1st XI v NORD COMBRAILLE
16th OCTOBER 2011
Well, we had another nice day for it today, a cup match against hated local rivals Nord Combraille from St Eloy, following on Pionsat's disposal of St Georges - Les Ancizes two weeks ago . The Miners are a division or two higher uo the pyramid and so this is going to be another tough match for the club.
And so nice is the day that you will notice that I was obliged to take up a different spec this afternoon. From my usual vantage point on the top of the steps outside the dressing rooms I had the sun shining right into the lens of the camera and it was quite uncomfortable.
With it being lower in the sky right now and with the large crowd that had come fo follow the hated local rivals from down the road, it was not possible to shelter under the stand. There was nothing for it but to go across the field and see what damage I could do from over there.
It's as well that I did go for a good spec as we had an exciting opening two minutes. First of all Pionsat win a free kick for a foul on Thomas for which I would have given a shoulder-to-shoulder, but never mind.
Matthieu from the left side of the penalty area put one of his trademark floaters into the area but no-one could quite get to it - not even the keeper - and it floats into the woodwork as everyone in the packed goalmouth looks on.
One of the Pionsat forwards running in from the right wing - it might possibly have been Nico but I was unsighted, is the first to reach the ball and shoots from just a handful of yards out but puts it the wrong side of the post.
Talk about bad luck - Pionsat could quite easily have taken the lead just then. What a way to start a match?
And Pionsat almost score another goal a very short while later. They win the ball from one of the Miners' defenders and find them selves in a good attacking position. There's a lovely ball into the centre and its Jojo who whacks off a cracker there that cannons off the underside of the bar with the keeper in second place and everyone else well-beaten.
It's a shame that the ball was so far out because there was no-one able to follow up the rebound but nevertheless they are dominating these early stages.
Pionsat are still on the attack and almost find yet another way through the defence. This time it's Thomas doing some good work down the inside-left position and he plays Nico in, down in the centre of the penalty area
Nico has to stretch for the ball and is off-balance and so can't quite make a proper contact on the ball. His shot screws across the face of the goal without enough power on it to trouble the defence. Jojo is too far out to have any hope of catching it.
What with all of this Pionsat pressure, what I'm dreading is the almost-inevitable Nord Combraille breakaway down the field to the opposite end of the pitch through a Pionsat defence that has lost concentration and gone to sleep.
But no - it's PIonsat who are the first to get on the score sheet, which they have been threatening for the last10 minutes or so. There's a good Pionsat break out of defence and a ball right over the top of the defence beating the offside trap, just like a 2nd XI goal from three or four years ago.
Thomas runs down to the right-hand side of the penalty area and picks up the loose ball, drawing the Nord Combraille defenders and keeper across to him. When he is satisfied that he has the total and undivided attention of the defenders he sidefoots the ball across the penalty to where Matthieu is waiting, totally unmarked and in acres of empty space.
A simple sidefoot into the empty net and it's "Goodnight Vienna"
I've been watching François for the last 10 minutes or so. He's not his usual self this afternoon, looking rather nervous. Just now for example, there's been a ball come into the penalty area about chest-height and although he was in a good bit of clear space in what was a crowded area he elects to punch it away through the traffic. That's a little risky. He had the time and space to have caught that.
The Miners equalise a short while later, totally against the run of play, which was inevitable given the amount of pressure that the Pionsat players have been piling on them.
After all that I have been saying this last couple of weeks about the improvement in the Pionsat defence at the start of this season, it's a typical Pionsat offside trap that goes all horribly wrong like they usually seem to do.
One of the Miners who is adjudged to be onside has all the time that he needs, all on his own, to gather the ball and head into the penalty area for a one-on-one with François. He tries to sell François a dummy that gives one of the defenders - it might have been Gaëtan - time to get back, but the attacker beats him easily and sends François the wrong way.
What's astonishing though is that just like in the match two weeks ago François turns in mid-air and manages to get a hand to the ball. He bats it down to the goal line but without enough to keep it out. He was so unlucky there
Nord Combraille are almost in again a few minutes later. The attack gives the ball away upfield in the Miners' half and a long ball out of defence catches the Pionsat defenders short-handed, with just two players back against two of their attackers.
Both of the Pionsat defenders are pulled out towards the the loose ball leaving one of the Nord Combraille attackers clear behind them. His colleague reaches the ball and passes into the centre for the unmarked Nord Combraille forward to have a go. François does well to get to that with both hands and parry it for a corner.
