Acton & Ealing Whistlers B 3 v 7 Kensington Dragons U12s. League Cup
Our mission this weekend was to overcome Acton & Ealing Whistlers B, a team on top of their league and in a whole division above us, with a patched-up Dragons team ravaged by half term absentees. Like the famous scene in the Tom Hanks movie, Apollo 13, we had no choice but to make do with the limited resources at our disposal to get us home safely. Strikers had to be reinvented as goalkeepers, wingers had to be re-imagined as defenders and fringe players had step up and become target men. Every player had to play their part if we were to make the short journey back down the A40 with pride intact.
Yet despite the enforced team selection issues the Dragons got off to a flyer. Felix, playing in a deeper midfield role, picked up the ball and put the Dragons ahead with a superbly executed, right foot finish. And it wasn’t long before he’d made it 2 nil with an equally well-taken strike. The Whistlers responded with a ‘hit and hope’ shot that held up in the gusting wind and made it 1-2. But a great debut goal from Jamal made it 1-3 at the break. The Dragons were putting into practice what they had learned in their previous day’s training session: Shielding the ball and imposing themselves physically on the game. This added steel meant they were winning the midfield battles and were not allowing themselves to be bullied in key areas. They were breaking in numbers from deep and not merely relying on the solo break-away goal.
The second half started with a nasty injury to Sidney, the Dragons’ stand-in right back. A bloody nose meant he left the field of play and we had to re-organize at the back again. The Whistlers took advantage and won a free-kick on the edge of the area. With the strong wind now behind them, they hoofed it into net. 2-3, the game was now in the balance. But if today had begun as an exercise in damage limitation no one had read the script to these young Dragons. Sidney, now back on the field in his more usual right wing position collected the ball and unleashed a rocket from the right-hand corner of the box. Minutes later he found himself in an almost identical position and curled in his second. And it wasn’t long before he completed his right-footed hat trick, this time slotting home low past the advancing keeper.
Enrique made an excellent save before the Whistlers scored another wind-assisted free kick. As the clock ticked down Felix had the chance to register a hat trick of his own but his shot was blocked and the rebound was calmly stroked into the net by Aziz to make it 3-7.
So just like Jim Lovell’s ill-fated lunar mission made it back to earth, the Dragons made it safely through to the next round of the Cup. And as Commander Lovell famously said “You never know what events are going to transpire to get you home.” I guess that’s the magic of the Cup.