Coaching

Goals Galore at Waltham FC

 

 

The season of 2013-2014 has been a great season for Waltham Football Club.

 

WalthamFC-Logo

 

The Club expanded further with two new under 7’s teams entering the league, as well as a new under 11’s team.

This gave the Club a total of 8 teams in the Gradely Sports Junior Football League. The highest yet since the club was formed in 2010 by Jimmy and Lynette Farrell.

Combined, Waltham’s 8 teams scored over 480 goals across the season, so here we will look at who helped us get to that incredible figure.

Below you’ll see a table of all the players at the Club to get into double-figures. But first, let’s have a quick review of some of the youngsters who had their shooting boots on this season.

Playing for Waltham Warriors u8’s, Charlie Clements has had an unbelievable season. Lightning-quick Charlie has scored 51 goals from just 23 games, giving him a ratio of more than 2 goals per game.

Waltham Gunners u10’s player Ben Wells has also had a fantastic year for goals. The skilful Ben has tied defenders in knots on his way to banging in 44 goals for the Gunners.

Thomas Healey has made a great start to junior football. Playing for Waltham Millers u7’s in their first season playing matches, Thomas has hit the back of the net 27 times with his rocket launcher boots (not forgetting his bullet header too).

Thomas’ team-mate for the Millers, Samuel Hayles, has also enjoyed a great debut season. Samuel has linked with team-mates well and his sweet left foot has helped him get to 22 goals from as many games.

The other new u7’s side, Waltham Lions, were helped by Oliver Hendry scoring 21 goals to introduce himself to the Gradely League. Two of Oliver’s goals late in the season came from his left foot, as he works hard to become a two-footed player.

Harry “Hat-trick” Brown made it to 20 goals for Waltham Red Stars u9’s. This carried on Harry’s lethal form in front of goal from previous years that earned him the nickname “Hat-trick”.

Rhys Wrigley (Waltham Gunners u10’s) and William Blow (Waltham Warriors u8’s) both reached 18 goals for the season. With Rhys helping the Gunners in a fantastic second half of the season with several important goals and William linking Warriors’ attacking play very well, both can be proud of their seasons.

Lucas Jex hit 16 goals in 17 games for Waltham Lions u7’s. That included some belting strikes from the confident youngster, which would have been replayed time and time again on Match of the Day if scored in the Premier League.

The second of five players on 16 goals is Jacob Aberra. Playing for Waltham Athletic u9’s, Jacob’s skill and silky footwork was a feature of Athletic’s play and he got his 16 goals from just 19 games.

Joining Lucas and Jacob on 16 goals is Rhys Racey. Rhys excelled playing in different positions during the season, but showed he is clinical when running through one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Waltham Gunners u10’s player Billy Nicholson also finished on 16 goals. Billy was a key part of the Gunners dominance in the second half of the season, and his driving runs forward helped him get a great return of goals.

Also on 16 goals for the season was Harrison Stephen of Waltham Warriors u8’s. Harrison’s creative ability and unselfish play helps create chances for his team-mates at Warriors, but he also helped himself to 16 goals too.

With 15 goals for the season, is Waltham Athletic u9’s player Alfie Handley. Future Grimsby Town player Alfie combined his jinking runs with the ball and lethal finishing ability to get his 15 goals from just 19 games.

Lucas Healey had an impressive season for Waltham Red Stars u9’s. Lucas managed to score 13 goals for Red Stars during a season in which he often played a deeper role in the team.

Also on 13 goals with Lucas is Daniel Gibbs of Waltham Gunners u10’s. The confident Daniel progressed as the season went on (as his team did) and he showed this by bagging a hat-trick in his penultimate game of the season.

Three players also managed to put the ball in the onion bag 12 times this season. Declan Goodfellow showed great skills and a couple of free-kicks in reaching his dozen for Waltham Millers u7’s. Joseph Finney was another Waltham Gunners u10’s player growing in stature as the season went on. And Ben Crolla of Waltham Lions u7’s hit 12 goals including a great free-kick and some good individual runs.

Drew Brumby and James Johnson both hit 7 goals for Waltham Rovers u10’s. James got the winning goal in the 1-0 over Grimsby Borough Juniors in April. And both Drew and James scored when Rovers came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 on the last day of the season.

Charlie Temple top scored for Waltham Wolves u11’s, who enjoyed their first season in the Gradely League. Charlie is a great finisher when supplied with chances and he got 5 goals in his debut season. Tyler Jex was another player to help himself to a few goals for Wolves. The older of the Jex brothers got 3 goals for the Wolves to cap a good first season playing league football.

 

Here is the table of all the players at Waltham FC to score 10 or more goals in Gradely Sports Junior Football League games during the 2013-2014 season:

 

Waltham FC Top Scorers 2013 2014

Congratulations to all the players at Waltham FC for a great season of football. And although this article has been about celebrating the goalscorers at the club, remember it is a team game, and the players scoring the goals wouldn’t be able to score those goals if it wasn’t for the help of their team-mates. The goalkeepers and defenders are just as important as the forwards scoring the goals, as they are the ones keeping the opposition from scoring.

Thanks to all the players for some great entertainment. And thanks to Jimmy and Lynette for the hard work they do behind the scenes to ensure we all have this great community club to be a part of.

Up the Lions/Millers/Warriors/Athletic/Red Stars/Gunners/Rovers/Wolves!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Lions Finish Season In Style Before Post-Match Drama

The Waltham Lions u7s served up another feast of football in their last game of the 2013-2014 season on Sunday.

