Who would win in a fight between a Panther and a Guerinla? That’s what a sizeable throng of T&F footie fans gathered on the Park Club sports hall balcony to find out. As well as trying to figure out exactly what a Guerinla actually was...
Led by the Crusader from Cork, Brian Guerin (this week missing his fellow captain, Nick Ascroft), the team in white were met by a blinding vision in shocking pink in the shape of Richie Moore’s Panthers. The veteran captain had experience on his side, as well as widely held belief amongst T&F footie fans that he has been Nottingham’s greatest export since Kevin Costner decided to don a doublet and espouse socialism in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Both teams were untested in the league so far and were also without key players, which meant a couple of ringers being drafted in. Lloyd Langman stood between the sticks for the Guerinlas, apparently for the first time since his glory goalkeeping days in the Plymouth and District under-13s league. Meanwhile, new man Ed Vass was playing for a contract with the Panthers, despite being ostracised by the kit man and forced into a red (rather than pink) jersey.
With the Welsh wonder Hugh Evans taking on the refereeing mantle, the teams kicked off and went to it. Despite it being the first match for the teams, both looked like compact units from the off. The Panthers’ Ben Hathaway tested Langman with early shots and produced the best chance of the match so far with a perceptive pass to Sarah Robbie. Robbie did well under pressure to get her shot in for the Guerinlas’ keeper to gather.
But despite this early pressure, it was the Guerinlas who made the breakthrough. Mark Gillett found a wide ball just on the edge of the Pink’s box and was just able to get his shot in and just past the Pink’s keeper, Colin Bulpitt. Gillett’s vicinity to Bulpitt’s area led to a bit of ‘discussion’ about whether the goal should stand, but ref Evans wasn’t going back on his decision.
It wasn’t long before the Panthers were back in it, when a Hathaway shot produced a good reaction stop from Langman, but he couldn’t collect the rebound, meaning Ryan Cooper was able to slot home. Cue much rejoicing from the team in pink, who from a distance looked a bit like a giant, dancing bowl of Angel Delight.
With the game was rapidly turning into a tight encounter, the ferocious felines looked to be evenly matched by the simian skills of Guerin’s team. The Panthers’ goal was followed by a tough period of play, with all the outfield members of both sides really getting stuck in. Sarah Robbie vied for the ball with the Guerinlas’ Katie Peace and chances rained in from both sides. Eventually though, it was the Guerinlas who gained an important advantage just before the break, thanks to that man Mark Gillett once again. After some decent interplay between
Vass and Cooper, Gillett latched on to a loose ball and fired his shot in past a flying Bulpitt.
Following a brief halftime pep talk, the Panthers sprung into action as if attacking a herd of wild gazelle. The Guerinlas captain Brian Guerin showed the Panthers some top dribbling action, with more twists and turns than a Dillinger Escape Plan record, but the Pinks piled the pressure on the Guerinlas defence with the new midfield entente of Ed Vass and Sian Findlay. Nothing but solid defending by Ryan Kidd and stops by Lloyd ‘Shinblocker’ Langman kept the feline fighters at bay. Sub Katie Eve got stuck in and managed to link some decent passes in the midfield, but none found a way through for the Guerinlas. In fact, the Guerinlas might have realised they’d come up against Moore (!) than they bargained for when the Panthers’ boss seized his moment. Mighty Moore produced a real captain’s goal to draw the Panthers level once more, racing through challenges as he zoomed towards the G’s goal, unleashing a powerful drive past Langman and in.
With the game evened up again both teams tried to claim an advantage. Hard work in the middle of the pitch and some great stops by keepers Bulpitt and Langman kept the scoring low. The last shot of the game came from Sian Findlay, and what a shot it was! Connecting with a searching ball up toward the Guerinlas’ area, Findlay’s shot marooned a static Langman, and was within a panther’s whisker of being the winner, as it clattered back off the inside of the G’s upright. With no chances in the minute that followed before Evans drew an end to the first encounter, the teams ended a hard fought encounter with a fair share of the points.
