This document has been written to help improve the League, providing a clear blueprint for accepted rules and expected conduct for both players and clubs. The document does not cover every eventuality and as the London Unity League continues to develop, so will this document via feedback and suggestions by clubs partaking in its running.

Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Soho FC, LUL Champions 2018/19

Soho’s title defence got off to a poor start as they succumbed to a 3-2 defeat to a spirited Stonewall side at Barn Elms on Sunday (1 September).

The defeat is an ominous sign for a Soho side which has now lost three consecutive competitive games dating back to last season, and is without a number of key players, including captain and last season’s player of the year, James Riley, and league top scorer Cameron, both lost to injury.

The former’s absence was felt early on, with disorganisation plaguing the base of the Soho midfield and their back four; within fifteen minutes, both central midfielders Dan Soile and Bjørn were caught pressing too high, leaving space for the Stonewall forwards to run at the heart of the Soho defence. The defenders failed to clear their lines, forcing goalkeeper Will to come charging out to challenge the home side’s forward, bringing them down and conceding a penalty.

While Will was able to keep out the penalty with a smart save, Stonewall were able to take advantage of the Soho laxness minutes later, their forwards able to run through the centre of the visitors’ defence once more. This time, the defenders had a number of chances to clear the ball, but failed to do so, eventually leaving space for a Stonewall forward to poke in from close range, and give the home side a deserved lead.

Soho tried to press back for an equaliser, and had a number of opportunities throughout the first half to get a goal back. Centre-back AJ nearly scored from his own half, his long ball deflecting off the Stonewall keeper’s hands and onto the crossbar, and debutant Jonathan swung in a number of corners to trouble the home side’s defenders. James was the liveliest threat for the visitors; while the lone striker was left isolated for much of the half, he pressed defenders, chased down loose balls and generally made a nuisance of himself in the Stonewall half, an impressive feat considering his own injury history that led to his legs being comprised of more neoprene strapping than flesh on Sunday.

However, Soho’s pressure came to nothing, and Stonewall were able to double their lead midway through the second half. Centre-back Charlie headed a Stonewall clearance away just inside the Soho half, but the ball bounced into an empty space between the other Soho defenders and a Stonewall forward. The forward won the footrace, picked up the ball and sprinted into the Soho half, before finishing around a helpless Will to make it 2-0.

Unhappy with the direction of play, coach Connor – standing in for Austen and Gez, whose annual scouting trip to Ibiza meant they could not be at the game in person – made a first-half change, replacing debutant Jonathan with another making his Soho bow, Aiden, who immediately introduced aggression and mobility to the Soho midfield. He linked up well with James, creating a number of chances for the forward, but the pair were unable to cut into the Stonewall lead before the break, and the home side went in two goals up.

At half-time, another debutant, Dio, was introduced for Dan Hall on the right wing, and the pace of both Soho substitutes was a constant threat for the home side. However, as the visitors pressed for goals, they left the already overwhelmed back four increasingly isolated, the nominal 4-3-2-1 often resembling a 4-2-4, with only the marauding Dan Soile and Bjørn anywhere near the Soho back four. This buccaneering approach was punished early in the second half, with Stonewall finding a winger in space on the left from a well-worked routine, who smashed a shot past Will at the near post to give their side a three-goal cushion.

However, the visitors refused to lie down, and continued pressing the Stonewall players in possession, and looking to find either the runs of Aiden and Dio in behind, or the forehead of James backing into the Stonewall centre-halves. A couple of excellent long balls from Will befuddled the Stonewall defenders, and soon both Dio and Aiden had capitalised on the space behind the home side’s defence to score in quick succession, leaving the score 3-2 with ten minutes to go.

At this point, Stonewall pushed their defence back a dozen yards, and dropped an additional defender in to shore up the heart of their defence, a 4-3-3 morphing to a 5-4-1 as they looked to see out the game. From this point, they were much more composed under the high ball, and the congestion in the middle of the pitch – with the Soho midfielders, Aiden, substitute forward Wingy and myself, introduced on the left but prone to cutting infield – making it difficult for the visitors to make much headway.

The home side were also supremely clinical with regards to slowing the game down, taking the ball towards the corner flags, and generally disrupting an increasingly exasperated Soho attack in the closing stages. They also posed a significant threat on the counter with their pace and direct passing, and required Will to come charging out of his box to clean out a forward who had sprung the offside trap in the closing stages; Will was lucky to avoid so much as a yellow card for the foul, and meant that he could end the game with he curious statistical performance of having committed two fouls as the last player, not so much as received a booking, and saved a penalty, in a performance that will have thoroughly confused the algorithm behind the London Unity League fantasy football app.

However, the visitors remained optimistic that a chance would come and, sure enough, it did. Unfortunately for Soho, however, that chance fell to myself.

A late corner swung into the penalty area somehow looped over the five Stonewall defenders to myself, unmarked, on the penalty spot; imaging the accolades that would fall my way should I score, and the headlines that I myself would write in praise of my impending triumph, I took my eye off the ball and headed it onto my own shoulder, from where it dribbled limply past the post. This was the 93rdminute, and proved to be our last chance, as the referee blew the final whistle moments later.

The victory sees Stonewall occupy fourth place in the expanded nine-team league following one round of matches, with all but one side, Charlton, seeing action on the league’s opening weekend. They will visit London Romans on the 15thof September, while Soho will play a second away fixture this weekend against Titans 2Brewers, a game that will pit last season’s league champions and runners up against one another. With both sides losing their opening game – Soho to Stonewall and Titans to Romans – it could prove to be a decisive fixture early in the season.

“My name is Casey and I’m a ‘they’” – read an interview with our reporter.

LUL Gallery – insider images of possibly the friendliest and most fun football league in London.

Want to start up your own LGBT+-friendly football club? Read here how to do it.

Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Soho FC with the LUL Champions’ Shield

With the London Unity League title already secured, Soho had only the glory of an undefeated season to play for heading into their final game of the campaign, on 12 May, but this dream came crashing down around them as Titans 2Brewers stormed to a 4-0 victory at Hackney Marshes.