Facing Grimsby Borough Juniors at Mount Pleasant, the Lions welcomed back Ethan Lowe and Leyton Bolton who had missed last week’s game.

The game got underway and was immediately being played at an exciting pace. The Lions started the first quarter with Ethan Lowe in goal and Rhys Racey sweeping behind the other 3 outfield players. Ethan carried on where he left off before his life-threatening hand injury (see the previous game’s write-up) in terms of his goalkeeping. He showed great goalkeeping technique to parry shots away and claim loose balls into his grasp and hold onto them. He made good decisions taking goal kicks too, playing short to Rhys most of the time so we could build attacks from the back. I was very happy with how the boys used all the space on the pitch, especially from goal kicks. Ethan often played short to Rhys, who turned to see Ben Crolla stood near one touchline and Lucas Jex doing likewise on the other side. And this allowed us to build plenty of great attacks in the first quarter.

Rhys Racey was often left 1v1 or 1v2 against attackers but was always alert to where the danger was and made sure he recovered well when the ball was past him.

GOAL!!! Lucas Jex opened the scoring when his tricky corner was fumbled in by the goalkeeper.

Lucas Gill nearly added to the score when he broke forward and dribbled past a player in the penalty area, only to end up being a little wide of the goal and was crowded out when he turned back. Leyton Bolton played some good passes as he again showed he has an awareness of what’s around him before the ball comes to him. Oliver Hendry and later Benjamin Harrison were also a threat playing the furthest forward role in the team, driving forward with the ball and looking to get into good positions when the Lions attacked. Whereas in a lot of games recently we had only got going later in the game, today the Lions looked in the mood straight away.

In the second quarter Leyton Bolton took a turn in goal and Ethan Lowe lined up to anchor the rest of the team by playing in defence.

Developing Dribbling

Lucas Gill carried on from the first quarter in dribbling past players for fun. This was without doubt the game when Lucas has beaten the most players in 1v1 dribbles to date. He’s certainly grown in confidence in the last couple of months when he’s been running with the ball a lot more and has been comfortable twisting and turning to cleverly shield the ball. This lead to him beating players with the kind of success rate normally seen by the Jex’s and Crolla’s of this world. Lucas looks like he’s becoming accustomed to people trying to tackle him and bumping into him, as several of his dribbles came when opposition players came steaming in to try and nick the ball from him. This got him into several dangerous positions in the first two quarters alone, but he was thwarted at the end of the runs each time by the goalkeeper or more defenders smothering him.

Calm and Composed

Ethan Lowe’s calmness in defence impressed me too. At one point in this second quarter Ethan had the ball deep in our own half and in a central area. He was closed down and faced with an opponent right in front of him. But instead of panicking and getting rid of the ball, he held onto it and tried to dribble the ball to his left to try and enable him to take the ball forward. As he did this he was risking being tackled, as you do with any dribble, but he tried to do it the right way and used his head to take the ball wide rather than trying to go straight forward into the attacker. The fact that he had the confidence and composure to try and work the ball out of defence like that fills me with confidence for the future. If our players panic in those situations and end up just booting the ball away, then I’ll worry that we won’t have players comfortable with the ball and that will surrender possession whenever we are closed down.

This is why coaches and parents should be fined, banned and maybe even jailed, for shouting either “Get rid of it” or “boot it up” etc. I wouldn’t have cared one bit if Ethan had lost the ball and Borough had scored from it. I would’ve wanted him try the same thing again and, if necessary, just learn from a mistake by running at a different angle or trying or trick or a feint. But that’s irrelevant because Ethan managed the situation very well. As he ran left with the ball, the opposition player tracked him well. So Ethan stopped the ball and looked up again. By now, he saw that he could get the ball to Lucas Jex. So he passed to Lucas and the Lions attacked again. This isn’t to say that I want the defender to dribble out from defence all the time. It’s about them making the best decision at that time. At first Ethan had no available pass to make, and didn’t have that option until Lucas became available. So in my eyes he made good decisions and did the right thing.

Using Both Feet

GOAL!!! We also had another goal that was worth £5 in this game. And I couldn’t be happier to be £5 poorer. Exactly 4 weeks after winning the first £5 for the first Lions goal scored from a left footed strike, Oliver Hendry has done it again. Since I initially made the offer of £5 to the first left footed goal, I’ve been massively impressed by the attitude by many towards practising with both feet. We’ve always tried to encourage this in training anyway and I make it clear to the boys that I’m genuinely impressed when they use their left foot. When we do games that involve shooting or passing, several of them practice with both feet. Arguably the keenest player to try and become both footed (as he now tells me he is), has been Oliver Hendry. And the way he smashed the ball in with his left peg in this game made it seem like if he carries on working with both feet, he’s capable of becoming completely both footed. The advantages of that won’t even be clear to these boys just yet at their age, but even so, they have all responded brilliantly to accepting it as a way of developing.

Late in the half, with Ben Crolla, Rhys Racey and Oliver attacking the Borough goal, the ball was loose in their penalty area. Ben and Rhys saw shots blocked by defenders and the ball fell nicely to Oliver at a bit of an angle to the goal. It was just on his left, and he had no hesitation in smashing it with his left foot. In fact I had to rub my eyes and check who it was because it looked like a young Mezut Ozil the way he slammed it in with his left foot. It has to be said that in a crowded penalty area, Oliver would have lost the chance to shoot if he would have needed to manoeuvre the ball back onto his right foot to shoot, as a defender would have got to him by then. His confidence in his left foot, brought about by practising using it, was such that he could hit it first time and make sure his name was on the scoresheet for a 7th successive match.

