1st XI v CLERMONT FONTAINE DU BAC
22nd OCTOBER 2011
Just for a change, I arrive at the ground well in time for the match as kick-off isn't until 20:30 - something that has taken me by surprise. Ahh well.
And tonight's opponents are a team that I haven't seen before - from Clermont Ferrand. It's nice to see the club playing in a different environment than the usual round of matches against the clubs in the immediate vicinity. It means that there is a completely different set of grounds to visit for the away matches and so I can get out more - something with which many readers of these pages will whole-heartedly agree.
One thing that I notice as the match begins is that there is no change down the left side of the defence, and Gregory is still on the bench. I really think that something needsdoing down that flank. There's no Yann in the centre of defence, which means that Alex Nouveau is continuing there alongside one of the Auclair twins (its Julien, and his mother very kindly explained to me how to tell them apart). This central defensive pairing looked quite comfortable together at Royat the other week and I hope that they continue. Julien seems to have improved considerably so far this season.
There's no Vianney this evening either and I see that Pierre is playing in his place, just in front of the back four . He's usually a midfielder but he has played in central defence on a few occasions that I have seen so I don't foresee too many problems here.
As the match unfolds, it's noticeable that when the ball is played in down the leftside of Pionsat's defence, one of the central defenders goes across to cover and the entire defence steps one man across with Pierre filling in the gap. That is a pleasant change and it's very nice to see. This defence is looking so much better.
There's a good break down the left wing between Nico and Matthieu, with them moving the ball really well between themselves to pull defenders out of position. The ball is played quickly into the centre and Cedric has a go with a first-time shot right into the hands of the keeper, which is a shame.
You can see Jerome in a good position out to the right there but I don't think that the ball would have reached him, and I don't think that Cedric would have been able to have controlled the ball to pass it out wide.
And what an incredible goal from Pionsat! It was a really quick throw-in from Pierre which finds Jerome down the right wing. Jerome sets off on a mazy run past about six of their defenders, riding a few tackles that looked severe, to say the least.
He finds himself in about half an inch of space just outside the penalty area and picks the ball up with the outside of his right boot and curls it right over the head of the keeper into the far corner of the net.
That was superb - a definite early candidate for "goal of the season".
Pionsat put the ball into the net a few minutes later. They win a free kick and the ball is played over the wall and the keeper goes for it but being off-balance and leaning too far forward, he can't gather the ball cleanly and it spills from his grasp.
Pierre who has been following the ball into the area, reaches the loose ball first and slots it into the net, with the keeper beaten all ends up. But it's all for nothing as the referee blows for a foul on the goalkeeper and all that I can say is that he must have seen something that I didn't notice. But then again, no-one on the Pionsat team or in the crowd said anything about it so maybe it's me who needs his eyes tested, not the ref.
We have another excellent throw-in back to Gaëtan, who floats a beautiful high ball into the area. Cedric won it cleanly in the air, nodded it wide to Nico who slotted it into the net past the despairing keeper.
This is when the controversy begins because the referee blows for what seems to be offside. The Pionsat players howl with disbelief and when I look at the linesman, his flag is not raised up. Whether he has already raised it and then lowered it I do not know, but if he did, then he must have done it pretty smartly because that whistle was extremely quick. And it's the Clermont linesman as well and so if the referee has overruled him then this is astonishing.
And after a couple of disputed offsides in rather rapid succession we have a break down the field from Clermont and they go clean down through three or four tackles and end up with a one-on-one against Matthieu. There's not very much that he can do about that and the ball is shot into the far side of the net for an equaliser.
But I wonder if you can guess down which side of the flank that attack went.
We have a break down the right wing for Pionsat and a good ball into the centre for Cedric but he rather snatches at his shot and puts it way over the bar
And the Clermont goalkeeper is tearing shreds off his defence for all of that and quite rightly so too in my opinion. I just wish that maybe that someone from Pionsat would take note of this and decide to do the same thing with the same amount of venom and volume. It would certainly pay dividends.
I've had my eye on the opposition goalkeeper throughout the match and I've noticed that he has a huge punt out of his hands - well into the Pionsat half of the field. I was looking forward to seeing him take a goalkick to see how far he could kick it but when it did come,it was something of a disappointment.
