Home cup match played on 27 April 2014.
Kicked off at 11:00 AM

After a disappointing showing before Easter Phoenix Lions were back in Silver Shield action again this week. Having beaten Teviot but lost to Long Lane, opponents this week were from the A division in the shape of Footscray Lions so a stern test was ahead if Phoenix were to bounce back.

The grass was long and the markings on the pitch could barely be seen so with Phoenix not having enjoyed many wins at home, this certainly wouldn’t help them improve that record, not to mention be a nightmare for the referee and linesmen.

Long term injuries meant Archie Roast and Jai Carter were missing but defensive pair Charlie Hanmore and Euan Corbett-Smith – who both missed the Long Lane fixture – returned.

Josh Anderson was between the sticks this week with a back 4 in front of him of sweeper Charlie Hanmore flanked by Euan Corbett-Smith and Tom Wray. Protecting them in the centre of midfield were Ben Chesley and George Dennington with James Ash on the left and Jack Whitman on the right providing the width. Leading scorer Henry Powell took up the lone striker position. Oscar Hart was on the bench waiting to join the action.

Kick Off

From the start, Footscray looked a yard sharper and Phoenix were on the back foot almost immediately. Tom failed to clear the ball and the Footscray winger nicked it off him and hit a superb left footed shot over Josh Anderson. Barely 2 minutes on the clock and Phoenix were rocked. Phoenix 0 Footscray 1.

After the shocking start, Footscray seized the initiative and were hitting balls through for their speedy number 8. It looked like it could be a long afternoon for the Phoenix boys.

However, as the half wore on, Phoenix found their feet and started to play their passing game. Charlie marshalled the back line well, giving nothing away and Euan and Tom were getting up and down from their full back positions.  Ben and George were getting stuck in and playing the simple balls. Jack was getting wide and James and Henry clearly had the beating of the Footscray backline with their pace, it was just a matter of finding the right pass. Henry found guilty on a couple of occasions of holding onto the ball too long.

A great move saw James get down the left and cross in for Henry to finish but the ball had gone out of play – in fairness signalled very early by the linesman – so the goal was disallowed but at least showed Phoenix they could score. The pitch markings proving controversial but wouldn’t be the first time that afternoon.

Eventually after 25 minutes and with half time approaching, Phoenix got a deserved equaliser albeit from an unlikely source. Some good interplay between Henry and Jack saw the ball fall to Euan who had bombed up from the back to dispatch a neat finish past the Footscray keeper. Phoenix 1 Footscray 1.

Happy they had got level before the break it got even better for Phoenix almost immediately. An error from the Footscray defence saw Henry chasing down the lost cause and get there just as the defender and oncoming keeper collided. The ball bounced up off Henry and over the line to give Phoenix the lead. Phoenix 2 Footscray 1.

Given the shocking start, it had been a superb comeback from Phoenix.

Half Time – Phoenix Lions 2 Footscray Lions 1

Oscar Hart came on for Henry Powell at the start of the second half and offered a new dimension with his good range of passing.

Jack was also finding more space this half but it was James who gave Phoenix some breathing space. He latched onto a good through ball, beat 2 defenders and slotted neatly past the Footscray keeper. Phoenix 3 Footscray 1.

With the confidence of his goal and knowing he could beat his man every time, James was running riot. Constantly finding space on the left and making some great runs, gliding past stranded defenders. He could and probably should have had 3 or 4 goals. James tried to score every type of goal in a superb 10 minute spell - blasted shots, placed shots, chips – but each was met by good saves or narrowly missed the target. It was a Bale-esque solo performance but he had been ably support by the team who kept their shape really well and worked hard all game.

Constant substitutions had seemed to disrupt Footscray but the final change for them swung the game back in their favour. Number 15 (a school colleague of keeper Josh and District Team mate of Charlie) had come into the backline to ensure no further damage but was also bringing the ball out of defence superbly. So much that his manager decided to move him up, get hold of the ball and run at Phoenix.

First he placed a neat pass down the left which saw the Footscray winger collect the ball and run but Tom showed superb athletiscm to get back and make the tackle. A tackle which the ref deemed unfair (Tom nearly twice his size) and the number 15 took the kick. As he chipped it forward the Footscray winger hit a hopeful shot which Charlie saw go over his head but it also went over Josh’s head and in. Phoenix 3 Footscray 2.

The referee looked at his watch and signalled there was 1 minute left. Sure enough, time for another late scare – something Phoenix seem to do to themselves most weeks.

Footscray went on the attack again and it was number 15 who had the ball clean through on goal. As he got near the area, both Tom and Charlie took him out and the ref blew his whistle. Footscray wanted a penalty, Phoenix claimed it was outside the box. With the pitch markings being appalling, the referee took a close look before deciding on a free-kick. This time the pitch markings working in Phoenix favour.

The wall was lined up and with Assistant Manager Martyn screaming instructions from the side-lines, Phoenix got ready for the shot. Luckily, it came to nothing and the defence was able to clear the danger.

The referee blew his whistle for the end of the game and Phoenix had risen again.

Full Time – Phoenix Lions 3 Footscray Lions 2

A great win for the Lions and a superb team performance. Even though the continued absence of 2 players meant the rest had to play additional time, the training of Jason and Martin on fitness and their philosophy of playing a passing game paid off.

They showed they can match any team on their day – even ones from the league above – and bodes well for next season with Jason and Martyns new competitive edge.

Unfortunately this looks like it could be the final competitive fixture of the season for the boys with Selkent having suspended any meaningless league games (despite us having one to play) and with the Lions being short of players for the upcoming weekends final Shield fixture.

Friendlies could be arranged to see the boys up to the end of May before the tour to Butlins.

If it is to be the final fixture, at least it was a good way to end the season and we can all look forward to next September with renewed optimism.

Come on you Lions!!

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