Putting Learning into Practice

One of the things that is always pleasing as the coach, is seeing the boys do things in the games that we have worked on in training or before games. It shows they’re learning and also confident enough to try things when there is more of a competitive opposition.

I couldn’t help but notice today that Ben Crolla was the biggest example of putting some learning into practice. I’ve commented before how Ben loves to dribble the ball and often ends up in areas wide on the left at the end of a long run. At this point he often finds himself at too tight an angle to shoot, or in a position where he has to run around the ball a bit to get a run-up at the ball to shoot facing the right way. What we’ve done a lot of in training lately is focus on using different parts of the foot to move the ball. Even before the game today, we did a little exercise encouraging the players to use the outside of their foot to cut in-field and shoot. Today, Ben Crolla showed great variation in how he approached 1v1 situations. He showed he can still take it with his instep around the defender to his left. But he also, probably for the first time, showed plenty of times when he used the outside of the same foot to go the other way. Not only does this keep the opposition guessing what he’s going to do, it sets him up for a quick shot on his right foot if he goes that way with the outside of his foot.

With Leyton Bolton making some fantastic saves in goal and Ethan ensuring not a lot go past him, the Lions were looking good. Leyton’s distribution was also excellent. Sometimes choosing to bypass the defender if he saw Lucas Jex or Rhys Racey in a lot of space further forward near the halfway line near the touchline. Again, a great awareness of space and an ability to make quick decisions very well.

Building from the Back

In the third quarter, Rhys Racey went in goal and made a couple of great saves from point blank range to keep Borough at bay.

Leyton Bolton lined up ahead of him as the defender for this quarter and showed how this role is important as the first line of attack, with most attacks starting from Leyton either winning the ball in a tackle, or receiving the ball from Rhys from a goal kick. Leyton was then able to dictate and decide how the Lions would attack. With the boys generally making great use of space on the pitch by spreading out, especially from goal kicks, Leyton was free to choose whether we would attack to the left, right or down the middle. I’m always confident Leyton will make good decisions in these instances as he seems to have a good football brain for a 7 year old.

Benjamin Harrison’s enthusiasm to win the ball for the team was also a feature. Benjamin worked tirelessly chasing back when we lost the ball and even if he didn’t win the ball, he always did enough to delay the attack or force them away from goal. Often when Benjamin won the ball for us, he would turn with the ball very quickly to get us facing the opposition goal. And he showed how much he always wants to be involved in the game by always wanting the ball and trying to make himself available for a pass.

GOAL!!! Ethan Lowe, returning after missing 2 games with injury, scored his second goal of the season in the third quarter. Showing unbelievable determination, he powered through a crowd of bodies to get to a loose ball before the Borough defender and goalkeeper that were also trying to get there. Ethan got there first, sliding in to get good contact on the ball to send it goalwards and it rolled into the net with the goalkeeper stranded.

GOAL!!! And as the third quarter went into the final seconds, the Lions scored a great counter attack that had the spectators wandering it they were watching a game at the Nou Camp or at Mount Pleasant. Borough had a good period of sustained pressure on the Lions goal and had 4 or 5 corners in succession. On the last corner, Leyton played the ball forward to Oliver Hendry who beat the last defender on the half way line and ran the rest of the pitch to get in a position to shoot from and made no mistake – scoring his second of the game.

In the final quarter, Lucas Gill had a similar break away to Oliver’s second goal. Breaking forward from the halfway line on the counter-attack, Lucas dribbled around the last defender with ease as the defender committed himself to a challenge, and had a clear run at goal despite other Borough players chasing back. As Lucas got close to the goal, the Borough goalkeeper came rushing out of goal to clear the ball very well. But the fact that Lucas has got himself into lots of scoring positions in the last few weeks (whereas he probably didn’t really get these chances early in the season) fills me with confidence that he will score goals next season.

GOAL!!! Oliver Hendry added another goal in the final quarter to complete his hat-trick and take his total for the season to 21 goals. This gives Oliver an amazing run of scoring 11 goals in his last 7 games. His great technique in striking through the ball to get power in his shots is something we’ll be looking to replicate in some of the other boys who may need a bit of work on this, when we do some second sessions starting next month. It was another period of good pressure on the Borough goal that led to Oliver having another chance inside the penalty area. And his technique shone through again here, hitting a shot instinctively that the goalkeeper couldn’t react quick enough to and it was in the back of the net.

GOAL!!! Lucas Jex then added another for the Lions with his second of the game and 16th of the season. This was a long distance free kick near the half way line after he was fouled in one of a number of times that the skilful and confident Lucas was fouled. Only he will know if he was shooting or just trying to put it in the box, but he hit it with enough power to go all the way in as Oliver and the Borough goalkeeper couldn’t get on the end of it after it bounced in the area.

Borough had some spells of pressure towards the end but Rhys Racey was up to the task in goal, saving just about everything that came at him. And we were rescued from a goal-mouth scramble when Lucas Gill cleared the ball out for a corner from the middle of the goal just a couple of yards out when Rhys was stranded on one of the posts.

Grimsby Borough Juniors scored a few goals of their own but it was such a great bonus for the Lions to have a win to end the season with, to match the great performance they put in today.