The game began in inauspicious circumstances for the home side, with an experimental lineup seeing Dan Hall thrust onto the wing having just returned from holiday, defender Charlie given a starring role in central midfield, and Connor, he who had scored the winner against Titans XXL, not that he likes to tell you about it, mind, starting up front. This rotated selection proved effective immediately, with Titans scoring from a corner after about 73 seconds.

The visitors continued to apply pressure to the Soho defenders, their wingers pressed so high up the pitch as to drive the home side’s wing-backs into full-backs, flattening the Soho shape. This gave the visitors a numerical overload in a number of areas, their three central midfielders overrunning the two in the middle of the pitch for Soho, with their front three able to operate in the channels between wide central defenders and wing-backs dragged out of position, unaccustomed as they were to being on the back foot.

However, this left spaces for Soho’s forwards, Rash, Lorcan and Connor, to operate going the other way, and had their share of chances to equalise in the first half. Connor nearly split the Titans defence with a through ball after eight minutes, and a long ball from goalkeeper Will found Lorcan in behind the Titans defenders, but he was unable to finish.

Despite these chances, it was Titans who scored next, first doubling, and then tripling, their lead in quick succession. The visitors built a nice move down their left wing, before their forward cut inside and fired a shot across the goal into the far corner; and minutes later, a long ball bounced over one cohort of the Soho defenders, before a forward dribbled past the last defender standing and slotted home to make it 3-0 after half an hour.

What was most concerning for Soho, however, was that many of these chances came through individual errors, rather than systematic flaws exploited by the opposition; with Titans playing what looked to be a hybrid 4-3-3 / 4-2-4, Soho, even in an ultra-defensive shape, should have had the numbers to avoid being overwhelmed across the back line. But missed headers and poor tackling offered the visitors a chance to stamp their authority on the match, which they did.

The remainder of the first half followed much of the same pattern, with Soho not able to finish their chances, and Titans threatening on the counter. While the home side switched to a 4-4-2 at the break to relieve pressure on their battered wing-backs, this tactical shift did little to prevent the visitors from scoring from another free header at a corner, making it 4-0 with just five minutes played in the second half. The goal was Titans’ 49thof the season, a total good enough for second in the league behind Soho, their own total somewhat inflated by the 11-0 victory over East End Phoenix.

While Soho continued to push for a goal to spark an unlikely comeback, and eventually just a consolation goal as time ticked away in the second half, their efforts went unrewarded. Lorcan was unable to add to his tally of 14 league goals and overtake teammate Cameron in the league’s top scorer charts, and the match drew to a close with Soho failing to score in any game for the first time this season.

However, the Soho players comforted themselves with the knowledge that the title had been secured ahead of the game, thanks to a five-point gap over Titans before kick-off. The team was presented with the London Unity League shield, which had been lovingly perched on a stepladder by the kit bags along the touchline throughout the game, and medals were passed out to most of the assembled players, the league not having sufficiently considered the prodigious depth of the Soho squad in their ordering of silverware, so a few members of the team will have to wait for a second delivery of medals in the near future.

Soho’s season ended atop the league table, two points clear of Titans 2Brewers, who themselves enjoyed an excellent season, finishing well clear of third place and winning the league cup. The Oranges can now add their name to a shield containing such luminaries as Charlton and, for some reason, Bournemouth, proud winners of the London-based league from years gone by.

While 2Brewers now face a lengthy offseason ahead of next year’s campaign, Soho have a final competitive game this season, the GFSN Cup final in a week’s time against East End Phoenix, as they look to complete a league and cup double.

“My name is Casey and I’m a ‘they’” – read an interview with our reporter.

LUL Gallery – insider images of possibly the friendliest and most fun football league in London.

Want to start up your own LGBT+-friendly football club? Read here how to do it.

Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

The result that secured the London Unity League title for Soho FC, last weekend, bore a striking similarity to the game which started the Oranges’ successful campaign, now bookended by closely-fought victories over London Romans. In September, Soho had come from behind to snatch a 3-2 win at Regent’s Park and on Sunday, at a pitch backing onto a running track at the New River Sport and Fitness Centre, in front of a capacity crowd of about ten, the Oranges won 5-2 to win the first league title in their history.

Spirits were high in the Soho camp, as the team knew that nothing short of a complete capitulation involving back-to-back defeats, in this game and next week against Titans 2Brewers, would see them fail to win the league, and the team carried this confidence into the game’s early stages. Following a brief delay, during which players and officials frantically pegged in the goal nets to bring up them up to what the referee considered snuff, the visitors attacked down the right, top scorer Lorcan heading over from an early cross from Kevin.

Minutes later Rash, moved onto the left wing from his usual position behind the front two, swung a corner under the Romans bar, and again Lorcan was on hand to not quite put the ball in the back of the net. Centre-back AJ – he of the totally purposeful goal from the half-way line earlier in the season – then misjudged a header of his own, sending the ball bouncing into the path of a Romans forward, whose shot was saved by Will in the Soho goal; the opening exchanges melted the Soho optimism away to nervy fatalism.

However, a hallmark of this Soho team’s success this year has been its tactical flexibility, and the seemingly random deployment of players in positions on the pitch once more yielded dividends. Bjørn, doing his best impression of a young Phil Jagielka, having played in goal, in defence, central midfield and the wing prior to today, was deployed behind the strikers, and clipped a fine ball to the back post from the edge of the penalty area after 12 minutes. League top scorer – yes, league specifically, he will remind you of that – Cameron was on hand to head home, and give Soho an early lead.

Bjørn continued to menace the Romans defence, finding Lorcan minutes later with a nearly identical move, and doubling the Soho lead on 22 minutes with a goal of his own from outside the area. With something of a cushion the Soho fans, who today counted among their number the ever-present Soho Ultras, family members of those playing, and people who I actually met for the first time on the touchline, found their voice, enthusiastically celebrating whenever the ball would roll out for a throw-in and down the small embankments flanking two sides of the pitch.

While the cries of “Down the hill!” were entertaining off the pitch, Soho continued to put on a show on the pitch, stringing together a beautiful move countering a Romans corner seeing Cameron, Lorcan and Kev combining to play Bjørn in behind, only for the excellent Romans keeper to dart from his line and smother the final ball.

