U13s through to trophy semi-final

Kensington Dragons U13s  2  V  1  FC Real. After extra time.

Goalscorers: Felix, Joe.

After limping over the line into the quarter final of the League Trophy with a lackluster draw away to Ruislip Rangers on Saturday the Dragons faced a far sterner test against FC Real just 24 hours later at Linford Christie Stadium.

The boys knew this would be a much tougher game against an aggressive and well-drilled team who they’d only just overcome at home during the league campaign.

With Dean away assistant coach, Neil, took charge for the first time having just recovered from a nasty bout of gastroenteritis and a visit to A&E the day before.

The game got underway and quickly settled into a pattern. The visitors only had 10 men but they didn’t look outnumbered, more than making up for their lack of numbers in size and physicality. Their plan was to try and get their pacey number 9 on the ball as often as they could and attack down their left-hand side.

Their 3 coaches prowled the touchline, constantly barking their orders, drilling their team more like Sargent Majors than football coaches as their charges threw themselves into tackles and fought for every ball. The Dragons kept working away trying to break down their stubborn opposition.

At half time it was nil-nil with the visitors having arguably the best of the chances. But they had been reduced to long-range efforts and speculative strikes that failed to find the target in the main. The Dragons defence was coping well. It was in attack that lacked the invention or aptitude. Wanting too many touches when in the box and failing to get their shots off when they were in good positions. Surely it was must be worth testing the bespectacled, diminutive visiting keeper who was dwarfed by the large goals at Linford Christie Stadium.

A few changes were made at the break to introduce fresh legs and change things around but it had the opposite to the desired effect. Just 10 minutes into the second period their pacey number nine finally found a way through when he latched on to a through ball down the left and smashed the ball past the advancing Dragons keeper. The travelling support exploded with delight, the visiting coaches continued to bark their orders and the Dragons attempted to regroup and get themselves back into the match.

The 10 minutes after they had conceded provided some of the best Dragons football. They showed a little more composure as they worked the ball around the pitch and probed for an opening. But FC always looked dangerous and the home team had to be careful not to commit too many players forward in search of the equalizer and in so doing leaving themselves vulnerable at the back.

The Dragons tried changing the personnel further but still the breakthrough wouldn’t come. But the visitors were starting to show signs that they were tiring and with no substitutes to bring on and relive fatigued legs the Dragons sensed their time was coming. The big pitch at Linford Christie stadium had played its part but a tactical switch was to prove ultimately decisive. With about 8 minutes remaining and still a goal down, the home team changed to 3 at the back, pushing an extra man into midfield. The jaded opposition couldn’t cope with the extra man and the Dragons started to dominate as if this had been the game plan all along. All the action was now taking place in the opposing third as the visitors retreated and tried to defend their slender lead.

The away coaches were asking the ref how long was left on the clock and when he held up three fingers to indicate three minutes this seemed to spur the Dragons on further. Felix, now in a more advanced position, dragged a shot wide then on another occasion he hesitated when he should have shot and we felt maybe the chance had gone. The visiting supporters were now screaming for the referee to blow his whistle when the ball fell to Felix in an almost identical position to the one he had found himself in a few minutes earlier. This time he didn’t hesitate and hit a screamer that flew past the keeper and into the back of the net. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. He’s making a habit of scoring spectacular and crucially important, late goals to save his team. The Dragons celebrated, a few of the visitors dropped to their knees and once the game was restarted there were only 10 seconds of play before the referee blew for the end of normal time.

The first period of extra time was cagey, neither team wanted to overcommit and risk conceding at this crucial stage but the Dragons were in the ascendency and playing with confidence, their opposition were simply stunned. As the final period of extra time began the Dragons once again switched to 3 at the back as they pushed forward and went for the jugular in search of the knock-out blow. Joe cut in from the left, jinked past one defender, then another and then unleashed a curling drive that clipped the inside of the post and sent the Dragons into dreamland and the semi final of the League Trophy.

Although the scorers got their names at the top of this match report, this truly was an amazing team performance. Every single player played their part. To win a match like this shows real character and team spirit. To have the will and desire to keep going and refusing to give up when all seems lost is the sign of a great team who have an exceptional mental strength. That was what made the difference today. This team is on an amazing run and their refusal to surrender it was real pleasure to watch. It was one of the best, if not the best game I’ve ever seen.