Great Teamwork Brings Lions Goals

Waltham Lions capped a good weekend of football with yet another exciting match. After most of the Lions attended Grimsby Town’s 3-1 win over Wrexham at Blundell Park together yesterday, now it was their turn to put their boots on. They did so against an Immingham Pilgrims Town team, who also contributed to the entertaining match, away at Oasis Lowerfield.

Ethan Lowe played the first two quarters of the game in goal and as usual, showed great handling skills in difficult windy conditions. Ethan only conceded one goal in these 20 minutes, which he should be proud of. He not only made some great saves, but showed great bravery diving onto loose balls when Immingham players were attacking. He was also quick to react and gather any balls that he had initially parried away or blocked.

Rhys Racey, so often an attacking player for the Lions this season, asked to play as the defender again after doing so well in that role last week. Rhys again did well in covering at the back, sweeping up most of what made it past the other 3 outfield players. I was also impressed with what he managed to do when he won the ball for us. He became more composed and unrushed as the game progressed. There was plenty of variations in how he decided to start the Lions’ attacks too. He played plenty of passes to our players in more advanced positions, as well as choosing to run with the ball himself when he saw the opportunity to. His decision making was quite good in that when he did run with the ball out of defence, it was a good time to do it with plenty of space in front of him.

The Lions had started the game well and despite conceding a goal in the first few minutes, were looking comfortable on the ball and having some good attacks. We followed on from last week in the way the boys looked up to see what options they had when they got the ball. Other than a few tackles, I can’t remember seeing any first time kicks that were hit without any thought or direction. There was always a touch to control followed by a look up. Perhaps this has been encouraged by what we learned in the game 2 weeks ago. Also perhaps helped by the game before the match, which I often like to use because of its multiple benefits, where the player on the ball needs to look up (around 360°) and make a decision.

Ben Crolla played the second quarter as the defender. He positioned himself well and met any oncoming Immingham attackers with the strength and bravery you’d expect of someone twice Ben’s size. He didn’t let anyone get past him during these 10 minutes, and often passed forward to Leyton or Oliver very well.

Jay Crichton was involved in the game a lot, making some good tackles against players much bigger than him, and played one pass in particular as we broke forward on a counter attack. Jay had the presence of mind to know that an opponent was running towards him and also that Oliver was ahead of him to his right. As the defender got close, Jay passed the ball to his right, perfectly into Oliver’s stride as he ran forward towards goal.

Benjamin Harrison was also busy making tackles everywhere. And he also continues to see more and more of the ball as the weeks go by. This will have a bit of a snowball effect for Benjamin as the more touches he gets of the ball, the more confidence he’ll get with it and the more he’ll have to make decisions – and then learn from the decisions he makes. I also get the sense that he’s really getting used to playing football in matches now, if only by the way he now just jumps up and gets on with it if he’s been barged, knocked over or kicked.

As we moved into the 3rd quarter, Ethan came out of goal after a solid 20 minutes. Jay took a turn to go in goal, and Leyton played as the defender. The boys continued much the same as in the previous 2 quarters really. The game was often end-to-end, with good breaks forward from both teams. And the Lions, whilst playing well throughout the whole game, became more of a threat to the opposition goal in the last 2 quarters.

The first Lions goal came when Ethan Lowe won the ball on the half way line and ran with the ball down the right. He sailed past one defender’s challenged and continued his charge down the right. As he got near the goal area, two Immingham players came towards him from the middle of the pitch, leaving Ben Crolla free in front of goal. As the two defenders came to tackle him, Ethan was strong in the tackle and then managed to pass it to his left to Ben Crolla who was waiting in space in the middle. As the ball rolled across the ground to Ben, he hit it first time with power and accuracy into the top left corner, with the ball crashing in off the post into the back of the net. The goalkeeper wouldn’t have saved that if he had 6 arms. That was Ben’s 10th goal this season. And it kept up his recent scoring form, with 7 of his 10 goals coming in the last 8 matches. It was a great team goal and was exactly what the Lions deserved.

Leyton Bolton was showing great composure as the defender, making sure that he didn’t have to actually make many tackles. He seemed to read where the Immingham attacks were going and time his interceptions when somebody running with the ball took a big touch ahead of them, giving him the chance to step in and steal possession. A few times, rather than a tackle, Leyton stole the ball by playing a first time pass out to the left where Rhys Racey or Lucas Gill. Another time I saw Leyton step in and take the ball off an oncoming player by clipping the ball to his left and up in the air. Only by 6 inches or so, but it was enough so that the opposition player couldn’t get the ball as Leyton took it away from him.

