Falcons held off a late fightback from a very strong Stonewall team to win 5-4 and extend their lead at the top of the London Unity League.
With Elliot and Paddy away, Andrew and Duncan made their way into the starting XI. Juddy returned up front as Olu moved out to the wing while there was a guest appearance in goal for the first 45 minutes as Chairman Dean deputised for Conal who was having transport issues.
With some knowledge of the opposition in hand, the squad Stonewall turned up with looked very strong, packed with second team players and the occasional first team player too. There was guidance given that this would be a tough-tackling team but may be susceptible to pace at the back.
Things really couldn’t have gone better in the first half hour. Francesco almost scored in the first minute, forcing a save from Eric. However, it took just five minutes for us to break the deadlock. Pete’s free kick from the right was drilled in low and Duncan’s foot reacted quickest to divert the ball into the net.
The scoreline was doubled in bizarre fashion five minutes later as a header back from the Stonewall defender was fluffed by Eric and Falcons were 2-0 up in no time at all.
Olu and John had been linking well in the left channel throughout the half but it was a great bit of refereeing that gave us the third goal. Olu was fouled on the left wing but, with advantage played, John darted into the box and was brought down for a penalty. Juddy, determined to make up for his miss against Soho back in September, grabbed the ball straight away and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to make it 3-0 on 25 minutes.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Falcons if we didn’t make life difficult for ourselves. Dean, obviously bored with his lack of action, sprinted from his goal and clipped the Stonewall forward for a penalty. Sadly, he then saved the penalty but couldn’t quite get to his feet in time for the rebound and Stonewall had one back.
Back to the other end and it was another set piece that gave Duncan his second goal, rising well at the far post to head in Olu’s corner. However, it was the visitors who got the last goal of the half, with the ball bouncing around in the area and Stephen making it 4-2.
Half time came and there wasn’t much that needed to be said. We knew Stonewall would only get better in the second half so it was a simple message of keeping up the workrate and keeping the defending simple on a pitch that was deteriorating after the Saturday rain.
Fortunately, the lead was extended ten minutes into the half and it was Duncan completing his hat trick, again rising at the far post to head in Alex’s corner.
Thank goodness for that breathing space as Stonewall piled on the pressure for the remainder of the game while Falcons failed to put away their chances on the counter attack. For the most part, our defence stood strong but the visitors grabbed one back on 70 minutes as a ball over the top just evaded Ritchie and a smart dink over Conal made it 5-3.
Pete had diverted a header over the crossbar on 75 minutes but fell foul to an unusually poor decision for a foul on the edge of the box a couple of minutes later. Adam struck a confident shot past Conal and suddenly the scoreline was 5-4.
With all of the substitutes used for Falcons, we had to dig very deep to hold on but the visitors will be cursing their luck as they hit both posts in the final ten minutes. However, the hard work and effort paid off as the league leaders held out to the end to get another vital three points.
This was certainly a game of two halves, Falcons dominating the first 45 minutes while Stonewall came back strongly in the second half. However, the victory was a reward for workrate and a great club attitude from those who pitched in in many different ways on the day. It’s unlikely the opposition will field as strong a team as they did again this season and it’s great recognition for us that we got the win.
Post-match there were the usual drinks at The Two Brewers (a few more for some than others!) as we look forward to our final home game of 2016 next Sunday when we host Titans XXL.
Squad: Dean (Conal 45), Jack (Tom 70), Pete, Andrew, Kieran (Ritchie 35), Brady, John, Duncan, Olu (Alex 35), Francesco (Abdul 70), Chris.
Scorers: Duncan 3, Chris, OG