Venue – Hackney Marshes
Report by – Speedie Gazelle
A lazy start to a sunshine-filled day as players slowly trickle in from across town, some traveling as far as Birmingham, welcome Nicky, and brother Martin! Hangovers will be the test for us today as lockdown rules relax and drinking time on Saturday night resumes…This time I’ve taken notes so as to ensure that any mistakes from last week’s report won’t happen again!
Stonewall are looking flash in their new Adidas/EA Sports sponsored kit, even the striking deep pink of the Phoenix home shirt can’t compete. Rash had already warned us there might be some 1st and 2nd team players on board today, some returning from injury, so danger lurks even before kickoff.
The game starts with a casual flick of Rex the referee’s lockdown hair and we’re away testing each other out, tactically it will be tight and the midfield battle again is where it’s at. Hardened regular Casey a big miss in the middle today, Mabbutt and co will have to work their pink socks off
The first half an hour is cagey and tense with both sides playing well but not penetrating and creating chances. A couple of hard tackles here and there on a really dry pitch take’s its toll on knees and recurring injuries, resulting in Jack being withdrawn early on. Luckily it’s not a return to his bad ankle but more a muscle twinge, keep it on ice mate, we’ll need you back soon! Quick formation switcheroo pushes Luke from centre back right up top with Nicky who’s already causing havoc with his hold-up play.
A hopeful Stonewall long throw from the left is allowed to bounce into the penalty area, with ever capable Simon unable to attack it. It loops over him and then again over super stopper Steve for an easy Stonewall goal. They take the lead, Stonewall 1 – 0. The Phoenix players are annoyed but not done and start to pressure the Stonewall half with quick counter-attacks and swift forward play from Nicky. Mabbutt starts to bed himself into the centre calmly playing the simple balls to allow Phoenix to break up the pitch with ease. Whilst his partner in the midfield Mark skillfully evades the Stonewallers with his classy touch.
Mike comes on for Hybrid Chris at right wing-back and immediately shows the tricky Stonewall winger who’s boss. Using his gluteus strength and easily holding him off and stopping the advance down the wing. Jenny Denny replaces Harrison in the jam-pack centre as things continue to become tighter and tighter, he even wins a few headers!
The Phoenix counter attack is devastating, Nicky not only holds the ball well but is deceptively quick and skillful, terrorising the usually solid Stonewall center-backs. He also is armed with a long throw too, but no tennis grunting like the grunt specialist Neill with a double L! Luke supports him well with constant running and tackling with no care for his bloody knee. Liam is commanding the defense well with Capable Simon backing him up, winning aerial battles against a strong Stonewall attack. Phil comes on and gets stuck in too, volleying balls over his head to the onrushing Phoenix forwards.
Constant pressure from Phoenix pegs Stonewall back in their own half and we win a corner which is flicked out by the defense. Capable Simon learns well from Non-Grunt Nicky’s long throw technique and lobs one into the area (again no grunting), a couple of deflections, and then an audacious backheel from near the edge of the box from Luke makes its way into the corner, goal Phoenix! Hat Trick Hero Luke does it again…
Half-time whistles sounds, 1-1 and all to play for…
The second half starts with Martin coming on for Callum at left wing-back and soon after Seb replaces Phil at right wing-back. Seb’s second game is a more assured performance in a more suitable position, well done! Phoenix starts the better team and again are quick to break from their own half with long but accurate balls from defense to midfield. One of these makes it out to Martin on the left whose cross is unfortunately too strong. The threat is real.
Another quick break down the left with Martin volleying up to Non-Grunt Nicky who skins the center-back and is through on goal, one on one with the Stonewall 2nd’s keeper and Pepe Reina lookalike. He slows it down concentrating to get a good connection on a difficult pitch but fires it right at the static Reina stand-in who parries away. Non-Grunt Nicky should’ve had a hat trick already at this point, it wasn’t to be his day.
Stonewall are also dangerous on the attack, taking advantage of some slack play and while Liam attempts to slide in unsuccessfully his strapped-up knee says, nope that’s enough for today! Hybrid Chris is charged and ready and comes in at center-back and then eventually left-back as we switch to 4-4-2. Seb fills in at right-back, Capable Simon takes control of the centre.
Evenly matched the game is on a knife-edge with both teams pushing for the win. Jack tries to return, coming on for Non Grunt Nicky who is gutted not to be on the score sheet. Stonewall take advantage of the Phoenix change-ups and start to pressure the Phoenix goal, a low corner makes it’s way into the six-yard box where the Stonewall centre back swivels it towards goal, super stopper Steve gathers it expertly, scare over…
But more is to come, gaps start to appear at the back which allows Stonewall a snapshot but again Super Stopper Steve earns his name with flying fingertips to push it round the post. Capable Simon takes a knock but before we can make the change the final whistle is blown.
A 1-1 draw is a satisfactory result but it could’ve maybe should’ve been more. Perhaps if Non Grunt Nicky and Capable Simon used more grunts to effect that long throw, maybe Luke needs to bleed more perhaps? We definitely missed Callum’s left foot today which may have been nullified by Stonewall. Casey’s tenacity in the centre was a miss but family is important and babysitters aren’t always available! Still unbeaten and a big improvement from last week especially in the communication and defensive pressure absorption. Non Grunt Nicky and Martin were wonderful additions and both played well, as did everyone yet again!
Video link to the wonderfully professional Stonewall highlight footage of the game!
Speedie’s controversial man of the match award.
I’m calling this controversial because you’ll all vote on Teamer anyway so there’ll be two men of the match awards which is nice isn’t it? Javi informed me it was Rash who ushered Stokey’s danger man to the corner flag last week, I’m fairly sure it was Capable Simon but then again it was a pretty crazy game! This week I’m giving it to Non-Grunt Nicky who should’ve had a hat trick but regardless played well holding the ball up, playing in others, skillfully evading the Stonewall defense and he ran all day long. They didn’t like it back there, his strength was immense and Stonewall will not look forward to playing against him again!
Bring on next week and let’s continue this unbeaten start to the season!