Rhys Racey played further forward and showed good skill with a backheel turn after chasing back to win the ball.

After creating the first Lions goal, Ethan Lowe grew in confidence and he had another good run that was only stopped when he was tripped by an opposition player after dribbling past them.

Lucas Gill was involved in some of the Lions’ good passing. He nearly had a chance to score after forcing an opposition player back near his goal. The defender and goalkeeper seemed to leave the ball for each other right in front of goal and it looked like Lucas might have been able to sneak in and take advantage of the confusion. But the Immingham goalkeeper quickly realised Lucas was there and rushed out to grab the ball. Lucas’ first touch was almost always to control the ball and you can clearly see him looking up thinking what to do with the ball. He also had a positive run towards goal but unfortunately a defender got back to stop him before he got close enough to goal for a shot.

In the final quarter, as they have done in previous games, the Lions stepped up another gear to get back into the game. They got the goal they were chasing when Rhys Racey stepped out of defence after spotting an opportunity to intercept the ball in the middle of the pitch. He took the ball and ran into the space down the right side. As he was about to be met with a tackle from an Immingham player, he passed to his left straight to the feet of Oliver Hendry. Oliver cushioned the ball in front of him with his first touch and then hit a shot straight into the bottom corner and into the net for his 12th goal of the season.

The Lions were unlucky not to score more in this last quarter. Ben Crolla attacked well down the left with several runs of his own. Oliver Hendry nearly got his 2nd goal after good work to carry the ball out of our half by Ben Crolla. Ben passed down the line to Oliver who took it on, going past one defender but not quite managing to stick it in the onion bag again with his shot. Ethan Lowe took over from Rhys as the defender mid-way through the quarter and didn’t let much get past him. On one occasion he made a great recovery to chase back and win the ball with a great sliding tackle when it looked certain that the Immingham player would score.

Skill of the Match

The Skill of the Match was an amazingly confident bit of play in the 1st quarter. Rhys Racey was running forward at speed with the ball and was midway through the opposition half. As he approached the last defender, he knocked the ball past the defender one way, and ran around the him the other way, collecting the ball beyond the defender before the he had chance to work out what had just happened. It actually nearly led to a goal too, but the goalkeeper rushed out to Rhys and forced him wide enough so that he couldn’t get a clear shot at goal. As I said, he showed great confidence to try this skill, and did it at a time that was perfect to do it. As it’s not something you can try anywhere on the pitch, from a standing start, or if there’s players behind the defender.

Man of the Match

The Man of the Match award went to Oliver Hendry today. After providing us with some “BT Sport commentary” (his words, not mine) during the Town match yesterday with his fake microphone made from sweets wrappers, Oliver let his boots do his talking today. He was a constant threat to the opposition and played with his head too. By that I mean he didn’t just go chasing the ball all the time, choosing to hold back in space and anticipate where the ball might go. When we had the ball, he tended to get into space and often pulled wide (where there usually is more space). This helped him score his goal. He could’ve been drawn to the ball as Rhys’ dribbled forward, but by doing that he could’ve got in Rhys’ way or ended up in a position where Rhys couldn’t have passed the ball to him. Oliver maintained a line of vision between himself and the Rhys, with no defender in the way, which enabled Rhys to pass him the ball. Then his first touch was great, pushing it forward out of his feet ready to hit the shot. It was a good job he scored too, he promised that if I left him on for the full last 10 minutes he would score a goal. He was unlucky not to score a second, and also showed a good mixture of passing and dribbling with the ball himself.

Well done the Lions again for giving us some great entertainment and putting in a great performance. If we’d have had a bit more time (not helped by having to fetch the ball from behind the goal all the time) I’m sure we would have scored again the way we were playing by the end. The last couple of weeks has seen the boys play well as a team, demonstrated by our two goals today being what I would call great “team goals” rather than individual goals. We still want to see individual play too, but at the moment there is a much better balance between going on solo runs and recognising others might be in a better position. But as I always refer back to, the more the players make decisions themselves and have to ‘problem-solve’ on the pitch, the more they’ll learn from the decisions they make and make better decisions as time goes on.

Up the Lions!!!

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