FCGP 1 Sheen Park Rangers 2 - Better late than never, better now than later.
Better late than never, so they say. The match report that is, not our first defeat. It was always going to be an interesting challenge against Sheen Park Rangers, an established club from the league above ours and recent cup winners. Especially as we are currently experiencing something of an injury crisis it was a real opportunity to test the strength of our 42 man squad.
You would not have known it early on. In the first 20 minutes we were far the stronger side, perhaps the best FCPG had played in any game so far. This was despite a disrupted start to the game. Chaz, having only just survived the warmup, embarked on a little jog into the box and duly tapped out three minutes in. Peanut, presumed injured but declared himself fit to play the night before, promptly came on, got behind their defence and lobbed the goalkeeper to set up Ali Maxwell for a tap in of David ‘one England goal’ Nugent proportions, before realising he was injured after all, and taking himself off again.
Sheen found their feet and drew level with a well worked goal down our left side. The cross delivered in was parried by Will and fell invitingly to their striker who made no mistake. With the game in the balance, came the moment that turned the game. Whether George directed choice language at the referee or just near him after he was asked to remove his earring, the ref was unimpressed, and a straight red card was issued. Within minutes Sheen took the lead. A lovely turn and run by their striker were despatched into the corner. It was a little moment of quality that offered a glimpse of what teams at this level can do.
We regrouped at half time, and the referee and opposition agreed to allow the game to revert to 11 v 11. We played some decent stuff in the 2nd half, but Sheen stood resolute in defence and we struggled to fashion goal scoring opportunities. Sheen grew stronger as the game went on and our backline that kept us in the game. Goal line clearances, last ditch tackles, 50/50 challenges; our determination to keep the ball out of the net was the stuff of Mourinho wet dreams.
Will, on debut, proved to be our very own ‘Sylvester the Cat’ in goal, pulled off a number of fantastically feline saves to keep us in the game. One save in particular, the spitting image of David Seaman’s wonder save from Paul Pesci-on-a-lido had everyone on the side lines exclaiming "Sufferin' succotash!" For keeping the score to 2-1 Will was deservedly awarded Man of the Match.
Now comes the weekly section of the match report I am henceforth calling, “You’ve been Shaned” where I catalogue Shane’s best fouls. In this game it was their #18 who triggered Shane’s terminator like search and destroy instincts. #18 duly received his Shane-ing, which at least gave him something to genuinely complain about. Dan will be producing the betting odds for the number of cards and suspensions Shane will serve this season.
It’s fair to say that their fitness and experience showed in the end, and they had a little more cutting edge up front, but we had our moments too. Ed and Russell both had opportunities to equalise saved by their keeper and we pushed them right to the end. A lesser team would have got turned over by more but, as with all our games so far, we never gave up. It was a real testament to the strength of the squad that whatever the starting XI we can compete with Premier division sides like Sheen.
We learnt a lot too. The referee on Saturday turned up thinking it was a league game and proceeded to referee it as such. We now know the standards they expect, and that they won’t tolerate players swearing at them – quite rightly – they will insist on shin pads being on and piercings being out, and they aren't afraid to get their cards out. It’s up to us to be more disciplined so we always have 11 men on the pitch.
We also learnt that we have a good quality home pitch, but it does sit on the edge of wild bush and woodlands more suited to squirrels and rabbits than footballs. There was more chance of ending up in Narnia than retrieving balls kicked into touch – we lost 7 (seven) balls in total! I am searching for a ball whisperer for future games who can coax them back for us. That, or an exceptionally long rake.
I also learnt that I can’t do it on the side-lines without Joe, with so much going and so many subs to make it was hard to juggle. A number 1 needs his number 2. From now on, I will simply nominate a sub to run the line if no one volunteers.
Congratulations to Ali, Will, Tom and Richard who all did well on their debuts, and to Shane and Andy for completing the full 90 mins. Also congrats to everyone who didn’t get injured! Finally, a special mention to Russell for launching the first FCGPs first satellite into space. The ball, now orbiting earth, is transmitting back you tube videos on how to take the perfect freekick to save other unfortunate balls from the suffering the same fate.
It is actually better to lose and learn these lessons now, rather than later. We are not going to win every game, and if you are, you’re playing the wrong opposition, not learning and not improving. Last Sunday confirmed we are doing all three.