On Sunday Canterbury Eagles U15's travelled to Sandwich for the away fixture against Woodnesborough U15's. The weather hasn't been great of late and today didn't look much better, with rain and high winds looking imminent. Eagles hadn't played a match in 3 weeks, so they didn't really want the weather stop this one. These two sides met back in November for their first meeting in the league, the result going in Woodnesboroughs favour, 1-3. Eagles however for the majority played a great passing game, and looked the better side. They were unfortunate to come away with a loss that game, even the ref commenting on how Eagles should have won based on performance. Eagles would hope to replicate, if not improve on that game and come away with the points to match the performance. All players were available and selected today, apart from Cristhian Grist, the standout man of the match winner in the previous match between these two sides. He was away for this match. Nicholas Tsarouchas who had just recovered from broken fingers and looking forward to a return to football was out for this match, due to a new unwanted injury, a meniscus tear (knee injury). Captain today was Ellis Reid. Eagles went with the 4-2-3-1 formation, but not in the usual defensive fashion.
Eagles have been working hard in training lately on improving their knowledge and understanding of the 4-2-3-1 formation, and what it can offer in both defense and attack when utilised correctly. Quick passing combinations and movement in particular has been worked on. Today was the first game where the players could showcase some of the new roles given to them, or just demonstrate a greater understanding of their roles on and off the ball. They have also worked on their roles when transitioning from defending to attacking and vice versa. The lads are still very much in the early stages of these changes so have a way to go yet, but look out for the changes in the last few matches of the season. Some of these changes to look for are:
.The inclusion of wingbacks. Previously just right/left back (fullbacks), they would sit in defense to create a constant back 4 line. Now they operate up and down the wings, offering more in attack, especially with crosses. They also come back for defensive duties to form the usual back 4 line.
. The defensive midfielder acts as a centre back, while his team are on the attack, forming a 3 man defense. This allows the wingbacks to get forward for the attack.
.The left and right attacking midfielders can switch sides. This can create more options centrally, as they free up the wings for the wingbacks.
Eagles didn't have the best start to the game, especially with Woodnesborough taking the lead within 9 minutes. Some sloppy man marking from Eagles in their own 18 yard box resulted in a gift of a goal for Woodnesborough. Their player received the ball in so much space about 10 yards from goal, he finished well and with ease. After this Eagles knuckled down and started to play some decent football. Eagles found themselves in possession alot in the first half, showcasing some great link up play. Eagles were passing and moving up the pitch well for long periods, even the trainee wingbacks were coming out of their comfort zones and getting a bit further up the pitch on the attacks. Eagles did however hit a stumbling block when trying to penetrate and get beyond the Woodnesborough defense. There was one opportunity in the Woodnesborough box to get the equaliser, but Attacking midfielder Hugo Manning-Press struggled to sort his feet, then eventually hit a tame effort which didn't threaten their keeper. Woodnesborough still had their chances, especially when they counter attacked. While the Eagle wingbacks were getting back for defensive duties the 3 centre backs in Marvin Gourlay, Louis Crowley and Alejandro Cobena dealt with the counter attacks well, demonstrating in turn some great pre-emptive timing and tackling when rushing out to dispossess their opponents.
Eagles came into the break feeling pleased with themselves. They were playing well but needed the all important goals to truly get back in the game. For all the good passing and moving that was done to get to the final 3rd of the pitch, it seemed strange that Eagles then became quite static when trying to create goal scoring opportunities. This made easy work for the Woodnesborough defenders. Eagles attackers really needed to be buzzing around the box to make it difficult for the Woodnesborough defenders to mark. The wingbacks could also be a bit braver to get right up the pitch and join the attack, especially for the deep crosses to all our attackers in the box. Not to critical tho as this will improve with time and confidence.
The second half was underway and the game felt open to any side getting the next goal. Eagles were dealt a blow as it was Woodnesborough who doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half. Less than 1 minute later centre back Marvin Gourlay was caught in possession and dispossessed. This left only Eagles keeper Kacper Bialek to beat, which they did to make it 3. Some Eagles heads dropped as the comeback looked out of site. For others the match wasn't over till the full time whistle blows, so the level of effort doesn't and shouldn't ever drop. After all, the scorline was in no way reflecting the performance on the pitch. All Woodnesborough really did was take advantage of some mistakes. Eagles found their flow again and continued to play some good football. Right wingback Ted Warne-Harvey found some confidence in the fact he had the beating of his man, allowing him to get further up the pitch to help in attack, linking up well with Hugo Manning-Press. A couple of good through balls by the Eagles midfield which weren't finished off and a couple of desperate shots off balance unfortunately summed up Eagles day. Woodnesborough made it 4-0 in the 59th minute, then bagged their 5th and final goal, 2 minutes from time with a cruel lob from the keepers left.
Eagles were frustrated as their general performance didn't reflect the scoreline today and felt like they should have earned some points. Although a different scorline this time round Eagles couldn't help but feel a bit of De Ja Vu from the previous fixture against Woodnesborough. It was another good Eagles performance with nothing to show for it. Looking past the loss, the positives were clear to see. Eagles adapted well to the changes and the potential to improve in all these areas is an exciting challenge for all.
There were 3 players up for the parents vote today, attacking midfielder Henrique Zanlorenze who started the defending from the front every chance he could, tackling and using his body well. Centre back Louis Crowley also defended well and showed great timing of important tackles. The deciding vote went to the Woodnesborough manager who agreed with some parents that goalkeeper Kacper Bialek should get the parents award today. He commanded his box well and looked strong when collecting the ball. The managers award wasn't easy today as a few players came to mind, but in the end it was Alejandro Cobena who got the award. Generally quite consistent Ali was strong in his tackles and timed them well. He also had the challenge of a new role, and did a good job as acting centre back aswell as his defensive midfield job. Well done!