Reds bested in top-of-the-table clash
PFFC 2 Arup 8
This result might suggest we are back to the dark days of last season, but things in the club have improved greatly since then, in several ways. First, we have had 14 players for every match this season. That in itself is incredible as we had a squad that big perhaps only once or twice last year. Second, we know when and where we are playing in advance thanks to Matt’s work on the fixtures list, which means we can focus on on-pitch matters. We've also strengthened the squad with promising new players who will be valuable in the coming weeks and months. So where has it all gone wrong?
During the Arup match we made mistakes. Lots of them. We gave the ball away in midfield, we squandered our chances up front (although scoring 2 goals against such a strong team is pretty good) and we made some fatal errors in defence which resulted in some very well taken goals. Let's be honest, Arup are a solid team who passed the ball out of defence and had a dynamism up front that we have not seen from our other opponents this season.
The pattern of the match was set in the first 5 minutes when Arup scored a great goal followed by another, 5 minutes later. The Reds were also creating attacks, however, and when the third goal went in after 20 minutes, we still felt the game was within our grasp. We weren't playing badly at this stage and were fighting and challenging for every ball and tackle, but somehow each time we made an error, Arup managed to capitalise on it. This is a sign of a very good team and it is a lesson we need to learn if we want to continue our initial successes this season. But then a fourth and fifth went in before half-time, leaving the Thinkers shell-shocked at the break.
The mood was still relatively upbeat at half-time, because we knew we could look each other in the eye and say we had worked together as a team. Yes, a win was probably beyond us, but a quick goal after the restart and you never know. And that is exactly what happened. Ally flighted in a corner from the left and Henry got on the end of it and we had scored. The score remained 5-1 for the next 10 minutes or so, which was Philosophy's best period of the game. We were creating good plays down the wings with Matt, tirelessly as ever, making runs through the middle. Unfortunately we couldn't put away another goal before Arup scored their sixth. This was the end of the match competitively as at 5-1 down we had a slim chance, but at five goals down it was too much. We did score another when Ally took a free-kick which the keeper fumbled, and James was the first man to get the ball and poked it in. A great return for him and Henry over the first few matches of the season.
Arup scored two further goals to make the final score 8-2. So with our 14-strong squad, our warm-ups, our stretching, our tactical organisation (the 4-2-3-1 formation which has worked well for us in the past), how was such a scoreline possible? The mistakes we made were from panic. We showed that we are not comfortable with the ball at our feet under any pressure whatsoever. Even moderate pressure pushes us to pass the ball in a rush – sometimes too long or too short, and often to our opponents – any pass so long as the player does not have to take on and try to beat his opponent. This needs to change. We need to encourage everyone to look to receive a pass, to make space and communicate. Too often we are silent, closed, not making ourselves available for our team-mates. In most other aspects we are a team; in passing we are not - yet.
But let's not think we cannot overcome this. We all have enough skill to accomplish these simple tasks but we do need to practise them. When Andrea or Damian announce training sessions please make it a priority to be available for them - it will only take two or three well attended and well organised training sessions for our match-play to improve greatly.
PFFC (4-2-3-1): Kadeem; Andrea, Mario, Andy (Michele 45'), Owen; Omer (Ingmar 45'), Ally; Henry, Lawrence, Matt (Paolo 60'); Leandro (James 45').