Man of the Match

The Man of the Match award today was won by the boy who calls himself “Sexy Jexy” – Lucas Jex. He took no end of kicks today from the opposition (not maliciously obviously) as he often does. But as I’ve told him before (and Ben Crolla who is also often assaulted on a regular basis) he should take it as a compliment that other teams can’t get the ball off him fairly. The fact that other players commit so many fouls against him shows that he is so hard to stop. Lucas again showed the confidence he has in his own ability to beat a player, often waiting for someone to close him down before then going to take them on and skip past them. He also played some good passes today to players in good positions, but his dribbling caught the eye. And also for me, so did his willingness to hang back in space rather than crowd around areas where the ball and other players already were. As a team we’ve been learning that over the course of the season – that if the ball breaks away from a crowded area where people have followed the ball, it often breaks to someone in a lot of space. And Lucas has shown he’s learnt this as much as anyone in the positions that he takes up.

Post-Match

Croc

A few things happened after the match that not everyone will be aware of. Firstly, Lucas Gill (who waited patiently for me to finish putting everything away in the pavilion) and I did some good business swapping some of our Panini World Cup stickers.

Panini Stickers

 

Then came the news that will send shockwaves through the village of Waltham.

I later discovered from one of our reporters, Emma Crolla, that her son Ben along with Rhys Racey had made a shocking discovery during the game around the beck that runs around the Mount Pleasant fields.

When Emma interviewed Ben after the game he had this to say: “Me and Rhys saw a crocodile in the beck.”

When asked if he was serious, Ben’s defiant response was: “Yes, I even heard it growl.”

I am told Ben went on to pull a face to suggest the way in which the crocodile looked at him, but this is unfortunately not publishable.

As Kerry Racey later interviewed her son Rhys to continue the investigation, Rhys also confirmed Ben’s version of events.

When Kerry questioned why Rhys had not told anyone or reported it to a figure of authority, Rhys’ response was: “We did. We told Ethan.”

I returned to Mount Pleasant later in the day to look for any evidence of this and you would not believe what I saw when I reviewed the beck’s underwater CCTV camera………….

 

The Crocodile

People of Waltham beware.

 

On a serious note, Sunday was a fantastic performance from the Waltham Lions and they all deserve a pat on the back for how well they played. It was a great game to watch, a great performance and a fantastic bonus to end the season with a win. They can all be proud of a great first season in junior football in which the development and progression has been there for all to see. And we’ve enjoyed watching their progress almost as much as the boys have enjoyed playing.

 

Up the Lions!!!

 

Lions Recover with Goals and Smiles after Tough Start

 

Waltham Lions struggled through a difficult early period of their match this week; to end up being a shining example of what junior football should be all about.

 

The Lions welcomed back Lucas Jex after injury and then being away after an international call-up for the UK Skiing team. Ethan Lowe was missing again as he recovers from a hand injury sustained whilst wrestling a wild tiger in Bradley Woods. And Leyton Bolton was unavailable, working away for the government in a top secret location. So Oliver Hendry (despite running in the London Marathon earlier in the day) and Jay Crichton (taking a break from searching for his lost Lions shirt) were called into action.

 

In a match against Clee Town JFC, the Lions found it tough-going in the first 10-minute quarter. Finding it difficult to get out of our half at times, the Lions couldn’t quite dribble their way out of trouble against some good tacklers in the Clee team. Despite being under pressure, the Lions did still mount attacks of their own in this quarter. Lucas Gill got into good positions near the opposition goal and used the ball well. And Ben Crolla was the main attacking outlet, breaking forward well on a few occasions and causing problems for the opposition. The Lions conceded 5 goals in the 10 minutes, with most of those, I think, coming from one big and strong player in the Clee team who had an absolute hammer of a left foot.

 

Conceding a flurry of goals in the first quarter didn’t bother the boys in the Lions team though. They were still enjoying themselves and getting plenty of touches of the ball to ensure the game was a valuable development exercise. Not only that, but we were a much better team in the following 3 quarters. Improving in each quarter, we scored but were narrowly outscored in the 2nd, conceded the only goal of the 3rd, and outscored our opponents in the final quarter when confidence was still rising. In addition to the improvement in the Lions performance as the game wore on, the boys showed a great attitude towards playing and enjoying themselves, summed up in the last 10 minutes and post-game with them laughing and smiling, enjoying playing football together in the way grassroots football is intended.

 

The Lions’ first goal came after Oliver Hendry chased the rebound to his initial shot. He retrieved the ball wide of the penalty area and only a few yards from the goal-line. Yet even from this tight angle he opted to shoot, before any defenders could catch up with him. As the ball lay dead, Oliver took a short run-up and hit a thunderous shot with great technique, low and hard, that went through the goalkeeper’s legs before he could react. This was the 6th consecutive match Oliver has scored in, so he will no doubt be gutted there is no game on Easter Sunday to keep his run going.

 

The Lions also had some better thought-out attacks in this 2nd quarter. With Rhys Racey starting many of them by winning the ball in defence, Oliver Hendry, Lucas Jex and Jay Crichton attacked in support of each other, rather than in the way of each other. With one carrying the ball forward, the others seemed to run towards space or in a position nearer the opposition goal, rather than being attracted to the ball. As much as being attracted to the ball and running towards is probably a sign of eagerness to get involved, it often reduces the options for the player with the ball, crowding out a possible route for a dribble or blocking a possible pass to another team-mate in space. Although most seemingly now understand this, we will try to work on it in the final game in 2 weeks, and in the summer, to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn-sheet and we can help each other just that little bit more as a team.