Yet the visitors would not be denied, Rash swinging in his second impressive cross of the afternoon, this one from open play, which bounced off the head of a hapless Romans defender as they tried to clear their lines; the ball ballooned backwards in a very aesthetically pleasing arc, dipping in under the bar and over the keeper to add a third to the Soho tally before half-time.

The second half continued in much the same manner, with Romans pressing hard for a deserved goal back and Soho able to exploit the space in behind the overstretched home side. Kevin connected with a long pass to Lorcan, whose flick to Cameron skidded too close to the Romans goalkeeper, before Cameron pounced on a rebounded Lorcan shot, only for his effort to be cleared off the line. His goal aside, it was beginning to look like one of those days where it just wouldn’t go in for the forward.

However, the it would soon indeed go in for Soho, with Rash again bewildering the Romans defence with a fine corner swung into the box, which Lorcan headed home to make it four.

The home side did not let their heads drop, and their play had not warranted a four-goal deficit after an hour, and they quickly rebounded. The Romans forwards pressed the Soho defenders on a ball into the Soho box, at which point Charlie swung a leg at the ball, which spun back into the grateful arms of Will. The referee judged this to have been an intentional backpass, which were it to be the case would have been the most ambitious trivela attempted this side of Ricardo Quaresma.

Yet the indirect free kick was given and, despite the home side’s gallant blast at the bundle of bodies Soho had placed on the line to defend the set piece, the orange wall held. Minutes later, however, Romans picked up a deserved goal, driving down their right wing into the space vacated by our leggy midfield, and cutting back for a forward to poke home from inside the box.

Both teams added another goal before the final whistle, Rash finding Bjørn on the Soho left, who cut back for Lorcan to add his second of the game, before the home side were able to pass their way through the heart of the Soho defence, and finish neatly to make the final score 5-2 to the visitors.

The result guaranteed Soho the title, who have dropped just two points all season, and sit atop the league table with a five point gap over Titans 2Brewers, who have one more game to play. Soho and 2Brewers, who played out a thrilling 3-2 contest earlier in the year, will meet next weekend to conclude both side’s seasons. Romans, meanwhile, have two more games to play, against East End Phoenix and Titans XXL, and currently sit in third place, just a point ahead of Phoenix having played one more game.

“My name is Casey and I’m a ‘they’” – read an interview with our reporter.

LUL Gallery – insider images of possibly one of the friendliest and fun football leagues in London.

Want to start up your own LGBT+-friendly football club? Read here how to do it.

Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Smiling Soho FC

Soho’s emphatic 11-0 win over East End Phoenix at Hackney Marshes, on Sunday 14th April, preserved the Oranges’ two-point lead at the top of the London Unity League, while eliminating the league cup finalists from the title race.

The match threatened to be an awkward encounter for Soho, who boasted a perfect record in three competitions this season before coming up against Phoenix in the league and cup, who were able to secure two draws and a victory on penalties, against the Oranges. However, the home side was not deterred and started the game at a ferocious pace, striker Lorcan harassing the Phoenix defenders early on and teeing up winger Kevin, who fired over from just inside the box.

Hard running and aggressive tackling were hallmarks of the Soho team, which featured considerable height and muscle throughout the team. Attacking midfielder Rash was pushed out to one flank to accommodate a three-strong central midfield of Dan Soile, Sam and Kieran, who stomped around the middle of the park, pressing Phoenix midfielders without the ball, and striding stony-faced through the lines with the ball, opposing players toiling around their ankles like lost climbers inching their way up the Himalayas.

However, Phoenix were not without merit, and showed early on why they had averaged more than three goals a game coming into the match. James pushed out of defence to pursue a loose ball, leaving space in behind that was quickly covered by a retreating Dan, and later in the half, a long ball thoroughly befuddled both defenders and goalkeeper, leaving space for a Phoenix forward to strike a shot towards and empty net, only for it to be dramatically hacked off the line by James.

Soho took the lead after 11 minutes through Kevin who, despite firing two shots over the bar in the opening eight minutes, was a constant menace on the Soho right; he pulled wide, dragging the full-back with him, before finding Lorcan charging into the channel between full-back and centre-half. Lorcan drilled a cross for his strike partner, Cameron, who poked home from around three blades of grass out from the line.

The two forwards’ roles were reversed hardly a minute later, as Cameron turned presser and provider, turning over possession deep in the Phoenix half and threading a through ball into Lorcan, who finished smartly.

A third came just three minutes later, as Kevin jinked into the penalty area before being brought down; the challenge could be described as one of those “where you see them given”, but before the referee could respond, Kieran scooped up the loose ball and fired home. Five minutes after that, Lorcan fired a screamer into the Phoenix yet from some distance, giving Soho a four-goal lead after just 21 minutes.

The shadowy masterminds behind the Soho machine had stressed the importance of starting and finishing each half with additional vigour, and once the fourth went in, Soho began to relent, Cameron coming the closest to a fifth with a speculative volley from range. This was also the period where Phoenix enjoyed a spell of possession and produced the chance James had to clear off the line.

Soho kicked on towards the end of the first half and blitzed a further three goals in the last seven minutes before the break. First, Kieran doubled his personal tally, running onto a through ball from Lorcan and colliding with the Phoenix goalkeeper and defender in a big heap, out of which the ball dribbled into the net; then Lorcan completed his hat-trick by heading home a corner whipped in by Rash; and the pair repeated the trick from open play on the stroke of half time, Rash beating his man on the wing and finding Lorcan in space in the box.

By half-time, the score was 7-0, and I had exhausted the array of “surprised” emojis available on the Android keyboard in my notes.

Soho didn’t make any changes for the second half and continued to press hard from the restart, again looking to overwhelm the opponents in the early stages of the half. They were rewarded with another two goals, with Lorcan adding his fifth from a corner, this swung in from Kev on the opposite site, and Kieran completing a hat-trick of his own from yet another corner, this one a Rash delivery flicked on by Lorcan. This goal equalled the club’s record for goals in a league game and there were still 35 minutes left to play.

