Our LUL 2 Brewers side suffered a defeat at home to Phoenix whilst our XXL side scored plenty of goals but ran out of steam against Muswell Hill in an entertaining match up in North London. Jim Hearson and Stu Forward have our match reports
AFC Muswell Hill 5 Titans XXL 3 – by Stu Forward
Fresh from last week’s win over Romans and the previous day’s GFSN victory over Leftfooters – but a lot less fresh from the subsequent night out – Titans XXL took on their first away game of the season as they travelled to AFC Muswell Hill in North London.
With a few changes to the lineup, and David East still MIA after the previous day’s exploits, Titans XXL made a nervous start at White Hart Lane, before settling into a more composed shape after an edgy opening ten.
Issac “She-Ra” Young, making his league debut for the club in goal and taking the captain’s armband for the fixture, made some good early saves at short distance, commanding his box and allowing Titans to build from the back in the game’s opening section.
Titans’ passing play was rewarded after 20 minutes as Chris King crossed the ball to Scott De Blasio on the edge of the box, who neatly turned and slotted the ball away to make it 1-0. Despite Titans taking the lion’s share of possession after the goal, turning defence into sprawling attack through the crafty feet of Callum Jewell, Tom Smith and Michael Thurloway at the back, Muswell Hill hit an equaliser against the run of play through a 30-yard worldy down the left flank. 1-1.
Titans continued to press, and as the tempo and temperature of the game picked up with some hard challenges from both sides, Titans were rewarded with a free kick from 40 yards out. Luke Tuffs deftly sent a floating ball into the box for Smith to finish with a bullet header, sending Titans back in front. 2-1.
It could have been 3-1 by half time as Ollie James-Parr came on to dink the ball over the keeper into the net, but the effort was ruled out as the referee pulled play back to give Titans a freekick for a challenge instead, rather than play advantage. This was perhaps a moment of change in the game, as both teams became increasingly frustrated and passionate in search of the win.
The second half kicked off in much the same vein, with players battling across the pitch. However, fortunes turned as a contentious call gave Muswell Hill a penalty that they clinically dispatched to make it 2-2. They quickly seized the momentum and slotted away again with a lofted ball over the keeper to turn the tables and make it 3-2 with 30 to go.
Rob Barr continued to plug away in midfield and, fuelled by the passion and frustration of the change in momentum, found himself in the box to adamantly slot home on the turn to make it 3-3. The fixture was precariously balanced, with a resurgent Muswell Hill looking to attack at every opportunity, and both teams not afraid of a tackle, meaning the match could have gone either way. Unfortunately for Titans, the hosts were rewarded for their efforts in the last ten as they hit back with a well-taken shot to make it 4-3, before a defensive mix up gifted them their last, despite a near goal line clearance from Steve Miller, making it 5-3.
Pete Trueman’s searching ball cut through the defence to nearly put James-Parr one-on-one with the keeper in the game’s dying moments, but a comeback was not to be.
Despite the result, Titans XXL will take heart in a gritty performance and maintaining composure when under pressure, along with the hard lessons that come from conceding in quick succession. Onwards and upwards – Soho next week.
Titans 2 Brewers 0 – 2 East End Phoenix – by Jim Hearson
Perhaps this managerial lark won’t be as easy as Gaffer Grimsley may have initially thought after the LUL opener, following a frustrating second game at Dukes Meadows.
The team had a distinctly less Irish feel from the off, with Paul O’Regan and Jim Connolly missing through injury, but the returning Ben Hope and the versatile Terry Connolly were more than able replacements. Having played in goal last week and defence this, Terry must be hoping he progresses to a striking berth by the end of the month.
He may even have fancied his chances yesterday, as it wasn’t really happening for Titans in front of goal. The first half was laden with chances, particularly from corners – Adam Heathcote hit the bar from one – but nothing was coming off. Actually, that’s a lie – Josh Day tweaked his hamstring and had to come off midway through the half, leaving Kev Luke to scurry around up front by himself for much of the rest of the afternoon.
As often happens, if you don’t take your chances, you get punished and that’s what happened on Sunday. Phoenix pinched the ball down near the corner flag after we tried to play it out from the back and played it into the area, where it got slotted home.
The rest of the half was a bit scrappy as Titans 2 Brewers tried to get back on the front foot, but all too often, Luke was pounced on by defenders before players were able to get up to support him, prompting a change to 4-3-3 during the second 45.
It still wasn’t quite gelling though, with balls just failing to come off in the final third – either being just too heavy for even the pacey Luke or being snuffed out by the Phoenix defence before we could get in behind them. The best opportunity fell to Heathcote who was played through but, feeling the judging eyes of his watching parents on him, couldn’t make the most of the chance.
As the game became more stretched, the visitors had their chances on the break too, with Chris Felton utilising the frame of his goal well – once fingertipping one ball onto the crossbar, and at another point allowing the bar take the sting off a bouncing ball so he could just let it drop into his arms.
He was to be beaten a second time before the end though. Having got his foot to a shot, the ball span clear and as Jim Hearson cleared the ball away, a Phoenix striker stuck out a leg and redirected the ball into the net. Hearson had a chance at partial redemption moments later from a Heathcote throw-in, but fired just wide from an acute angle.
Quite rightly, Kev Luke was awarded man of the match for his pace, hustle and the surprising number of headers he won, and the team will look to recoup before heading to the wilds of north London next weekend to face London Romans.