 

That said, it is no longer a consistent thing in our games as may have been the case at the start of the season. After the game when I asked the boys to tell me what some positive things from the game were, Rhys Racey responded with “We spread out really well”. And in general he was right. At one point in the 2nd quarter, two players were so determined not to get in each other’s way that a promising attack was delayed slightly. Oliver Hendry and Jay Crichton both ran forward after a Rhys Racey tackle had ran loose into the opposition half. With the ball in between them, Oliver and Jay both initially made a move towards the ball but then both recognised that and pulled away to leave it for the other player. This may have been seen as a bit of a mix-up but I can take it as a positive that instead of getting in each other’s way or taking the ball from a team-mate, a sense of team-work and unselfishness kicked in as they each left the ball for the other player, so they could run forward into space.

 

The 3rd quarter was a very closely contested 10 minutes. But despite both goalkeepers being called into action plenty of times, the only goal of the quarter was one for Clee. Oliver Hendry made some fabulous saves in goal, mostly with his feet, and rushed out well to confront oncoming attackers and clear the ball from off their toes. Ben Crolla assisted Oliver in keeping the score down by having a solid 10 minutes as the defender. Ben is used to being in the thick of the action in the middle, but has shown a few times recently he can also adapt to meeting oncoming attackers when playing in a deeper position.

 

Lucas Jex was having plenty of dribble attempts in this quarter, resulting in him taking a few bumps and kicks. And Jay Crichton got his foot into some good tackles and looked up before passing the ball at good times during the quarter. Lucas Gill, playing as a striker for much of this match, was dangerous whenever he had the ball in the opposition penalty area. A few times he was composed and turned left and right with the ball, and he had a few shots saved by the Clee Town goalkeeper.

 

In the 4th and final quarter, Jay Crichton went in goal and made a few good saves pushing the ball out for a corner or saving with his feet. And the boys outfield began to ramp up the skill level as they showed they were enjoying possession a bit more than in the difficult first quarter.

 

Benjamin Harrison showed us a great drag-back to turn a Clee player in our defensive area, which is encouraging that he would do that in that part of the pitch where most adults wouldn’t. Rhys Racey performed a lovely back-heel turn right near the touchline to deceive a Clee player and leave him for dust as he charged towards goal. And Lucas Jex went on some rampaging runs down the left and had enough arrogance to shout “bye” to players as he went past them.

 

As said above, the Lions showed the complete turn-around in the game by outscoring the opposition in the final quarter. Rhys Racey grabbed his 16th goal of the season by smashing a shot low and hard through a crowd of defenders and past the goalkeeper. And then Oliver Hendry added his second of the game, and 18th of the season, after latching onto a Lucas Jex pass. Oliver took the ball forward and hit another shot with seriously good technique – getting over the ball and striking through it with power, but also sending the ball to the far corner of the goal, as the goalie was stood slightly towards the other side of the goal. Lucas Gill again went close in this quarter, hitting a shot that hit the goalkeeper without him knowing much about it and coming back out for a defender to clear.

 

Man of the Match this week went to Jay Crichton for a good all-round performance. He showed an unselfish attitude towards the team on more than one occasion, for the instance with Oliver as described earlier, as well as volunteering to go in goal for 10 minutes at the end. Jay played some good passes to team-mates, showing he had clearly looked up before making the pass. And he also nearly scored himself in the second quarter but the goalkeeper made a good save to deny him.

 

It was great to see the boys showing yet again, despite a difficult opening to the match, that they:

  • Enjoyed the game
  • Played fair and with a great sporting attitude
  • Were respectful of the referee and the opponents, and
  • All had good plenty of involvement in the game for it to be useful as the learning environment that it is.

 

The increased intelligence and understanding in the way the team attack is looking promising. And the way we continued to play it short out from goal-kicks, despite at times struggling to get out of our half in those first 10 minutes, is something for the boys to be proud of.

 

Just a quick, polite reminder though to ask everyone watching the games to try not to shout instructions to the boys when they’ve got the ball. It could be confusing if it contradicts things I’ve said to them, and it won’t help their development, problem-solving and decision-making if they’re just following orders when they’ve got the ball. I’m not criticising our great group of spectators because we’ve generally created a great environment at games over the season. But in the two blogs below I go into more detail as to why this is so important:

 

Developing Creative Talent vs being a PlayStation Controller” (from 02/03/2014)

 

My Coaching Philosophy And The Environment I’m Trying To Create” (from 10/09/2013)

 

Up the Lions!!!

 

Persevering With Long Term Skill Development Over Short Term Success

 

Waltham Lions again showed some good individual skill today, in a game where the goalkeepers of both sides were often the stars of the show.

The Lions played with the usual freedom that allows the boys to learn by playing – making choices and mistakes on their own. I mention this most weeks in these write-ups, but I see it as a hugely important thing that these boys aren’t being shouted at from the side to “pass it”, “shoot”, “pass to xxxx” or “run with it” when they’ve got the ball. It will benefit the boys in years to come in ways that will only become clear in a few years time. And judging from our games this season, our players already have far more experience of decision-making on the pitch than most.

We could choose to shout and tell them what to do. It would probably work in the short term, and maybe bring more wins. But it wouldn’t achieve much in the long term. It wouldn’t help their development half as much as the way we’re doing things now. And I’m surprised at the number of teams we’ve come up against this season whose coaches are playing the kids’ game for them, rather than letting them play it themselves (see my piece on ‘Being a PlayStation Controller’ from a few weeks back).

