East End Phoenix 2-1 Soho FC
GFSN National Cup Final 2019
Venue: Market Road, near Paul O'Connell's mansion
Steve's promotion to manager relives his duty of match reports...brace yourselves, it's a long read!
So the stage was set for what would the pinnacle, the climax and most definitely all the icing on the cake of East End Phoenix's most successful season in history.
Depleted squad, up and down recent results and various shenanigans brought us to a nervy cup final against our biggest foes of the year in Soho FC. Caretaker manager Stephen Michael Groom took charge at short notice and laid down the tactics and formation to an excited team whilst enjoying some proper sunshine park warm up.
Kick off and the tension was already clear to see with both teams starting well. In the first 10 minutes we battled hard with James Mabbutt getting stuck in down the right flank, a new role at full back relished with ease. The new Jayson showed his class and strength against the height and aerial ability of Soho's finest. And on the left side James Little got to grips with Soho's most dangerous winger, keeping him quiet in the early stages. The Phoenix plan was working.
15 minutes gone and a breakaway from Soho's danger man and top scorer was through on goal...Joao Benfatti came to meet him and scuppered a very favourable chance to open the scoring with some expert goalkeeping. Cup winning save made. Long range efforts and a good curling free kick didn't phase Niall O'Domhagain's no. 2 after this...
Half hour played and Phoenix now start to take control. Gluteus Mike Luker running all the channels, lost causes, gaining territory through shear persistence working those muscles hard to great applause. Harrison showed his class with simple touches, composure and the skill to dazzle Soho's trio of tough centres, whilst Elli Laco caused his usual havoc down the right confusing and testing the Soho defence just with the knowledge that he will nutmeg you and you can't do anything about it. At this point I become so excited that I nearly stamp on my phone after it leaps out of my pocket and falls to the floor, linesman checks if I'm ok and we carry on...
With Phoenix on top Soho start to panic and make the terrible mistake of giving Jack Bailey the time and space to do his magic and score yet another contender for goal of the season, just out of his own tally! Left foot, BANG! Top corner. 1-0 Phoenix. The small bench of supporters and substitutes go mental and almost start a pitch invasion. Soho, their huge squad are quite literally silenced.
Dean now shows his class by flicking, chesting, volleying (but no overheads) all sorts of launched balls from Phoenix's own half and ends up bamboozling 3 Soho defenders before the keeper snuffs out an effort on goal. Then as if Soho didn't learn the first time, up steps Jack Bailey once more, same position, same left foot, same crazy space allowed and yep you guessed it the same BANG! Top corner, carbon copy. 2-0 Phoenix.
Half Time, Soho are well behind and so far have been totally outplayed by a hard edged Phoenix yearning to aggrieve the recent record loss only a few weeks back. Game on.
Second half we start the same, Declan Evans making Soho work hard to get past, sticking his foot in where he can and becoming a nuisance Soho don't want. New club captain James Little doing all the hard work (and the dirty work of professional fouling) still keeping Soho's danger winger at bay after he'd given up on James Mabbutt. Jayson in the centre with caretaker player manager and ex captain fantastic Stephen Michael Groom staying solid winning headers and crunching tackles against Soho's finest. Joao using his experience and skill in goal to sweep any long balls that Soho had resorted to, they were getting desperate at this stage.
65 minutes played and the pressure starts to mount, Elli Laco is forced to withdraw due to injury and Shazlur Choudhury steps up to join the party. Immediately he starts harassing the Soho wingers, teaming up with the immense James Mabbutt down our right side and nullifying any attempt by Soho to advance. Suddenly Phoenix look tired, the battle is taking it's toil and Declan takes a knock, in comes Marcel Graves in an unfamiliar role of partner striker. With the flair and calmness of a irreplaceable Wes Hoolahan he runs and runs and almost gets on the end of a cross fired low across the Soho six yard box by a Phoenix attacker (could have been anyone, I was mesmerised by Marcel's hair).
A few minutes later and a Soho substitute is one on one with Joao, with a cheeky deft chip the score is now 2-1 and the tension mounts. Soho really turn the screw and throw everything at our goal but we handle it with tenacity, pride and superhuman standards forgetting cramp and possible limps until the full time has elapsed. Late pressure results in corners and heavy Soho possession but we stand tall, keep our heads and with a solid defence, safe hands between the sticks we finally make it to the full time whistle as Champions! A truly historic moment for the club and a well deserved victory over Unity League title winners Soho FC. Only team to beat Soho this year..twice. Fact. Only team score against Soho in the GFSN cup. Fact. Only team Soho didn't want to see turn up today and it showed.
This was and has always been a team effort by all so all those who have contributed to Phoenix's cup success will be getting a medal (I was wearing them all so we didn't lose them). Liam Sure, Akif Hussein, Vikram Joseph, Tom Simpson, Casey Jones and anyone else I may have forgotten.
It's been epic, it's been emotional.
It's been a triumphant victory and it's been amazing. Bring on next season, Phoenix has risen from the ashes and we're still BURNING! Don't touch us we're far too HOT FOR YOU!
Match report by Speedatron Gazelliode
East End Phoenix 3 - 0 Leicester Wildecats
GFSN Div 2
Venue: Wormwood Scrubs
Crunch time, Phoenix arrived at their new temporary home of Wormwood Scrubs with the backdrop of a huge prison, hoping to take no prisoners on the pitch. A point today would seal our first ever league title and make history for the club. With record breaking temperatures cooled by a strong crosswind the afternoons events looked to take off.
The team arrived early and eager with assistant manager Jason Lee taking the reigns from vacant Javier Caballero who was on his hols. Injured Speedatron Gazelliode stepped up as assistant for the day and the two conspired to formulate a plan for the championship. The team trekked to the distant pitch and straight away began their preparations under the constant direction of Jason Lee and Speedatron Gazelliode.
The game kicked off with Phoenix causing industrious and devastating runs down both with wings with gluteus Mike Luker and Chris Witney floating balls into the box. The defence with its new look of James Mabbutt playing right back looked more secure than a maximum security prison, breaking down any early forward play by Wildecats.
Not long into the game and Gluteus Mike Luker flew past his defender to be clipped in the box but no penalty, however the pressure was building. Minutes later a free kick outside the opposition box from Dean Perry was adjudged to be handled, Phoenix penalty, struck with so much power by Dean Perry the keeper could only watch as the ball flew into the back of the net, 1-0.
The rest of the first half played out with Phoenix pressure and frustrated Wildecats attacks. Denny David and Declan Evans calmly and with a touch of finesse dispossessed opposition players in the middle of the pitch, then conducted the symphony of Phoenix attacking play with their passing. Half time 1-0.
At the interval, Jason Lee and Speedatron Gazelliode articulated themselves in a manner which everyone understood as same again boys and the goals will come.
Second half. Minutes into the second half and some link up play with an amazing cross from our right wing resulted in the ball being slotted past the opposition goalie for a second time in the game by Dean Perry. 2-0
As the game continued the Phoenix defence of Stephen Michael Groom, Jason Lee, Marcel Graves and Paul O'Connell made attacking a no go zone for the opposition dominating the air and ground. This would help lead to a third goal as James Little added to his tally with a smart finish 3-0 Phoenix and 1x GFSN division title in the bag.
From here the game fizzled out and the final whistle was blown
Firstly, I’d like to thank Leicester for a very competitive and friendly game and wish them luck for next season.
Phoenix looks forward to a midweek LUL fixture against Titans XXL and another cup final on Sunday, plus playing in the GFSN division 1 next year.