U12s lose out in a game of two halves

Kensington Dragons U12s 2 v 3 Bessingby Park A

A depleted Dragons side narrowly lost to Bessingby for the second time in seven days, though this cup defeat left a sour taste in the mouths of coaches, players and supporters alike. After the appointed referee pulled out late on Saturday, officiating duties were split between coaches from both sides.

The Dragons started superbly, with a makeshift defence looking solid and relatively untroubled early on. The ball was being moved around quickly and accurately and it wasn’t long before Waleed put them ahead after excellent work on the left from Ilya. The home side were having great success getting behind the defence, the forwards implementing the angled runs worked on in training to break the offside trap, and after fifteen minutes one of these runs was picked out by a stunning forty yard pass from Felix for Waleed to move onto and finish for his second of the game. A third almost game as George ran from deep to latch onto a through ball, but the linesman wrongly raised his flag against Waleed, who was inactive in the move.

Looking comfortable for much of the first half, the home side conceded a sloppy goal just before the break when a cross from the left was converted by an unmarked forward. Defending crosses is a persistent problem for this team, and they were punished again for poor marking.

With the second half came a change of referee, and it became obvious from the off that the Dragons would face an uphill task to hold onto their lead as a host of baffling decisions went against them. Confidence also played a part, as they dropped deep and lost some of their composure, concentrating too hard on trying to defend a lead which would have seen them halt a run of poor results and ultimately were inviting pressure onto themselves. Five minutes after the restart a scramble in the box broke kindly for the visitors and the ball was bundled in for an equaliser.

With the game at 2-2 the new referee started to take centre stage. An innocuous shoulder to shoulder challenge resulted in a penalty for Bessingby, though it took a good ten seconds for play to be stopped before it was awarded. So confusing was the decision, that neither set of players were sure what had been awarded, with the ref’s colleague on the touchline offering an embarrassed, apologetic smile. Enrique produced a wonderful save to keep out the spot kick, and was quick enough and brave enough to throw himself in front of the rebound. Justice had been done, for the time being.

The following ten minutes produced a number of generous free kicks that piled more pressure on the home side, and despite defending brilliantly, another goalmouth scramble saw the Dragons fall behind. They responded well, trying to get back on terms, and on three occasions the referee overruled the linesman (a Bessingby parent) to give offside with Waleed (twice) and George in behind the away defence after some cutting passing moves. With less than five minutes remaining, George dribbled into the penalty area and was brought down by the keeper, but the penalty appeals predictably fell on deaf ears.

There were still chances, but wasteful finishing ensured Bessingby advanced into the quarter finals at the expense of the crestfallen Dragons. There were plenty of positives; the performance of Felix in an anchoring, ‘quarterback’ role, Aziz’s display at left back, and Karim and Ilya putting in their best performances for many weeks to mention a few, but the Dragons left the changing rooms with their heads down and in need of the Christmas break to recharge, leaving the coaches sick as parrots, and hoping Santa brings a prolific centre forward for Christmas as, for the most part, they have been very good boys this year.