Waltham Lions u7s played their first match of 2014 today after the disappointment of 3 successive Sundays of postponed games. A reshuffle of the teams grouped together also saw a new opponent, in the shape of Clee Town BJB Lift Trucks.
The game was end-to-end, and was an entertaining match full of skill, great goals, and a great sporting approach from the players, parents and coaches of both teams.
Leyton Bolton had spells as a midfielder, striker and goalkeeper during the game. Leyton showed the brilliantly close ball control, even in tight areas, that we’ve become used to seeing from him. This allows him to twist and turn, changing direction to leave defenders feeling dizzy. Leyton also has an awareness of what’s around him, and an appreciation of ‘space’ that is far beyond what I would expect of a player at this age group. He is often pulling away from the crowd and staying in space, and is aware, when he has the ball, of who else is around him. He has the confidence with the ball at his feet to wait for the defender to come and close him down, before dragging the ball away from them or bursting past them. He showed this today with several skilful runs with the ball.
Lucas Gill continued on from his form before Christmas – continuing to show a growing understanding and what I would call an increasing level of ‘game intelligence’. When playing as a midfielder he recognised when a team-mate was chasing the ball down, meaning he didn’t have to. And when playing as the defender, he read the game well to intercept any danger and make well-timed tackles. Lucas is still visibly growing in confidence and is more and more involved in games each week.
Rhys Racey played as the striker, the goalkeeper and a midfielder at different times today. Rhys is always a danger to the opposition when we are attacking, and is now starting to show good signs of positioning himself well when we attack. Today, he was consistently getting into positions in the middle (near the goal) rather than being drawn closer to the ball when we attacked down the flanks. This usually left him in space shouting for the ball, as opposition defenders were drawn out of the middle to try and tackle our dribbling attackers. The passes didn’t always come, but I’m pleased he is positioning himself like this and thinking (whether he realises he is or not) where he needs to be. Rhys also made a memorable save when in goal, using his feet to save low down to his right when it looked like a certain goal going past him.
Ethan Lowe played parts of today’s game as the defender, the striker and lastly as the goalkeeper. Ethan’s enthusiasm to play football is fantastic, and I think rubs off on the other players. He’s been desperate to play a match again and I think he was there with his Dad at sunrise this morning having a kickabout, waiting for the rest of us to arrive. Hopefully Ethan will think it was worth the wait though, as he had a very good game today. Firstly as the defender, he “destroyed” any attack that went near him and showed great instincts to spot any danger and get across to cut it out. As the striker, he almost got the chance he’s been waiting for to stick one in the onion bag. Some confident running with the ball and strong tackling almost got him into several shooting positions. But he did create one of our goals in the 2nd half. It is also encouraging to see Ethan showing signs of good leadership qualities. He’s always telling people which players to mark when we’re defending corners. And today in open play he was telling people where to be and letting them know what he was doing. During his 10 minute stint in goal, Ethan showed great goalkeeping technique using both hands and diving on the ball. You can really tell he’s had proper goalkeeper training. His short distribution from goal kicks also helps us start attacks from deep before the opposition close us down from the retreat line.
Ben Crolla had spells both as a midfielder and as the defender today, and scored a brace for the second time this season. He scored his first goal within a minute of the game. After Clee Town had scored in the first 30 seconds, we restarted with a kick-off and Ben took it upon himself to dribble right through the middle of the Clee team and slotted past a helpless goalkeeper in a frantic first 60 seconds of the match. Ben was his usual tenacious self but what also impressed me today was his confidence to just run with the ball himself. He went on plenty of mazy dribbles, especially in the 1st quarter. Ben played the 4th quarter as the defender, and played this role the best he has done to date. He stayed disciplined and maintained his position as our deepest player, allowing him to see the danger in front of him and easily cut out attacks that came his way. He scored again in the 2nd half. After Ethan Lowe won the ball and dribbled towards goal, the last defender came towards him and as he knocked it to his right, Ben ran onto the ball, evaded the challenge of the defender to go through 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper and score his 7th goal of the season.
Lucas Jex is continuing to get better and better as the season goes on. He rattled in a hat-trick today to make it 8 goals in his last 4 appearances. The opposition today couldn’t handle Lucas when he had the ball at his feet, whether he was flying past them or tying them in knots with his drag-back turns. He has a composure on the ball much like Leyton Bolton, and is confident enough to tempt the defender in to make a tackle, knowing he can skip round or past them at the last moment. This ability to be calm and have confidence in their own skill is something I will try to instil in the rest of the team over time. Lucas seems to have a knack of making you think he’s about to be tackled, only to quickly skip past another player when on one of his now-trademark solo runs. It was from one of these runs that he scored his first goal, beating 2 or 3 players in running over half the length of the pitch before unleashing a shot that was too hot to handle for the opposition goalkeeper as it went past him. In between the 3rd and 4th quarters I asked Lucas to continue going on his great runs with the ball, but to also try to look up as well, so he can decide if the best thing to do is carry on dribbling or to pass the ball to someone in a good position. I told him that I wasn’t going to make that decision for him or tell him what to do – that he would have to decide for himself. So I was delighted to see a great move early in the 4th quarter when Lucas beat a couple of players down the right wing, looked up to see Rhys Racey taking up a great position in the middle of the goal area, and swung over a low cross to him. Rhys’ first time shot went just an inch wide of the post, but it was a fantastic move and Lucas had clearly taken on what I had said, but still made the decision to pass himself. His 2nd and 3rd goals were almost identical. Both were long-range shots from the inside-right channel, so accurate (just inside the post nestling in the side-netting) and so powerful that even James McKeown wouldn’t have stood a chance of saving them if he had been in goal.
Today’s Man of the Match award went to Benjamin Harrison. As I said when handing the trophy out, this was by far Benjamin’s best game since we began playing matches. He was far more involved today than he has been previously, getting more touches of the ball in the process. As well as his usual eagerness to chase after players and win the ball back for the team, I was also pleased to see Benjamin having the confidence to run with the ball today. He seemed to either have an idea of what he wanted to do before the ball came to him or just made quicker decisions today. Either way, it was great to see. In training, Benjamin can sometimes be one of the better players at running with the ball at speed. So it was good to see him less concerned about the opposition trying to stop him today, and just getting on with his own thing by transmitting some of what he shows in training to what is a different match environment. He was also fearless in winning tackles today, often appearing like a man-on-a-mission to get the ball back for his team.
So a massive well done to all the Lions players for today. Thanks for giving us all a great game to watch as always. When you consider this was our first match in 7 weeks, it was a great performance that got better as the game wore on. Apart from a couple of minutes at one stage where we started getting in each other’s way, we also worked really well as a team too.
Up the Lions!!!