On Sunday Canterbury Eagles U15's were at home against Woodnesborough U15's. The two sides were due to meet last Sunday for the first time, but their pitch was too boggy to play on due to the bad weather. Woodnesborough were 4 points ahead in the table, but Eagles had a game in hand and were looking to close the gap. Eagles went with a 4-1-4-1 formation. All the squad was selected and present for this match. Cristhian Grist was back in the starting eleven after 2 matches out with injury, he was in central midfield today. Eslam Elnashar was on the bench looking to make his debut today. Ellis Reid donned the Captain's armband for this one.
Woodnesborough started the strongest of the two sides. Eagles looked slow off the mark and took a little while to find their feet in the game. When they did they started to show what they had been working on in training, the passing game! Eagles had learned from the Thanet Colts game that the majority of their passes were long balls. This meant cutting out most of the team in the hope of reaching a team mate in the oppositions half. Eagles established that in order to become a better team they should learn to do simple passing to eachother around the pitch as often and confidently as possible. This means playing the passing game out from the back, starting with the keeper to the defenders etc. Eagles started to demonstrate some fine confident football, especially in defence, from right back Ted Warne - Harvey and left back Charlie Woolford. Keeper Kacper Bialek would use these two often as they made themselves available to pass to. They received the ball well, evaded their on rushing opponents, then made their passes to the midfield. Defensive midfielder Alejandro Cobena was doing well in his new found favoured position until he was injured in the 16th minute. He took a knock to his foot while in a challenge. Daniel Scott came on into the same role. The game got a little heated in the 20th minute when a Woodnesborough player, who Cristhian Grist got the better of, went back in with a tackle on Grist but then followed through with his arm into the back of Grists head. Arguably deliberate but that was for the ref to decide. After a stern talking to the Woodnesborough player was branded a yellow card for the offence. This was one of the many challenges Grist had come up against at this point where he more often than not found himself the victor, using his strength and skill well. Eagles were unlucky not to be ahead in the later stages of the first half, Eagles found themselves in the final third many times but just lacked the clinical finish. Some efforts at goal went narrowly wide, the Woodnesborough keeper made some good saves and the post was also hit. More agonizing was the goalmouth scramble from a corner which looked destined to end up in the net, but didn't. In the last minute of the first half Eagles were dealt a cruel blow which didn't reflect their hard work. Keeper Bialek collected a returning ball back into his area. He kicked the ball upfield while out of position. The ball fell to the opposition who took their opportunity quickly and lobbed the ball into the open goal. Bialek tried desperately to get back in goal in time but was beaten by the ball.
Although Eagles were losing they were playing well, so the only message was to carry on the way they had been playing, just make sure they finished the chances in front of goal. Eagles changed formation to a 4-4-2, the back 4 were playing well so by taking out the defensive midfielder and adding an extra striker up top could hopefully see Eagles get the goals they needed. Eagles had the maximum 5 subs today so the coach was balancing between getting back into the game and to give the subs more opportunities today to step up and show why they should be in the starting eleven. With this in mind regular centre back Louis Crowley gave way to Lucien Eske who went on as another striker. No more subs were made but a shuffle of personnel and positions were made. Daniel Scott who was performing well in defensive midfield had a go at centre back.
The second half saw both sides still full of energy and desire to succeed, knowing that whoever takes their foot off the gas will surely pay the price. In the 53rd minute regular centre back Marvin Gourlay made way for debutant Eslam Elnashar, who came on into the left back position, with Charlie Woolford shifting over to have a go at centre back. The break came for Eagles in the 56th minute, when a pass out from the back came to Lucien Eske who had dropped in deep. He spotted the run of Left midfielder Ellis Reid and put a well weighted pass into Reids path. Reid travelled a bit and struck the ball from distance, which thundered into the net passed the keeper. No stopping that one! A few minutes later a Woodnesborough player fouled Dylan Saunders. The referee had words with the player, the conversation must not of gone down well as not only did the referee brandish the player with a yellow card, he also sin binned the player which only happens for dissent. The player was made to sit out for 6 minutes. The whole Eagles team were really up for it, and seemed to spur eachother on to do well and try to get the lead, especially in the last 20 minutes. Shots from Reid and Zanlorenze were saved well again by the Woodnesborough keeper. Nicholas Tsarouchas came on in right midfield in place of Hugo Manning-Press, who switched here at halftime. Both players put in a shift down the right, demonstrating a desire to get stuck in, win the ball, bomb up the flank with it, in the hope of delivering the final ball. Dylan Saunders who was put in centre midfield at halftime had put in a good shift so gave way to Alfie Graña in the 68th minute. With twelve minutes to go Graña made sure he used them minutes wisely by improving on his first half. He showed good passing and quick feet, he also used his strength well to disposess the opposition when he could. Alejandro Cobena who's first half injury felt better again came on in place of Ted Warne - Harvey at right back for the last 8 minutes. Disaster struck for Eagles with 5 minutes to go when Woodnesborough took the lead again. In the very last minute Woodnesborough got their third and final goal of the match. Cobena at right back who was caught in two minds whether to pass back to the keeper or knock it out of play, tried to block the on rushing Woodnesborough strikers run to the ball. The striker eventually gained possession and beat Bialek in a one on one situation.
What seemed like a flattering result for Woodnesborough probably deserved more credit for being able to take advantage of Eagles mistakes today. The referee also complemented Eagles performance saying Eagles played well and should have won. Although the result wasn't the one wanted, the drive and eagerness to do well flowed throughout the team. The players who came off the bench also played very well, giving the coach a harder job of selecting a starting eleven. Also well done to debutant Eslam Elnashar who showed from the moment he came on that he wanted to work hard and do well, and also wasn't afraid to get stuck in. He also demonstrated his hidden speed which we look forward to seeing more of.
Managers and Parents man of the match awards both deservedly went to Cristhian Grist. Although everyone put in a shift, with some having their best game, it was clear that today was Grist's day. Apart from the first 15 minutes or so where everyone seemed like very different players. Grist came to life and ended up running the show in the middle. Clearly Grists best game to date, he showcased his skill on the ball and ability to spot runs and pick out good passes. These qualities we knew he had, but more supringsly was the way he used his body with no fear to challenge or hold off the opposition. He also put alot more effort and energy in his performance to get around the pitch quickly, to progress forward or track back. Very well done