Last Saturday, Priory Park’s playboys donned their shiny, new, red cup kit for a game that seemed nothing more than a dead rubber with PPR having already qualified as group winners in the league cup. But the only dead rubbers last weekend were the ones still lodged up Dan Gomme from the night before; Priory Park wanted to win this game to prevent Fanatics qualification to the next round, arguable more important to the club than winning the competition itself.
With South East England officially in drought, Saturday was the first time Priory Park would play in rainy conditions all season and the question many pundits have been asking, whether PPR can they do it on a cold, rainy afternoon in Wandsworth would be answered. After 20 minutes Andrew Meddings, PPR’s main threat in their last outing against Rogers Rovers answered this with a resounding NO! After latching on to a finely placed through-ball from Allan, Meddings had time to pick his spot as he bore down on goal and then inexplicably passed wide to Baker who forced a fine save from the Fanatics keeper.
PPR never really got into their usual tiki-taka style but still managed to cause the Fanatics’ defence problems from set pieces with Baker going close from a corner and minutes later Gomme opening PPRs account with a trademark goal from Byrnes dispatch into the six yard box.
By this point Nils Tomkins was lucky to have still been on the pitch having been momentarily given a red card by the referee only for it to be rescinded in favour of a yellow after appeals from both sets of players. Whilst many will have seen Fanatics behaviour in this instance as an admirable show of sportsmanship the Priory Park players saw it for what it really was; a mind game aimed at gaining friendship from the PPR team and weakening Priory resolve. Priory would not fall for such dirty tactics and would attack every ball more vehemently and with greater resolve than ever. It was in doing this that Nils Tomkins was harshly penalised for handball inside the area thus conceding a penalty and giving Fanatics hope that they were still in the game. Fanatics’ penalty taker stepped up and struck the ball against the post then following up by converting the rebounding ball – free kick to PPR and excellent refereeing!
In a bid to keep more of the ball PPR introduced ball playing centre backs Alex Lloyd and James Havers at half time, meanwhile changing from 4-4-2 in to their more familiar 4-5-1 to allow for more options in midfield. The changes had the desired effect with PPR dominating the middle of the park in the second half as well as some assured performances from Lloyd and Havers in their new partnership at the back. However, PPR failed to carve out any opportunities of note and the game looked to be fizzling out when Allan was dismissed for a professional foul with the Fanatics striker through on goal 20 minutes from time. The final minutes saw PPR weather a storm of attacks from a Fanatics team desperate to get a win and qualify to the next round. Priory defended resolutely and despite pressure Fanatics never forced a save from PPRs stalwart keeper Murdock with the game ending 0-1.
In summary, Priory Park looked stunning in their new kit, player like James Flynn and Carsten Tomkins undoubtedly have careers in modelling waiting for them when they finally decide to hang up the boots. Yet the football was far from stunning and PPR ground out a win whilst showing that, on that Saturday anyway, PPR could not do it on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Wandsworth. The Owls fans will be hoping for improved performances as PPR advance into the quarter finals of the cup or at least hoping that the drought in South East England continues.
Clearly Gommey's heart to heart with Owly on Friday was an inspiration. Winning every tackle and getting the only goal of the game. He became the first Priory Park Ranger to kiss the coveted crest. It was a bit weird how he kissed it with an open mouth though.
PPR donned their brand new away strip against Fanatics on Saturday, and by golly how it lifted the spirit ahead of the game. Excellent work by PPR Chairman Tom Barnes.
Blood is thicker than water. Following another pre-game scuffle in the changing room, manager Carsten Tomkins apologised for all his wrong-doings and agreed to clean Tomkins Jnr's boots for him as a submissive gesture.