Today the Lions played well. Not as good of an all-round performance as last week, but we came up against a team today who, it seemed to me, were set up to win the game rather than use it as a development opportunity. It wasn’t a pretty sight seeing their goalkeeper have the ball in his hands, them putting 3 players deep in our half and in our penalty area, and the goalie (who had a strong kick) then boot it right up the pitch to them.

I appreciate that in senior football there is more than one way to win a football match. Tactics will come into play and different patterns of play can be worked on and practised. But I can’t help but feel that an under 7s team purposefully playing this way (I can only assume under instruction to do so) is seeing them miss out on a weekly opportunity to develop technical ability and learn how to play through the pitch and work the ball into shooting positions.

That approach is not for me, and I hope our parents are on board with my prioritising of enjoyment and development over the “immediate success” of winning a match. To be honest, apart from the games against Discoveries GB and Clee Town Pattesons in 2013 (before the red/blue groups were re-arranged), no-one has comfortably beaten us anyway and we’ve generally always played well and been well in the games we’ve lost.

With Lucas Jex away on international duty, Ethan Lowe nursing a broken finger suffered in his great goalkeeper training session on Saturday and Jay Crichton at a family rave, the Lions were down to 6 players for this game.

Leyton Bolton started in goal, and along with the Discoveries Colts ‘keeper, was one of the best players on the pitch for that 1st quarter. Making several great saves with his feet and some great athletic dives to save with his hands, Leyton limited the opposition to scoring just once in the first 10 minutes.

At the other end, Oliver Hendry was unlucky not to score as he went through on goal, but his attempt on his left foot went just wide. The opposition goalkeeper also thwarted attempts from Oliver, Rhys Racey and Ben Crolla.

There was a lovely move in this quarter when Ben Crolla broke down the right, ghosted past a defender and as another one came towards him, he crossed the ball into the middle. The cross landed straight at the feet of Oliver Hendry who struck a shot with good technique, planting his standing foot next to the ball, getting his knee over the ball and hitting the target, although the ‘keeper was there again to push it out. It didn’t result in a goal but that was the best move of the match in the first half – Ben doing what he does best winning the ball and bursting forward with pace, putting a great cross in, and Oliver lurking in space away from the crowd and hitting a good shot matched in quality by the save.

Lucas Gill showed his confident trickery on the ball again, weaving left, then right, then back again to turn a defender inside out. On one occasion he eventually got crowded out and tackled after a few quick changes of direction. When I later asked Lucas to try and look up after doing a skill to see what he can do next, he told me that he did, and he didn’t see anyone who he could pass to. For me that was a fantastic sign. Not that he looked up. Not that he was looking for who he could pass to. The huge positive I took from that was that because there was no-one available to pass to, he was happy to hold onto the ball himself. If he takes that approach, I couldn’t care less if he loses the ball sometimes. I won’t be coaching that calm and relaxed nature on the ball out of him. Some kids start with that way of playing but have it coached out of them by adults wanting them to “get the ball forward” or not wanting them to take risks. Another occasion in the 1st quarter saw Lucas shielding the ball with his body brilliantly. We’ve done some work on this before, when I ask the boys to protect their ball by using their body as a shield if I approach them in a free-dribbling area. Lucas often always grasps this concept well, so it wasn’t surprising to see him being the one to show us the best example of this during a match against competitive opposition. As Lucas chased a loose ball and got their first, an opposition player came towards him from one side. Lucas had the ball under control and turned away to one side, leaving this player behind him, unable to even try and tackle him. Then when this same opposition player chased aftet Lucas and went to run around him to try and get to the ball, Lucas must have seen him coming by looking over his shoulder, as he then turned away in the other direction, keeping the other player behind him and with no chance of being able to take the ball from him.

In the 2nd quarter, we were denied by some more very good goalkeeping from the Colts ‘keeper. The best attempt coming from a powerful Rhys Racey shot that the goalkeeper unbelievably managed to tip up onto the crossbar before it went up and out for a corner. I’m still not sure how that didn’t go in.

We saw the best bit of individual skill in the whole match during this 2nd quarter. And I couldn’t be happier that it was a skill I only introduced to them 7 days ago. I mentioned it in my write-up last week and included some links to youtube clips of it (see last week’s write-up here). It was of course the Ronaldo Chop. Cristiano Ronaldo does this all the time as a way to change direction in the blink of an eye. Before the game today I tried to break it down into a few steps to help them grasp it. And in the 1v1 practices of it in the warm-up, Leyton Bolton looked like he had mastered it. I said to him I wanted to see him do it in the match if a chance to do it comes up. And did it? He was running with the ball down the right. A defender ran towards him and he chopped it behind his left foot, to his left, taking the ball infield and wrong-footing the defender who was running in the other direction. Awesome!

Oliver Hendry took a turn in goal in goal for this 2nd quarter and probably surprised himself with some really good goalkeeping. He came out of his goal to kick the ball away from oncoming attackers a couple of times, and his passes out from his area were excellent, always clearly picking out a player who was in a bit of space.

In the 3rd quarter the Lions got back into the game with a goal that Benjamin Harrison and Lucas Gill had a hand in making. Benjamin Harrison won a good tackle on the half way line and the ball fell into Lucas Gill’s path. Lucas recognised space in front of him and was positive in moving forward into the space with the ball. As a defender came towards him he took a touch inside away from the player. And as a second defender came towards him he saw Oliver Hendry in space (again) and saw a clear line where he could get the ball to him. He poked it through before being confronted with a tackle and Oliver continued his scoring streak (this the 5th game in a row he’s found the net) by ruthlessly smashing it in the bottom corner after taking a good first touch to get the ball out in front of him.

