The time had arrived..... Can we complete a League and Cup double for the second year running? We were up against a strong, organised and dogged Urmston Meadowside Devils team that we had played 4 times during the season, drawing twice 0-0 and 2-2, losing 3-1 and winning our last encounter playing some wonderful football 4-1. In the dressing room before kick off we told the boys how proud we were of them this season and no matter what happened today they are Champions in our eyes and to go out and take what is rightfully their trophy... With us using a half of the Trafford FC pitch turned sideways the pitch was as wide as it was long and the surface was flat but hard so the ball was going to bounce around. So we started with a 3-4-1 system with Daniel our Captain in goal, Ben S, Thomas M and Thomas Dy at the back, Henry, Thomas H (Who was passed fit after a nasty injury the previous week), Ryan and Nathan across midfield and Daniel H up front. They lined up with the same formation and for the opening five minutes both teams were sparring each other as there was no time on the ball and their keeper who has a fantastic kick didn't look to play out and just launched it forward hoping for a mistake or creating a midfield battle for the second balls. Fortunately our three boys at the back, in particular Thomas M, dealt with the long ball superbly. With their tactics it negated our ability to press high and win the ball in their half so it became a midfield battle for the bouncing ball. Ryan and Thomas H started to get the upper hand once the game settled down, they worked well in combination play and alternated in supporting Daniel H up front. We began to get the ball out wide to Henry and Nathan who worked tirelessly up and down the wings. We began to have territorial advantage from the midpoint in the half, pressing them and winning the ball back but just lacking that composure and good decision making in the final third to open up a very strong and determined defence. We still had to be wary of their capabilities to break quickly. There were a couple of chances at both ends but superb defending and good goalkeeping kept the score goalless. Teams were cancelling each other out, although with Ryan, Thomas H, Henry and Nathan we were more positive in our approach in trying to get forward than their midfield who didn't want to leave spaces so were very passive. The game needed a goal and we got it, when from a superb pass out from Daniel W, Nathan showed great anticipation to flick it on for Daniel H who had made a great run to stretch their defence for the first time, he went past the covering defender to shoot past their keeper to put us 1-0 up. The boys now had the belief and started to dominate and we forced several corners after shots from Henry, Daniel, Ryan and Thomas H were superbly blocked by their defence. From one such corner delivered superbly by Thomas H, Thomas M rose beautifully but headed just over with the keeper beaten. We made changes with Thomas Da, Ben G, Josh S and Flynn replacing Ben S, Henry, Nathan and Daniel H. They came back into it in the final five minutes of the half but our 'back 4' stood firm and we finished the half 1-0 up. We told the boys that it was a difficult game but they would have to come out now as they needed to score. We said that they had competed superbly all over the pitch but we needed to show a touch more quality when in possession and move the ball quickly through our normal 2-3 touch football. We knew they weren't allowing us any space but our movement particularly in wide areas needed to be better. They had also gone to a 3-3-2 system so with our midfield four against their three it was imperative we moved them around with quick passing and good combination play. The second half started and we initially had the ascendency as the two boys Thomas H and in particular Ryan in central midfield were anticipating and winning second balls and getting the ball wide to Josh S and Ben G. The movement of the wide boys was good however our decision making was letting us down as we wanted far too many touches which was causing us problems as central midfielders were making forward runs expecting a delivery that never came and left us the wrong side of the ball when it was lost against a strong and determined defence. From one such situation Urmston equalised as we were dispossessed on our left high in their half taking too many touches and we had over committed ourselves to support the play leaving 2 on 2 at the back and they just launched it goalwards and their forward outpaced our defenders to slot calmly past our captain Daniel to make it 1-1. It was now game on !!!! Urmston came on strong, we didn't learn from their goal as we continued to take far too many touches out wide and were caught in possession which gave them the momentum and