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ST PRIEST v 1st XI 3rd MAY 2009
We are still playing "catch-up" with the postponed matches and today it's the 1st XI's outstanding match against St Priest. If you want to watch St Priest play, you have to go to Biollet, and if you want to watch Biollet play you need to go to St Maurice. Is everyone clear on that?
Pionsat are mathematically safe from relegation so there is no pressure but it would still nevertheless be nice to have a good result under the belt.
That young lad Thomas who impressed me playing for the second XI the other week is playing up front today on the left wing, with Nico, also from the second XI playing down the right.
First photo opportunity was a Pionsat penalty. There was some good play on the right-hand edge of the area and the no10 beat his man to cut inside. But he was unceremoniously hauled down well inside the area. There was little danger from this position though and it seemed to me that the foul was simply a matter of personal revenge.
Cedric, the Pionsat no9, takes the kick but puts it wide of the post. It crashed into the barrier with a hell of a thump.
And just look at the pitch. Isn't this pretty awful?
There's a moment of controversy a little later. Down on the right-hand side of the Pionsat defence, it seemed to me that the no6 had clearly won the ball and the St Priest player fell over the foot that had played the ball. In my opinion that ought not to have been a foul, but then again I don't have the whistle.
What happened next though was even more confusing. The only thing I can possibly think of was that the defender said something out of place. That's the only reason I can think of for the referee wanting to brandish the yellow card.
A short while later there's a Pionsat free kick. The St Priest no7 prevents the free kick being taken clearly and once the referee has finished having a word with him the kick goes ahead.
Meanwhile the no7 trots up after the play and when he finally arrives at the ball, interposes himself between the Pionsat player and the ball, gets the Pionsat player onto the ref's blind side and then elbows him in the face in front of a crowd of spectators who gasp in disbelief, St Priest spectators not excluded.
Once the agitation has died down and the game has moved on the no7 is discretely substituted by the St Priest trainer, presumably to remove him from a situation in which he could easily become over-excited.
After a while Cedric was taken off and replaced by Christophe from the second XI and so there was an entire second XI attack on the field. They played some good second XI attacking football and even had the ball in the net from Christophe although the linesman's flag for offside had been raised for about 30 minutes - an offside that was hotly disputed by all of those level with the action.
Nevertheless, there's quite a bit of difference in class between 2nd XI defending and 1st XI defending and it wasn't quite working here against St Priest.
And while all of these shenanigans were going on, the incidents were piling up. There was another bad foul on the Pionsat no11 and the Pionsat no6 received a vicious kick in the face.
The referee blew for a foul on that occasion and if it were a foul it would have been for violent conduct which merits at least a booking if not a sending-off. So why no cards were brandished is yet another mystery. But there was a really good free kick beautifully curled round the St Priest wall. The keeper needed to be at full stretch to push it wide.
How we managed to get to half-time with 22 players still on the pitch (no sendings-off on the St Priest side and less than 4 injuries to the Pionsat players) is a total mystery.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the ref is somewhat intimidated by the St Priest side. He certainly took a very long time to come back out of the dressing room at half time - the players were bored to tears waiting.
Almost from the kick-off St Priest win a free kick and a Pionsat player prevents the kick - and is promptly booked for his trouble.
I wonder why that was a different set of circumstances from the events involving the St Priest no7 earlier.
From the free kick the ball is played upfield and there's an "incident" in the penalty area that leads to a penalty to St Priest. Whether or not it is a foul was a matter of opinion. It looked OK to me but I was about 40 yards away and once again, the ref is the guy with the whistle.
Even though Mathieu guesses the right way to dive, the St Priest player makes no mistake with the kick and St priest take the lead.
But why did the referee book the Pionsat no2 for what seemed to be a genuine attempt to play the ball and not book the St Priest player who had ruthlessly scythed down the Pionsat forward in the area right at the start? It's totally mystifying me.
"C'est la honte" - "it's a disgrace" shouted one of the supporters - a remark that was clearly recorded on my dictaphone. Trying as hard as I do not to unduly criticise the players and officials, I'm just totally bewildered by what seems to be happening here.
