The Panthers kicked off their 2021-22 GSFN league campaign with an away fixture against old frenemies East End Phoenix FC. The Londoners often pose a tough challenge, and were in fine form as they launched their campaign with a 5-1 win.
The Panthers started off confidently from the kick-off, pushing forward early to test Phoenix's defence. The home side stood strong, however, and often looked dangerous on the counterattack. Panthers goalkeeper Rob Parry-Hall had a confident start, working well with the back four of Tom Marlow, Ross, JD and Rob Alsop. However, Phoenix eventually broke through and scored an early goal. A second followed fairly swiftly, forcing the Panthers to galvanise.
Charlie, Dean, Borja and Mike worked hard in midfield to feed the ball up to Graeme and Sammy up front and were able to create a few chances and force corners. However, the breakthrough came Phoenix themselves, as miscommunication in their defence led to an own goal that the Panthers wished we had scored! Nonetheless, Panthers heads were a little higher going into half time.
Phoenix turned up the intensity in the second half, though substitutes Pete, Steve and Ryan provided fresh legs to give Panthers some pep. Sadly, Phoenix also made changes, bringing on former Panther Luke (boo!) and piled the pressure forward. Eventually, their efforts were rewarded with their third goal, and a fourth followed soon afterwards.
The Panthers continued to push to try and get back in the game, but Phoenix continued to deny them the breakthrough. The match was eventually sealed with a superb free kick from Phoenix which avoided the wall and ended up in the back of the net.
Despite the loss, spirits remained high, and Panthers took a lot of positives away from our first competitive 11-a-side fixture since the pandemic. The challenge now is to regroup for when we host Phoenix again on home turf in Bristol on 23 October!