The second half became scrappier as Soho began to make changes, with Dan Hall introduced in the Kieran role behind the strikers for the latter stages; he dribbled into penalty area and was clipped by a Phoenix defender and the referee pointed to the spot. Unmoved by the pressure of making Soho history and the spectre of his own barren goalscoring record heading into the game, Dan immediately picked up the ball, set it down on the spot and dispatched it coolly.

In the closing stages, Rash set up substitute Bjørn to make it 11 with a neat finish from inside the area, but by then the result was well beyond doubt.

A somewhat shellshocked Phoenix, and a disbelieving Soho, left the field having earned a host of new club records: most goals in a game, largest winning margin, most points in a season and most wins in a season. Soho now have two more games to secure the title, against third-placed Romans, who were also eliminated from title contention by the game’s result, and second-placed Titans 2Brewers. Soho hold a two-point lead over 2Brewers with a game in hand – 2Brewers’ final game is against Soho on what is expected to be the last day of the season – and will be confident about their chances.

Phoenix have three more games this season, including both games against Romans and a clash with Titans XXL, ahead of their league cup final against 2Brewers.

“My name is Casey and I’m a ‘they’” – read an interview with our reporter.

LUL Gallery – insider images of possibly one of the friendliest and fun football leagues in London.

Want to start up your own LGBT+-friendly football club? Read here how to do it.

Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Soho FC got back to winning ways in the London Unity League on Sunday 7 April, defeating Charlton Invicta 4-0 at their home-away-from-home, Hackney Marshes.

Having won just one of their last three games – a GFSN Cup semi-final victory after a league draw and Unity League Cup defeat to East End Phoenix – Soho came into the match eager to return to form.

The game had been moved from the Oranges’ usual home of Regent’s Park due to the removal of goalposts by grounds staff with a greater interest in beginning the cricket season than closing the football season, and the match began cloaked in the usual chilly atmosphere and ominous fog one could expect from a venue that sounds like it has been plucked from a Dickens novel.

Unfazed by their surroundings, however, Soho began enthusiastically, striker Cameron finding space in the Charlton penalty area in less time after kick-off than it took me to type “Soho vs Charlton notes” on my phone. However, he pulled the chance wide, keeping the scores level.

Soho continued on the front foot, building on their impressive GFSN Cup semi-final victory two weeks prior. The game in Dublin saw Charlie and Phil pushed wide on the flanks, and both continued their fine form in this game, Charlie darting in behind the Charlton defence after five minutes to reach a through ball from midfielder Kieran, but failing to find a Soho head with his cross.

The rest of the team’s forwards did as much defensively as offensively, harassing the visitors’ defenders and consistently turning over possession. Lorcan won the ball off the Charlton left-back and crossed for Rash, he who earlier in the season scored an actual header with his actual head, who was unable to double his tally of headed goals for the season.

The deadlock was broken after 12 minutes, when a long ball from goalkeeper Will bounced emphatically over the Charlton back line, and Lorcan was the first to react. He was able to round the keeper and finish smartly, taking his goalscoring tally to five in two games following his four-goal hall in Dublin.

Soho continued to press the Charlton defence, but with the home side unable to extend their lead and the visitors not threatening on the break, the game began to devolve into a scrappy affair. Both sides grew frustrated with what they perceived to be overly physical challenges from the opposition, and a lack of attacking coherence from their teammates, and a Charlton midfielder was eventually booked for kicking the ball away for all things.

Tempers threatened to flare up on the sidelines when the Soho coaching staff, egged on by a group claiming to be the Soho Ultras – in reality two blokes leaning on a step ladder just off the pitch – squared up to a frustrated Charlton player, but the tension quickly evaporated.

As the heat went out of the afternoon, a game of football broke out, and Soho doubled, and then tripled, their lead in the second half. Rash swung in a corner after 37 minutes that caused all manner of chaos in the Charlton box, which allowed Cameron to score a poacher’s finish. Four minutes later, captain James sent a long ball into the Charlton half, clearly having taken notes from Will’s assist to open the scoring, which was picked up by Cameron, who fired home to make it 3-0.

With seconds to go in the first half, Lorcan looked to put the game beyond doubt by attempting an audacious lob from some distance, but he mishit the shot, and Soho went in at the break three goals up.

The second half started in much the same manner as the first had ended, with a high Soho press suffocating the Charlton defenders, and a hugely impressive Kieran at the base of the Oranges’ midfield sweeping up any loose balls that made it past the first line of pressure. While the first half had been marred by positional incoherency, with Kieran’s midfield partner Bjørn at one point advancing with such gusto as to literally run into Rash, the midfield was more settled after the restart.

Five minutes into the second half, a fourth came as centre-back AJ became the latest player to take a direct route to the Charlton penalty area. His long ball was flicked on by Rash – there’s that actual header! – and into the path of Cameron, who bundled the ball home to make it four. The finish completed his hat-trick, and put him top of the league’s scoring charts, with 13 goals from Soho’s 11 games.

The remainder of the game oscillated between the sublime and the ridiculous: AJ pulled off a particularly obvious air shot on the edge of the box, only for his mistake to nearly turn into a moment of genius as the ball fell to midfielder Dan; and yours truly ballooned a lob in behind the Charlton defence that had a very aesthetically pleasing trajectory, but was completely unhelpful when it came to actually controlling the ball and kicking it into the goal, as Kieran found as he tried to volley the pass home.

Kieran was unlucky not to make his excellent performance with a goal, as he hit the post towards the end of the game, which petered out into an ultimately comfortable win for the home side. The result saw Soho return to the top of the table on 31 points, two ahead of Titans 2Brewers, while Charlton remain at the bottom of the table with a single point.

Soho face stern tests ahead of a potential league and cup double this season; all of their remaining league games are against sides in the top half of the table, and their next game is this weekend, against East End Phoenix, the only side to get a positive result against the Oranges in any competition this season. Soho will face the same opponents in the final of the GFSN Cup at the end of the season, so the team will be eager to get a positive result against Phoenix.

“My name is Casey and I’m a ‘they’” – read an interview with our reporter.

LUL Gallery – insider images of possibly one of the friendliest and fun football leagues in London.

