Both teams were severely depleted coming into this game, so it looked like it was going to come down to the survival of the fittest. Early costume brownie points went to the Pink Panthers, who were all lined up in their identical pink T-shirts like a row of stubbed toes. The Bankers on the other hand, were wearing a variety of different colours that were not pink. Sort it Barclay.
There was an element of “the Fast Show” about Langman’s start to the game, sprinting about in his Paul Whitehouse-style Argyle jersey. But there was nothing funny about the hat-trick he managed to score before the Panthers woke up, each shot dispatched ruthlessly, with some help along the way from Lammey.
Andy “no, the other Andy Humphries” Humphries decided he had had enough at this point, and
pulled one back after robbing Ziebart on the wing. The same man then spearheaded a counter-surge, ably assisted by Lindsey Stark. Matt “the Matt” Cannon joined in the resurgence with a sweetly taken long-range strike, that Barclay barely saw. Cannon and Humphries linked up well for the remainder of the half, challenging the Lammey/Langman axis that ran the early moments of the game. 3-2 was the score at half time, with the Panthers looking more likely to score next.
The introduction of Cooper at halftime put a cat among the pigeons though. He was showboating from the off, hitting the ceiling and then playing some sublime passes with his first few touches. Other halftime substitute Ellie Gilroy also helped the Bankers get back into the game, with some telling interceptions and a few close shots. The Panthers then equalised against the run of play through their captain Moore. A great ball saw him scamper into space down the left, before firing a composed shot past Barclay. He immediately subbed himself off for Matt Cannon, revelling in his 1 shot to 1 goal ratio for several minutes.
The scores did not stay level for long, with Cooper storming forward at every opportunity to put pressure on the Panthers defence. It seemed almost too easy for him to regain the lead for his team, slotting in from a tight angle past Bulpitt. Langman resurfaced to score from the edge of the area soon afterwards, with the ref unsure whether he had crossed the red line or not. Cooper then struck to regain the Bankers’ 3 goal lead, ignoring passing options to shoot powerfully into the bottom corner from distance, with textbook banker greed.
While the Bankers’ continued to push to accumulate goals, the team’s speculation left a lot of gaps at the back, which gave Stark numerous shooting chances. This culminated in Humphries scoring the last goal of the game, striking through Langman’s legs in acres of space. It was too little too late unfortunately, as the pink team lost 4-6.
The Panthers looked a team on the brink of exhaustion at the start of the second game, with their once uniform pink T-shirts now stained various hues of red and purple from perspiration. They did start the game well though and played as a very compact unit, clearly buoyed by “1 shot to 1 goal Moore”’s pre-game pep talk. It was unsurprising that Bulpitt looked sickened when the Bankers’ scored the opener, with Lammey exchanging a couple of 1-2s with Cooper before finishing expertly into the far corner. It was a goal of the highest quality. The Panther response was spirited, with Moore’s cheeky backheel sending Humphries through on goal, but there was no sign of an equaliser. Moments later Lammey and Cooper linked up well to send their team 2 goals up, this time it was Cooper who finished from close range.
Cannon gave his team hope with another tremendous goal from distance. He then linked up well with Humphries and Hathaway to create a chance for the latter, but it was well blocked by Pitts. The Cooper Lammey and Langman triumvirate (they sound more like lawyers then bankers) were soon controlling the midfield, with Lammey crashing a shot off the bar. Their pressure paid off moments later. Cooper played Lammey into space down the wing with a backheel, and then struck the return pass past Barclay first time. Wonderful stuff.
A bit of gamesmanship crept into the game at that point, with the team 2 goals ahead passing the ball across the defence and running down the clock. The next chance fell to Cooper, who hammered a half-volley off the side wall with his trademark exuberance. The game was slow from then until halftime.
The play in the second half continued outside the Bankers’ penalty area, when a free kick was awarded against Andy Pitts’ quite brilliant, but also quite illegal sliding tackle. A speedy Lammey interception nipped the ensuing set piece in the bud. Ben Hathaway was desperately trying to pull his team back into the game with his Rambo-style runs, playing the ball to himself off the wall, and often running into the outstretched boot of Pitts. He finally closed the gap to one goal when a moment of defensive madness by the Bankers allowed him to finish unmarked from the edge of the area.
A spell of end to end chaos, now recorded in hieroglyphics in my notepad, ended with Pitts restoring his team’s 2 goal lead, unmarked. Having enjoyed his bit of attacking, Pitts then went on a blinding run the length of the pitch, beating 3 players, and setting Cooper up for an easy finish. Langman completed the route for the Bankers, shooting past a reclining Bulpitt, who seemed to have slipped. It finished 6-2 in favour of Barclay’s team
With 6 points from 6 today, the Bankers canter to a lead at the top of the table, playing the best passages of football seen yet this season. A well-organised but under-strength Pink Panthers team played some great football themselves, but were outclassed. They remain bottom.
1st game Pink Panthers 4 - 6 The Bankers
2nd game The Bankers 5 - 2 Pink Panthers
Langman 5; Cooper 4; Humphries 2; Cannon 2; Hathaway; Pitts; Lammey; Moore