Winner: Greg Davies
Summary in a Sentence: William’s strong defence and pilfering of both keepers was not enough to withstand the attack presented by a well-drilled, determined Team Greg.
Is it that time already? As the leaves begin to fall and a new autumn season is upon us, it fits right that we return to the newly renovated Sophia Gardens outdoor pitch after a summer in the sweatbox AND too right that the Team Picker Cup tournament will crown a new champion by Xmas (or so we hope). Back in Spring Gareth O’Neill defeated Greg Davies to become our second winner of the tournament, building on his impressive semi final performance the year before. Greg’s return to TPC action was to be immediate as the draw paired him with the dangerous Billy Collins, who made the final back in 2012 and lost to our first ever champion, Jon Ridout. One favourite therefore is facing an early exit in what is arguably the tie of the qualifying round – and one hell of a prospective opening game.
From the pick it was clear that Billy wanted to build from the back – securing a sturdy defence, obtaining Joe as a backup keeper and also acquiring Mike who could carry the ball forward. Meanwhile Greg used his first pick to take Pishty and looked to form a stronger attack to compensate for the defensive options which were swallowed up by William. Both captains went in goal for the kick off.
The game started in good spirits and was similar to previous opening Team Picker Cup fixtures; full of vigour and enthusiasm with everyone eager to get off to a good start for themselves and their captains. It wasn’t long though until the atmosphere became increasingly sour, with tempers becoming shorter than usual. One particular incident which happened early on in the game which exacerbated this was when Team Billy lost the ball and Mike went to retrieve it, during which Team Billy conceded 2-3 goals. A misunderstanding between the teams then ensued over stopping the game when the ball couldn’t be found, leading to a confused handball situation and subsequent free kick for Team Billy. Although the pink-turning-red mist had soon lifted, a slight aura of irritability remained between both sides throughout the match adding competitive bite, but also unwarranted heavy handed challenges.
So as Team Greg raced to a 4-1 lead Team Billy finally started to come into the game, taking a few goals as the leaders went to sleep. As they started to panic they managed to stop the derailing and pushed into a 6-4 lead for half time. By now the earlier misunderstanding had fully been addressed.
The second half started more brightly for Team Billy with more confidence going forward as Billy came out adding some vitality to his side, but they seemed to be blunt in front of goal. At one instance Team Greg survived a three shot salvo as Team William put the pressure on but couldn’t find the net. Meanwhile the partnership between the two Chris’, and Pishty was causing Team Billy’s defence all kinds of headaches. Team Billy were also hindered by an jarring to the knee of Mike which further affected the attack. For the final 15 minutes or so it felt like there were no more than four goals between the sides but as Team Billy pegged one back it was instantly wiped out. There was a spirited effort by Team Billy at the end to get back into the game but by now Greg knew that he could start planning his assault to reach the semi finals against Karl Manley – the same opponent he met at this stage last year.
It was a tough defeat for Billy who was visibly dejected after such a brutal effort. After the game he admitted that Greg deserved to win the game and players certainly felt that the game was lost in the pick, with TPC titans Pishty and Big G being on the winning side once again. As for Greg is there an omen for the title this year? Jon and Gareth went onto to win the last two cups respectively after winning the opening fixture of the TPC. No pressure Greg!
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