Want to start up your own LGBT+-friendly football club? Read here how to do it.

Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Handshakes before the game

Soho FC’s nine-game winning streak in the London Unity League stuttered to an end at Weavers Field on Sunday (3 March), as East End Phoenix FC stifled the Soho attack at one end of the pitch, and took their chances at the other, to produce a 1-1 draw.

The visitors fielded a familiarly combative midfield trio of Bjørn, Dan Hall and Dan Soile, and sought to dominate the patchy, well-puddled middle of the park early on.

While both Bjørn and Dan Soile embarked on direct runs into the Phoenix half early on, they lacked a little quality in finding final balls and unlocking a well-organised defence. The team saw their through balls bounce a stride too far or their touches take the ball half a yard farther than they were expecting, and the result was a frustrating opening fifteen minutes for the visitors.

Phoenix’s shape perhaps contributed to the relatively one-sided opening, as they lined up in what looked like an asymmetrical 4-5-1, with one winger pushed on, standing on the toes of the Soho full-back on their side, to create what might technically, but inaccurately, be called a 4-4-2. Critically, this winger swapped sides constantly, and the rest of the team shuffled to accommodate the movements; as a result, the ball would at times break to a Soho wide player in yards of space, as the advanced winger was on his side and did not pressure the ball. Both Bjørn and Dan Hall enjoyed runs towards unprotected full-backs in the first half, but neither was able to fashion a clear-cut chance from the spaces.

Soho’s pressing, however, was typically effective, with both forwards, Cameron and Kevin, flitting between centre-halves and full-backs to close down passing lanes, and full-backs Adam and Charlie intervening to prevent long balls from flying down the touchline. This pressure helped create Soho’s first real chance, with Charlie heading a clearance back towards a flustered Phoenix full-back, before Rash and Cameron were able to pick up the ball, and work a shot for the latter.

The shot was well-saved by the Phoenix keeper, whose efforts were mirrored by their opposite number, Will in the Soho goal, who made a remarkable catch from a Phoenix shot fired from mere yards out from the goal. The chance proved to be the home side’s best of the half, with Soho enjoying more opportunities as the game wound towards the break, Cameron blustering through about three Phoenix defenders before teeing up Bjørn for a strike for the team’s best opportunity.

The half petered out with a mixture of skill and silliness; Dan Hall provided the latter by arguing with the referee over a decision that turned out to have been given in Soho’s favour, and a humble puddle at the base of the Soho midfield provided both by expertly intercepting a raking Phoenix pass and single-handedly stifling the home side’s counter-attack. As of the time of writing, Soho have not yet announced their player of the match for the game, and I would not put money against that positionally-astute puddle.

In the second half, Soho made a number of substitutions that would swing the game in their favour, and promptly back out of it again. Lorcan continued his return from a ligament injury, Phil entered the fray in midfield, and debuts were handed to Leandro and Dimitri.

However, the raft of changes robbed Soho of their one clear advantage in the first half: a compact and well-disciplined midfield, with Leandro in particular seeming to occupy, at various times, right-back, wide right in a three-man midfield, the hole in behind the strikers, and wide right again, now in a four-man midfield.

Through this confusion, Soho took the lead midway through the half, as Lorcan charged through the middle of the park, deftly evading the puddle that had been a thorn in the Phoenix side when kicking the other way, and firing a low shot into the bottom corner. There was an element of good fortune about the goal, with a number of peculiar bounces along the ball’s path wrong-footing, right-footing, and then wrong-footing again the Phoenix keeper who had an otherwise good game, but the quality of the run and strike were unquestionable.

Phoenix struck back immediately, pushing into the spaces in front of the Soho back four that were suddenly emptied of Soho midfielders, and putting pressure on the visitors. Soho quickly conceded a corner, from which a Phoenix forward forced a smart save from Will, but in the ensuing scramble the home side were able to poke home an equaliser before the visitors could react.

Soho searched for an equaliser, but without a firm grip on the midfield, the final stages of the game had more than an element of kitchen sink-chucking about them as the visitors looked to maintain their winning streak.

The best chance came in the final minutes, when a reintroduced Bjørn broke down the Soho left, and cut the ball back to Kevin on the edge of the box, he who had scored the 87thminute winner against 2Brewers earlier in the season. But this was a miracle too far, his shot curling over the bar and into the safety of a bush on the path just behind the goal.

A few minutes later, it was all over, and both sides reflected on a hard-fought game that really, neither had dominated. The draw keeps Phoenix firmly in mid-table, third on 18 points, and with two games in hand over third-placed Romans on 22, the result could see them begin a late charge up the table. The result saw Soho drop points for the first time this season, but remain atop the table with 28 points from their ten games, two points ahead of Titans 2Brewers with a game in hand.

The two sides meet again, at Weavers Field, home of the great puddle, this weekend, in the semi-final of the Unity League Cup.

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Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Coach Connor puts the Soho squad through their paces

Titans XXL offered stiff opposition for a Soho side that rarely looked at its best last weekend (17 February), but were unable to prevent the league leaders from grinding out a 2-1 victory at Duke’s Meadows.

Soho’s season has been one categorised as much by frequent changes in personnel and formation as it has performances on the pitch, but manager Austin managed to surprise the team by, paradoxically, sending them out in a familiar formation, a compact 3-4-1-2. With top scorer Cameron absent, James Abbotts and Lorcan, returning from a lengthy injury lay-off, were asked to lead the line, and the rest of the team instructed to play directly towards them, and pick up knockdowns and layoffs.

While the forwards played admirably, chasing long balls and holding up play as best they could, behind them, the team struggled to retain possession and effectively challenge for the ball in central areas. Whether competing for headers from goal kicks, or fending off tackles from a three-strong Titans midfield, the team missed usual starters Dan Soile and Bjørn in the middle of the park.

Yet Soho had the better chances in the first half, with a lot of joy coming from the link-up play between attacking midfielder Rash, and a combination of Dan Hall and Sam pulling wide to the left from midfield, and Phil and myself – whose inclusion was perhaps a key contributor to the aforementioned lack of physical assertiveness in central midfield – pulling right. Sam fizzed a shot at the Titans keeper, who was able to parry before smothering James’ follow-up from the six-yard line, and it began to look like one of those games where a goal simply would not come.

