Guest match report by JP Casey, 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.
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