Polytechnic 8s 2 FC Griffin Park 3! All the gear, some idea
There was a real buzz around the FCGP squad this week after taking possession of our Brentford FC 1st team away kit and training tops. Everyone huddled around Dave's car after Wednesday training to take possession of their tops and no one has taken them off since (or maybe that's just me).
There was an added frisson of excitement as players donned their new kit, perhaps reflecting on the 1st teamer's who had worn it before them, or that we were now probably one of the best dressed Sunday league teams in the country. Many of us also got our first experience of 'cut off socks' and the dawning realisation that we had been left behind in our advancing years by modern football and it's ever evolving fashion trends.
Nevertheless, behind the excitement lay a certain awareness and even apprehension going into this game. As our striker David Pulford put it in the group chat, "hopefully we don't turn out to be all the gear, no idea". Last week we scoffed that football was played on grass, not Instagram, this week it was on us to show that we could play the part as well as look it.
These doubts seemed unwarranted as we started the game strongly, dominating possession and territory and putting Poly under pressure for long spells, without ever quite finding the killer final pass in the final third. That said, we did eventually find a way through, and how!
Jak has never been one to turn down a first time shot from the edge of the box, with variable results (see last week's match report). As the ball dropped from the sky to the edge of the box from a corner, Jak purchased his ticket in the random shot generator lottery and came out with the jackpot, volleying with power and accuracy into the top right hand corner of the net. Everyone looked on amazed, wondering what a goal like that was doing in a game like this.
1-0 did not flatter FCGP at half-time, but Poly had been growing steadily into the match and they started the 2nd half strongly. The equaliser when it came was not unexpected, nor was the manner in which it occurred. Following an injury, Russell was drafted in as a makeshift centre-back and, whilst our defensive substitutes were still getting their heads around the concept of rolling subs and putting their kit back on, he brought down a Poly attacker as he advanced into the box to give away our fourth penalty in two games. The spot kick was confidently dispatched into the bottom right hand corner.
We hit back almost immediately. A corner into the Poly box caused chaos. To be honest I'm not really sure what happened. There was a sea of humanity in that box, all arms and legs flailing about. What I did see through this hazy blur was Alex connect with a decisive back-heel that sent the ball trickling over the line via of a couple of defenders ankles as they failed to react in time. Alex showed all his strikers instincts here, both with the improvised finish and by claiming the goal before he even knew if it was his to claim.
Poly fought back and equalised a second time due to some poor refereeing. A long ball up the pitch went about two feet over the touchline but was nevertheless headed back on the pitch by their midfielder Felix. As we looked to the referee to give a throw in, Poly got the ball to their striker in the box who couldn't miss. It was a moment of good fortune for Poly, but it would be hard to deny they deserved a leveller on the balance of play.
Just like last week, we didn't let our heads go down and, despite the game becoming increasingly scrappy, we retained an offensive threat throughout. In the last ten minutes we dug deep and pressed for a winner, creating a number of chances that didn't quite fall for us in the box. As we moved into injury time and it appeared that we had missed the chance to claim victory, the winning goal arrived.
As another long ball went towards the Poly box, Dyann sensed an opportunity, got the better of the defence and ran through 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper. "I was really nervous!", Dyann told me after the game. You would never have guessed it from the calm manner in which he firmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner. It was an ice cold finish.
As is the way with pre-season friendlies, we set up with a different formation and different players from the week before and made a number of changes throughout the game, which is never easy for new players as they learn to play together. What stands out above everything else from both games has been the excellent character and work rate from the whole squad. Jack Clarke's tireless running at wingback and committed tackling epitomised this spirit throughout the game, earning him a much deserved Man of the Match award.
There is also a special mention for our strikers Alex and Russell, who never stopped chasing lost causes and put the fear of God into the Poly defence. A final shout out goes to Shane for the foul of the season so far: A ruthless, cynical hack to bring down Natan (who will also be playing for us this season, if he can still walk!) as he advanced on goal. In a refreshing change of pace for an FCGP defender, he did this outside the box rather than in it, earning Shane the "taking one for the team" award this week. I think this may not be the last time he wins this accolade (you still have to pay for all your own booking fines though!).
The winning goal and final whistle was met with wild cheers from the FCGP team and it's growing number of female and canine supporters. Like the week before, we did it the hard way, but came out deserved winners.
It turns out we had all the gear, and some idea too.
Up the Griffs!
Poly 8s 2 FC Griffin Park 3
Scorers: Jak, Alex, Dyann
MOM: Jack Clarke