Penalty miss sees Reds punished
Quinine 8 PFFC 2
The extreme weather had badly disrupted the January and February fixture list, so it was a relief to turn up to Regent's Park in conditions just bordering on blustery. An air of confidence was running through the team after the 1-0 victory over Grafton in the previous fixture. After the incredible 10-6 defeat to Quinine in the opening match of the season, PFFC took to the pitch hoping to show the same grit and determination that got us back into that game but also to avoid the lack of concentration which led to the earlier defeat. With Matt continuing his excellent form and a welcome return to Vito and Marco, plus a debut for substitute Jonni, PFFC had every right to be confident.
On what turned out to be quite a key decision, we lost the coin toss and Quinine used the advantage of the wind behind them to start off on the front foot. The opening few minutes saw PFFC come under huge pressure from long balls to Quinine's two big strikers. A few early shots from the oncoming midfielders went wide, but this set the scene for the first half. Quinine took the lead just after the five-minute mark: there was some neat interplay by the advancing Quinine midfielders, then suddenly they had six players lurking around the PFFC penalty area. A cross from the right reached the Quinine number 10 who calmly scored the opener.
Struggling to get off the back foot, PFFC tried their best to keep the ball on the deck and play the game our way. Dave and Andrea, in central midfield - along with Matt, Vito and Francesco - were keeping the ball well under some good pressure, but their hard work was, sadly, not rewarded, as excursions into the Quinine penalty area were rare.
The PFFC midfielders had their work cut out throughout the first half, as Quinine seemed always to have six or seven players in attack when they had possession. Another goal from a poorly defended corner followed and, by half time, PFFC had conceded four: the other two goals being scored in similar circumstances to the opener, with numerous attacking players joining the two strikers to leave men free to get onto the end of their crosses.
Half time came and PFFC had to regroup. Matt dropped back slightly to help out the midfield, leaving Vito alone up front. However, the wind was now to our advantage and Andy and Owen were encouraged to get forward at every opportunity to give the Quinine defence something to think about. These changes worked immediately. Suddenly, PFFC seemed to have an extra yard on the perhaps over-confident Quinine, who should have known better after PFFC’s second-half come back during the first fixture. A neat one-two between Damian and Andy on the halfway line led to a through ball for Vito, who sprang the offside trap and went in on goal, placing the ball nicely beyond the keeper and, hopefully, to start another legendary PFFC fight-back.
Quinine were rattled by this point, and their all-out attacking outlook on the game, which had been so impressive in the first half, had suddenly evaporated. More of their midfielders were now staying back to try to deal with the lovely passing moves PFFC were now putting together: Matt, Vito and Andrea were at the heart of most of these attacks. It wasn’t long before Vito added a second for himself and PFFC; suddenly, Quinine were struggling. Five minutes later came what was perhaps the turning point of this game, when PFFC were awarded a penalty.
On this occasion, Quinine’s keeper went the right way and tipped Damian’s kick around the post for a corner, which PFFC weren’t able to take advantage of. This was my first penalty miss for PFFC in a league match, and the memory of missing it still hurts now as I write this. To make things worse, Quinine immediately attacked following the corner, leaving them with four attackers on two defenders. As Damian and Owen made desperate attempts to break down the play, the Quinine strikers eventually ran towards Marco in goal and slotted home the ball. Suddenly the prospect of 4-3, with Quinine on the back foot, had turned to 5-2, with PFFC heads down from the penalty miss.
The men in red bravely continued to attack throughout the match, and showed great character and spirit as they kept trying to play the ball on the deck and create some opportunities. Unfortunately, this left the defence open to counter-attacks, and Quinine capitalised on this with three more goals: a result which doesn’t do justice to PFFC’s fight-back in the second half.
Despite the score-line, PFFC have certainly improved since the crazy events of the opening match. More spirit, more creativity and more support: as I know only too well from the words of all the players following the penalty miss. Quinine had improved also of course - hence the result - but had the penalty gone in, I feel sure that we would have proved to have been at least their equal.