Bluebirds Team Photo

AFC Bluebirds is a football team made up of players from across Westminster. The team is proudly sponsored by Conservative Home.

In his post as head of Elite Development at the Football Association, Gareth Southgate advocated the introduction of nine-a-side football for under-12s. I presume he meant for both teams to start with nine – rather than just one.

It wasn’t quite the Battle of Thermopylae (of which there is a fantastic documentary here), but it was always going to be an uphill struggle to start with nine against eleven.

We haven’t faced a situation like this before at Bluebirds. Unfortunately, injuries have taken their toll through the season. I also assume that my players are rightly putting party before football and campaigning on blustery Sunday mornings – for which they will always be forgiven. Regardless, we are not a team to cancel a match, not at all.

On one of the windiest mornings I’ve experienced in London, the brave Bluebirds stood ready to face what we assumed was to be a bombardment. An opposition with more men camped on the edge of our area, ready to give us a thumping.

It didn’t happen. In fact, we were the team most likely to score for most of the match.

Prior to the game our plan was simple, long balls to our two fast forwards, Greg and Geoff, with six outfielders focused on defence. Where we could, try and win some set-pieces and see if we could win against the odds. In Jeremy Brown and Jimmy McLoughlin we had two players who could provide long throw-ins, which led to several shots on goal. We did win many more corners than our opponents, to be taken by your reporter. As an aside, there is an interesting blog post on corners here – whilst Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail argues that more corners was one of the reasons that – at least until February, Van Gaal’s Manchester United were worse than David Moyes’.

Back to the matter at hand. Unfortunately we did not convert any of these set-piece chances. Your reporter had practiced scoring directly from corners before the game (it didn’t work once; I’d obviously spent too much time watching this!).

I was pleased that we did create a number of opportunities from these set-pieces. It was always to be difficult to convert them, as we were so outnumbered and therefore so easily marked out of the game.

The focus on set-pieces shouldn’t detract from the fact that we played some really good football. In open play we created a couple of decent chances, one of which was denied by a blatant penalty that wasn’t given. My midfield partner, Nick Self, and I managed to control the midfield (I even won a large number of headers – something for which I’m often ridiculed).  Our six man defence operated as a unit, defending well and distributing the ball sensibly to start counter-attacks.

Unfortunately tiredness crept in during the game. With the game at 0-0, and with ten minutes to go, our opponents sent on three substitutes. The injection of new players drove our opponents on and led to them scoring from a rare corner. Soon after, a shot from twenty yards that would have been closed down by fresher legs was grabbed by the wind and slammed into the net above a stretching Joe Cawley in goal.

Ending the game with a 2-0 loss was a better result than it could have been and we could have scored a couple of goals ourselves to have managed something improbable.  We now look forward to our final game of the season on 19th April.

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