I think Iain put it as well as it could be after the game, simply saying "one of the best Pannal Ash performances ever seen". Sam Hardman similarly summarised very well in the post-game team talk: "If we play like that every week, we will win a lot of games".
The records will show this as a 2-1 defeat yet we walked away from the game today in very high spirits. We were resilient, creative, sometimes fortunate - but always committed. Today's was a game played in the best of spirits by two teams eager to make a positive start to the new season. I have to take my hat off (for the first time in a while) to the referee too, an excellent performance from him helped keep the boys focused on the positive side of the game. All in all, this was exactly what junior football, actually football should be.
We conceded a goal towards the end of the first half that was a little tough to take at the time. Our back three defended resolutely all day aside from this slight lapse in focus and strength. In fairness to their striker, he battled showed very good individual strength to lean his marker out of the way enough to squeeze a shot under PJ from around the penalty spot. At the beginning of last season, this would have been the start of a capitulation resulting in a 7-0 defeat. This however, is a very different Pannal Ash Blues. This is the Pannal Ash Blues that only suffered one defeat in the 11 v 11 tournament last season and finished the year with a very respectable run in the league and cup. The second goal came in the first minute of the second half; this is still a weakness of ours. We have to defend better in minute 1’ and minute 36’ generally; I will let them off this week however as the goal was pure class. A quick, well timed ball down the flank matched with an accurate first time cross and solid header at the near post. No chance for PJ. Our goal was arguably the best though. Ben Wilson tried his very best to convince his dad after the game that he was aiming for the inside of the left-hand post from all of 35 yards, but I will let you decide for yourselves on that one. Either way, it was a stunning freekick that set us up for an exciting finale. The boys came very close to equalising in the last 5 minutes and Wetherby were definitely the team willing the final whistle on, despite having the fresher legs.
Now it is time to let you know we achieved this with only 10 men. The opposition conceded that with 11, we would have come away with 3 points today; I can’t really disagree with that. James MacGregor, Rory Davison and Toby Wood were phenomenal at the back, Isaac Bull was a nightmare for their defence all match and when we put our foot on the ball the midfield three of Seb Calder, Ben Wilson and Louie Shea-McKee really played some attractive football. We had two solid performers on the flanks today, Sam Hardman could easily have had an assist in the first half but for some great goalkeeping from the Wetherby #1, Ben Connor made some crucial interceptions and battled very well in the second half despite been matched up with a player three times his size! PJ? Well, PJ was PJ. Acrobatic, composed on the ball (sometimes a bit too much for my liking with his FIFA-esque dribbling) and brave as a lion throughout.
There has to be a special mention here for Harry Ledger. Due to administrative issues at League HQ, he was unable to play today. Rather than spit his dummy out and go home to play COD or FIFA, Harry stayed and supported his team mates along with the visiting Reds – Max & Brook. This just further demonstrates the spirit we have in this squad. Roll on next week!
For the record, Teamstats.net will only let me pick one MOTM but this week it has been split between Rory & James.