US MENETROL v 2nd XI
23rd OCTOBER 2011
I've never been to Methanol for a football match before and so I have to stop and ask a passer-by where the ground might be. As I do so, a white Berlingo also pulls up alongside me and to my surprise it's Philippe who is also looking for the ground.
"Come to watch?" I ask him.
"Watch, nothing. I've come to play!"
"I thought you had retired."
"So did I" he retorted.
So what's going on here? This must be the howmanyth time that he has been called out of retirement.
That's a question that might well be asked as I find here that apart from Phiippe in goal, there is half of the 3rd XI out there on the field. And not necessarily the players that I would have chosen either. There's clearly something going on.
Sébastien is out there, playing in attack. Apparently he's been out injured for ages and this is his first match back. Christophe, who usually plays in attack, is in the centre of the defence today. This looks like a pretty makeshift side and I wonder how it's going to turn out.
As it happens, the first half-hour or so is pretty dreadful. Menetrol have nothing to offer at all and Pionsat are, if anything, even worse. At least Menetrol has a shape to its side but the Pionsat side has nothing. It's just 11 players milling around on the pitch with no direction and even less enthusiasm, the kind of performance you might expect on a Sunday morning after a heavy night down at the local night spot.
Sébastien is clearly not fit and his comeback has lasted just 15 minutes before he limps off injured. With no other striker on the bench it would be time to push Christophe forward and Gaëtan back into the centre of defence alongside the other Sébastien. But no - they opt to leave Stéphane, who is a little off the pace at this level, on his own up front, and I don't think that this is ever going to work.
After about half an hour, Menetrol take the lead. And I suppose that on the balance of play they probably just about deserve it, although the circumstances of the goal make quite depressing reading.
The Menetrol midfielders work their way down the centre of the field and Pionsat try to spring an offside trap. This is extremely dangerous at the best of times but with a makeshift side and so many players playing out of position it is nothing short of suicide.
"When I say move up we move up" 30 seconds before kick-off is not the best preparation for this kind of thing.
Anyway, we have a one-on-one between Philippe and the attacker and poor Philippe finishes in second place.
And while I'm preoccupied talking about the state of the nation with a couple of spectators, they score a second goal out of nothing.
Menetrol win a corner and it's thrown down to the right corner of the field. From, there it's driven in low across the face of the goal. One of the Methanol players gets a foot to the ball and steers it towards the near post, and Philippe dives to try to stop it. He gets both hands to the ball but can't hang on and it bounces into the post and into the net.
There wasn't anything at all that anyone could have done to stop that one.
And it goes from bad to worse just a couple of minutes later, and we have what is every defender's nightmare. There's a loose ball just outside the penalty area and one of the Pionsat defenders leaves his marker to run up to the ball, in absolutely no danger whatsoever. Having clearly read my notes from previous occasions and with no-one around him to block the ball, he goes to do exactly the right thing by hoofing it out of danger and upfield to put the pressure on theur defence.
But this kind of thing is no good at all if you don't make contact with the ball. It simply gives a free shot to the attacker who is standing behind you, who has only the keeper to beat.
I checked the timer on the camera after this. From an untidy 0-0 to a devastating 3-0 down has taken just under 6 minutes.
Not long after the start of the second half, Pionsat pull a goal back. Stéphane,who is playing n°9 for the side today, manages to get the ball into the net. The team has won a corner and the guy who takes it completely miskicks the ball, which is the story of the match for Pionsat I suppose. The ball spins in along the ground to the near post which takes everyone by surprise as they were expecting a high ball to the back.
It goes across the face of the goal and the keeper sees it rather late through a forest of legs. He goes down to collect it but can't gather it properly and it rebounds right into the path of Stéphane who makes no mistake from about three yards out.
I'm hoping now that this might put a spring back into the legs of the Pionsat players and fire them up for the rest of the match. If they can pull another goal back then they may put the wind up the opposition. .
But it's Menetrol who go forward on the attack and look quite threatening down the centre of the defence. But a couple of the Pionsat central defenders hustle and bustle the Methanol forwards and by the time the attacker can get in a shot he's well off-balance and Philippe has time to get down to that.
He can only parry the ball and it rebounds into the legs of the Menetrol attacker, and luckily back into the outstretched arms of Philippe, and we can all breathe again.
But Pionsat's luck doesn't hold out for much longer and they score a fourth goal, which I suppose had always been on the cards.
The attackers manage to work their way in behind the left side of Pionsat's defence just by the edge of the penalty area with a couple of one-twos that once again catch the defence as they did just a little earlier, and I bet Philippe wished that he had stayed in bed this Sunday morning.
Exactly the same kind of thing happened just a couple of minutes later. There's a Menetrol break downfield and Pionsat's short-handed defence is overwhelmed once more.
There's not much to threaten the Menetrol forward who has the goal at his mercy but he has a rush of blood to the head and goes for glory, putting the ball about three feet wide when surely it would have been easier to score from that position.
Shame as it is to say it, there were a couple of players out there for Pionsat today who looked totally uninterested in the game. Lack of skill is one thing, but lack of interest is quite something else. It seemed that the team could be divided into three today, those who had skill and no interest, those who had interest and no skill, and those who had neither skill nor interest.
To give you just one out of so many examples of what I mean, at one stage in the game there were no less than three Pionsat players standing in an upfield position, yards offside, watching the short-handed Pionsat midfield try to deal with an attacking move. These players were making no effort at all to come back onside and help out, and had the Pionsat midfield won the ball and cleared their lines and kicked the ball upfield, they would simply have handed possession back to Methanol.
I said an awful lot of other things about the match as well and I'm surprised that my dictaphone hadn't melted under the heat. I'm not going to repeat them here, though, for it would be simply gratuitous. I just want to forget all about this match.
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