Legends and new blood combine for famous win
PFFC 5 Deportivo 3
I know we’ve been slack on the match reports this season but sometimes a match comes along that simply must be documented.
The Reds came into the match against Deportivo on the back of an impressive 3-1 victory against Arup after a tough season. What we didn’t know until after the match was that our opponents had just notched impressive victories in succession against Arup, Quinine and Londrina, all teams at the top of the league. The South Park setting, while serene and lovely, offered only pitches that were either waterlogged or muddy. We chose the muddy, quagmire option with relatively high hopes.
Three days before matchday, we had only eight players in the squad, but with Andrea’s steely determination and mysterious, persuasive phone calls to players past, present and potentially future, he managed to secure the services of thirteen men by match day. The squad contained three debutants: Adam, Joeslyn and Mike; and two legends: Clarkey and Neil. The central midfield partnership of Simon and Ally was torn asunder through unavailability and injury respectively, so Adam and Matt started in the middle of the field with a back three of Andrea, Mario and Will and with Clarkey and Mike playing on the midfield flanks. James, Dylan and Neil started up front.
Philosophy started playing well on the muddy surface, but it soon became apparent that the mud was causing the ball to stick and normal passing play was becoming extremely difficult. The game was clearly going to be physically demanding with an emphasis on bursts of speed in trying to get to the ball first when it stuck to the turf. The Reds were dominant until the quarter-hour mark when Will was injured, and Ally came on in his place. Ally had twisted his ankle earlier in the week and was tentative to say the least when he came on. Then, with their first attack of the match, Deportivo broke through and scored a goal and the Thinkers were on the back foot. It was then that the rain began to fall.
The next ten minutes were vital. The Reds held on and began creating chances of their own, although not many shots were fired at the Deportivo keeper. Deportivo have some excellent players throughout their team, but their pacy attacks were being scuppered in the mud. The score remained 1-0 to Deportivo until the half-time whistle blew.
During the break, Andrea made a change to bring Joeslyn in to play with Adam in centre midfield, and pushed Matt up front in place of James. This meant that the beating heart of the team, the central midfield duo, comprised two newcomers, a risky move to say the least. The gamble paid off, however, because of a strength of character that we had been building up to for two seasons and that had surfaced in the previous match with Arup.
It was becoming clear if we got the ball through to Neil, Clarkey, Dylan and Matt, Deportivo were having an extremely hard time coping in defence. It was during one of these attacks that a Deportivo defender slid into Matt in the box with his studs up and, although he got the ball, the referee deemed it dangerous play and a penalty was given. The ever-confident Dylan took the ball and walked toward the spot. This time, however, we had legendary goal machine Neil James on the pitch and Ally, knowing that Neil had more experience behind him than he’d care to admit, kindly and politely asked Dylan to relieve himself of penalty duties and give the ball to Neil. Dylan, not knowing Neil, looked at Ally and asked: ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Just you watch this,’ replied Ally, nodding in the veteran’s direction. Neil stepped up and through the wind, rain and mud, rolled back the years and despatched the pen high up to the goalie’s right, giving him no chance. Dylan looked at Ally and nodded: 1-1.
Deportivo weren’t about to give up, however, and after a bit of a poor and disorganised spell by the Philosophy, took advantage of a through-ball and slotted home to make it 2-1. Once again behind, the question of character was posed to the Red Men, who responded in kind with another stream of attacks from the front four. After a great passing move, the ball landed again to Neil at the edge of the box and, after dribbling the ball another few yards past the last defender, he rammed the ball home to level the score at 2-2. It was Deportivo who were now on the back foot, as the Reds pressed and pressed, winning ball after ball in the saturated middle third and creating chances whenever they had possession.
On 70 minutes, Clarkey took a throw-in level with the edge of Deportivo’s 18-yard box. He got the ball to Neil, running towards him. In an Alan Shearer-like play, the New Zealender went to head the ball but fell under a nudge from his marking defender and the ref once again blew his whistle for a penalty. This time, no one took the ball away from Neil, who placed it and stepped back a few yards. Did he have the steel to score a second penalty to secure his hat-trick and put his team ahead? In an audacious move, he hit the ball even harder than his first spot-kick, this time into the opposite top corner, again leaving the keeper with no chance and totally destroying Deportivo’s resolve in the process: 3-2.
After this, Neil, like a mysterious gunslinger in a spaghetti western, called James on to finish the game and disappeared into the South Park horizon. If everyone hadn’t been so knackered we would have clapped him off. It was Dylan’s chance to shine now, as two attacks in the space of five minutes found the big man and allowed him to power his way into the box and strike two clinical shots into the back of the net to finish Deportivo off. Even a late consolation goal from them a minute from time did not dampen the Thinkers’ spirits. The match ended Philosophy Football FC 5-3 Deportivo.
A remarkable game, then, with our eldest and youngest players scoring 5 between them, three debutants appearing in a winning match (surely a Philosophy record) and a continuation of the desire to win that we have been threatening to show all season but just failing to live up to until the past two games. It’s been tough organising the team when so many players have been out, but victories like this mean we will continue as long as the players keep playing.
PFFC (3-4-3): Kadeem; Andrea, Mario, Will (Ally 15'); Clarkey, Adam, Matt, Mike; James (Joeslyn 45'), Dylan (2), Neil (3).
Subs: Ally, Joeslyn.