A Penalty Save, a First Lions Goal, and the £5 Left-Footed Strike

Waltham Lions bravely battled on through a downpour of rain and hailstones in their match today. And there were some great success stories to come from the game that will hopefully make the boys glad that we didn’t follow 2 nearby under 7’s games at the same venue in abandoning the game.

Firstly, Ethan Lowe scored his first goal for the Lions in the opening 10 minutes. He’d made a good start to the game, and made sure his shot was going in by hitting it with power through the goalkeeper’s legs.

Before that, Ben Crolla had put the Lions 1-0 up with an early goal. Taking over possession after a great break forward from Ethan Lowe, Ben carried the ball into the area and fired the ball into the bottom corner to put him on 11 goals from his 19 games.

Another great moment in the game came in the 2nd quarter when Ethan Lowe, now in goal, brilliantly saved a penalty after a Clee Town BJB Lift Trucks player was tripped in the box. Ethan dived to his left, saved the shot and held onto it meaning it didn’t come back to an opposition player to have another shot.

The other highlight of the match came later in the game. A month ago in a blog/report I wrote here, I wanted to encourage all of the boys to practice using both feet and feel confident enough to try and shoot using their left foot. I offered the incentive of a £5 prize for the first player to score a goal with their left foot. Today, exactly 4 weeks after that was written, that £5 prize was won.

Oliver Hendry has been keen to use his left foot a lot in the last few weeks. With 2 of our last 3 training sessions having a main focus of shooting, he’s opted to take plenty of shots with his left foot rather than his right – without me prompting him to. So it’s come as no surprise to me that Oliver is the winner of my crisp five pound note.

That said, I was delighted to see Oliver score with his left foot today. Not just delighted, but really genuinely impressed too. For an under 7s player to be so comfortable to be able to shoot with his ‘unfavourable’ foot is fantastic. And it was no tap-in either. Oliver picked up the ball just inside the opposition half and drive forward into the space ahead of him, in the inside left channel. As he approached the goalkeeper’s area he was still to the left of the goal so it was set up well to shoot with his left foot. But he then made the decision to do exactly that, all by himself. He hit a left footed shot with great technique, striking through the ball with his laces as his standing foot was planted alongside the ball. He drilled the shot low and hard into the bottom right hand corner, as it beat the goalkeeper’s full stretch dive for Oliver’s 13th goal of the season.

Despite conceding a quick flurry of goals in the last 10 minutes when the weather started to affect a few more of the Lions players, there were still further positives for the Lions to take from the game.

Lucas Gill was probably todays top passer, in that he must have made more successful passes to his team mates than anyone else. I shouted plenty of praise Lucas’ way as he made plenty of good passes at good times. What I emphasised to all the boys today before the kick off, was to not be rushed into kicking the ball, look up to see what’s around them and then decide what is the best thing to do. Lucas showed this as much as anyone, often looking up and taking his time before passing to a team mate when an opposition player ran towards him. And when he did pass, he chose well, passing to a player in space. This just highlights what is evident most weeks – Lucas pays great attention really seems to learn from what we do or what I say. The way he shows this by his actions on the pitch makes me confident about his potential development – remember Lucas has only been with us less than a year.

Leyton Bolton showed some of the close control we know he has to go on a few good runs with the ball today. The way he keeps the ball so close to his feet as he dribbles means he can change direction very quickly when he needs to. He went on a run down near the right touchline that carried him half the length of the pitch before he won a corner. Another run in a similar area of the pitch saw him chop and change direction 2 or 3 times as the defender turned and turned, probably losing track of which way Leyton was going.

Benjamin Harrison had a good 10 minutes in goal where I think he only conceded 1 or 2 goals. And when he came outfield he got stuck into some good tackles but found it difficult in the poor weather.

Rhys Racey was part of the good start the Lions made, covering the defensive area of the pitch well and recovering well to prevent Clee Town players attacking our goal by tackling well. As he did last week, he broke forward into space well when there was an opportunity to do so after winning the ball. Rhys then found it tough-going in the weather but then seemed to be refreshed when he came back on for the last 5 minutes, attacking well with Oliver Hendry and almost getting a goal.

Ben Crolla buzzed about the pitch winning tackles and nearly added to his goal with a second, only to lose the chance to shoot as he pondered which foot to shoot with. I’m not bothered one bit by this and it’ll actually be a good learning point for Ben. He apologised for not scoring here later (which he has absolutely no need to, obviously), saying he was thinking which foot to use to shoot. My thinking is that if he was thinking about this later on, he remembers it and it will be in his mind the next time he has to make a similar decision – which should help make his decision the next time.

Oliver Hendry, as well as scoring his brilliant left-footed goal, was one of our main threats when attacking. He wasn’t at all bothered by the weather and even agreed with me that it was “lovely weather”. His runs towards goal were strong and confident. And in between those were some good passes that showed patience, and recognition that someone else was in a better position to have the ball than he was. I’m proud of how well Oliver has taken to using both feet and he now tells me he is “both footed”.

Ethan Lowe, in addition to his goal and penalty save, was performing heroics in goal in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters. On any normal day, some of the saves he made would have been classed as brilliant saves. Today, with the ground and the ball being wet and slippery, the way Ethan continued to save countless shots peppered at his goal was amazing. What was yet more unbelievable was that more often than not, he held onto the ball and kept it within his grasp, rather than needing to parry it out or push it wide. Ethan was also alert enough to come off his goal line to tackle some attackers that were running towards goal. I still maintain that I’ve not seen a better goalkeeper at under 7 level this season than Ethan, and I was chuffed for him to score his first goal today too. Fully deserving of the Man of the Match award today.

Since it only took a month for someone to score a left-footed goal, I’m going to keep it going for the next one too. So the next Lions player to score using their left foot will also win £5 from me. In my eyes it is vital that the boys practice with both feet. It is much easier to read what a player is going to do, and therefore easier to defend against a player who can only use one foot. And so many senior players miss out on chances to score because they won’t or can’t shoot with either foot. By getting our boys to practice and become more and more comfortable using both feet, they’ll give themselves more options and be more flexible in what they can do. See Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley for examples of great, young, creative English players who can use both feet. I don’t care if one of them has a left footed shot from right in front of goal and misses doing it either. Now is the time for developing and learning from mistakes/choices.

I also avoid using the terms “weak foot” and “wrong foot”. Using the term weak foot could psychologically impact on the boys seeing one foot as ‘weaker’ than the other. This could affect their belief in using it or ability to improve it. I don’t like the term ‘wrong foot’ because there is no set ‘wrong foot’. The correct foot to use is the one that the situation dictates is the most suitable at that time. And again, using that term with the kids could have negative psychological effects.

Keep up the good work Lions.
And let’s hope for slightly better weather next week.

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