I've also been noticing that his handling is a little shaky as well. He's spilled a couple of shots and crosses, one of which would have led to a goal had there not have been a foul. Plenty of high balls into the area, or else long-range boomers from the midfield with the attackers following up. This should be the tactic for the second half of the match if you want my opinion, not that you do of course.
Plenty of changes at half-time for Pionsat. Matthieu has left the field to be replaced on the left wing by that Michael, a new player to the club who came on the other week. THomas has come on instead of Nico, and Gregory is there in the place of Pierre.
It doesn't take Pionsat long to go back into the lead, something that they have deserved throughout the match. Clermont concede a free-kick not too far outside Pionsat's penalty area and Matthieu, who is in goal this evening, takes one of his prodigious free kicks.
He launches this one right into the Clermont penalty area, which totally astonishes me as I haven't even written my notes yet, let alone given Matthieu timeto read them, and Cedric leaps up to get his head to the ball.
The keeper has come off his line into no-man's land, as per my script a little earlier, and doesn't have a chance of making it, and the ball sails over his head. Whether it is going into the net or not I really cannot say, but Michael, who has apparently also read my notes before I have written them, is following up as any good striker ought to be and taps the ball into the unguarded net.
Clermont keep on coming forward, although without offering an awful lot, and there's a terrible collision in the penalty area between one of their attackers and a Pionsat player chasing after the same ball. There's clearly no foul but the Clermont player falls awkwardly,lieson the ground for a moment and then picks himself off and hobbles off behind the goal.
It's clear that he's in considerable discomfort and the referee stops the game to see to him. It takes just one look at the player for the referee to shout to the steward to
"appelez les pompiers" - "call the fire brigade" because, out here in the wilderness, it's the fire brigade that runs all of the emergency services.
The player is helped to the touchline to await the arrival of the ambulance that will attend to him.
I was told later on that he had fallen on his shoulder and had caused considerable damage to it. That's quite a shame, that. No-one likes to see anyone injured in an encouter like this when they are doing their best to provide entertainment for the locals on a Saturday night.
And so on with the game and the Clermont keeper has another shaky moment. There's a ball into the penalty area between the keeper and Jerome, with the keeper being the slight favourite here. He fails to gather it cleanly, however, and Jerome, who finds himself unexpectedly with the ball and with his back to the goal, hooks it over his shoulder and it doesn't go wide by much.
The match ends on something of an unpleasant note. For once, since half-time with this Michael being on the field and stiffening up the left side, the ball is down the left side of Pionsat's defence in a dangerous position.
Gaëtan, who is in something of an exposed position, apparently commits something of a cynical foul, so it seems, and the Clermont player's response is … errr … rather unpleasant, to say the least, and he has to be dragged away from a prostrate Gaëtan by several players of both sides.
The referee strides over to the incident and shows Gaëtan a yellow card, and … errr … that seems to be it, as far as I can see.
After the final whistle has blown, there is what can best be described as "a frank exchange of views" between the Pionsat and the Clermont players, with the Clermont players taking the initiative in this respect. Indeed, amongst all of this, the Clermont goalkeeper wishes to go over and speak to Matthieu, no doubt to exchange hints and tips on the goalkeeper's art, but has to be forcibly restrained by his colleagues, who doubtless wish to keep hold of all of their trade secrets and not to lose the initiative in the cup match next week, which will doubtless be a rather exciting affair.
But really, there is no place for any of this on a sports field.
And man of the weekend this weekend? Simply that it was noticeable that in the second half the left side of Pionsat's defence was considerably tighter and the Clermont attack was pretty well snuffed out down that side. This new signing, Michael, who came on, does not have the lightning pace of Matthieu going forward, but he reads the opposition attack pretty well and is quick to get back to break up an attack before it really has time to develop.
He doesn't have Matthieu's skill on the ball either but he makes up for that with tenacity and the muscle to push the defenders away from challenges rather than going around them. If he can play like this every week he will be an excellent signing for the club and he deserves my accolade for this week.
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