Falcons got back to winning ways on a shocking surface in Regents Park to defeat Soho FC 2-1.
Following the previous week's defeat, there was a general consensus that the league title defence was over. However, this has given us the opportunity to play with a little less pressure on us for the remainder of the season and allows us to try out some new players and formations. This was particularly necessary on Sunday as Olu and Kieran joined Will and Conal on the injury list while Paddy, Percy, Ben, Jack and John were all missing. Fortunately, there was a very welcome return for our captain, Brady, who has experienced a three game suspension stretched out over three months due to the winter schedule. There was also a debut for Rob on the right wing while Abdul came in for a start on the left.
Any thoughts of being able to play good football were thrown out of the window as we approached the pitch and found 80% of it devoid of grass. Therefore we started with a 4-4-2 formation to try and make use of the wings which did at least partly resemble a football pitch. However, we soon found that the surface was going to be a very strong adversary. Stevie managed to break through on goal no fewer than four times in the first 20 minutes. Usually his pace would take him clear for a shot on goal but on every occasion the ball got caught up in the mud and he was thwarted.
Set pieces kept the Soho goalkeeper busy although Matt was twice called upon to make blocks as the home team threatened to breakthrough themselves. On 30 minutes we finally got the breakthrough as a super corner from Alex fell at the feet of Chris and our top scorer slammed the ball into the net to make it 1-0.
The remainder of the half was relatively comfortable with Brady and Jimmy very strong in midfield and the home side's frustration boiling over with a nasty challenge on Alex which resulted in the game's only yellow card.
There was very real concern that we would have to put in a big defensive effort while playing in the worse half of the pitch and against the wind in the second half. This proved to be spot on as Soho had the better possession and territory for long spells while we simply struggled to get the ball out of the mud and into the opposition half.
Matt had already made a couple of comfortable saves when he was left absolutely helpless for the equaliser on 55 minutes. A shot from 25 yards took a wicked deflection off Brady and went into the other side of the goal to make it 1-1.
A couple of tactical tweaks were made on the hour mark as Pete replaced Abdul. Chris dropped deeper into midfield while Stevie took up wider spaces in a bid to get the ball out to the wings more. This did help to counter the threat from wingbacks and Falcons were back on terms not long after. Alex - who put in an energetic display at centre half - picked the ball up 30 yards out and hit a brilliant dipping shot to put Falcons back in the lead at 2-1.
Chances came and went for both teams in the final twenty minutes. Matt made a terrific close-range save from a header before Pete headed a shot off the line. At the other end, Rob put in a terrific cross from the right that Pete couldn't quite connect with. However, the team grew more comfortable in defence, with Duncan, Cal, Alex and Andrew all putting in strong displays. The final whistle went and there was a huge sigh of relief at winning three points in really tough circumstances.
This was possibly our hardest-fought victory of the season and a lot of credit has to go to the guys who played out of position, not to mention those who had not played competitive football in months. Competition for places will be fierce as we host London Romans next weekend.
Squad: Matt, Duncan, Andrew, Alex, Cal, Jimmy, Brady, Rob, Abdul (Pete, 60), Stevie, Chris
Scorers: Chris (30), Alex (65)