Rhys Racey had to be alert in goal as Leyton was often left outnumbered on his own in defence. But he made good saves when called upon. And Leyton also read the game really well to intercept some of the passes that the Colts players played forward or across the pitch.

In the 4th quarter the Lions got another goal. Oliver Hendry slotting away his 16th goal of the season after another Benjamin Harrison tackle in the middle of the pitch allowed Oliver to get on the ball and drive forward into space towards goal and get a shot off.

Ben Crolla did his best to carry on his own scoring run, having a good run down the left before shooting just wide. And his usual energetic bursts forward with the ball were as forceful in the last few minutes as they were in the first few minutes. Ben asked me if he could play as the defender for the 2nd quarter, which he did. That’s pleasing too as he’ll learn and understand the game from different points of view. This will help develop his overall game understanding, so it was good to see him keen to learn in this way.

Despite Rhys Racey making some good saves as he stayed in goal for another quarter, him and Lucas Gill were left on their own defending at times. This helped the opposition score 3 goals in this quarter to give the scoreline a bit of a slanted look to it. The game was a lot closer than the 3-goal margin might suggest, and with 2 players often in front of our goal, Lucas was up against it trying to stop one of them from shooting. One of their late goals went in off a player’s thigh, and another was a tap-in after Rhys had made a great save to parry out the first shot, only for the ball to land at the feet of one of the Colts attackers.

Man of the Match

Man of the Match today went to Leyton Bolton; not just for his Ronaldo Chop skill in the 2nd quarter, but a good comtribution to the game to compliment that. He almost got on the scoresheet himself when Ben Crolla laid the ball across to him, but Leyton cut across the ball a little as it came across from the side and his shot span just wide. He had some other confident runs with the ball too, holding onto the ball when he thought that was the best option, and passing to a team-mate when he could see someone in space. Seeing people in space is a strength of Leyton’s. He has a good awareness of what’s around him on the pitch as he consistently looks up to assess his options quickly. It’s difficult to make a good decision on what to do if you haven’t looked up to judge what the best option is, and Leyton always gives himself the best chance of making a good decision by looking up/around first.

All in all, we had some good skill again which I was delighted with and played really well in patches. The performance didn’t quite hit the heights of last weeks consistency over the 40 minutes, but I think it was a strange/new experience playing against a team drilled in where to position themselves to score a goal, and especially from the goalkeeper kicks. So despite not winning I continue to be pleased with the way we try and play, which will pay dividends in years to come (especially by the time we move up to 7-a-side games, when the opposition won’t be able to get the ball past all our boys with powerful play/strong kicks as easily.

Up the Lions!!!!!

Lions Impress in Skilful Mother’s Day Display

 

Waltham Lions u7’s today gave their best performance of the season in my opinion. I may have said that before, but all that shows is that the boys are getting better and better. Playing on a great pitch at Ross Sports Ground against a very sporting and well-managed Clee Community Mariners team, the Lions had a great time showing individual skill and great teamwork.

 

First of all, let me just say, I’ve no idea how to fit everything I could write about here into something of a reasonable length that people will actually be bothered to read. I can always find something to write about every player every week. Everyone always does positive things, whether it is with the ball or without. But today, EVERYONE played so well that I could have given justifiable reasons for giving the Man of the Match trophy to any one of them. The only baffling thing about the game is that we didn’t win the game. I thought we played some fantastic football in the game. And I don’t mean just for a group of 7 year olds, I mean just fantastic football. I came away from the ground feeling as proud as if we had won though, because I thought we played the better football and all 7 players were fully involved in a great team performance.
I’d decided before the game that I wanted the boys to show off some skills today. Before the game we did some practice of a few skills – some basic ones and some more difficult ones too. You’d be surprised with what kids are capable of doing. We went through the outside hook (Lucas Gill’s favourite), the backheel turn (an Oliver Hendry trick) and what I call the lollypops (also known as scissors/step-overs). I then introduced the “Ronaldo Chop” (see what it is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH_6Oc3kGP8 and watch it being done in live action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSRRSxGMBNE). I was surprised by how many grasped this, or something very close to it, in such a short space of time. I’ll do it again another time but in more detailed steps so they can learn it.

 

I had a very quick chat with them and said I wanted them to be confident during the game to try any skills or tricks that we’ve learned, or even to make their own up and try them. I re-iterated that it won’t matter if it doesn’t work or we lose the ball, we’ll just get it back. But I don’t want them to be scared of trying things, or have a fear of making mistakes at this young age. I want them to be as creative as possible, and that won’t come by being scared of doing something wrong or trying something new.

 

Confidence

 

Nothing could’ve shown this creative, fearless attitude more than seeing Rhys Racey pulling off some skills as the last defender in the first 10 minutes. In this 1st quarter, Rhys was playing as the defender. He had the ball near the edge of our penalty area in a central area. An opposition player came towards him but instead of panicking and or even passing straight away, Rhys threw in a couple of lollypops then dribbled the ball to one side, before passing to Oliver. I admired the confidence Rhys had in doing this in what an older age group might call a dangerous area of the pitch. Not in this team though – they can do whatever skills they want to on any bit of the pitch they want to. As always, it should be THEIR decision. Rhys later told me he didn’t know why everyone on the side laughed when he did his step-overs here. I told him it was just because it was such a good thing that he did. But hopefully in future to make sure no-one feels embarrassed or confused like that, let’s have a cheer when someone does a skill or trick. It was great, and I don’t think I was confident enough at 7 years old to try that in front of my own goal.

