Home league match played on 17 May 2015.
Kicked off at 10:00 AM

After the emotional roller coaster of recent weeks and the announcement that Jason and Martyn were leaving for pastures new, Phoenix Lions – in its current format – would be playing their last ever competitive match together as a group, some of whom had been together since they were Under 7.

It was a bright spring morning and Highway were the opposition so it was a good chance for Phoenix to finish the season on a high and give the management team and themselves a good send off.

Kick Off

With Josh ill and Harry not present, there was a squad of 12 to choose from this week. Jason and Martyn went with Tom in goal, in front of him a back 3 of Ben, Euan and Charlie. George would hold the middle with George. Jack and James providing support out wide. Henry would be in the lone striker position this week. Oscar, Bailey and Jai would be on the bench waiting to join the action.

Phoenix were the better side in the first 10-15 minutes with Jack in particular forcing some excellent saves from the Highway keeper. But they were having problems controlling the ball on the rough pitch and playing through to Henry.

As the half went on, Highway - and in particular their number 9 up front and number 8 in the middle - were causing Phoenix some problems. They then took control of the game and several long throws from the number 8 showed they would be a threat from set pieces and long balls over the top.

The first goal came from a long ball straight over the top to the Highway number 9 that narrowly evaded both Euan and Charlie’s head and left him clear on goal and he finished well to make it 0-1.

From then, Highway had most of the ball and were the hungrier team. Phoenix seemed despondent to be behind and struggled to get hold of the ball.

Jason then made some changes which saw Jai, Oscar and Bailey come on for Ben, Cameron and Jack but it made little difference.

Highway were on the attack again and a long range effort from the number 8 looked in until Tom ‘The Cat’ Wray leapt up and got his hand to the shot to turn it over the bar. Another to add to Tom’s impressive catalogue of saves this season.

Just before half time, Highway won a corner which was swung into the near post. Jai got his head to the ball but could only find a Highway player who slotted into the corner with a scruffy finish to make it 0-2. Slightly harsh on Phoenix on balance and they would need to find something in the second half.

Half Time – Highway 2 Phoenix Lions 0

During half time, Jason made further changes to try and find a way back into the game. It was clear the half time team talk and the fact this was to be their last 30 minutes of competitive action this season and as a team overall, had an effect.

James was now up front and within minutes of the restart had found a way through after some neat team play and he slotted home for his 19th of the season – Phoenix top scorer in all competitions. 1-2.

Highway then knew they were in a game and it was Phoenix who got the ball down and started to play. Bailey was causing problems down the left and right hand sides and was fouled near the touchline on the right which the ref blew for a free kick. James whipped in the free kick which was cleared by Highway but Phoenix won it back and fed Oscar on the edge of the box who found a neat finish to make it 2-2 and level the scores. No more than Phoenix deserved.

Phoenix were now coping better with Highways long ball tactics and closing down the opposition better but it still needed some excellent sweeping from Tom to keep them in the game.

With about 10 minutes to go, Martyn was asking for one last push from the team and in particular Jack who he was asking to ‘anticipate’ and ‘gamble’ to which Jack’s reply was ‘I don’t know what you mean!’. However, after a ball was played back towards the Highway defence, Jack did anticipate and chased down the loose ball, he then preceded to cut inside and finish superbly into the corner to make it 3-2. He should obviously listen to his Dad more often!

After taking the lead, Phoenix did well and were determined not to let it slip. They kept the ball and ran the clock down and the ref blew his whistle for full time, not just in this match but in this era of Phoenix Lions.

Full Time – Highway 2 Phoenix Lions 3

A well-deserved final victory for the team and a perfect send off for Jason & Martyn and a goodbye from the players moving with them.

The Lions finish the season on a 6 game unbeaten streak having lost 4 on the bounce prior to that and will finish a respectable 4th or 5th in a tough league after having been bottom at Christmas.

Across all competitions the team scored 74 goals and 4 players shared a double figure goal tally with James top on 19, Henry 15, Cameron 14 and Jack 13. The rest of the team made up the difference and nearly all outfield players scored at least 1 goal.

It has been a real up and down season. Lowlights being the month of March with 4 straight league defeats. Highlights being an excellent cup victory over A league HS Sports, the 9-0 hammering of Real Gima and the 6 game unbeaten run at the end of the season.

The boys have all worked hard and can hold their heads up high as they move onto pastures new. Some are moving on with the management team and will face a tough season ahead in the Kent Youth League with Crayford Arrows. Others will move onto other teams and some might not even play football next season.

But all of them owe a lot to the management and guidance of Jason and Martyn who have taught them the benefits of hard work and playing football the right way.

In addition, the parents owe a lot to Carol who has organised the team off the pitch in terms of fixtures, training, nights out and weekends away such as the upcoming farewell tour to ESF Butlins.

And a big thank you to all the parents who have run the line, been referee for friendlies or matches and who have run their boys all over to training, friendlies and matches.

It is the end of an era for a team, most of whom have been together since U7 and have lived in the Phoenix family for 6 years.

But as I said in my last report – as in all walks of like, times change and things move on.

Let’s go out with a bang at ESF Butlins and go out in true Phoenix style!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the match reports over the season but for now this is me, Paul Hanmore, reporting for the last time and all that’s left for me to say one final time is “Come on you Lions!”

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