The Panthers kicked off our pre-season preparations with the Charlton Invicta FC 8-a-side tournament. Despite a spirited performance from the squad, the Panthers got some unlicky results in their group teams, meaning they ended up fighing for 5th place in a slimmed-down tournament.
The Panthers' first game was against Soho FC, who had a strong attacking team, which the back three of Pete, Carl and JD thwarted valiantly for much of the early stages, with keeper Kev doing some good work to keep the scores level. Pushing forward, the midfield duo of Tom and Sam kept the Londoners pinned, and managed to string together some strong passes to feed the ball up to Mike Green and Dan up front. After half time, which saw Steve, Phil and Chris Miles come on, the Panthers looked threatening, but Soho were strong on the counter attack, and that insurgency was rewarded when they managed to cut through the defensive line to go 1-0 up. The Panthers tried to get back in the game with a last-ditch corner, but Chris' ball in couldn't find a Panther head, meaning the Bristol boys had to settle for second.
Our second group match was against the hosts, Charlton Invicta, and the home team got a measure of revenge after the Panthers scored the win back in a friendly back in March. Both teams were well matched with the Panthers defence handling the pace of the Invicta attack well initially. Unfortunately, before the break, the home side were able to break the deadlock after stringing some strong passes before breaking through on goal. In the second half, the Panthers had the lion's share of the chances, but strong defending and goalkeeping prevented an equaliser. Just before the close, heartbreak struck as the referee judged the Panthers goalkeeper Chris to have fouled the Invicta attacker, setting up a free kick on the edge of the area. A clever fake-out in the set-piece allowed Invicta striker Gary to slot the ball past the defence, meaning the hosts scored a 2-0 win.
That result put paid to Panthers' hopes for silverwear, but there was plenty to play for in the battle for 5th place against our friends Leftfooters. The Panthers took an early lead, after Mike Green was finally rewarded for his pacy efforts throughout the tournament. The wily 'footers, however, boasted some tasty strikers of their own and were able to break through to draw level. But before the break, Tom Marlow was able to slot home a well-deserved goal after a solid shift in midfield. This was after a scramble on the footers goal where Mike Green ended up inadvertently clearing the ball from the Leftfooters' goal line! The Londoners pushed hard in the second half, but the Panthers defence were up to the challenge. Finally, just before the whistle, the Panthers piled on the pressure and after a series of frenetic strikes, Sam converted a great pass from Dan to score the third and final goal.
No silverware, but a very respectable showing for the team nonetheless. Crucially, a lot of fun was had both on and off the pitch, and the scorelines don't do justice to the strong performances put in across the squad. Our next fixtures are a couple of friendly fixtures here in Bristol, followed by the annual Leicester Wildecats 7 a side tournament!