A sunlight dappled Owl’s Nest was to set the stage for PPR’s battle to regain momentum in the league and claw back some much needed pride after their disappointing draw to Birkbeck College the week before.The opposition, Upbirds FC, have had some impressive results of late and with a few games in hand, were looking to cause an upset at the top of the table. But after a typically stirring speech from Tomkins Snr the boys in blue descended on the pitch full of energy, raring to play with the words ringing clear in their minds ‘We’re the only ornithological related team in this league!’
The warm up, as usual, was top notch. Fully stretched, limber and everyone’s touch firmly set confidence was high amongst the players. With the opposition also looking warmed up after setting up BBQ’s in stereotypical Clapham Common behaviour, all that was left to do was wait for the ref. And wait we did.....
After a further 15 minutes had passed, the tension had got too much for Jacko who decided it was absolutely essential to take a piss as close to the by-line as possible - apologies to Meds and Goddard on the left wing are due.
Another 10 minutes passed before the referee arrived but in fairness, he was probably the best ref we’ve have had this season.
The game got underway with some great football from both sides and not a lot to call between the two. The first major event of the game came at 20 minutes when one of their impressive central midfielders nicked it past PPR’s midfield leaving only Nils in his way to sort the mess. Possibly out of frustration, possibly for a laugh, Nils hoofed him in his ankle as hard as he could. Unfortunately it was in the box and they were, justly, awarded a penalty which they converted. 1-0 Upbirds.
Unfazed by the goal PPR continued to play neat football which ended up in the Upbirds keeper spilling a shot which the effervescent Jonny was unable to follow up on in time. Continuing to drive pressure on the Upbirds back line looked as though it was going to pay off after Carsten whipped a vicious cross into the 6 yard box for Byrnie’s glancing header. Although he caught it perfectly, the keeper managed to get in front of it and kept it out. Another let off for Upbirds.
Shortly after this and against the run of play, Upbirds score. 2-0.
Yet again unperturbed by the score, PPR continue to press and yet again create a chance with Jonny hitting the post on 41mins. Getting closer and although the score line looks bad, PPR end the half confident that they can claw back a result here.
PPR come out firing on all cylinders for the second half and manage to grab a goal after Flynn latched on to a Meds’ flick on in the box. 2-1. And all is still to play for.
But no, another setback as Nils is carted off the pitch suffering from a clash of knees. Paul is on to fill in the size 10’s left behind, of which he does a magnificent job.
Maybe a telling sign of losing one of our best aerial players, PPR concede a headed corner shortly after Nils leaves the pitch. 3-1. PPR continue to show the fighting spirit that fans have become accustomed to and with the introduction of Ash, we continue to make chances.
One of which being a fine header from PPR’s most in form player, Ash, which unfortunately now counts against his previously perfect record.
The final nail in PPR’s coffin comes late on as Jacko is on the receiving end of a tackle PPR fans may be used to seeing the likes of the Tomkins brothers dishing out. Ending the PPR skipper’s match and probably the next - judging by the swelling of his ankle after the game.
The final whistle blows and, deflated, PPR leave the pitch having conceded the 3 points to an impressive opponent. With some good positives to take away from the game, however, all is not lost.
The opportunity to redeem our dignity on the 31st March is something all of the PPR faithful will be relishing.Man of the Match was awarded to young James Flynn for his tireless pressing and drive in the middle of the park.Whilst perhaps somewhat cruely, PPR nominated the usually heroic stronghold guardian Neil Murdock for Dick of the Day. Why? Because he failed to save a penalty.
They've done it before and now they'll have to do it again. PPR will need to invite the dark spirit of the Hawk Owl into their souls ahead of this weekend's rematch with Upbirds FC if they're to end their maiden season on a high note and teach their hosts the meaning of revenge.