At half-time, coach Connor made it clear that a much-improved second half performance would be needed from the side, and Soho began the second half with a renewed vigour. The long balls began to stick, and the visitors were able to begin winning the kind of set pieces, deep in Titans territory, from which they have built much of their success this season.

It was from one of these set pieces that the game’s most dramatic, and elsewhere curiously underreported, incident took place. Rash swung in a typically accurate corner, which bounced off a head at the near post and fell to myself on the six-yard line. With the grace and skill of someone who definitely knew the ball was coming towards them, I completely purposefully directed the ball goal-wards with my chest; the keeper was stranded, the defenders out of frame, and it looked for all the world that Soho would take the lead.

However, the goal was cruelly, and indeed literally, snatched away, as one of the Titans defenders flung their arms towards the ball and clawed it out of the air before it could cross the line. As Dido cried to the heavens following Aeneas’ departure, the Soho players and touchline turned to the referee in tragic disbelief, calling for a penalty, the dismissal of the offending player, and nothing less than eternal hatred against the whole Titans line.

Yet the referee was not moved, claiming to have not seen the handball. Enraged visitors surrounded the referee, pleading their cases – so vehemently, in fact, that captain James Riley was shown a yellow card for his comments, which he was particular to remind me that included no profanities – but nothing came of it. The scores remained level, and Soho had nothing to show for their improved second-half performance.

The incident inspired Soho to kick on, and they maintained the pressure on the Titans goal, scoring almost immediately afterwards. Rash capped his impressive performance with a goal, and both wide players, including substitute Edgar, found greater space to exploit behind Titans wide players, who pushed increasingly far up the pitch in search of an equaliser. Connor, who had been substituted on in an attempt to prove the efficacy of a new adage, “do as I say, and as I do”, then doubled Soho’s lead with a neat finish from inside the area, and the visitors looked comfortable.

However, the home side were not deterred, and pushed hard for a goal in return. While centre-backs Adam and AJ were largely untroubled in open play, and goalkeeper Will had swept up long balls played behind the defence effectively all game, the home side was able to halve the Soho lead from a corner late on, which made for a nervy last five minutes for all involved.

Yet it wasn’t enough, as Soho were able to hold on to their lead in a game whose closing stages were marked by not one, but two instances of players being blootered in the face; first, the marauding Sam took a boot to the face, and then substitute forward Mark thundered a header from a Titans goal kick back from whence it came to keep the ball away from the Soho goal. The Oranges had never really gotten going, but celebrated a scrappy and dogged victory, that kept them atop the league table.

The Soho relief was doubled by the news that, on the very next pitch to the game where they had played, Titans 2Brewers had played out a wildly entertaining 4-4 draw with East End Phoenix FC, the drama of which prompted calls from those on the Soho sideline for a variant of Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, albeit one that keeps us abreast of all the developments in the London Unity League in real time.

2Brewers’ draw could prove to be two points dropped, rather than one point gained, in the title race, as Soho now sit two points clear at the top of the table, ahead of 2Brewers, and with a game in hand on their nearest rivals following the cancellation of last week’s clash due to a waterlogged pitch at Regent’s Park.

Titans XXL next entertain London Romans FC on the third of March, while Soho have postponed their game with Charlton Invicta FC this weekend in favour of entering a team into the FA People’s Cup, and will resume league play with a trip to East End Phoenix, the first meeting of the two sides this season.

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Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Soho FC

Soho FC continued their prolific campaign in the London Unity League with a 2-0 victory away at Charlton Invicta; a tight, scrappy affair that saw the home side on top for large periods, but were unable to match the clinical visitors who now lead the league table.

Injuries forced Soho to adopt yet another new shape to start the game: a conventional 4-4-2, although one spearheaded by Kevin, who was given licence to roam around his strike partner Cameron. While the new shape offered a lot of attacking opportunities in wide areas, with wingers Edgar and Phil combining with Kevin and their respective full-backs, Charlie and Adam, to put pressure on the Charlton back four, which was often left exposed by a front three that didn’t track runners beyond the halfway line.

The team’s central midfielders, Bjørn and Dan Hall, combined with the wide players to create lopsided mismatches on the flanks, with up to four orange-shirted players buzzing around their confusingly similarly-coloured opposition, decked out in all red. However, these attacks often came to little, as the Soho forwards, or forward, as was often the case, were similarly outnumbered in and around the penalty area.

As the first half wore on, and the first goal would not come, the visitors descended into a slightly misplaced frenzy, as they sought, with increasing desperation, to score now, leading to a brief throwing forward of the kitchen sink, despite the game still being in the 18thminute. One particular example saw Bjørn and Dan both charge towards a Charlton midfielder trying to control a high ball just inside his own half, who had a simple task in nodding the ball over the over-pursuing visitors, allowing the home side to break on the Soho back four with remarkable ease.

Soho had not failed to score in the first half of six of their seven games coming into this fixture, with the lone exception being a nerve-shredding 3-2 victory over Titans 2Brewers that saw three Soho goals in the last seven minutes. Perhaps the team was apprehensive of a similarly nervy atmosphere descending over the game as the minutes ticked by without a goal, or were suddenly aware of the very real possibility of their winning streak coming to an end; whatever the cause, the first quarter of the game was a nervous and frustrating affair for the team.

However, the team’s excellence from set pieces remained unchanged, and Kevin, whose miraculous strike direct from a corner secured the victory over 2Brewers last year, was again able to make a difference from the corner flag. His whipped cross was headed home by Charlie after 23 minutes, and Soho found themselves leading a game they had not really dominated.

Despite not enjoying the best of records coming into the game, with just a point from their nine fixtures, Charlton kept their heads up, and enjoyed much of the play for the rest of the first half. Their front three pressed high, pinning the once-marauding Soho full-backs deep in their own half, and their midfield three were able to overrun the two in the heart of the Soho side. They, too, made the most of their set pieces, with a corner yielding a header that was nodded off the line by one of a half-dozen Orange shirts crowding the six-yard box. Charlton’s attacking play bore an eerie similarity to that of Soho, with midfielders pulling wide and wingers threatening full-backs, but little came of it as an isolated centre-forward was effectively covered by James and AJ. At half-time, both sides had played a similar game, but Soho had made the most of their set piece.

