GFSN Cup – round of 16
Venue – Hackney Marshes (ground unstable, mud, much wetness and classic Sunday football vibes. Oh how we miss Victoria…)
Report by: Speedie Gazelle
After some mixed results and unlucky games Phoenix kicked off the GFSN cup campaign as defending champions, the team to beat. Mersey Marauders are a known force from the GFSN league but despite this we were confident we could get a good win out of this one as the Marauders had played a league game the day before so already spent!
I arrived minutes after kick off so missed any pre match pep talks from manager Stephen Groom. Took me a while to see the formation though Casey did instruct me later…
The game starts very even with the pitch winning most tackles and preventing any attractive play from either side. However territory and possession starts to mount on the opponents half with Alastair and Phil harassing the left side of the Mersey defence where their weakness was clear. Some slick play down that right side with some great combinations from Chris linking play to excellent effect.
The pressure increases and Mersey start to defend extremely well, blocking any half attempt and getting numbers behind the ball. Looks like they are giving champions Phoenix a great deal of respect and their gameplan of sitting off is working well. Liam, Callum and Stephen play it calmly at the back probing and waiting for the right chance to play it forward. An impressive display of possession allowed by the tenacity of our one holding midfielder Casey, a formation working well. The calmness of Declan is a joy to watch, like a young Speedie Gazelle nonchalantly playing the easy ball each time never panicking and always choosing the right option. Makes the game look easy.
With the defence clear that they will have time to spray the ball around Chris takes it to another level with a cheeky flick through two oncoming Marauders onto Alastair or Phil, not sure who I was mesmerised by the flick.
Half chances from Jack in this first half is all we can manage, his frustration obvious, mainly aimed at the pitch but directed at anyone who would listen…Then just before halftime with the pressure at breaking point Rash finds himself in the Mersey six yard box and rifles a shot onto the underside of the bar…so close!
Half time – Highlights involve a quick hug from teammates and a long chat with Rex, nothing about the game, just catching up!
The game starts and immediately Phoenix are on the attack, Chris flying down the right wing and causing issues once more down the Mersey left. Harrison working hard in the centre making the difference in a tough game, Casey keeping it secure and giving our back four nothing to worry about.
Stephen makes some changes and brings on Mounir after a long time out. It showed, his rusty touch and lack of pace was evident however his skills are still spectacular and nutmegs here and there fooled the Marauders once again. Denny also enters the centre midfield and makes his mark dominating the aerial battle. Vikram comes on at left wing and protects left back Callum well as the Marauders capitalise on mistakes and complacence. They also hurled many a ball in from the touchline with one almost ending in a goal against the run of play but Joao’s position is perfect and the danger nullified.
20 minutes in and Phoenix are taking control, Harrison plays a killer through ball past the Marauders defensive line, perfect weight into the path of brother Jack who crosses low into the mixer where the ever running Callum earns his goal sliding home for 1-0! Great play started from the centre and finished expertly.
Minutes later a mistake in the Mersey defence allows Jack to nip in and cooly slot home past a helpless keeper. 2-0 and much deserved. Phoenix on top but the game far from over, Stephen makes another change bringing Rash back on for a tired and beat up Mounir (more to come from him for sure!). Now Shaz is needed with his willingness to run and hassle the Marauders giving them no time to make that forward pass. But even he cannot stop a rare mistake to allow an onward Maraurder to break free and get that consolation goal Mersey deserved. 2-1.
The game fizzles out and a hard fought victory well played by all, including Mersey. Our midfield battled real hard on a difficult surface, defence was solid but did allow some easy chances, concentration needed here.
The most encouraging sign from Sunday was the introduction of new players, Phil, Callum and Alastair who have joined Phoenix recently and been training over at Mile End. Great additions to the squad!
We should’ve got more goals but a win in the cup is a good start to bringing that trophy home once more. Bring on the second round!