Final Score – Team Big G 12-6 Team Gaji
Big G’s campaign to win this year’s TPC got off to a flying start with a 12-6 defeat against Gaji in a largely high spirited opening game.
With this year’s competition having an additional round due to the number of entrants, eight unlucky participants will need to face off against each in four qualifying round matches to reach the quarter finals. So Billy Collins was watching closely as the victor in this clash will be facing him in four weeks’ time. With Gaji competing in the last TPC opener – where he pushed eventual champion to a last gasp winner and fell victim to goal line controversy – we were expecting a thriller against 2012’s fourth placed Big G.
In reality however, the game couldn’t match last year’s opening game for drama and excitement. This game was effectively ended midway into the the second half after Team Big G gathered a large lead and put it out of Team Gaji’s reach. That said, the game did start with high spirits and it looked to have all the essential ingredients of an eagerly anticipated TPC game – passion, plenty of voice and high quality football.
Big G won the toss and opted for Billy, Chris, Pishty, Paul, Rich and Pugh, while Gaji consisted of Joe, Greg, Callum, Mike, Tom and Dan.
Team Big G set the pace early on with 3-0 lead, playing a pressing philosophy which suffocated Team Gaji in their half. Team Gaji hit back with a great long range goal from Mike and managed to get it back to 3-2, but then cracks appeared once more as Team Big G powered to a commanding 7-2 lead at half time. In particular, Chris and Pishty were effective in attack for Team Big G, forming a front line partnership with some crucial support from Pugh, who bossed the right flank and Paul, who used his trademark gangly dribbling to great effect to feed the strikers or even shoot himself.
In the second half Team Gaji started a lot more brightly, looking more confident on the ball and managed to score four goals. However they failed to plug the gap at the back, which was essential if they were to get back into the game. It seemed that the scoreline was too much for Team Gaji to avenge and they shipped five more goals despite their best efforts. Heads had lowered by 10.15 and when Team Gaji’s keeper, Joe, came out from between the sticks that was an admission that the game was lost. 12-6 was the final score as Big took the first victory in TPC 2013 and continued his rich vein of form in the competition – only ever losing once as a player or captain.
5 things we learnt from this game…
1. Rain still means one-sided games
Pundits love to comment on how much influence the weather actually has in determining a result. The facts are hard to ignore – in every TPC game so far where it has rained the score was one-sided by at least 4+ goals. Why does this happen? There no definitive theory which can explain this baffling statistic. Could it be a higher scoring game due to the slippery surface? Are players less motivated to fight for the ball and therefore less motivated to chase down a lead? One thing is for sure, if we continue to have rain forecasted throughout the TPC, there will be less dramatic encounters like the 2012 TPC opening game..
2. Play the short ball on the wet surface – a winning combination
Acclaimed manager Brian Clough once said “If God had wanted us to play football in the sky, He’d have put grass up there”. Clough’s disdain for the long ball is certainly not felt at TTFE, where a number of players try long passes as a route to the goal. When it works, especially on a counter attack, it can be an effective way of catching the opposition off guard; but when it fails, it is seen as a very cheap way of giving away possession. Part of the problem Team Gaji had was the many long passes they played on a wet surface, which was risky anyway as it is more difficult to control the ball – leading to a greater interception rate from the opposition. Frustrated teams also start opting for the long ball as a quick fix. Team Big G on the other hand looked more comfortable playing the ball on the ground, with shorter passes, through balls and devastating runs. Team Big G’s defence also was solid and forced the long ball when the attackers couldn’t penetrate them (snigger). Just remember… on the floor – goals galore, In the sky, say goodbye…
3. It’s not just about the team picking, but the management too
Gaji’s more strategical approach to participating in the TPC is an interesting one to analyse as he is the self-confessed silent coach on the field. However it doesn’t seem to reap any rewards at all – 0/2 games won. As a captain he places a lot of emphasis on the actual picking rather than the managing side, when arguably the more successful TPC captains have put energy in boths sides. In a huge contrast to Gaji, Big G exemplifies greater affinity for managing on the field with a style which mixes together an unique blend of fierce passion and authoritarianism – and it worked wonders on this occasion. Throughout periods Team Gaji looked a bit lost, in need of direction and were clunky between positions, while Team Big G looked a lot more organised and more fluid in each area of the field. Big G’s positioning of himself as defender/defensive midfielder was also a masterstroke as he could coordinate his side more effectively at the heart of the field.
4. Mike isn’t the ‘Rain King’ and can be stopped
Mike Pinto won plaudits last year as he thrived in the wet weather with his silky runs and important goals for his respective captains. Dubbed the ‘Rain King’ or the ‘Wizard of Wet’, he notched up a great reputation for playing his finest games in the rain. Despite a fine goal, Mike wasn’t his best as he struggled with injury and failed to make a major impact for Team Gaji. However it wasn’t just the injury that kept Mike quiet for long periods – at times it looked like when Mike was on a run he would be challenged by two or three opposing players, which would snuff out any chance of making an impact. If this was an intentional strategy by team Big G, it was a well worked out plan (and the person who thought it up deserves a beer).
5. And lastly… keepers will be key to the competition moving forward
First it was Dave Weller… but it seems Billy Collins is the now the undisputed keeper of choice at TTFE. His conceding of six goals will buoy him on in his quest for that elusive clean sheet, the holy grail of TTFE goalkeeping which is almost impossible to obtain. When it comes to team picking, he will continue to be the first to be chosen and Big G’s utter faith in Billy was rewarded. Keepers like Billy and Joe will continue to be the first names on the sheet. Plus the moral conundrum of having keepers on both sides ‘out of fairness’ were swept aside in the 2012 final, where Billy had the opportunity to pick Joe but opted not to out of fairness… only to lose the final himself. Competitors will no doubt be more ruthless when it comes to their first picks and have a keeper in there – even if they are keepers themselves.