Anyone who predicted a result for FPC before hand would have been gagged, bound and thrown in the back of a white van destined for Carstairs. Previous meetings between the two sides have often always ended in a goal spree for what is widely regarded as the best team in the country. Real approached the match on the back of a 9-1 drubbing of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, whilst FPC had come close to causing an upset in the capital just two weeks ago against Hibs, loosing two late goals in a 3-1 defeat.
With so many regulars out, manager David Fraser was forced to give an opportunity to several of the teams fringe players, as well as a debut for 3 of the squads new players. Stand-in skipper Smith led the team out which included Murciano alongside him at centre half, Anderson out on the left-back berth and Thomas at centre mid. There were also rare starts for Messer’s Speedie and Wallace in the middle of the park, with
The game started as expected, with a barrage of pressure from the home team. After just 2 mins Smith was forced to make a crucial tackle on the 6 yard line to prevent the side going behind early. The midfield to their credit were holding their own against skilful opposition, forcing most of the play down the wings, with Anderson and Clarko more than capable of dealing with the threat. Real however did look the best prospect of breaking the deadlock and after 15 mins FPC fell behind to a misfortunate goal, when an attempted shot was sclaffed off of the strikers boot and fell fortunately for his strike partner to send them in front.
The trend continued after the goal and keeper Farmer was forced to make a terrific save on 28mins before FPC really woke up. In an inspired move, Fraser brought himself on with 7mins left of the 1st period, allowing Thomas to move forward into an attacking midfield role. The move paid dividends almost immediately with Thomas picking up a delightful cross from Clarko on the edge of the 18 yard box. Thomas spotted the keeper had moved fractionally off his line and dispatched a wonderful chip over his head, only for the cross bar to keep the effort out. Left mid Boyd had tracked the flight of the ball well however and arrived at the back post in perfect time to head the ball home for his first goal of the season.
With the last 5 mins of the half resulting in constant pressure from FPC on the Real goalmouth, Fraser opted to stick with the same line-up for the second half. The game flowed from end to end in the first 5 minutes of the second period before normal service was resumed and the fearsome Real strike force began to pound the FPC goalmouth. Farmer and Murciano were right at the top of their game and coped admirably with the pressure. The Jambo's got themselves in front however after about 15 minutes of the second period with a well crafted move. Real seemed to become complacent after this goal and FPC stepped up the pressure once again. Gilberto and Clarko on the right hand side in particular were getting plenty of change from Real's left back and Fraser instructed play to be focused down that flank. Less than 5 minutess after Real got themselves in front, parity was restored when Clarko broke forward on the overlap, carried the ball into the box only to be taken from behind by the hapless left back. The referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot, however he clearly wasn't from the John Rowbottham school of thought as the defender got away with just a talking to. Gilberto stepped up, cool as a cucumber and sent the keeper the wrong way, placing the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
With play swinging from end to end, either side could have won the tie however Real were almost gifted the game when skipper Smith committed a rare error, sclaffing a clearance right into the path of the on rushing Real attacker. Keeper Farmer kept his cool and spared Smith's blushes with a majestic block at the edge of the area.
With tired legs all around on the FPC team, full time couldn't come soon enough, whilst Real were praying for that extra 5 minutes to kill the game off. With time running out, FPC were dealt the cruellest of blows with a late, late winner by Real.
The players trudged off the park looking dejected that their efforts had been in vain, however all can be happy that they put their heart and sole into the performance. Manager Fraser in his post match interview remarked "The effort was stupendous by the boys, if we keep up that level of effort and commitment we will have no problems in our up-coming matches". When asked about next week’s fixture against Parcelona he added that "I will find it very hard to drop anyone from that team next week. Clarko unfortunately is unavailable for selection and that creates an opportunity for someone to come in at right back, however players like Dave and John Hendry and big Gav at the back may find themselves warming the subs bench if they don't show up well in training this week."
Fraser, in an unprecedented move, refused to award a Man of the Match, commenting that the whole team performed so well it would be unfair to single anyone out for praise. Goal scorer Boyd commented, "Did you score today? Must have been me then!".
The team emerge with their heads held high and must be confident of delivering a first win for the new manager on home soil against Parcelona on Saturday. As for stand in skipper Smith, his reward for a sterling shift at the back was the honour of washing the teams strips in preparation for their next match... not that he's bitter of course!