing about.
A Thinkerers lead seemed only a matter a time away, with condottiero control of the midfield by newcomer Giacomo (or Jack, to those who have just run half the length of the pitch), Gibbo winning balls in the air and Clarkey finding room. Viacom managed only one half-chance in the opening 45 minutes, when a high ball bouncing on the edge of the box was struck, drawing a comfortable save from Brian. For a top-two team in the division, Viacom looked shocked and out of their depth. But even more shocking for PFFC was a heart-achingly empty net and a 0-0 score-line at half time.
Wanting more of the same fine performance, but with deadlier accuracy and luck going forward, Philosophy were horrified to face a rejuvenated Viacom Outdoor from the start of the second half. The home side found the game taken to them, with Ronan and Owen under pressure and having to mop up on the flanks, and Fil and Damien holding out strongly in the middle. A process of attrition began with PFFC struggling to get the ball out of their half, and Viacom winning free kicks and corners.
Brian had to be alert to stop shots and shepherd balls round the goalmouth, while vigour from Al and Giacomo fell short of forcing a decent shooting chance at the other end. Adam and Eric replaced Clarkey and Gibbo to inject fresh legs and harass defenders, but this did little to stem the flow of the second half.
Fil and Damien were beginning to feel the strain, having to fly in with tackles to block dangerous moves from Viacom. Vipul was brought on for Owen to give the defence an extra kick for the final 20 minutes, and made some key clearances from his first touch. But the Thinkerers’ strikers had become too isolated and the side pinned back by Viacom droning forward. And when it looked like a brave and respectable – if disappointing – goalless draw would be the result, Viacom stole in.
One set piece ball too many was delivered into the PFFC box, a Viacom attacker connected with it and it managed to squirm under Brian’s body. The keeper was upset at this, but the outfield players knew it was their inability to make and convert chances that had cost them the game. A Philosophy push for an equaliser was in vain, and the referee soon blew up before the lights went out on a hearty performance. The team left the field deep in thought about what might have been.
The mood lifted when a then chuffed-looking Giacomo was given Philosophy’s Shiraz Man of the Match award and bottle of plonk, while many of the team joined the Gaffer in the pub. But the main story on this night was that the pattern of football that Fil had seen so many times had come to leave its mark on Philosophy against Viacom.