Final Score: Pink Panthers 2 – 2 Guerinlas in the Mist
After such tight play in the first game, it looked as if the first goal could be coming from anywhere in game two (even a few of the fans up in the balcony were fancying their chances). But it was the Guerinlas who made the breakthrough, thanks to their rugged Scotsman Ryan Kidd. Kidd stabbed a claymore into the hearts of the Panthers when he coolly slotted the ball home, following a bit of sustained pressure by his team on the Pink’s box/area/semi-circle thingy.
The Panthers picked themselves up and looked ahead to try and get back into the game, but it was the chief Guerinla himself, Brian Guerin, who foiled such plans. A run down the right wing saw him connect with a looping ball for a spectacular falling volley. Argument ensued again about whether the G’s captain had entered the box, but no nonsense ref Evans was having none of it and ordered that the goal stood.
With the decisions going their way, the Guerinlas were spurred on to even more when Andy Roe, the team’s resident Jack Sparrow look-a-like, sailed towards the opposition’s goal, as if standing on the stern of a mighty galleon, and sank a devastating cannonball of a drive into the net, sinking the good ship Panther into a watery 3 goal deficit.
Roe’s heroics only pushed the team on further, and it wasn’t long before Mark Gillett danced down the left wing, skipping over challenges as one may skip from rock to rock to cross a babbling brook. But this idyllic image was soon shattered by the ferocity with which Gillett released a smashing drive at the Panthers goal. Panther’s keeper Colin Bulpitt bravely stood up to Gillett’s shot, but the ball must have decided to side with the white team, as it conspired to bounce off every part of Bulpitt’s lower body before it trickled over the line. Debate will rage as to whether the goal was Gillett’s or if it would be Bulpitt’s name on the score sheet. Unfortunately for the Panther’s keeper, I think it was most likely to be him that had the final touch.
After the break, The Panthers tried hard to weather further Guerinla attacks, but were unable to stop Beth Lewis coming extremely close with a drive that look to all in the balcony to be in, however some phantom side netting trick fooled the spectators, cutting short celebrations from the Guerinla lovers (The Glovers?). However, Lewis didn’t need to wait long to see her name on the score sheet, as determined play on the right wing led to her zipping in a shot, that saw both the ball and the keeper in the back of the net.
Lesser teams may well have given up hope at this stage, but not the proud Panthers who kept up the pressure on the Guerinlas, with some hard work all round, and hard battling from Vass and Stark in the midfield. Lindsay Stark built on her great play in the first match and was once again in the thick of things, going toe to toe with Beth Lewis on the right wing. She formed a determined front going forward with Cooper. Late call up Ed Vass made his presence equally felt with some hard work in the midfield against Gillett and Lewis. He showed some great moments of skill, the best of which saw him control a high looping ball outside the G’s box, and turning it into a dangerous lob over Langman, that come down on the wrong side of the bar.
This hard graft from Moore Pinkies paid off when the ball fell to their first game goal hero Cooper about half way out, who took a swing and sent the ball past an outstretched Langman.
With their first goal chalked up, the Panthers pressed on and obviously inspired by Cooper’s long range effort, the pink team’s hardworking defensive maestro Ben Hathaway smashed a belter in from just over the halfway line. Suddenly getting five goals didn’t look as tough an ask for the Panthers.
A recovery looked very much like it could be on the cards for the high performing Panthers, but dreams of bridging the three goal gap were cut short with Terminator-like precision by the Guerinla’s part-man, part machine, Andy “The Roebot” Roe, who stormed in with another goal after Bulpitt had tipped Kidd’s shot away. The four goal gap proved just too much for the Panthers, and the end of match saw two more Guerinla goals from Gillett and Roe, decent solo strikes both, to put the game fully beyond the Panther’s reach. This left the scorers with a total of three goals each across the two games. Crikey jings, look out goals leader board!
The result puts Guerinlas in the Midst at the top of the T&F Five-a-Side league and places the unfortunate Panthers at the foot of the table. But it’s early days yet and we could easily see the Moore’s men and women ramping up the table in no time at all. Guerin and Ascroft’s Army look formidable and it’ll take tough team to get the Guerinlas down from the top of the tree.
Final Score: Pink Panthers 2 – 8 Guerinlas in the Mist
GITM 2 : 2 PP
GITM 8 : 2 PP
Gillet 3; Roe 3; Cooper 2; Moore; Kidd; Guerin; Hathaway; Lewis