Debutant mugged as Reds romp home
Grafton FC 2 PFFC 5
The Reds drew a 12-strong squad to the pitch at Wandsworth Park in time for kick-off, while Grafton were still missing for a few players, who, along with the referee, had gone to Wandsworth Common. The Reds performed their by now usual warm-up, jogging up and down the length of their half of the pitch rather than the usual width, because of the tiny size of the pitch. This meant that the curious and anxious Grafton team had to confront a determined Philosophy eleven running right at them from the whistle. With the psychological and numerical advantage – Grafton had ten men for the first 15 minutes of the game – the Philosophers took control early on against what looked to be a disorganised opponent, many of whose players had never even met one another before.
The Reds had a solid defence in front of Kadeem, with Andy and Michele as wing backs and Andrea and Mario in the centre of defence, playing the ball forward to Khan and Ally in the centre of the pitch or wide on the flanks to Rob and Ömer, who in turn aimed to set up Henry and Matt up front. Both Andy and Michele provided added offensive advantage with their consistent pushing up on the wing, and the pressure up front started to pay when Reds created early half-chances through great teamwork. Yet the first goal went in, after ten minutes, through a bit of a mix-up in the Grafton defence caused by Matt pressuring the Grafton centre-back and goalie, and poking the ball past them. Shortly after, another one of Michele's runs left him a with good opportunity following a throw-in from the right wing and his delicate shot deflected off the defence to give the goalie no chance, and put us two goals up.
And that's when Angel (pronounced Un-hhhel), our new signing through Rodrigo, removed his referee’s jersey and came on for Khan to play the lone striker when the real ref and the rest of the Grafton squad arrived, 20 minutes into the game. Just a couple of minutes into his game, he found himself one-on-one with the goalie and put a shot past him towards the net – and then something extraordinary happened!
An unidentified person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask – perhaps from the Occupy camp at St Paul's – appeared from nowhere at the left flank of the Grafton goal-mouth, and unnecessarily tapped Angel’s well placed shot, which was already making its way into the net, home. Having robbed Angel of his debut goal in broad daylight, this mysterious and unsporting goal-bandit disappeared into thin air, and no one has been able to establish his whereabouts and identity since, although Angel, Khan, Ally and Andrea each have their own theory. The goal must go down into the statistics books as 'unidentified scorer’. Coincidentally, Ömer was missing from the pitch during these moments, and remains unavailable for comment.
Perhaps still baffled by this remarkable event, a momentary lack of concentration in defence a few minutes before the whistle spoiled the perfect opening half for the Reds: a floated Grafton ball bounced into the Philosophers' 18-yard box and was coolly put away to take the first-half score to 3-1. Yet Philosophers held their heads high, knowing they were well in control of the match.
The second half saw a few seemingly random changes in the Grafton line-up, now trying all different combinations. Reds played their usual formation, with the re-introduction of Khan in place of Rob about 15 minutes into the second half, and an occasional role-swap between Andrea and Ally. The remainder of the match saw countless attacks by the Reds, and two further goals mid-way through the half: a perfect finish by Henry off the inside of the post from the right-hand edge of the box put them 4-1 up; and a deflected shot from Matt, caused by his consistent pressing up front, fooled the Grafton goalie and became the Reds' fifth goal. Grafton replied with a well-worked team goal and a couple of half-chances created by their strong and sturdy striker.
The 5-2 final scoreline meant a third win out of four league games for Philosophy: a rare occurrence in recent seasons, according to Ally. The league table is properly split, with the top four teams seeming to find it easy to beat the bottom four. Having lost to table-toppers Arup, Philosophy have yet to play the remaining two top-four teams, and there are some tough battles to be fought in the next few weeks. But the Reds will be taking all the games to their opponents with every right to be proud of developing more and more into a team which communicates well, fights hard but fair and enjoys playing together...
...and, who knows, they may, from time to time, seek help from the unidentified strangers who tap in goals for them.
PFFC (4-2-3-1): Kadeem: Andy, Andrea, Mario, Michele; Khan (Angel 20'), Ally; Ömer, Matt, Rob (Khan 60'); Henry.