26 Apr 2020
U14A Season Review

U14A Football Season Report

The U14A’s season began with the traditional curtain raiser against Sutton Grammar School. Making the short trip away to Northey Avenue, the team played with a fluency and cohesion, showing no signs of any early rustiness. A convincing display saw Bradley and Freddie open their accounts and the boys come away with an excellent 4-1 victory, a great start to the 2019-20 campaign.
Our first home game was a reality check, against a very strong Trinity team. From the start, it was evident they were physically fitter and technically better, and that much more work was needed on the training paddock if we were to compete with teams of this quality. Despite some bright moments, we were well beaten, conceding eight and scoring two.
It was important the team ‘got back on the horse’ as quickly as possible and the best way to do that was to train hard in the week and play the next game. The following Saturday saw us travel to Priest Hill, as the game against Glyn couldn’t come quickly enough. As manager, this was the most pleasing display of the half term. Going into the game we knew they would be another physical outfit, having had a real battle against the same opposition last year. The boys showed the grit and determination that had been lacking the week before, with outstanding displays from Harry at centre back and Sam holding and protecting in midfield. A gutsy display saw the team chase every ball and dominate much of the possession. With five minutes left and a goal down, Bradley chased what many what have deemed a lost cause. Having won possession he drove into the box and was bundled over….penalty!! With pressure on the spot kick, captain Freddie stepped up and slotted the ball calmly passed the goalkeeper, earning a very well-deserved 1-1 draw.
The next match saw another day on the road, away to Beacon in the first round of the National Cup. Unfortunately, there was a dip in every area of our game that had been good against Glyn and a concerning pattern was emerging; one good performance followed by a poor one. Another 4-1 defeat saw this cup competition cast aside, disappointing considering the work we had put in the fortnight before.
Something new for the team this season was the Harrodian 6-a-side Tournament, a festival of football taking place on the banks of the River Thames. A promising group stage saw the team progress without losing a game. Max in goal was distributing the ball with the confidence of a Pep Guardiola ‘keeper and the width generated by Zain S on the left and Thrissan on the right showed the practice on Mondays after school was beginning to pay off when it really mattered. The semi-final saw us drawn against the eventual winners, who were again just too physically strong for us. Technically we were on top but the longer halves took their toll and we finished in the 3rd Place Play-Off, were we ran out of steam. Overall, a pleasing and worthwhile day out, with some valuable lessons learned.
The remaining three games before half term in some ways, encapsulated this side’s season in a nutshell. A win by eight goals to six against Thamesmead in the County Cup was followed by a 6-3 loss to Ardingly. The next match saw a 9-1 win against Lingfield. Whilst scoring twenty goals is fantastic, with Ben making an impact upfront in his first full season in the team and Zayn R showing much improvement, conceding thirteen meant we were vulnerable. As any football person will tell you, you cannot win consistently if you are conceding regularly.
Despite this, the boys left for their Tour to Spain in good spirits. Travelling, living, eating and training together was a first for most of the players and it was full of new experiences. Conor sat next to Mr Parkinson on the outbound flight to Alicante was surely something both of them will remember forever..!! Whilst the weather didn’t always comply, the team trained hard and put in a battling display against a team that was mainly made up of boys a year older than themselves. A promising performance from Yousiff, in a newer position at the heart of defence was one of the real positives. A win was always going to be difficult and thus it proved elusive, however the camaraderie and bonding benefited the whole squad and they definitely returned a tighter unit.
Back on home soil saw us drawn against Glenthorne in the Sutton Cup. The team spirit nurtured on tour was on full show and everything seeming to click. Han-Joon was athleticism personified, a real box-to-box midfield warrior, curling in crosses with his ever-improving left foot. A 3-1 win erased defeat to this team last season, proving there was definitely progress being made.
