Reds fail to be first past the post
Inter Sutton 5 PFFC 1
Yet another tough loss for the Philosophers at what has become our temporary home ground: Hurlingham Park near Putney Bridge. Twice in a row the Reds have lost to teams playing in blue in an area in which the colour blue does well: after all, the Tories got 60 per cent of the vote here in the 2010 General Election. The warning bells had already started ringing when, shortly before the game, Khan and Ömer observed an old gentleman buying the Mail, Telegraph and News of the World all at once. It's going to take a while for the Reds to feel properly at home here.
This time, though, with the support of the Gaffer, who made his way from afar with his suitcase, the Reds did look to play some football. It was, in the end, an even game in terms of possession, passes completed and headers won. Some decent crossing as well from the Reds who played with a rather variable line-up, with Dan tried at left back and Khan starting on the right, Lorenzo making his debut in front of him and Ömer at left wing. Kofi and Mario formed the strong central defence, with Matt and Ally covering the centre of the pitch. Clarkey made a return to the club up at the front with Henry lurking behind and near him in a rather unusual 4-4-1-1 formation that at times switched to a more conventional 4-4-2 with the wingers pushing up more often than coming back deep, sometimes leaving spaces behind for the opposition to exploit. Surely, however, there was one hero of the first half, though, and that was Andy who had bravely volunteered himself to be the goalie as regular keeper Rob had broken a finger during the previous game. He and Tom were ready on the sides, firing their support in the first half.
Some decent runs down the wings and by number 10 down the centre for Inter Sutton proved too tough for Reds to handle, and with a few mistakes and an occasional lapse in tracking back, the Reds conceded two goals within the first 20 minutes. It's looking more and more as though the Reds are having trouble concentrating in the early parts of the game; this was the third match in a row in which they were down by two goals within the first half hour. Some of us might still be trying to burn off the added calories over Christmas, but it was once again proven that we’ve got to get out there early and be ready in good time, to avoid losing focus early in the game. Clarkey pulled one back, pouncing on a ball parried by the keeper after Ömer set up Henry to shoot from the edge of the box. It started to look as though the Philosophers could squeeze in a second and even a third before the half-time break, but two quick and unexpected goals from Inter Sutton meant we went into the break 4-1 down and quite depressed at what looked like an even game at all respects bar the score.
Khan swapped with Andy in goal to produce some heroic saves. Much of the second half was a midfield battle with the occasional break-through by the Reds. Matt and Ally provided some excellent through balls, while Ömer and Lorenzo tried to split the defence, the latter producing a very good attacking performance in his debut game. An unlucky accident between Dan and Kofi meant the latter had to leave the field injured, while the free Inter Sutton striker ran around Khan to tap the fifth goal in.
The last 15 minutes of the game was totally dominated by the Reds, who attacked left and right. Inter Sutton may have taken their collective foot off the gas by then but the Reds also got used to playing with one another. Rob had earlier replaced the tired Henry with Tom switching with Lorenzo to play on the left.
The Reds showed, possibly for the first time in 2011, they can play uninterrupted pieces of possession football at times during the game. They lacked a goalkeeper; possibly a couple of key players in the centre of the pitch who can not only pass and tackle well but also hold up the ball and open up the game, leading the strings of the rest of the team; a clinical finish up front; and some extra energy on the wings. A consistent squad will start putting up stronger resistance to other teams as we become more used to playing together. But we’ve got to be honest: we need that consistency in turn-out, we need early focus and a lot more communication. After all, the outcome may not be representative of the contest but we play in a first-past-the-post system in which the blues have passed the posts too early too often.