In Team Kitlocker’s inaugural fixture, it was Palmers FC who narrowly came out on top at St. George’s Park on 24th September. Joel Purkiss netted the first ever Team Kitlocker goal with a neat finish, however it was Lewis Francis who stole the show for the opposition.

palmers team kitlocker

The two-legged tie at England’s national training complex was broadcast to over 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. Viewers were able to a comprehensive 4-2 victory for the Essex-based opponents in the first game on the Palmers channel. Although Team Kitlocker were able to secure a 2-1 victory in the second, they were unable to secure a result on aggregate.

Team Kitlocker – lacking experience and fitness – were expected to lose heavily and impressed many in their narrow defeat. Four composed finishes from Joel Purkiss, Dave Clayden and Zakk Hadgett (2) were the highlights for the side; however the squad in white were undone by defensive mistakes. Palmers showed their experience and took the chances they were presented through Connor, Lewis Francis (2) and Asa (2).

Lee Cooksey – semi-professional at Sheffield FC – captained the side in the first of the two games. He was joined by club-mate Joel Purkiss, who started the match in a two-man attack alongside Michael Vella.  They were supported by a mixture of flair and industry in midfield, with Joe Stacey, Tom Newman and Matty Rhodes behind. In an attempt to look stylish and modern, Team Kitlocker employed wing-backs in the form of Jake Payling and Brad Danks. Cooksey and two Dave’s – Dave Clayden and Dave Rodgers – were at the heart of the defence in-front of Oli Brieley between the sticks.

A shaky start from Team Kitlocker saw the side in orange Nike Striker IV shirts presented with a succession of corners early on. The newly-formed side were the first to have real chances in the game, however. Vella unfortunately couldn’t live up to his comments before the game by missing two chances – one a header – from close-range.

Team Kitlocker were made to pay in the 20th minute. Good work from Charlie Vanner saw him cross for Connor in the middle. Despite each of the Kitlocker back-three being over six foot five inches, they couldn’t prevent him getting a header in which almost burst the net. A desperate slide tackle from Newman of the sales team soon after prevented Palmers from doubling their lead as Francis’ shot was deflected away.

Francis would soon make it two however. A carbon-copy run in the 25th minute saw him take on Rhodes and this time Newman was not there to deny him. Brierley from marketing in goal has since been criticised for his chocolate wrists, with replays suggesting that he could have tipped the effort wide. The goal came just twenty seconds after Team Kitlocker’s first corner of the game.

team kitlocker goalkeeper

Vella – clearly not wearing his finishing boots – squandered another chance from six yards before half time. Purkiss was involved in the build-up to that attack, and he made no mistake with his first real effort on goal soon after. A delightful chipped through-ball from Newman saw production member Purkiss with time and space; his composed finish going inside the near post.

Team Kitlocker controlled the early stages of the second half without creating much the way in chances. Palmers dictated the play without the ball, and their deep-lying tactics led to the fourth goal of the game. Francis was involved once again, receiving Ainsley’s pass from deep before feeding the over-lapping Josh. His pass across goal was finished by Asa, with the ball squirming under Brieley.

Three quickly became four for Palmers. Substitute Alex Calpin missed his clearance and allowed Francis to be presented with an opportunity. Denied by Brierley, he found Elliott and – although appearing to be in an offside position when receiving the return pass – tucked away from close-range.

team kitlocker palmers

David Clayden – more accustomed to a rugby ball than the Nike ball the game was played with – did pull one back for the white Revolution jerseys of Kitlocker. Purkiss was instrumental once again, picking up the ball from deep before playing a one-two with Vella. A lovely nutmeg, followed by a rash tackle by Greavesy, saw the referee point to the spot. From 12 yards, production manager Clayden sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

That would prove to be the last goal of the first game. Ten changes were made for the second game as the side reverted to a 4-4-2. Brieley – picking the team – was unsurprisingly the only one to keep his place. Former employee Chris Rhodes came in at right-back, with Development Team Leader Matthew Spencer on the opposite side of the pitch. Greg and Gav came in at the heart of the defence. Connor McCormack and Alex Calpin took the centre of the pitch, with account manager Jonny Tarr and Hadgett taking the wings. Smithy led the line upfront with Nathan Driver, who would go on to form an unexpected friendship with Ainsley of the opposition.

It was Driver’s knock-on what lead to the first chance of the game. Smithy was on the receiving end of it down the left-wing and his pull-back found an onrushing Hadgett. His composed finish from the edge of the box found the back of the net in the third minute of the second-leg.

A Palmers equaliser from Asa saw the aggregate score become 5-3 soon after. He capitalised from a weak clearance by Greg Unwin by firing into the roof of the net. From that point onwards, Palmers dominated the game and tested Brieley a number of times. The goalkeeper would not concede again however, with the post coming to his aid from a header at the back stick.

Team Kitlocker would also go on to hit the woodwork in the first half, with Gav’s rampaging run from the back ending with his strike striking the bar. From the rebound, Driver could only head wide with the goal gaping. That would prove to be the last real action of the half.

The introduction of Lewis Francis – the key man in the first game – at the break saw Palmers continue to dominate proceedings. He was involved in numerous dangerous attacks; however Brierley was equal to his side’s efforts. Team Kitlocker went on to have only one real effort on goal in the second half, but this made it 5-4 on aggregate.

Hadgett received an incisive pass down the left hand side before charging at the tiring Palmers defence. Luke’s mistimed slide saw him take the winger out and referee Matt Smith – Palmers channel creator – had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Hadgett dusted himself down before converting in similar fashion to Clayden in the first game.

palmers team kitlocker ainsley

Unfortunately, Team Kitlocker were unable to create any more clear-cut chances. In truth, it was Palmers who looked the more likely to score again and – after hitting the post once more – the referee called time on the game. Team Kitlocker had won the battle, but Palmers won the war. The performance from Team Kitlocker was an impressive start to life as a staff side and semi-regular YouTube team. Up against the experience and quality of Francis et al, a victory was always unlikely at St. George’s Park.

We’d like to thank Nike, the FA and all staff at the complex for providing both sides with wonderful facilities for the day. We’re due to announce a new fixture at another quality venue soon, so stay tuned for more information.

Venue: St. George’s Park, Burton-upon-Trent
Date:  Sunday 24th September 2017
Goals: Joel Purkiss, David Clayden, Zakk Hadgett (2)
Man of the Match: Joel Purkiss

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