Falcons had to play with ten men for 35 minutes but still emerged 3-0 winners to send us to the top of the LUL table.
With our three top scorers - Alex, Paddy and Chris - all unavailable, it was time for some of the other guys to get some pitch time. Ben Morgan came in on the right wing for his first game in a while. Olu started up front while there were also returns for Jimmy and Stevie.
Conditions weren't ideal with a strong wind against us and a pitch that made playing football quite difficult. Phoenix edged the first half, showing more of a battling spirit and missing a bit of a sitter when the goal was gaping on the half hour mark. However, despite our generally sloppy play, we still managed to carve open two strong opportunities which Olu and Stevie couldn't quite convert.
Half time included a strong message to up our game physically. Too many challenges and headers had been lost while we looked off the pace in general. Jack returned from self-inflicted injuries for the first time in the league this season to fill in at leftback while Cal pushed further forward onto the wing,
The second half didn't get off to a great start when a challenge on Stevie forced him off the pitch with Ben Cooper the replacement. However, the breakthrough came after just five minutes when the ball broke to Duncan on the edge of the box and the birthday boy placed the ball low and into the corner to make it 1-0.
Then, a five minute spell which dramatically altered the game. First of all, Jack was booked for dissent after being a trip on him wasn't seen. Then, as Brady was being pulled back, his attempt to break free didn't quite go right and, with his fingers catching the player on the chin, the referee didn't hesitate to whip out a red card.
This forced a very swift reshuffle as we switched to a 3-5-1 formation, aiming to soak up the Phoenix pressure and play on the counter attack. Somehow, this coincided with our best spell of the game as the boys all upped their intensity, determined to hold on for a win. We were given breathing space on 70 minutes when Kieran's low shot went through the goalkeeper to make it 2-0. Then, with just a few minutes to go, a long kick from Conal (which was supposed to go to the corner of the pitch!) bounced in the area and Jimmy expertly flicked the ball over his own head and into the far corner to seal the game at 3-0.
This was a phenomenal second half effort from the whole team but particularly from Ben, Cal, Kieran, Jimmy, Olu and Duncan who all ran their socks off to prevent Phoenix from coming forward in numbers. After a poor first half we showed what we can do in the second half and a first clean sheet of the season was a just reward for our effort.
The result also means that we top the LUL table for the first time this season and all eyes are now on a big, big game away to Charlton Invicta on the 3rd. Before then, we travel to Bristol for the GFSN Quarter Final against Yorkshire Terriers.
Our thanks also to the league chairman, Brian Silk, for coming down to watch on what was a pretty chilly day in east London. Great to catch up with you.
Squad: Conal, Kieran, Cal, Pete (Matt 87), Andrew, Brady, Duncan, Jimmy, Ben M (Jack 46), Stevie (Ben C 50), Olu
Scorers: Duncan (50), Kieran (70), Jimmy (85)