League leaders overpower weakened Reds
Sporting Falcons 4 PFFC 1
The Philosophers headed south to Dulwich to face a stern test: the unbeaten league leaders Sporting Falcons. But lack of preparation, organisation and the sheer size of our opponents were to be our downfall. The Falcons were without doubt a big bunch of lads.
At kick-off we had but ten men: Owen deputised for Marco in goal once more, his fetish for black bin liners sated; Andy, Kofi, Damo and Francesco formed the back line; Andrea, Dave, Al and Will took their places in the middle; and Matt was alone up front.
We started slowly with Falcons penning us back into our own half, but Kofi and Damo were resolute and Owen made some fine saves. Falcons failed to capitalise on their early domination. At eleven o'clock – if not quite at the match’s eleventh hour – we were able to bring in our eleventh man as Lawrence made his way on to the right wing having thoroughly explored Dulwich’s leafy lanes.
As the half progressed we finally settled and started to press forward. Andrea shot from distance then Matt headed over after a succession of corners and free kicks. Despite their size advantage and supposed superiority, Falcons looked fragile at the back. Frustration began to show throughout their team. We had them rattled.
Alas, Falcons, though rattled, were the ones to break the deadlock. Their goal was as simple as it gets: a corner from the left, nodded in from six yards despite Owen’s best efforts to keep it out. They were certainly dangerous from set pieces and, on this occasion, our marking left a lot to be desired. To add injury to insult, Damo was forced off with five minutes left in the half suffering from mysterious chest pains which kept him out for the rest of the match. Vipul, who had arrived in the meantime, proved an able deputy.
Half time brought change: stand-in Gaffer Andrea took Francesco off to make way for Vito, who, surprisingly, was only an hour late; Dave dropped to centre half to add height to the back line; and Vips moved to left back. We started the second half brightly. Lawrence and Andy worked the ball well down the right, troubling the opposition fullback. A quick throw from Andy was turned inside by Lawrence to Will, who flashed it across the goal. Unfortunately no one was there to turn the ball in. Then, from a corner on the left, Lawrence fired from the far side of goal into the side netting. Another corner led to Vito hitting the post with a header from an identical position.
As we pushed for the equaliser, gaps inevitably began to emerge in the team formation. Falcons knocked the stuffing out of the Philosophers with two goals in quick succession, a double whammy if ever there was one. Francesco was brought back on for a tired Al. Although disheartened by the goals, we were not yet defeated and came back strongly. Matt forced a fine save from the keeper with a rasper from long range and then lobbed the keeper beautifully only to have it disallowed for offside, a decision he agreed was fair. Lawrence was also denied by a fine save from their keeper.
A fourth from the Falcons was less than sporting and not reflective of the balance of the game. But there was to be a consolation: Vito put in some fine work down the left, turning their fullback inside then out, and sent a fine ball into the box, which Will headed into the corner, the Sporting defence breached at last.
At the final whistle teams exchanged handshakes: it had been a fair game and the result, although a little flattering to Falcons, wasn’t unjust. There are lessons to be learnt from this game. We lacked organisation – especially the early disarray caused by players arriving not being there before the kick-off – and at times lacked a belief in our own ability. Francesco was passionate in the changing rooms after the game, demonstrating how much defeat hurts in an echo of his uncle Filippo’s infamous rant after a disappointing performance against the same team nine years earlier.
This was a disappointing end to 2009, but the games before this give us hope that a new decade can bring us at least a little success.
PFFC (4-4-1-1): Owen(c), Andy, Kofi, Damian (Vipul, 40’), Francesco (Vito, 45’); Lawrence, Andrea, Dave, Al; Will; Matt.