On Sunday Canterbury Eagles U15's travelled to Monkton to play the second fixture against Monkton U15's this season. Monkton are sitting top of the table without a loss on record this season. Eagles managed to get 5 goals past them last time, which is a good feat. However the same game saw Eagles concede 9 goals, which was not so great. What we learned by the end of that match was that although they were certainly a threat going forward, they weren't the strongest defensive unit Eagles had come up against this season. To add an extra challenge to Eagles they had to play the match with the bare 11 players, which meant no substitutes. Maybe not the end of the world if you recall back to the match before Christmas against Wye, in which Eagles performed very well with no substitutes. Nicholas Tsarouchas was still out with a broken finger, Hugo Manning-Press was Ill, Ted Warne-Harvey, Lucien Eske and Eslam Elnashar couldn't attend. Eagles went with a 4-2-3-1, the same line up as the previous meeting between these two sides. Ellis Reid was Captain today.
The start was a pretty suprising one, at least for Monkton anyway. Eagles wanted to make an impression from the first whistle and they did just that. Eagles were showing their physical side to bully Monkton off the ball and made it look easy. They were also good in possession, especially in midfield where some good link up play was on display. Monkton soon realised today was going to be more difficult compared to the last meeting, so they quickly turned to their strengths. Some good through balls materialized for Monkton, straight to the paths of their very quick attackers, however some quick, well timed rushing out from Eagles keeper Kacper Bialek, on more than one occasion, put these attempts at bay. A devastating blow for Eagles came in the 23rd minute when Monkton scored a header from a corner. The whole Eagles team had been great defensively up to this point, so a goal from a set piece was gutting for Eagles. Eagles arguably had most possession in the first half, demonstrating some good passing and moving. When they weren't in possession a number of Eagles players showed great physical commitment and tenacity to quickly win the ball, look up and play some great passes to launch their own attacks, in particular defensive midfielder Alfie Graña.
Halftime 1- 0
Despite the one goal deficit, Eagles were feeling particularly confident in their performance so far and rightly so. The strain of having no substitutes was taking effect in some players, but the desire to dig deep and find more energy in a game that was still all to play for was greater. Eagles were encouraged to keep the performance consistent, make sure the tall players for Monkton are marked by appropriate players during set pieces, and lastly the front players needed to be quicker in their passing and team mate observation, as many moves went stale from not taking advantage of key passes to players in goal scoring positions.
Minutes into the second half it was clear to see Monkton must have had a stern talking to at halftime, as they had noticbly taken their efforts up a gear. Monkton started to string more passes together but the resilient nature of Eagles today made it difficult for Monkton to create anything solid. Monkton gained a number of corners in the second half, so the tall, more threatening players were marked and followed closely. Eagles learned from the corner in which Monkton scored and applied themselves better for the rest of the corners. One Monkton corner however fell to the feet of their player who struck hard from yards out to force Bialek to make a low, rapid save, which was palmed away from immediate danger. The save was instantly applauded by the spectators and his teammates cheered him in admiration and relief. This was clearly the save of the match and to make it more impressive his vision of the ball was hindered by the number of players in front of him at the time. Eagles came close to an equaliser when Ellis Reid was sent through with a one on one situation, only for the ball to be blasted straight at the keeper. Rejoice for Eagles eventually came with 8 minutes of the match to play. A foul was committed by the right touchline about 25 yards out. Dylan Saunders stepped up with one thing on his mind, that was to go for goal. Knowing he can be dangerous from this kind of distance with his power all that was left for him was to be composed enough for placement aswell, especially from this angle. Saunders unleashed a powerful shot which went over the keepers reach and under the bar to make it 1 - 1. Eagles went on to produce a few more attacks after this and could have deservedly won the game.
Fulltime 1 - 1
Eagles were extremely pleased with their performance and everyone watching were particularly proud of them. Even Monktons coaches had great words to say about their performance today and how much they have improved since their last meeting.
The Managers and Parents awards could only really go to one player today and that was Kacper Bialek. He commanded his area well with his presence and vocals. He showed great timing and commitment when coming out for 1 vs 1 situations. His catching and distribution was very solid aswell. He undoubtedly kept Eagles in the game with some fantastic saves. Well done!