Brentford Town 4 FC Griffin Park 5
Updated: Sep 4
It was raining goals at Cranford Community Centre on a fun morning in the Sunday sun.
"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything", said 5-star General and 34th President of the United States, Dwight D Eisenhower. How right he was: no doubt he was thinking about the difficulties of organising Sunday League Football when he said it.
Despite our best efforts, the omens going into our game were not good. Firstly, our new kit didn't arrive in time, despite indications it would. Neither did the change strip of white shorts and socks. I broke my toe in two places the day before the game, and 3 players pulled out with potential Covid symptoms and injuries. Players were asked to arrive an hour before KO to establish good habits for the season, which they duly did (indeed, most were there even earlier!). Nonetheless, we were locked in the Cranford Community Centre car park until 20 minutes before kick off.
Our opponents on the day, another newly established Brentford team, had a bit of head start on us too, racking up four pre-season friendlies prior to this fixture, and were also well ahead in terms of professional looking Instagram content. Both their new home and away kits had arrived too.
Perhaps we took inspiration from Arsenal's victory in the Charity Shield the day before, playing a Liverpool team who, on paper (and possibly Instagram too), were better prepared than their rivals, but won anyway.
So how did we do it? Well, the hard way of course. A 3-0 lead at half time was perhaps a little flattering. Marco, our goalkeeper in the first half, was ultimately awarded Man of the Match following a string of brilliant saves, including a crucial penalty save when the game was finely poised at 1-0. Flying saves, sprawling saves, saves with his legs, saves I wish we'd caught on camera. It was a fine display from our very own "cat" between the sticks. That said, we looked dangerous every time we went forward, and could have scored more than the 3 goals we did. Amongst a host of good opportunities, our target man Alex had a one on one saved and a volley from a corner miraculously cleared off the line. On another day they would have gone in.
The goals we did score were sublime. Great work down the left by Kenny got the ball to Peanut in his own half by the touchline. From there he set off down the wing, past right mid, full back and centre back before slotting past the keeper from 10 yards. The second was a little easier, with the opposition passing the ball straight to Peanut in the box, who accepted the present and popped it straight past the keeper.
Where you have the sublime the ridiculous is not far behind, and our third goal was just that: a shot/clearance/cross/god-knows-what from Jak was lifted by the wind right to the back post, rather than the pitch 20 metres beyond where it was destined, straight to the feet of Dyann, who controlled it and scored before the opposition had figured out what was going on. I promised Jak I would describe it as a "wind-assisted through-ball", and now I have.
It's fair to say the wind, as it always does at Cranford, had a bit of an influence on the game and it certainly helped Brentford Town too in the second half. They pulled the game back to 3-3 within 10 minutes of the restart. A freekick, a neat cross and finish from six yards and a penalty brought them level.
With the referee increasingly whistle happy - he awarded Brentford Town a third penalty to level the game a second time at 4-4 - the players dug deep and didn't let the change in fortunes bring us down. Crucially, we remained dangerous on the break. We retook the lead when Peanut chased a long-ball over the top, which caused panic in their back-line, and Ed nonchalantly swept the ball into the corner of the goal from 20 yards.
The best was saved till last, when Peanut went on to claim his hat-trick and the winning goal with 15 minutes to go, dribbling once again in behind their defence before clinically finishing into the top corner with his left foot. From then on we defended for our lives and, with a bit of keep-ball and counter attack game-management nous from Jak and George in the midfield, we saw the game out for a fine victory.
Why did we win? As the saying goes, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade", and that's exactly what we did. Despite last minute changes, team talks in the car park and a scramble for kit that fit, no one took their eye off the prize. Everyone's attitude in the warm up was first class - one of best I've ever seen from a Sunday League team - especially with only 20 minutes to prepare. I think it helped.
I'm not going to claim that me purchasing a "Frank board" made all the difference, but everyone kept a straight face and seemed to be listening when I delivered my garbled thoughts on tactics whilst frantically moving little red circles around. Throughout the game we were disciplined, patient, we kept our shape, and followed the game plan. It was a mature performance, especially considering most players are still learning each others names. If we continue to bring this attitude to matches we will win more than we lose.
What did we learn? Well, conceding 4 goals and 3 penalties isn't a good habit to get into and we will need to get better defensively. We still have a lot of work to do to improve match sharpness and general fitness, but hey, this is exactly what pre-season is about. As we get to know each other and play more games fitness and organisation will improve.
The big takeaway for me is that this team is capable of scoring goals and winning games, and doing so against decent opposition. This is a great place to be for a team that is less than three weeks old.
It was raining goals at Cranford Community Centre and I think it's a sign of things to come. It's going to be a fun season.
Up the Griffs.