U18 Season Review 2011-12
Managers, Jon Laycock and Lorna Fairbairn
Head Coach, Luke O’Donoghue
Harrow Youth League, Premier Division
Harrow Youth League, League Cup
Harrow Youth League, League Trophy
Middlesex Football Association U17/18 County Cup
Dan Brown, Miro Stojanovic, Ameer Allkurwhi, Ethan Meyers (c), Josh McGovern (vc), Will Conway, Nils Elwing, Nathan Smith, Reiss Corr, Owen Harper, Luke Giles, Jack Lyons, Billy Maxwell, Louay Da Costa, Forrest Clancy, Justas Krisciunas, Ezra Emordi, Liviu Giuran
After missing out on the Division 1 title last year on the last day of the season to local rivals Pitshanger FC, the Young Dragons knew it was their last chance to win silverware before moving onto adult football. Being promoted to the Premier League would surely make this more difficult. Pre season went well winning both warm up games but with a very small squad, quality additions would be needed to fulfill the management team’s seasonal goals.
With the squad they had, it was important to embrace the qualities within and to that end, a 4-2-3-1 formation was installed with the intention of pushing fullbacks on and playing a high tempo pass and move game. 4 new players were taken on and all of a sudden the squad looked very healthy and well balanced, other than in the striker department.
Then came the first game, a league cup match against younger and inferior opposition, proved all to easy, winning 11-0 with Owen Harper and Louay Da Costa scoring 9 between them. A great beginning with some fine inter link play. The Dragons then played their first league game against a strong but badly organized Headstone Manor U18 team. However the Dragons were weakened by key absentees through the heart of the team and went 2-0 down early with parents looking on concerned that the new coaching team were barking up the wrong tree with player positions. However the young Dragons were to show the first of many strong responses during the season, pulling back to 2-2 in the second half and then again coming back to 3-3 and very unlucky not to win the game in the last 10 minutes.
The boys then faced a 10 man Brook House team, it already becoming apparent that the Dragons efforts to create a big happy squad was to prove important. They demolished the opposition 14-1 with some stunning second half play and 3 hatricks for playmaker Luke Giles, wide man Forrest Clancy and central midfielder Owen Harper. Captain and vice captains Ethan Meyers and Josh McGovern were also leading by example at the back and the season was beginning to show signs of some real promise. Another show of character came at Heathrow Club in the MCFA County Cup, 2 nil up but with a man sent off the home team drew level only for the Dragons to score a late break away goal to make the second round
The Dragons then had another very tough looking away trip to Hayes and Yeading United in the League Cup 2nd round. With both coaches away, the KDFC Director of Football, Tony Smith, stepped in to great effect. An end to end match, a real thriller to watch was level at 2-2 until Forrest Clancy belted in a free kick with his left foot to win the tie.
All was looking rosy as they went into their next fixture, away to early table toppers FC Kensington. It was apparent that many players were away and the Dragons struggled to make a bare 11 with the spine of the team all unavailable. They played gallantly to lead and then after an equalizer had a brilliant 30 yard goal somehow ruled out in the 2nd half for offside. The heads went down and they lost their first game of the season 3-1.
The response was immediate though, the perfect game followed, Pitshanger at home. They trailed at the break but a great huddle at half time, knowing their league challenge could be fading already, pulled the best out of the whole team to fire in two quick goals and then hold on for the 3 points. Sadly, Captain Ethan Meyers suffered a knee ligament injury and would be lost for most of the season.
The Dragons now faced MCFA County Cup holders and Ryman youth team, Wingate and Finchley. It was as tough as away games come and no one really knew what to expect. The Dragons were now short of a centre back with Meyers injured and on crutches. The management took an educated punt on throwing Will Conway into the mix whose patience on pitch time early in the season needed rewarding. The first half was fairly even but late on the Dragons gave away a sloppy penalty. However returning keeper Miro Stojanovic saved brilliantly. They still were behind 1-0 though through a set piece header, a now familiar weakness that needed addressing. With Conway settling in beautifully alongside McGovern , they pushed and probed for an equalizer but with 8 minutes remaining still hadn’t found a way past a superbly marshaled outfit. After a quick chat between coaches, they switched to 3-5-2 pushing up both fullbacks Billy Maxwell and Jack Lyons. The effect was immediate with Maxwell scoring 3 minutes later and then creating the winner for Owen Harper. They held on to make the quarter finals and knock out the reigning champions. A brilliant achievement and the jubilant scenes at the end were a real season highlight.