And it gets worse as Pionsat concede a second goal. A free kick conceded by Pionsat (and no booking, strangely enough) played right across the goal and missed by all of the defenders. An attacker gets himself on the end of it and heads back across goal into the corner.
The keeper can probably feel a little disappointed with that. He was rather static there.
Pionsat find themselves 2-0 down, yet they have had the lion's share of the game. It's fair to say that they have been unsettled by the bullying tactics of the St Priest side and a referee who seems to lack the required amount of firmness at this level.
With all of this in mind, Christophe, sponge man for the team and coincidentally brother of the St Priest goalkeeper, brings himself onto the field in an attempt to add some steel into the Pionsat side.
And a short while later Pionsat win another free kick about 25 yards out. Once more, it's a lovely curler around the wall and once more the keeper needs to be at his best to push it wide.
This time though he can't get it into touch or behind for a corner so there's panic in the defence as everyone makes a stampede after the ball. Christophe the sponge guy (the one with the pony tail) gets there first.
As he tries to drag the ball back into the goalmouth, he is clearly held back in a kind of bunny-hug. Incredibly, the ref just stands there watching. So Christophe breaks free from his shackles, looks for a convenient leg stretched out in his direction and falls over it.
Make no mistake - it's a clear penalty but many sportsmen amongst the audience would probably baulk at such antics. Nevertheless, the St Priest players have been getting away with so much that I suppose that sooner or later you reach the end of your patience.
Matthieu, the Pionsat keeper, elects to take this penalty and makes no mistake from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way.
There's a game on right now. Pionsat, who have let their heads drop this last 10 minutes or so, are now right back in it.
And meantime the refereeing is becoming more and more puzzling. There's a genuine collision between two players going for the same ball and the ref blows for a foul against Pionsat. That kind of thing is subjective, but what isn't are the antics of the St Priest no10 and no7 (who has returned to the (af)fray). On two occasions Pionsat win clear free kicks and in order to prevent the quick free kick being taken, first the no10 and then the no7 kick the ball away right downfield. The ref lets it go.
Meanwhile, due to an injury in defence, Cedric is back on the field playing central defence and he looks extremely comfortable there too.
This is obviously upsetting the St Priest forwards, one of whom cynically scythes him down. It's not as bad a tackle as some that have gone before, but at long last we have a yellow card brandished at a St Priest player. And quite right too.
And what makes it even sweeter is the outcome of the kick. The St Priest goalkeeper for the last 15 minutes or so has become quite complacent, if not arrogant, and has been hurling abuse at the Pionsat supporters - not of course that some of the Pionsat supporters have not been paying him back in kind, I hasten to add.
The free kick is played over the wall. It's not as good as the previous free kicks and clearly has the goalkeeper's name written all over it. He strides out to take the easy catch and then, inexplicably, spills it.
And he spills it right at the feet of the Pionsat no3 who had gone up for the kick. The no3 quickly overcomes his surprise at this most unexpected free gift and taps it into the empty net to the accompaniment of cheers and guffaws from the Pionsat supporters all around the ground. Nothing was ever so sweet as this goal.
From the kick-off, with just seconds to spare before the final whistle, St Priest go straight back on the attack. The Pionsat goal certainly lived a charmed life during those moments. one one occasion a ball was hacked off the line by a Pionsat defender with a desperate last-second clearance. it cannons into a St Priest attacker and spins right along the goal line with no-one there to get the final touch.
Pionsat were rather unlucky to come away from here with just a point. They had probably two-thirds of the attacking play and most of the action was definitely Pionsat going forward. St Priest were a bigger, heavier side, much more physical and much more cynical in the challenges, using their "force" (in every sense of the word) to dictate the run of play.
It's fair to make the comment that the referee seemed to be inconsistent in his decisions. He was thoroughly correct in awarding a penalty to Pionsat right at the start, but then seemed to lose control of the game as it descended into the nearest thing to a brawl that I've seen over here.
It may well be argued that most fouls are subjective, but some actions are certainly not. It's all very well that players might be booked for putting their hands down to prevent a quick free kick, but when two others kick the ball away the entire length of the field to hold up play for ten times as long, it's difficult for the spectators to understand why those players don't merit a yellow card at least.
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