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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.
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