Reds' new consistency pays off
PFFC 3 Deportivo 3
A gloriously sunny spring morning saw the Philosophers take on Deportivo at Weavers Fields. While waiting for the numbers to turn up, one could not help but notice how inviting the pitches were looking with the nets tightly secured to the goal frame and a modest covering of green throughout.
The reverse fixture, in November, produced a 4-0 win for Deportivo, and our cup game against them at the beginning of 2011 saw the Philosophers on the wrong end of a 6-0 drubbing. It was clear, however, that the strength and depth the team had recently developed should be enough to avoid a similar fate. The squad was mostly unchanged from recent weeks: Rob the Cat was unavailable, which paved the way for Owen to fill the void between the sticks; Michele returned to the squad after a long-term absence; and Leandro, set to become a regular, was also in.
The Philosophers started with a formation which reflected the somewhat narrow dimensions of the pitch. Mario, Michele and Andrea occupied a defensive bank of three which would provide cover for Owen and create the chance for either Will or Dan to drop back and help out if required. A midfield four of Ömer, Will, Dan and Ally would hold down the play and create opportunities for Ally and Ömer to gallop down the wings and terrorise the opposition defence, which they did with strong effect! Henry and Leandro shared the ‘number 10’ role and would offer support to Matt who was playing up top. To the action ...
The Reds started quickly and aggressively and within five minutes there was a strong dominance in possession throughout the park. The team created some slick moves with neat diagonal balls freeing up Ally and Ömer to play in the front men. One could not help but think that the waves of red pressure would soon pay off and the wait for the opening goal would be over imminently. Leandro received the ball from Ally and found himself in a great position; he twisted and turned in the box before getting his shot away. It re-bounded back off the post and landed at Ömer’s feet, who, not able to believe his luck, duly obliged and side-footed into an empty net.
From the re-start Deportivo were instantly on the back foot as the dominance of the reds continued to consume every man in a blue shirt. The second goal for Philosophy could surely be only just round the corner. It was: with a delicate pass Dan found Henry, who chipped it over the defence to Leandro, who in turn raced forward and poked home after a brief tussle with the keeper. There was such a buzz round the pitch; the jubilant feelings of all the players were clear for all to see. I even felt like rubbing my eyes to see if I was still asleep and only dreaming that I had risen out of my bed to trudge across London to play footie!
Many more chances fell to the Thinkers, with both Will and Henry coming close with half-volleys following superb link-up play from the midfield. Leandro and Matt continued to push forward but that third, crucial goal would not quite come. Deportivo struggled to get themselves into the game and when they did the Philosophers’ defence blocked out any real chance of them scoring. Owen also played his part with a fine save to parry an angled volley away from the goal.
Throughout the first half the hardness of the pitch ensured that there was a sporadic bobble and bounce from almost every goal kick or kick out from the keeper; it was this bounce which finally offered Deportivo a way back into the game. A long ball came downfield and, before anyone knew it, the ball had bounced onto Dan’s hand in the area and a penalty had been given! The Deportivo player finished well from the spot and game them a way back into the game. The half-time whistle blew and we left the pitch for some well needed drinks. It was clear that every man in red was wondering how it was that we could be only 2-1 up, given our superiority and dominance. Andrea gave a rousing team talk with a superb metaphorical reference to a ‘desert scenario’.
The second half began and the reds struggled to maintain the levels of dominance that had been evident in the first 45 minutes. Deportivo started to apply pressure and had a lot of the ball in the corners of the red half. They swung in numerous corners, which Mario and Andrea defended well; however, it was a corner which would lead to the Deportivo equaliser. The ball was knocked in and one of their six-footers leaped highest to head in. Following this, the pressure from Deportivo continued and Owen made a stunning dive to his right to tip a shot from outside the box onto the post, denying them the lead.
The introduction of Dave at half-time had added strength to the defence, and he was able to push forward and help out in the midfield. The reds continued to drive into the blue half where possible, and created a number of openings; free-kicks from Henry and Ally whistled over the bar, and Will and Matt put shots just as close. However it was Deportivo who would make the vital breakthrough: a ball bounced out to the edge of the Philosophy box following a corner, and one of their players was on hand to volley superbly into the far corner, giving Owen no chance.
This led to a very nervy finish, and ensured the drunk installed on a park bench and the dog walkers surrounding the perimeters of the pitch would not go home disappointed. With minutes to go Will made a run into Deportivo’s penalty box and was clumsily toppled to the floor by one of their defenders. The referee, who had made a string of small mistakes throughout the match, got this one spot on and awarded a penalty kick to the men in red. Will stepped up confidently and smashed the ball down the middle, giving their small keeper no chance. The ref blew the final whistle promptly following the re-start, bringing a great game to a close. One of the Deportivo defenders struggled to control his temper after the final whistle, slightly tarnishing what had otherwise been a classic encounter. However, he duly apologised for his outburst in the changing rooms after he had cooled down, which was admirable and good to see.
Some of the squad braved the Misty Moon in Bethnal Green for some food and drinks after the game. The ale was less than impressive with the only one they had on offer running out mid-way through the second round. I can’t quite remember the exact name of it but was called ‘… Trumpet’. I am sure somebody will remember.
Next week brings a new challenge and one into which we can carry all the positives from this game.
PFFC (3-4-2-1): Owen; Andrea, Michele (Dave 45'), Mario; Ömer, Will, Dan, Ally; Henry, Leandro; Matt