In the second half, the visitors made a number of changes. One was forced, myself coming on for the injured Edgar, but another was tactical, withdrawing a defender and introducing Rash, who had started on the bench due to a foot injury, to play in a 3-4-1-2 shape. The change immediately solidified Soho’s position; with Rash pulling into midfield when out of possession to negate Charlton’s numerical advantage, and wing-backs Phil and myself often doubling up with the wide centre-backs to thwart attacks from the flanks, Soho looked far less fragile in the second half.

Yet the job was not yet done, and as a thrilled crowd of about seven players from other Charlton teams, who had wandered onto the bleachers beside the pitch in what was presumably an afternoon break from their own athletic activities, cheered on, the home side had a number of chances. The clearest fell to one of their substitutes, when the otherwise excellent Will made the curious decision to roll the ball straight to his feet, rather than to a teammate; clearly, it was all part of a master plan, the complexities of which are beyond a simpleton such as myself, as the forward’s shot flew wide, and Soho retained their lead.

While much of the game was played with an edgy snappiness befitting a football game – Dan picked up his second yellow card of the season for a particularly satisfying-looking lunge in the first half – there was an incident that fell rather far over the line between acceptable combativity and outright violence. Adam #2, who had been introduced for Bjørn late in the second half, kicked out at a Charlton player off the ball, reportedly unhappy with some of the conduct of the home side. While I cannot comment on what the Charlton players did or did not say, it was obvious that Adam’s outburst was inappropriate, and in my opinion was lucky to only receive a yellow card for the offence. A few moments later, he was pulled back off, and Bjørn reintroduced.

As Charlton continued to press for what would have been a deserved equaliser, and we now headed into appropriate sink-throwing territory, unlike the sort Soho were indulging in in the first half, Charlton were hit on the break in the dying minutes of the game. With their full-backs pushed up in search of a goal, a clearance found Rash in the middle of the pitch, who was able to turn and play Kevin into the acres of space behind the now two-strong Charlton defence. Kevin sprinted away from the covering defenders, and dragged a low cross back for Cameron, who had toiled as an isolated forward for much of the day, and poked home a goal he personally deserved, to double Soho’s lead.

With that, the fight went out of the home side, and while they continued to push for a goal, there were no more significant chances in the last few minutes. It was an even, scrappy game that could have gone either way, but Soho took their chances, and now sit atop the league table for the first time, level on points with 2Brewers, but with a superior goal difference and a game in hand.

Soho and 2Brewers meet at Regent’s Park this weekend in a game that will go a long way to deciding the eventual league champion, while Charlton travel to third-place East End Phoenix in another weekend in which all eight teams are in action.

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Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Soho FC

Soho FC and Stonewall FC 3rds combined for 11 goals on a cold afternoon (on 20 January 2019) at Regent’s Park, as the home side continued their perfect start to the season, keeping themselves within a victory of the top of the London Unity League table.

The visitors were no strangers to high-scoring affairs, having split a ten-goal thriller with Titans XXL before Christmas, and Stonewall have now been involved in the two highest-scoring games in the league this season. Sunday’s match looked to continue this trend as Soho took the lead after just nine minutes, James Abbotts half-volleying into the bottom corner following smart build-up play from Sam and Charlie on the left wing.

While Soho have found themselves consistently among the goals this season, notching 32 goals in their seven games so far, they have been a tactically inconsistent side; gameplans have been adapted to take advantage of particular and closely-scouted opposition weaknesses, and, more accurately, players become available and unavailable perilously close to kick-off as the distractions of real life take their toll.

This week, the team lined up with a back four and a diamond in midfield, behind two forwards in James and Cameron. With Sam pushing on from the point of the diamond, the front end of the team often morphed into a front three, and with all three towering over the Stonewall defenders, and able to effectively hold up the ball for teammates to arrive, Soho enjoyed a physical advantage over the visitors in the latter’s final third.

This aerial superiority produced a number of chances immediately after the first goal, but the home side were unable to take advantage of their opportunities. Dan Hall and Bjørn, the wider midfielders in the middle of the diamond, pulled wide and spun crosses into James, who was unable to hit the back of the net with his headers; and the striker later turned provider, to flick a header into the path of Cameron behind the Stonewall defenders, only for him to drag his shot wide.

In the midst of the jumping, heading, and general toing and froing of a tough physical contest, Soho full-back Adam unveiled a striking, if a little premature, Hallowe’en costume, a quite astonishing recreation of Terry Butcher’s bloodied visage against Sweden in 1989. With his face cut and splattered with blood, he was sent off the pitch, and happily re-joined the fray early in the first half.

Soho doubled their lead when a long ball landed precisely on the head of Cameron, who looped a very pleasingly-arced header over an onrushing goalkeeper to make the score 2-0. A few minutes later, as Soho began to gain confidence, and Stonewall began to play a riskier game in search of goals return, a quite remarkable passage of play began that saw four goals scored in as many minutes.

First, Soho added a third when Charlie curled an excellent ball in from the left wing, which James plucked from the sky, before spinning on the spot and firing home his second of the game; in my notes for this goal, I have simply written the “okay” emoji, as sure a sign as any that this was a finish to be proud of. A minute later, James pulled out wide, before crossing himself, finding Sam surging into the penalty area, who was able to bundle the ball home in a manner not quite as aesthetically pleasing so as to be graced with the “okay” emoji, but a fine goal nonetheless.

However, Stonewall continued to press for goals and were immediately rewarded. A long ball ricocheted off of a Soho defender and dribbled through to a Stonewall forward behind the home side’s defenders; as the ball had most recently bounced off a Soho jersey, the visiting striker was onside, and was able to finish past a wrongfooted Will in goal.

But the first half ended on a positive note for the home side, with Charlie continuing his excellent game by finding Cameron in the left-hand channel, who beat the covering centre-back and crossed for James, who produced a diving header of such grace as to be akin to Robin van Persie’s finish against Spain in the 2014 World Cup, and definitely deserving of an “okay” emoji. The home side went in 5-1 up at half time, with James having helped himself to a thoroughly well-deserved hat-trick.

