Tough opener for U14s

(Goalscorers: Sidney 2).

The under 14s got their 2015/16 season underway with a formidable tie away to last season’s division 3 Champions, Brunswick. The home side had started their new season last weekend with a rather impressive 12-3 victory, so we knew they had picked up where they left off last term and we were in for a tough game.

The match was scheduled for a rather annoying 2pm kick off and we arrived at the pitch flanked by the M4 and under the Heathrow flight path long before our hosts and even longer before the referee. Which meant the kick off was delayed until 2.15.

A slightly depleted Dragon team, due to injuries and illness meant we only had one substitute rather than the 5 allowed. A patched up defence bereft of a regular fullback on either side and experimental pairing of centre backs due to losing one of our regular central defenders to the Westway team during the summer break took to the field. (Surely he’ll discover the astroturf isn’t always greener and come back at some point).

But the replacements had been well drilled in the training sessions in recent weeks and looked disciplined and well organized as the match kicked off.

The first 20 minutes were very evenly matched with both teams having chances to break the deadlock. Jordan made and excellent save tipping a rasping shot over the bar and Milo came to the rescue with a headed goal-line clearance from the resulting corner kick.

The Dragons plan was to let their hosts have possession in their own half and only press when they entered our half. The defence was dropping off more than normal to negate the threat of the long ball over the top or into the channels for their pacey forwards to run on to.

It worked well until a speculative shot rebounded off the post for an easy tap in after 22 minutes putting the home team ahead. 5 minutes later Brunswick broke down the left and an exquisite cross was met at the near post heading the hosts 2 nil to the good. It has to be said, it was a great goal.

The Dragons stuck to their game plan and when they won a corner Raaid zipped the ball into the box and Sidney turned it in for 2-1. We were back in the game.

The half time team talk was all about how we could win this match, where in previous Brunswick encounters it has been all about damage limitation. They were finding it increasingly difficult to deal with Raaid and Sidney, who both had the beatings of their opposite number and we knew if we could draw level we had every chance kicking on and taking 3 points.
Joe was also having a great game at the back as a stand in centre half, sweeping up anything that got behind our back four but we were missing his attacking invention in the final third at the other end.

(Totally absorbed in their coaches’ instructions, no one seemed to notice that I’d completely forgotten to bring the half time oranges).

The second half got under way and we knew the next goal would be crucial. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way. After just 6 minutes it we were 3-1 down.

But we only had to wait another 7 minutes for the Dragons to pull it back to 3-2. If Sidney’s first goal was more down to being in the right place at the right time then his second was pure class. The ball came in from the left and he took a touch to steady himself before slotting home into the bottom left corner of the goal. The visitors were now in the ascendancy and had their opponents on the back foot.

A clever Dragons free kick caught everyone (including the Dragons coaches) off guard as they were expecting a shot on goal. The ball was played through to Aziz who tucked it past the keeper to level the match at 3-3. Unfortunately their linesman had his flag in the air and the goal wasn’t allowed to stand. It was a highly dubious call that had a serious impact on the outcome of the match.

Still reeling from the injustice of the disallowed goal, the Dragons had a rare lapse in concentration that allowed Brunswick to quash any attempts at a fight back with their 4th goal and the referee’s whistle bought the game to an end soon after.

The final score line some what flattered the hosts. We continue to improve as a team and on another day (and with another linesman) we would have drawn this match, which would have been a great achievement and no more than we deserved.

There are lots of positives to take away from this performance especially considering the depleted nature of the squad. But you can rest assured that we will be busier than Harry Rednapp’s car window on deadline day, working to make the team better and possibly even bolstering the squad with some new signings.

Brunswick will be one of the best teams in the league this season and if we can live with them like we did today we’ll be there or thereabouts come May.
(If only we’d had those half time oranges, I can’t help thinking they might have made all the difference).