...but not by much. It was a weekend in which the referee dropped out with little notice, we had to make a last minute change to the venue and two no-shows meant we only had 9 men including no recognised goalkeeper, no defenders, three debutantes and two players borrowed from Stonewall. Oddly enough, it didn’t turn out too well…
Pre-match, Ritchie had kindly agreed to a request from Phoenix to only field 10 men if the opposition didn’t have a full compliment. He then got screwed with his pants on when two of our players pulled a no-show and, when he requested the same from Phoenix, they promptly told him where to go. Needless to say we won’t be so generous in the future.
So, a bit of a difficult situation given the absence of our goalkeeper and no recognised defenders. There were also debuts for Ollie, Pat and Kev. The back four was comprised of Eamonn, Pete, Kev and Kieran while Ollie, Pat and James did their best to shore up midfield and Matt was left to feed on scraps up front.
In fairness to everyone, the first half was very even and the work-rate was superb. Phoenix sat back which allowed Falcons to have a lot of possession in their own half. However, there were inevitable mistakes and the away team pounced on 20 minutes when a series of ricochets in the box fell their way and a low shot from 10 yards made it 1-0.
Romans, who were playing on the next pitch, kindly loaned us Scott for the final 15 minutes of the half and the extra man made a difference as Falcons had three good chances in the box that sadly didn’t hit the target.
The second Phoenix goal was a breakaway that took advantage of a couple of mistakes. A long ball over the top saw a header back from Pete and Ritchie, on one of many strolls off his line, found himself caught in no-man’s land and was promptly lobbed for a clinical finish. Moments later, the poor guy’s day got even worse as he was clattered in the box and picked up a shoulder injury that he managed to soldier on with.
It was quite clear as the second half started that stamina was going to be an issue after a great effort in the first 45 minutes. Scott was replaced by John and Beyz from Romans. Falcons dominated the first 10 minutes of the half, creating several good chances but being unable to find the target again. Then, with Kieran desperately appealing for a push in the back, Phoenix scored their third with a well-directed header from a corner.
Things were starting to get a bit ragged by the 65th minute when Phoenix scored their fourth and best goal of the game. After a break down their left wing, a first-time cross was met by a terrific header and the game was well and truly put to bed.
Falcons continued to work hard and we even managed a shot on target from a free kick but, with the team looking like they’d been wandering through a desert for the previous week, it was inevitable that a comeback wasn’t on the cards.
It was a massive pity that three debutantes had to come in on a game that was the very epitome of an end of season farce. Kev battled extremely well in centre back while Ollie and Pat both showed good touches going forward. Thanks also to the two Stonewall boys who battled hard against the odds.
What this has highlighted is the need to recruit further. It’s been great to see some new faces down at training recently and we’ll be working very hard over the next couple of months to promote the club ahead of next season. Until then, there’s the small matter of the GFSN Cup Final at the end of May. It’s safe to say a few more players will make themselves available for that one!