James Pugh turned in a masterful performance in the opening match of the TTFE Team Picker Cup with a fine 10-3 victory over debutant Michael Van Birgelen.
As the players gathered on the fence for the first time in 2015 (proper), the excitement levels were at fever pitch in anticipation for the tournament’s opener. I mean what will be the event which will define the festivities of the first match of the year?
Were we to see a repeat of Diana Ross’ bungling penalty attempt like at USA ’94? That would have been good – then again my penalties aren’t much better!
The ‘Time to Pick’ marketing campaign raised wide interest in the competition – which is entering its fourth year – and this was certainly evident from those players who had never played in a TPC game, yet alone competed as a captain.
It all returned like an old friend – the nervousness, the dread of rejection and the fear of being picked last lingered over the players on the fence like a blackened cloud. And of course, the obligatory placard too!
It was Pugh who had the first pick and he opted for the stability of a goalkeeper in Billy, while the Burglar opted for pace with his follow-up picks in Dan Wakeham and Swanie.
As expected the game kicked off with much vitriol and pace; the game ebbing and flowing as both sides looked to make the all-important opening goal of the TPC. That honour actually went to a captain and it was a happy start for Mr Pugh. In truth, from then on the game was firmly in his grasp; his team went 3-0 ahead with a dominant, direct style which Team MVB found too hot to handle.
Half time came around and although Team Pugh were bossing it, Michael & Co. still had a chance as they were only 4-2 down. However Team Pugh’s clever blend of strong defence, effective communication and an attack which was cutting the mustard meant that they only stretched their lead whilst Team MVB just couldn’t find the net.
You could argue that the losing side were devoid of any luck, by hitting the woodwork and just failing to make that final pass in attack, but no-one could deny the mastery on display by Team Pugh as they put in an early entry case for TPC team of the tournament.
Cool and calm captain James Pugh now has won only his second TPC game, but more importantly the opening match of the tournament – an indicator that he may do well this year. For Mikey VB, his passion and vocal style was commendable, and perhaps on another night he might have been on the winning side – but he’ll be kicking himself after the pick as he failed to grab the balance which Team Pugh definitely had.
Billy Collins did an excellent job when he needed to in keeping Team Pugh well in front in the game, particularly at times when he had little to do. He said that his defence was a big factor in his good form throughout the match, but when Bilbo is in this form, attackers need to find the right key to unlock their way into his net.
The two main keepers at TTFE, Joe and Billy, are often one of the first to be picked as a solid keeper is often important. But not always – Mikey VB played a risky strategy in going for pace and hoped that Joe, the remaining keeper would still be available, but this backfired as Pugh swiped both ballstoppers.
Although MVB had a positive stint in goal and the theatrics from ‘the-keeper-in-winger’s clothing’, Tom Payne, wasn’t too much of a bad move, it was clear that this caused an imbalance in the side which hindered them.
Pugh is a defender now?
It took some believing but Mr Nice Guy looked very comfortable at the back in defence. Normally terrorising defences with his brand of running with the ball and scoring in tight angles, Pugh decided that as a captain he would play a sweepery type role with Joe as a centre back.
Pugh really excelled by offering good communication, strong tackling and even had a presence in the air – that’s right, he heads the ball too! Could this be a calling for Pugh to settle back in defence? And will he play there in his next game?
Dale’s FIFA moves
That was some crazy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon kind of s**t Dale. That’s all I’m saying.