After the break, the pattern of the game remained relatively unchanged. James Riley and AJ were typically solid at the heart of the Soho defence, save for a cross that deflected off the former to give the visitors their second goal in the closing seconds, and Dan Soile in front of the back four was a commanding presence throughout, both in protecting the Soho defenders, and starting counterattacking moves of his own. My notes are also much sparser for the second half, as I was introduced to the pitch, but the action continued nonetheless.

Soho added four goals in the second half, from Cameron, Dan Soile and Bjørn, alongside a strike from substitute Rhys, making his return from a long injury layoff. Cameron had a chance to complete a hat-trick of his own, and fire Soho into double figures, when the team were awarded a penalty late it the game, but blazed over from 12 yards. Clearly enraged at such an error, manager Austin immediately substituted the striker who, incidentally, is the team’s joint-top scorer this season.

The match was the seventh of the season for both teams and it was a result that solidified Soho’s place in the table, just three points behind league leaders Titans 2Brewers, and Stonewall’s position of sixth, with five points.

Next weekend sees both sides shelve their league campaigns temporarily ahead of a round of league cup fixtures, before both Soho and Stonewall return to league action on the third of February, with the former visiting Charlton Invicta, and the later travelling to AFC Muswell Hill.

It’s back to Freedom Bar after the game, as usual, for Soho FC

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Guest match report by JP Casey, Soho FC

Soho FC and canine fan, Teddy

Despite suffering from a raft of injuries and absences, on 6 January, Soho made it six wins from six in the London Unity League by overcoming Titans XXL 3-0, to keep the gap to league leaders Titans 2Brewers a slim three points.

A stark lack of wide midfielders forced Soho to line up at Regent’s Park in an unconventional 4-3-2-1: a formation both seasonally inappropriate and tactically unfamiliar for the home side, which saw central midfielder Bjørn and forward Kieran deployed as the nominal wide players in the line of three, and coach Connor pressed into service as one of the two advanced midfielders behind Cameron up front.

But the home team settled quickly, and produced a goal after three minutes through two of their players actually playing in familiar roles; defensive midfielder Dan, starting between Bjørn and Kieran, arced a long ball over the Titans back line, for Cameron to run onto and poke home. The defenders and goalkeeper were caught in two minds, each leaving the long pass for the other, and Cameron was offered a simple opportunity to score Soho’s 20thgoal of the season.

Soho had a few chances to add to their lead, as their forwards’ movement and interchange of positions unsettled the visitors’ back four. Kieran drifted across the width of the pitch to overload the Titans right-back, and play Bjørn in behind on the left, only for his cross to hit the goalkeeper; minutes later Rash, the third member of the Oranges’ front line, slipped Cameron in behind the Titans defence with a neat reverse pass, that just trickled away from him and into the arms of the onrushing goalkeeper.

However, it was direct running and, in the words of the Proper Football Men, putting yourself about a bit, that doubled Soho’s lead midway through the first half. Rash picked up the ball on the right, and cut inside onto his left foot; instead of shooting at goal or finding a teammate, however, he surged into the Titans penalty area, jinking and barging his way through defenders, before sliding the ball to Connor in the box. The coach-come-forward turned coach-come-scorer, and added to the home side’s lead.

The rest of the first half was a choppy affair, with neither team able to hold the ball for extended periods. The Titans were able to threaten Soho in the wide areas, taking advantage of the overlaps generated by their 4-3-3 shape against Soho’s outnumbered full-backs, Adam and Charlie. Adam in particular, on the right, got the worse of the Titans attacks, as they shifted their front three towards his wing; with the Titans left winger hugging the touchline, their centre-forward between Adam and right centre-back James, and right winger between James and defensive partner AJ, the visitors would often flood up to three people into Adam’s part of the field, and had some success in turning the Soho full-back, and getting in behind the defence.

With a firm base camp established on their left wing, the visitors began probing at the heart of the Soho defence. Midfield runners, and, at times, wingers cutting in from their flanks, drove at the centre of the field, exploiting the space left behind by James and AJ as they were pulled wide to support their full-backs. The Titans’ most sustained period of pressure led to a number of chances and a pair of corners, but Soho goalkeeper Will was a match for everything the visitors threw at him.

There was relatively little action in the remainder of the half, save for a booking for Dan for a digression I cannot actually remember, but that I have down in my notes as a “tasty chop”, and Soho went into half-time with a two-goal lead. The second half brought no changes in personnel, but a change in shape, as Connor dropped in alongside Dan in midfield, and Bjørn and Kieran pushed wider to produce a 4-4-1-1 shape more suited to protecting against the Titans’ wide attacks.

With the visitors’ attack somewhat blunted, and a tired Soho team struggling to create much in open play, it fell to a set piece to give the goal its final game, and make the Soho lead that much more comfortable. A corner from Conner led to a panicked goalmouth scramble, and in the melee Rash was able to poke the ball home. The coach claimed an assist and, as was the case several weeks ago when AJ may have scored from the half-way line, without clear and obvious evidence to the contrary, I would struggle to deny him this particular statistical accomplishment.

With an hour gone, Soho began to make changes, introducing myself, Austen and Andy to provide fresh legs in midfield, and willing defenders on the flanks. The visitors pushed hard for a consolation goal in the closing stages, even swapping their goalkeeper for an outfielder in what was presumably intended to be a piece of Louis van Gaal-inspired keeper-switching ahead of a pivotal moment, but there was no such twist in the tail. The visitors angled a number of dangerous balls into the box from set pieces, but were unable to convert their pressure into goals, and the game finished 3-0.

The result saw Titans reach the halfway point of the season, and the team finds themselves seventh in the league, ahead of a trip to Charlton this weekend. Soho, meanwhile, remain in second, just behind Titans 2Brewers with a pair of games in hand, and will host Stonewall on Sunday, their final game before a one-week break ahead of a tough run of five games in as many weeks.

Soho boys celebrate their win in, er, Soho. Freedom Bar is their regular.

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