With only 13 players against last season’s runaway winners, management encouraged the players to at least turn up fresh, not hungover and on time . Dirk “the Black Country Special One” promptly broke the first 2 of his own commandments by playing 90 mins the night before swiftly followed by 6 pints, nachos and a late ferry back to DB.
A combination of poor communication from Oisin, and equally poor map reading from Morse ensured that the normally punctual Pat D fell foul of the last commandment but nonetheless 10 mins before kick off a squad of 13 was on the pitch and ready to receive directions. Having identified that the only thing that we had done wrong in the previous 10-1 thumping was let French Dragons have the ball almost immediately from each of the 10 kick offs we had, there was a very strong emphasis on ball retention. Oisin having pointed out that he had a 100% goalscoring record against the Dragons was given the lone wolf role up front, with the aim of using his pace and mobility to run in behind the defence. When it was pointed out that even Tim Sherwood would realise that was a stupid tactic we reverted to a ball to feet and keep it compact game plan.
It was an ideal Po Kong day with the sun beating down sufficiently to bring to the fore the chemical odour from the astroturf, and not a breath of wind to disturb the low lying layer of pollution. The team lined up with Gianluca in goal, Gazza at right back, a tigerish Clark/Morse combo in centre defence , Martin at left back. The familiar midfield five formation was populated by Jeff in the holding role, with Pascal and Pat instructed to play in front of that and get up to support Oisin as a lone target man, but without neglecting defensive duties – so pretty easy then. Kieran Mc and new man Richard, bringing more Scottish nous to the squad, were tasked with getting up and down the flanks.
The management team of Mike and Dirk had given themselves watching briefs from the bench, with the loyal travelling support of Jay alongside, and with a last encouraging cry of “Oh shit, they do have that guy that plays HK Premier League” the game kicked off.
From the start however DBFC were positive on the ball, recognising that Dragons were not pressing to get the ball back , and when not in possession worked and communicated as a team to deny Dragons space in dangerous areas. Richard and Gazza combined well on the right on a couple of occasions to get balls into the box before one of the Dragons defenders showed them how to really create a chance – by passing the ball to Oisin practically on the penalty spot. Unfortunately the flame haired Irishman’s Celtic generosity got the better of him and he tried to lay it off to compatriot Kieran rather than put his foot through it himself.
An even better opportunity was created minutes later after a delightful 1-2 with Pat sent Pascal surging past the last line of defenders into the centre of the box. The keeper had clearly decided it was too difficult to work out which corner Pascal would go for so crouched in the middle of the goal. This psych – ops tactic unbelievably worked as the ball came straight at him and was gratefully clutched. A sitter went begging and oh how different the complexion of the game could have become.
Nonetheless a very good half so far for DBFC and a general air of positivity on and off the pitch. This was punctured very slightly however when a Dragons player ran on and no one went off. Upon enquiry with the referee as to whether Sep Blatter had forced through one last stupid rule change before being sent to the clink, it was pointed out that Dragons had in fact been playing with only 10 men up to this point.
Dragons did indeed start to come more into the game and were varying their familiar short passing game with longer diagonal balls behind the full backs. General lack of confidence in the ability of the linesman to identify an offside position made this difficult to deal with but Dragons had created no more than half chances until a ball down the right was caught by the pacy winger. The ball was pulled back to the edge of the box from where the low shot was cruelly deflected past Gianluca.
At half time although it was recognised that having to chase the game against such opposition was not easy, there was real belief in the team and a recognition that surprisingly they seemed to be at least as slow as most of us. Gazza having given his all in the first half volunteered to take a breather, denying Dirk the pleasure of telling him he was being taken off. Kieran took over the “run around until you die of heat exhaustion” role up front and Mike came on to do the left flank job.
The 2nd half began as well as the first had with Morse and Andy pushing the back four up helping Jeff and the midfield ensure DB were winning the ball back further up the pitch. Pascal and Dirk were having particular joy by overloading the right flank, from where Pascal found the space to whip in a cross toward Pat’s near post run. Pat originally thought of using his right but the tantric yoga lessons paid off as he made a mid air switch to the left. Agonisingly the ball still flew just over. DB’s energy, with Kieran to the fore was upsetting the defence, and the Dragons defenders could be heard saying that they needed to hit the ball longer – compliment to the pressure being induced. Oisin was back on briefly as a finger dislocation sub for Kieran and a chance was carved for him in the right edge of the box from where he pinged a shot narrowly wide.
Kieran was quickly back on and after Martin found him , he released Pat into the box , Mike C then made a late run in to meet the cutback at the edge of the 6 yard box , a run which was perfect in all respects apart from forgetting to make contact with the ball. Almost inevitably the effort being put in took its toll and a momentary switch off gave the aforementioned pro striker the time to turn just inside the box and toe poke the ball into the corner. Although there was no drop in perspiration , inspiration for DB did seem to dry up a little at this point and the game petered out somewhat. Dragons struck a final time after Morse had used up so much energy running out to the flank to cover that he couldn’t do anything but dive in , and was duly skinned with the low cross being neatly dispatched.
The final whistle brought a slightly unnerving positivity given it was a 3 -0 defeat but against quality opposition we had enjoyed our share of possession and chances , and the spirit was positive from beginning to end
Genuinely everyone put a great shift in and a hard accolade to deliver. Pascal as always was a human dynamo in midfield , but the Morse /Andy Clark combo set the tone for the performance by constant communication and making sure that staying compact did not just mean dropping deeper and deeper . Andy C shaded it, although next time he is going to put a cross in having lined a free kick up to shoot maybe he could let us know
Report courtesy of Pat D