Preston retain XIs title

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MAN v FAT Preston emerged victorious once again in our MAN v FAT XIs competition, retaining their title after a hard fought victory over their Walsall counterparts in mid-May.

Does your club want to get involved in 2024/25? Drop us a line at events@manvfat.com!

After another fantastic season across the MAN v FAT XIs community, the two best teams in the country took part in the season finale at the New Den to see who would come away with the trophy and the title of National Champion for season 2023/24.

Preston are no strangers to the National Tournament having made it all the way to the final at Stoke City’s Bet365 Stadium last year where they overcame a strong West Brom side to become the first ever official MAN v FAT XIs National Champions. 

So, they came into this game as defending champions looking to make it back-to-back championships. 

Walsall were not going to lie down and allow Preston just to walk their way to the title though, and were sure to make a good game of it as they tried to get their name on the trophy.

Preston travelled down the night before the game so that they didn’t have a long drive before the game, arriving at the venue nice and early the players and their fans made their way out to the pitch in glorious sunshine to get acclimatised and drink in the atmosphere. 

Even without thousands of spectators, the New Den is a very impressive venue and was an excellent stadium in which to hold such a prestigious event in the MAN v FAT calendar. 

It was great to see all of the players on the pitch with their kids enjoying a leisurely kick about.

Walsall arrived with two coaches giving a good indication as to how many supporters they had brought with them. 

The Midlands side got out on the pitch straight away joining their opponents on the pitch to soak it all in before both teams headed to the changing rooms to get ready for the game.

As kick-off approached, excitement started to build and as the mascots made their way out onto the pitch, the crowd and the players were itching for the game to start.  As the game kicked off the weather hadn’t disappointed and the game started in fantastic conditions, the pitch getting a good soaking before the game which it needed.

The match started with both teams trying to figure out their opponents, as this was the first time that these two teams have played each other in an 11 a-side fixture, so neither knew what to expect or which players to look out for on the other team. 

It was pretty clear from the start that this was going to be a very competitive game and neither team were going to hold anything back.

Both teams were getting opportunities to test the opposition but as the game went on it was Preston who took advantage of their opportunities taking a 1-0 lead in the fixture. 

This gave Walsall a bit of a kick up the backside, and they now knew exactly what they needed to do to get back into the game. 

Unfortunately for Walsall, it was Preston who grabbed a second goal in the game, and now had a two-goal cushion to sit on and take stock. 

Walsall on the other hand had to stop the goals and try and find their feet in the game.  The Walsall players appeared to be starting to gel and get their game plan working and they had some good attacks on the Preston goal. 

A powerful shot, which appeared to ricochet off the side of the goal back onto the field of play, was handled by a defender, thinking it was going to be a goal kick, but the referee, after consultation with the assistant on the opposite line, pointed to the penalty spot. 

This was a fantastic opportunity for Walsall to get back into the game.

The ball was calmly placed on the spot and the Walsall player stepped up to slot the ball home and get them back into the game, but the Preston GK had other ideas, as he dived to his left and comfortably gathered the ball into his stomach/chest to keep the ball out and protect the 2-0 lead.

For the rest of the half there were numerous chances for each of the teams, Walsall probably shaded it in regard to opportunities that they maybe should have done better with, and probably would have if it hadn’t been for the Preston defence and the GK who was having a storming game. 

There was going to be two very different team talks during the interval.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first, both in the way the teams were approaching the game, but also in what happened on the scoreline as well. 

Walsall were desperate to get something in the game to get them back within a chance of winning the trophy, unfortunately it was Preston who again struck first in the half. 

Now making it 3-0 and looking comfortable on the scoreboard, although on the pitch the game was a lot closer than the score would suggest. 

As Walsall continued to try and get back in the game the Preston attack kept beating the off-side trap and were getting opportunities to score. 

A period of opportunities came their way, and they made the pressure tell, and extended their lead, 4-0.

Walsall were now running out of time and needed something to happen, or they would have no chance of getting their name etched onto the trophy. 

Challenges were flying in as players gave it everything to win the ball. 

Preston were looking at controlling possession and keeping it away from Walsall, whilst Walsall were looking at getting it down the other end of the pitch to get at least one goal.

As it turned out there wasn’t enough time for Walsall to get a goal, which on balance of performance you could probably they deserved, if not more, and Preston retained their title. 

Next season they will be looking for the threepeat to stamp their dominance on the competition. 

Do you think your 11 a-side team could give them a run for their money?  Could you make it all the way to the final and play in a stadium in front of hundreds of supporters? 

Remember, if you think you can, or you want to give it your best shot, then please get in touch at events@manvfat.com as we are now looking for teams to enter the competition for season 2024/25!

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