The next two games were away to tough opposition, initially Bede’s and then Alleyn’s. A combination of their quality and lapses in our concentration led to a number of goals chalked up in the ‘against’ column. Defending is done as a team, not just the back four and goalkeeper. This is just as important as putting the ball in the back of the net at the other end and something which was still proving a collective challenge.
Back to Mollison Drive and the fortress that is the ‘Car Park Pitch’!! Royal Russell were in town and it proved at real ding-dong battle..!! At two goals a-piece, neither team were settling for a draw. In midfield, Ivor was a maestro, a ‘Leatherhead Lionel Messi’ as Mr Wilde calls him. With minutes left on the clock, an onslaught from the black and yellow army saw the home team desperate to nick a winner!! Suddenly, out of nowhere, super sub Conor hit a 30-yard screamer, a goal worthy of winning any game and a real ‘Goal of the Season’ contender. Perhaps slightly unfair on the away team but after the previous two results, we were going to take a win whichever way it came..!!
At this stage of the year, no one was to know that this was to be our last win until the middle of January, two months and six games away. In that time, a narrow defeat away to Hampton was followed by a loss at home to Whitgift. In the return fixture against Glyn, we couldn’t better the draw from earlier in the season, the match ending in defeat although a share of the spoils would have been a fairer reflection. The last game before Christmas finished in a 3-3 thriller against Sutton Grammar; still no win. The new year started with the visit of Brentwood and despite their long journey, they were clinical in their 2-0 victory.
Not through for lack of trying, the reality was we needed a win and needed one soon. Coincidentally, the away match against Royal Russell, the last team we had beaten back in November, was whom this victory was to come against. In front of numerous parents, the team put together a performance that was a long time in the making and one we always knew was there. Bradley reached a personal landmark, notching his 30th goal of the season with another superb hat-trick. The win started a run of six games unbeaten, proving the unpredictable nature of the season was set to continue.
A 1-1 draw on the road at City of London was followed by a resounding 8-2 win at home to Salesian. Next up was Hampton at home, a team with quality but who at times were overly physical. Whereas earlier in the season the boys would have struggled with this aspect of the encounter, their growth in physical and mental strength meant they did not let this deter them. At 2-2, there was a chance to win with a late penalty awarded. Despite it being missed, that took nothing away from the scale of the performance and the improvement shown by the team as a whole. A long trip to Sevenoaks saw Matthew relinquish his usual position in defence to admirably take the gloves and go in goal at short notice. Unfortunately, he was to suffer and early injury which meant we were down to another stand-in ‘keeper. Despite conceding the first goal, we replied with six, including ‘a worldie’ from Nazar, another much improved player this season. The next win was in the second round of the County Cup, a game that had been postponed several times due to the weather, however proved to be another thriller..!! As the full-time whistle blew, the score was five goals a-piece. Straight to penalties and with four serenely slotted, we went through by four goals to two.
The next week and it was the following round of the same competition. In almost identical fashion, the teams were level at full-time, three goals each. Unfortunately, the dream couldn’t be kept alive, as this time the lottery of the penalty shoot-out proved a bridge too far and our opponents Weydon went through. The unbeaten run was over; however, it showed the team did have the quality and resilience to put together a string of excellent results.
The match against Forest School proved to be our last, as no one was truly prepared for how the season would end so abruptly. The long journey combined with Forest playing some nice football meant we weren’t able to finish with a win. Well done to Chris for stepping in between the sticks, as he did several times throughout the season. The semi-final against Greenshaw in the District Cup wasn’t able to be played and who knows what would have happened, had that competition reached its conclusion.
Whilst the season wasn’t able to be completed in its entirety, what was assured was that this squad of players grew as individuals and collectively as a team. I know they will come back stronger next year and with the same effort in training and on match days, they will be a real force to be reckoned with. Well done to all the players and the parents for your support. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the boys this season.

Manger’s Players: Harry and Bradley

Record:
Played 25
Won 9
Drew 4
Lost 12
Goals for 83
Goals against 91
GD -8