|The last day of August saw the long trip to Rossall School to watch the big Premier Division game of the day between newly promoted Pulcinellas FC and Alliance champions Quilligans FC. Could Quilligans extend their long unbeaten league record?|
On Sunday February 11th 2007 Quilligans FC were beaten 2-1 at home by Arcadian FC in the league. That match represented Quilligans FC's last league defeat and prior to kick off the champions had put together an impressive unbeaten run of thirty league games.
They opened this season's campaign with a comfortable 10-0 away win against the Crescent. Next up were another newly promoted side in the shape of Blackpool Rangers. This match proved a far sterner test as both managers came away honestly believing that they narrowly deserved to win. In the end the final score was 2-1 to Quilligans. Most teams newly promoted to the Prem are just hopeful that they don't get beat by too many by Quills but Ranger's bitter disappointment at defeat showed that they haven't come up to the top Division simply to make up the numbers. Quills recent, and correct re-instatement to this season's Lancashire Sunday Trophy represents good news for the both the BFSFA and the credibility of the competition.
Today's opponents were yet another newly promoted side – Pulcinellas FC who won Division 2B last season. Over the latter stages of last season and during the summer they'd managed to capture the signings of a number of players from the now defunct Highbury FC. They announced their intentions with an emphatic 5-2 win over much fancied Northern Care FC. That match, their first of the season, was played a fortnight ago so they were raring to follow it up with a game against the title holders on their impressive home pitch at Rossall.
Since returning from holiday the weather has been appalling for August but over the weekend the wind had dropped and the temperatures had risen although the ever-present blanket of cloud continued to keep out blue skies. The result was almost perfect conditions for football at one of the best venues and on one of the best surfaces along the coast. Sandy Gear was the man in charge and at 11am the game was underway in the shadows of this esteemed seat of learning.
Pulcinellas FC 2008/09
Quilligans FC 2008/09
Respective captains Robbie Boal and Anthony Reeves alongside referee Sandy Gear.
Quills in the white kick off defending the sea end. Quills' manager Mark Spedding keeps tabs on the referee's time-keeping.
In the opening minute Quills almost opened the scoring through Lee Conway. Hone was absent at left back as Conway raced clear but from the angle his shot flashed wide of the far post.
A Danny Rowe effort has Pulcinella's keeper Daniel Hogg scrambling across his six yard box.
A decent opportunity for the home side as a near post header had to be well watched by keeper Tony Clowes.
This was an entertaining game straight from the off. Quills had some good early forward possession and created a couple of back to back corners. Devereaux's wing play on the left was creating chances as was Conway's on the right. Danny Rowe appeared to be playing the lone striker role. At the other end the two nippy forwards Parr and Sumner were getting behind the defenders and Chris Bond was producing decent crosses from the right.
Kevan Ford is unlucky not to get a toe to the cross.
Referee Sandy Gear.
As the half went on Pulcinellas began to dominate possession. Quilligans' breaks upfield grew sparce and at times Rowe was left isolated. Jimmy Hone and Adam Sumner swapped positions at left wing and left back respectively and Stuart Parkinson's runs from midfield were not being tracked. Pulcinellas had the best first half opportunity when the ball broke to Matty Parr in the box but his rushed shot from ten yards went tamely wide.
Pulcinella's skipper Anthony Reeves.
Ex team mates Steven Brooks (Left) and Stuart Parkinson having a good tussle.
Nick Devereaux (Left)
Robbie Boal stands his ground as his opponent takes off.
Pulcinella's free kick but the wall did its job.
The Pulcinella's captain is booked for dissent.
Half time score: Pulcinellas FC 0 – 0 Quilligans FC
One of Mark Spedding's more vocal half time team talks.
Pulcinella's supporters take shelter from the light rain. Sexy Wellies and Golden Balls.
Injured Stuart Bracewell (More Golden Balls). “Let me get this straight. You're asking me (ME!) to run the line in the second half?”
The home side started the second very positively and full of confidence as they smelled a famous victory. However, it was Quilligans who created the first clear cut opportunity of the second half as Conway's trickery out on the right led to a great cross for Devereaux but as shown in the above picture he couldn't keep it down as the ball flew over Hogg's bar.
You won't find this signal to the referee in many coaching manuals.
Minutes later there was a big shout from the sidelines as the Quilligans' contingent claimed that a low shot into the box had been blocked by the arm of a desperate defender. Referee Gear controversially waved 'play on'. On 57 minutes Pulcinellas took the lead. Brilliant wing play from Stuart Parkinson had the Quilligan's defence at sixes and sevens. Eventually he laid it off for Jummy Hone who swung a curling high cross into the box. The ball was allowed to bounce and in the above picture looked to hit the arm of Gorrie resulting in more shouts for a penalty. It wasn't given but no matter as Danny Betmead was the first to meet the rising ball and his header looped over Clowes and into the far corner. 1-0.
Betmead puts Pulcinellas FC 1-0 up.
Reeves comes off worse after an accidental 50/50 clash with Gorrie resulting in a three minute hold up for treatment.
Young Pulcinellas fan.
As the minutes ticked by Quilligans were clearly not going to give up that long unbeaten record easily. They went more offensively but resolute defending snuffed out most of their offensive possession well before the danger area. In addition, big gaps were starting to appear at the back as they were left short.
In the absence of a full back Tony Clowes was stretched to the max in order to keep out a rasping drive following a quick Pulcinella's break.
Minutes later and the pace of Parkinson left Clowes stranded wide outside the box and the resultant cross come shot was almost converted by Parr.
Well caught by Clowes.
Robbie Boal not having it all his own way today in the middle of the park.
Quilligans kept pushing forward and it was only natural that the home side started to drop deeper as the final whistle approached. My watched ticked on to 90 minutes as the elusive equaliser finally came. Substitute Paul Cook cut inside and hit a fierce shot from the edge of the box. It hit the midrift of Dean McGinlay and the subsequent wicked deflection left keeper Hogg flat footed and he could only watch as the ball went past him 1-1.
Robbie Boal has another 'captain's chat' with the Ref.
Due to the time taken to treat Reeves' injury there was three or four minutes of added time. Both sides went looking for a winner and Pulcinellas went close from a late free kick but in the end both teams were pleased to hear Mr Gear's final whistle.
A great late chance for Pulcinellas but the whistle had already gone for a push.
Final score: Pulcinellas FC 1 – 1 Quilligans FC
In summary this was a highly entertaining ninety minutes of football for the spectators. Pulcinellas did enough to take all three points having by far the greater share of offensive possession. Matty Parr worked hard up front and his pace and skill on the ball troubled the experienced Quilligan's defenders. Jimmy Hone on the left combined with the free role of the classy Stuart Parkinson did most of the damage. At the back captain Reeves was impressive throughout. It was a great team performance and after their two opening fixtures they should hold no fears of life in the top Division.
As for Quilligans they're down to the bare bones on the striker front. However, they still have a quality defence and midfield. The early threats of wingers Conway and Devereaux lessened as the match went on as they were called upon for more defensive duties leaving striker Danny Rowe to try and keep the ball up at the right end of the pitch on his own. Even though they were not at the races today they deserve credit for chasing the game right up until the final whistle and in the end they gained a valuable point albeit from a rather fortuitous deflection. My man of the match was Pulcinellas' Stuart Parkinson. Great to watch as he almost always comes up with quality end product.
When the dust settles the champions are unbeaten in second with that unbeaten league run now stretched to 31. Next up Northern Care. Looks like this season will be a little more testing for Quills and about time too.