With bags of confidence in hand they then went on a classy run of 10 straight wins with Strikers Ezra Emordi and Justas Krisciunas beginning to find the goals their hard work deserved. They were also pushed with the new signing of Liviu Giuran, just out of Leicester City’s academy and who proved a handful for the rest of the season until a hamstring tear made him unavailable for the last part of the season and the title and cup run in. Also the Dragons had now switched to a zonal marking system from set pieces, which then held out until the very last day of the season.
Pitshanger were again dispatched, this time away from home. After a scintillating first half performance somehow they were left scratching their heads at half time, 2-1 down. However, Luke Giles then decided to take matters into his own hands and bagged a 2nd half hatrick to fire the dragons in to 2nd in the table with a 5-3 win.
Hillingdon Youth were also put to the sword in the League Cup quarter final, 4-1. Then, with other teams seemingly struggling for players and withdrawing from the league, the Dragons hit top form beating Brook House away with a Guiran brace in a 5-2 win and then a superb 5-0 win to beat then league leaders Ruislip Rangers away from home with midfield general Reiss Corr the main man. They took care of Panathanaikos Youth 4-0 in the County Cup quarter final and now could look forward to 2 semi finals in 2 weeks but against unbeaten U17 teams Pitshanger A and FC Kensington A. A year younger but clearly quality oufits.
The League Cup semi was the Dragons other stand out performance of the season against FC Kensington. They demolished them 6-1, Giles, Harper, Clancy, Ameer Allkurwhi and keeper Dan Brown all superb throughout. They went into the next semi final, the County Cup, in confident form but without ineligible Guiran. Emordi however took matters into his own hands helping the Dragons to an early 2 nil lead. A mistake before HT allowed Pitshanger to reduce the deficit and believe a comeback was on even as the clearly inferior team. Disaster struck however in the second half after the fullback lazily brought down a winger in the box and a fair penalty dispatched for 2-2. The Dragons raised their game and for the remaining 30 minutes, and extra time, were camped in the opposition half. They hit the bar and post 3 times but the goal wouldn’t come and they eventually lost 3-2 on penalties to miss out on the final that everyone wanted. A game to show how the smallest thing can swing a match in your favour, or take it away in a heartbeat.
A crucial league match followed with spirits a little low but the Dragons nervously held on 4-3 to London Tigers at home to draw level with FC Kensington at the top of the table. Nils Elwing had now joined the Dragons Clan and after scoring the previous week, came on to steady the back 4 with 25 minutes left with the score at 4-3. The Dragons had also now started in the League Trophy and won 3 games on the spin to make the semi finals.
The crucial title game was to follow with the Dragons knowing a point from their last 2 games would clinch the title as FC Kensington had dropped points away at Pitshanger. As the Dragons prepared to take their deserved title, the opposition were punished by the league for management issues. FC Kensington failed to respond and were suspended and conceded the 3 points to give Kensington Dragons their first Premier League title since the club began. Louay Da Costa had now returned to the fold and was leading the line up front with the normal options injured or unavailable with studies. The following week they demolished the London Tigers 13-0 and celebrated in style as league champions, Da Costa scoring a delightful brace. The question now was could they make it a double or even a treble?
They faced Pitshanger U17A again, this time in the League Cup final at North Greenford United in front of 400 supporters from both clubs. Pitshanger had won the County Cup the previous week and arrived in a clearly more relaxed mood. The Dragons were punished for a weak start with another penalty. This time saved brilliantly but as the keeper tried to reel in the rebound the taker nipped in to prod home. It was just what Pitshanger wanted being a very defensively sound team and very well organized. The Dragons raised their game and missed numerous opportunities to take it into extra time. Finally after 88 minutes they scored but as they celebrated the referee stood still, thought about it and then awarded a free kick for apparent pushing. Still to this day no one knows who or how, even after viewing footage on camera. The referee then only played one minute’s injury time and the Dragon’s League Cup dream was over, the first game all season that they hadn’t scored in.
The next game was to be their final game, another semi final away to Hayes and Yeading. This time the Dragons were down in the mouth and with the coaches trying to rotate to give games to all players it backfired and they lost 5-1.
In conclusion, it was a terrific season with a premier league title, 105 goals scored, 3 semi finals and a runners up medal in the League Cup but the Dragons still leave the year knowing it could have been so much more.