VMFC wins third tournament of the season
11 June 2016
On the weekend of the 11th of June, fourteen Village players made their way to Leicester, home of this season's unlikely Premier League champions, to participate in the annual GFSN 7-a-side tournament. The players were sorted into two teams, with the addition of one player donated by Mersey Marauders, and the tournament kicked off for both sides at 10:05.
VMFC1 had arguably the hardest task on the day - they only had seven players, meaning none of them could take a break on the subs bench, while many of the other teams in the tournament had full squads of ten or more. They got off to a mixed start, with both a win and a loss in their first two games, before going on a four game winning streak. Goals from Karl Storey and Colin Hayes saw them edge vital 1-0 victories over Brighton and London Titans, while Richard Cowell grabbed a brace to put Village out of sight against Leicester Wildecats.
The Wildecats had three teams entered into the tournament – that victory came against their 'Ranieri' side, but it was tempered not long after by defeat against the Wildecats in their 'Mahrez' flavour in the final group match. That defeat wasn't enough to do Village any harm though – a win over the HotScots in their previous game had ensured that VMFC1 would go through to the knockout stages as group two winners, with one more victory than runners up London Romans.
Meanwhile, VMFC2 were having a tougher time of things. There was no shortage of enthusiasm going into their first game, where they ran out 4-1 winners against Dublin Devils. A well-taken penalty from Rob McPherson opened the scoring, before Sam Hardstaff, James Cole, and Lewis Wilkinson all helped finish the rout.
Unfortunately, though, a lack of proper warm up time meant three players succumbed to muscle injuries in the game. Team captain McPherson was the worst affected, requiring ice on his hamstring between matches in order to be able to play. VMFC2 fought hard to earn draws in their next two games, but the weight of the injuries started to tell, and the lack of pace and counter-attacking speed left them unable to do much more than sit deep and try to manage the attacks of their opponents.
A series of four straight losses left VMFC2 sixth out of eight in their group, and they went on to play in the knockout stages of the second division Vase. Their next match was a hard fought quarter final against Brighton, who scored the only goal of the game seconds from the final whistle, when Village legs were all but worn out. Despite the look of some of the scorelines VMFC2 really pulled together during their injury crisis, and their defensive work was far better to watch than the results reflected. Longstanding players Phil Browning, John Bridges, and Mark Ranson in particular deserve mention for putting in a sterling shift, playing nearly every minute and getting in some vital tackles and blocks. Many thanks also to Paul McMullen of Mersey Marauders for stepping in as VMFC2 goalkeeper for the tournament.
Back with VMFC1, and the tension was building. A 1-1 finish to their quarter final match meant the game went to penalties. The first team didn't have an out-and-out keeper so they had been swapping roles for each game. Drawing the short straw for this one was Marc Gibson, who is more used to attacking goals than keeping them. Despite this he acquitted himself well, and VMFC1 progressed to the semi-final to face East End Phoenix. East End had beaten VMFC2 4-0 on their way to topping group one, and the game against the first team was a very close affair. James Wilson doubled his goal tally for the tournament with a vital finish, and VMFC1 held out to make their way into the final.
The final was set up against Birmingham Blaze, another side who had impressed during the group stages. Once again the game was hard fought, with Village absorbing plenty of pressure from their opponents without cracking. Every opportunity to counter-attack was exploited immediately, and before long one such attack paid off as Richard Cowell slotted the ball home, joining Karl Storey on three goals for the tournament. Village nearly doubled their lead on two occasions when James Wilson and Alex West both roamed forward, but in the end one goal was enough and VMFC1 were champions.
The football was followed by a very enjoyable evening in the Rainbow and Dove watching Wales and England kick off their Euro 2016 campaigns. Many thanks to the GFSN and Leicester for hosting the tournament, and also to Rob McPherson for doing the bulk of the organising on the Village side of things. VMFC1's medals were picked up on Sunday by Alex West, and after some big tournament victories this season we can honestly say we can't wait for the next one!
Words: James Cole
Photos: Steve Joyce
The winning first team:
Storey, Cowell, Ingle, Gibson, Wilson, Hayes, West