they created a couple of chances which were well blocked by the boys at the back. We were still competing and winning the vast majority of second balls in central midfield with Ryan showing his anticipation, strength and combativeness as their keeper seemed to be having a personal duel with our outstanding Thomas M at the back who headed everything he launched at him and the keeper seemed to be kicking the ball even further at every opportunity !! Our problems came from our inability to move them around, Ryan and Thomas H were getting the ball out to wide areas and showing great energy and movement to support and be available for the next pass plus Flynn was making wonderful runs but the ball was delayed as we wanted extra touches so lost it or played it too late and Flynn had run offside. It was frustrating for Flynn as with him not being the tallest, the ball bouncing around on the hard surface and the fact their defenders had been told to stick to him like glue he was finding it difficult to break the shackles. Urmston had the bit between their teeth and were breaking quickly when they won the ball creating a couple of chances which with better finishing would have put them in front. Our wide areas were not functioning as we anticipated so we changed it and Nathan and Henry replaced Josh S and Ben G with 15mins to go. We then seemed to stem the tide of them winning balls in key areas for us and indeed we were unlucky on a couple of occasions, firstly, when Flynn was put through by Ryan only to be dubiously flagged offside and secondly when a through ball to Henry, who had made a fantastic run, initially got stuck under his feet which gave the defender time to get across and put a great tackle in, the ball broke but Flynn was unable to hit he target. They were awarded a free kick with 10mins to go from 25yards for a harsh hand ball, the wall stood firm and jumped to block it, we broke away down the left through Nathan and the ball across was just too far and the keeper came and gathered before Flynn could get there. We changed to a 3-3-2 with 5mins to go to push even more for the winner. Daniel and Flynn up front, Nathan, Ryan and Thomas H across midfield and Ben S, Thomas M and Thomas Dy at the back. Both sets of boys gave everything to try and find that key pass or shot to win the game but both defences stood strong and the game ended 1-1 which was a fair result as we were the better team in the first half but they certainly edged the second period. With no extra time it was straight to penalties. We have been practising these for some time at the end of training on Wednesday night and Sunday morning. So the volunteers and five penalty takers were selected in order:- Daniel H, Flynn, Thomas Dy, Ryan and Ben G. Our goalkeeper Daniel W was calm and cool, he excels at training in penalty shootouts against the quality of our boys and he was determined to lift the Cup as Captain. The actual shootout is shown in the link below but it went:- Daniel H scored bottom left corner. Urmston miss - Daniel saved diving to his left. Flynn scored in off the underside of crossbar. Urmston miss - Daniel saved diving to his right. Thomas Dy scored bottom left corner. Urmston scored - Daniel nearly gets to it in bottom left corner. Ryan scored bottom left corner. THE LEAGUE AND CUP DOUBLE DOUBLE WAS OURS !!!!! It was a really tough encounter and both teams gave their all. They cancelled each other out for the majority of the game and it isn't a nice way to lose but it certainly is a great way to win and the penalty takers together with our goalkeeping captain did a near perfect job. The opposing coaches make the call on the Man of the Match and for his high intensity, work rate and honest endeavour we gave the Urmston captain Oliver Scragg the award. Urmston coaches gave our Man of the Match to Ryan Hill who had worked tirelessly in doing the dirty side of football that all too often goes unnoticed, while prompting the play, always being available and looking to join in at every opportunity going forward. We spoke with the boys and told them how proud we were of them as this was a magnificent achievement to do the 'double-double'. All the boys had contributed and worked their socks off today, Ben S and Thomas Da at the back, Henry, Nathan, Ben G, Josh S in midfield and Flynn up front. Special mention was made of the performances of Thomas M and Thomas Dy who were immense at the back. Ryan and Thomas H had put in massive shifts in a combative midfield. Daniel had worked his socks off against a strong and physical defence and deserved his goal. Then we have our Captain Daniel W who was fittingly the hero of the penalty shootout and who had played solidly during the game too.
We now have tournaments to play and hopefully we can lift some more silverware !!! Well done BROOKLANDS DRAGONS LAZIO !!!