Shortly after the start of the second half Pionsat win a free kick on the right-hand side about 20-25 yards out. Gregory takes it and floats a good ball into the centre and Nico, on the near post, has almost a free header on that one - no-one else comes for it or tries to put him off.
His header though sails calmly into the arms of the waiting goalkeeper with the whole of the goal gaping wide open. We can put that one down to a good chance definitely gone begging.
Pionsat are again through the Miners' defence. They break down the right wing and the forward puts a high ball in over the top. Thomas is the first to get to the ball round the back of the Nord Combraille defenders to the ball that arrives at him round about about upper chest height.
He elects to jump for the ball and gets his foot high enough to loop the ball over the keeper's head, but the ball goes over the top of the crossbar and drops down behind.
Nothing much has been done about Pionsat's left side of defence despite what I said after last week's match and I'm surprised that the trainer hasn't picked up on this. Most of the Nord Combraille attacks today have come from over there. We've had yet another one just now that the defence has had to scramble away.
And just for a change there's an attack down the Pionsat's right-back position as a forward gets in behind Gregory. This leads to Pionsat conceding a foul and the kick balloons off the defensive wall heading ominously for the far bottom corner. Although he sees it late, François dives full-length across the goal and pushes it wide of the post for a corner.
Pionsat are currently having a whole series of corners just now, with the Nord Combraille defence pegged well back in their own area. They finally manage to get the ball away from in front of goal but only as far as Gaëtan who is about 25 yards out and he absolutely whallops one right back into the area.
Gaëtan's screamer cannons off the underside of the bar, onto the deck and back into play. I think that it was Thomas following up, and he launches himself at the rebound and heads it just over the bar.
This sustained pressure from Pionsat deserves so much better than this and with the minutes ticking away and extra time looming, they need to be converting one or two of these chances.
Pionsat concede a free kick about 30 yards out - one that is quite disputed and from where I was, close up with play, I would have disputed it too I suppose.
The kick eludes all of the defenders and finds a Nord Combraille attacker on the far post about 10 yards out. He's in another one-on-one with François and François just gets enough on the forward's shot to stop the ball going in the net. That was something of a let-off for Pionsat. The defence really needs to concentrate in these final minutes.
But never mind the defence just now - the attack has gone and put Pionsat back in front where they deserve to be after all of their exertions during the match.
Nord Combraille sense that it's now or never for them and they have pushed forward in numbers but Pionsat win the ball from a series of crunching heavily-disputed tackles and set off down the wing just like the good old days when the 2nd XI won the 3rd Division championship.
Matthieu, totally unmarked, breaks into the penalty area and has a go at beating the keeper but the keeper parries it out. Thomas, following up, latches onto the loose ball and slots it in with the keeper and defenders stranded.
With just a couple of minutes to play in the match we have a most extraordinary incident. Keen followers of these pages who have read my notes from the 1st XI match last weekend will recall my rant about goalkeepers kicking the ball under pressure, and how many times have I predicted what comes next in this match?
One of the Nord Combraille central defenders has just played a suicide backpass to his keeper, that has brought that latter off his line with a desperate chase for the ball with Thomas beaming down upon him.
The keeper reaches the ball first, with about a yard to spare, and instead of kicking it out to touch as I have been advocating as long as I have been playing football, he goes for glory. And instead of finding his forwards, he finds Thomas's midriff.
The ball cannons back towards the goal and Thomas runs after it just to make sure. With a defender desperately trying to get back, Thomas lets him get to within a couple of yards before he taps the ball in.
This kind of clearance is total suicide and I have been saying this for years. When as a keeper you are under pressure from a backpass, just kick the ball into touch to give your defenders time to come back and cover. How many times need I say it?
This is another good scalp for Pionsat to hang on the wall of the Bar St Bravy - it's especially nice when it's off the head of your hated local rivals and they are a couple of divisions higher up the pyramid as well. But I really don't know why it is that Pionsat can go out and lose a match against pretty ordinary opposition such as Royat last week and yet raise their game against a better-quality opposition like this to such an extent that they can come home at a canter. Like the story about the blood that seeps from that religious statue somewhere in Pûy-en-Velay, it's a bleeding mystery.
And man of this weekend? For the first twenty minutes he looked a little uncomfortable. But with a couple of crucial saves at vital moments when the game was nicely poised, a full-length diving push-around-the-corner from a free kick that had cannoned off the wall and was heading rapidly for the far bottom corner, and even turning acrobatically in mid-air and managing to get a hand to their equalising goal even though he looked well-beaten, take a bow François. It was you who won this match for your colleagues this weekend.
And why can't Thomas play with this sort of confidence every week? That's another bleeding mystery.
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