On Saturday, Falcons returned to Barn Elms and the scene of their dramatic Cup semi-final victory over Stonewall to complete their GFSN League campaign with a solid 2-0 victory over reigning champions Saltire Thistle.
Despite shedding an impressive 20% of what on the morning of the game was a 15-man squad, Falcons followed up last week’s comfortable 2-0 defeat of Nottingham Lions with a much harder-fought win over the Glaswegians. The result kept up Falcons’ hopes of avoiding relegation for the first time in their 9-year GFSN League history.
There were a number of changes from last week, with Dan Hennessy making an impressive GFSN debut at centre-back, alongside Bruce who reverted to his former position. Stef returned to right-back with Jamie lining up alongside Ian in the centre of the park, while James moved up front as Jordan and Kieran took the wide midfield roles.
The first half was a slow-burner with neither side able to dominate. Falcons nonetheless shaded what chances were created, helped by the central midfield pair asserting their authority in the main over their opposite numbers. Jamie fired just wide from 25 yards, Jordan was denied by a fine save, while Kev headed over from Kieran’s perfect cross when well placed, before being clattered by the visiting centre-back for a seemingly nailed-on penalty that wasn’t given.
With Conal and his defence dealing effectively with the Scots’ threat, half-time arrived with the home side needing to step up their overall intensity and gain a greater share of possession to create more of the chances needed to keep their survival hopes alive.
An improved second-half performance was duly delivered, with Jordan cutting inside and firing home the crucial opener from 25 yards on the 50 minute mark. The goal led to a period of sustained Falcons pressure as they searched for a 2-goal cushion. A number of chances for the home side came and went, but with the back four repelling the vast majority of the visitors’ pressure at source alongside Conal’s solid handling, the Londoners were doing all they could to secure the 3 points.
Falcons’ pressure finally reaped its reward after 65 minutes, albeit with a slice of luck and from an unlikely source. Kieran once again found space down the right flank, delivered a cross which the Saltire centre-back, under no pressure from either centre-forward and having been on the pitch a matter of moments, powerfully headed into the top corner of his own net beyond his goalkeeper’s despairing dive.
There were relatively few scares to follow, with Falcons sitting back a little as the clock ticked down, robustly defending their lead and creating numerous chances for a third on the counter-attack.
We now await results from elsewhere which will determine in which division Falcons line up next season. With goal difference not our friend after the desperate February afternoon in Birmingham, the scenario is as follows: Leicester Wildecats need to beat newly-crowned champions Birmingham Blaze (24th April) to stay up and thereby relegate Falcons, while a point for Nottingham Lions at home to Edinburgh Hotscots (May – date TBC) would also seal our fate.
Details of the Cup Final against Mersey Marauders are yet to be confirmed, as Falcons seek to make it third time lucky and finally come away with the elusive trophy.
Conal; Ben ©, Dan H., Bruce, Stefano (Ritchie, 70 mins); Jordan, Jamie, Ian, Kieran; James, Kev.