The long and winding road
PFFC 1 Grafton 0
PFFC got off to a promising start in the 2001/02 season of the Grafton League, having won 1-0 against Grafton, a game that in previous years they would have drawn or even lost. And they’ve had their first ever clean sheet on England soil. This was thanks to a valuable team effort, despite a below-par performance from almost the entire squad, still trying to scratch the rust off after a long and indulgent summer.
To welcome us all back into the winter, a strong wind and some rain also made an appearance at Regent’s Park’s No. 6 pitch. A last minute defection left PFFC without the inspirational guidance of Cornish Al, Marco filling the gap. It was a significant game for different reasons: Jez’s last game before his departure to Bruxelles, league debuts for Neil and Marco after their astonishing performances against Switzerland early in the summer, first ever PFFC game for David after just a couple of training sessions, the return of Canadian Chris after a few months spent in the native country (without playing football).
A wise move from the captain let PFFC play uphill and against the wind in the first half. A 5-2 victory away at Grafton in the closing stage of the previous season provided some optimism for the Philosophers, but, as we all know, “there are no easy games in the Grafton League”. The farewell party to Jez, unwisely held just a few hours before kick off, exacted its toll on the most beer-prone activists. The wind, the uphill ground and some surprisingly good moves from a renovated Grafton side created trouble to the PFFC defense. No interventions required from Rob the Cat, but a constant feeling of danger in the PFFC box. The game was lively, enjoyable and extremely correct. The men in red struggled to climb towards the opposite goal.
The music changed in the second half, with the beer losing ground to stamina, the pitch and the wind now at the Philosophers’ backs. Chris, returning since his last game in March, replaced Stefan at halftime.
The Canadian goal machine of last year had two chances, but he preferred not to make too much noise on his come back. Time was running out, Young Rob dismounted from his bike to give Jez a well deserved rest before joining the community (the European one), and finally in one of the dozens of scrambles that erupted in the Grafton box during the second half, Neil managed to score the only goal of the game.
The result could and should have been much more, with only some mistakes by the Philosophers and some fine saves by the Grafton keeper preventing a more rotund result. In the second half the visiting team didn’t have a shot on target, managing to earn just a single corner in 45 minutes.
Last year, the same game, again the opener of the season, ended 2-2 with PFFC wasting a penalty. In Italy we say: “You can guess a good day from the morning” . . .
Pagelle (6 is sufficient):
Rob nv (no vote), jobless
Filippo 7, solid
Ian 5.5, wandering
Paul 6, quiet
Owen 5.5, following Ian
Jez 6.5, partying
Raj 6, battling with himself and the opponents
Marco 5.5, recovering.
David 5.5, knowing you, knowing me
Stefan 6, respectful
Neil 7, tormenting.
Chris 5.5, unconfident
Young Rob, 6 pedalling
The Gaffer, 6.5, smiling
Chad (the ref) 7, in control