Guest match report, by JP Casey, Soho FC
Soho FC continued their fine start to the season with an emphatic 5-0 victory away at Stonewall FC 3rds, last Sunday – their second victory over the side in as many weeks – which saw them climb to third in the London Unity League table.
Following last weekend’s GFSN Cup victory over Stonewall, the Oranges were eager to continue their form into the league, and started strongly. Daiki, who was withdrawn from the centre-forward position from which he scored on his debut a fortnight ago to the left wing, emphatically thumped a ball goalwards after three minutes with such gusto it disappeared into the bushes behind the Stonewall net and, to this day, remains lost in the undergrowth.
A minute later, James, starting in the space vacated by Daiki following his brace last weekend, spun around a Stonewall defender and crossed to Bjørn on the edge of the box, who forced a smart save from the Stonewall keeper.
Soho continued to aggressively press the home side – the back three of AJ, captain James Riley and Charlie often positioned on the halfway line – but were nearly caught out by a Stonewall side eager to restore some pride after five minutes, when their striker beat the offside trap to charge through on goal, only to be denied by Soho goalkeeper Will who raced off his line.
Immediately after having the vulnerabilities of their high-pressing 3-4-3 exposed, Soho demonstrated the system’s great strength, its ability to quickly overload areas of the pitch, to open the scoring. James performed an excellent and entirely intentional nutmeg of a hapless Stonewall defender, before sliding the ball into his strike partner Lorcan who had drifted over to James’s side; Lorcan fired a shot across the keeper and into the far corner to put the Oranges a goal up.
Soho remained compact throughout the first half, heeding the advice of coach Connor, who missed the game due to a mysterious illness contracted over the weekend, but struggled to break down the Stonewall defence as both sides congested the midfield. While the hosts set up in a 4-4-2, this often morphed into a 4-5-1 as one of the forwards drifted deeper to link play between midfield and attack, which in turn drew Lorcan and Rash, two of Soho’s forwards, into their own midfield to prevent their teammates from being overrun. At times, the shapes resembled a clash of a 4-5-1 and 3-6-1, as 11 midfielders pressed, tackled and sidestepped their way through and over one another.
Soho began to open up space as they stretched the field laterally, however; Daiki and Phil were constant threats on their respective wings, and Rash swung in an in-swinging cross from the right, which James was able to control, before turning a defender and firing just wide.
The visitors’ second and third goals came from wide areas. First, Lorcan grabbed his second of the game, a fine header from close-range off a Rash corner, before turning provider, breaking through the Stonewall defence and crossing from the byline on the right of the penalty area for James to poke home from centimetres away. Both forwards deserved to be on the scoresheet, and Soho maintained their 3-0 lead until the break, as Stonewall struggled to play through a Soho midfield marshalled by Bjørn and Dan, while the Oranges were unable to add to their lead.
At half-time the visitors entertained themselves with a profound discussion on the meaning of numbers, as some players made the point that “it’s 3-0, we can play with confidence”, while others rounded by suggesting that “it’s 0-0, we have to stay focused for the rest of the game”. As with most debates of a philosophical nature, an obvious answer was not forthcoming, and the team returned to the field bemused, but eager to play.
Five minutes into the second half, Soho added a fourth, as James found space in the Stonewall penalty area and fired home to record his fourth goal in two games.
All of Soho’s front three alternated between the two more advanced forward positions and the third, more withdrawn spot closer to the midfield, and this constant rotation ensured orange-wearing forwards were always buzzing around the spaces in the Stonewall half, pressing players constantly and arriving in and around the box from a range of angles. This fluidity yielded Soho’s fifth goal, as Lorcan dropped into the centre circle and intercepted a wayward Stonewall pass at the base of their midfield, before driving towards the edge of the box and drilling a shot past the keeper to complete his hat-trick and earn the match ball.
Soho rang the changes as the second half progressed and, in a terribly exciting turn of events as far as I am concerned, I was introduced in the latter stages of the half, along with Neung, Mike, Austen, Andy, Kev and Dan Soile.
The closing stages of the game also featured a most remarkable turn of events, in which a Stonewall player passed the ball back to their keeper, who immediately picked it up, standing just inside their penalty area. The violation of the backpass rule was obvious, but the referee curiously chose to award Soho an indirect free kick outside the penalty area, raising questions about where the handball had taken place, and exactly what the punishment ought to be. This was Schrodinger’s Backpass, a handball that is both outside of the area, to enable the free kick to be so far from goal, but inside of the area, as otherwise the goalkeeper would have received a red card for a conventional handball. The ruminations of this footballing impossibility resembled the half-time treatise on the nature of counting, making this one of the more academically stimulating games of football I have been a part of.
Stonewall threatened a tired Soho defence late in the game, as they began to overrun the midfield with their three central players, now matched up against two Soho midfielders left exposed by a tired front three unable to track back as consistently, but the home side rarely threatened Will, who kept his second clean sheet in as many weeks.
With the final whistle, Soho moved to third in the London Unity League table, behind Titans 2Brewers on goal difference, and two points clear of East End Phoenix. Stonewall sit in sixth place, one of four teams that make up the bottom half of the table on zero points, but with a superior goal difference to Charlton Invicta and Titans XXL.
Soho FC’s 5th birthday tournament takes place today, 1-5pm at Market Road, Holloway, London. N7 9PL, with a social afterwards at Freedom Bar, Soho.