 

Ethan Lowe played the first 10 minutes in goal and was excellent, as he usually is when he puts on those gloves. As well as the great saves he continuously makes to deny the opposition goals, he’s now adding the ability to rush out of his goal to his game. He’s starting to choose when to come out to meet an oncoming attacker well, and is getting quite comfortable now at becoming a ‘sweeper-keeper’ (coming out of his goal to sweep up anything that’s kicked beyond our defence). Ethan made some great saves and some very brave saves too.

 

Rhys Racey went in goal for the 2nd quarter and carried on from Ethan. Rhys made some great saves and also used his speed well to rush out to the ball when it was needed. His passing out to players from goal kicks was also excellent, always choosing a player in a good position to pass to.

 

In those first 2 quarters both teams had chances to score. Clee Community Mariners unfortunately had scored one goal in each quarter, but that gave a scoreline that didn’t reflect how the game had gone. The Lions played some great football to create some of our chances. One move in particular would have been our goal of the season for me, if we had scored from it. Ethan Lowe won the ball in defence, looked up and played a good pass to Leyton Bolton. Leyton turned, looked up and saw Oliver Hendry in space beyond the opposition defender and played the ball through to him perfectly. Oliver was through on goal and shot went just wide of the goal. But that short passage of play was a great, imaginative piece of team play, which we are starting to see more of from their decision-making in the last few weeks. Please note, not once do I shout “pass” at them when they’ve got the ball. They’re making their own decisions, and maybe learned from the game last month when we didn’t choose to pass at all and really struggled. That move was honestly as good, if not better, than any passing move that Grimsby Town or Man United have put together this season, and it deserved a goal. All I could do was stand back, admire and applaud.

 

Bend Blast it like Beckham

 

As the Lions continued to play some great football in the 3rd and 4th quarters, they eventually got back into the game with the goals they deserved. The first Lions goal to start the comeback, came in the 3rd quarter from a great free kick by Ben ‘Beckham’ Crolla. A free kick from quite far out was given to the Lions and Ben put the ball down with only one thing in his mind – he was going to shoot. And he hit a great, powerful shot that the goalkeeper couldn’t stop from hitting the back of the net.

 

Boosted by this goal, the Lions continued to play football that was very pleasing on the eye. An equaliser came in the 4th quarter. Rhys Racey took a throw-in near the corner flag in the opposition half, and Oliver Hendry somehow wriggled his way through 2 or 3 defenders to find himself in front of goal. He managed to get a shot away despite being under great pressure and although it may have took a slight touch off a defender on its way into the back of the net, it was Oliver’s goal. However, I’d like to put an end to the outrageous rumours that it was a left foot shot from Oliver that scored it (just a reminder that I’ve rolled over the £5 prize for the next player to score a goal with their left foot, after Oliver won the first £5). This one was definitely his right foot, but 10/10 for the effort Matt.

 

The Lions then roared forward (lions…….roar……..THAT IS COMEDY!!!) in search of another goal but were nearly caught out at the other end. Leyton Bolton, in goal for the 4th quarter, had to be at his agile best to claw away a shot that was heading for the top corner of his goal. This was right at the end of the game and without this save, the result would have been different for sure as there wouldn’t have been time to come back again.

 

Ethan Lowe was an absolute rock in defence in the 2nd quarter. He tackled any opposition players that were silly enough to go near him. And at one point, I heard one of the opposition coaches say “he’s a great tackler” after yet another of Ethan’s interventions. Ethan made good decisions when tackling in terms of whether it needed a strong tackle to clear the ball, or whether he could just steal the ball from the attacker and keep control of it himself. When he did this, he looked up well and started plenty of our attacks this way, including the great move described earlier. He moved to play further forward later on and was really positive with his play after scoring his first Lions goal last week.

 

Leyton Bolton did really well today too. He’s always likely to shine in games where the boys decide to pass the ball a bit more, because that’s Leyton’s style anyway, and he isn’t one to get dragged into chasing the ball over the pitch. Today he played 2 or 3 great passes forward through to Oliver and played some good, quick passes across the pitch to Ben Crolla. There was a good variety to his play though, as he still found time to beat a couple of defenders down the right wing before winning a corner. When we have a goal kick he pulls really wide where there is lots of space and he knows he’ll have time when he gets the ball, before he’s closed down. And we can’t forget the save right at the end to deny what looked like a certain goal for Clee Community Mariners.

 

Benjamin Harrison became a transformed character in today’s game. You could see the confidence he had growing each time he beat a player. And each time he dribbled past a player, he seemed to get on the ball twice as quickly again to dribble past another player. Supporting the idea that the more involved someone is in the game, the more practice they get and the more confident they become. Benjamin was another example of that today. He got on the ball several times in the middle of the pitch and shifted the ball to the side of the defender to take it past him as he was closed down. As I said, the more he did this, the more confident he looked doing it the next time. I also saw Benjamin confidently back-heel the ball to a team-mate and also do one or two nice drag-back turns.

 

Ben Crolla was also excellent yet again. His tracking back to help out in defence by tackling opposition strikers has been invaluable all season and he was at it again today. His running with the ball was also excellent. In fact for a spell in the 3rd quarter Ben was unstoppable. He was on one great run down the right hand side after winning the ball himself. As he sprinted down the wing he knocked it past a player close to the touchline and would’ve been 1v1 with the last defender, but was hacked down (not maliciously obviously) and halted in his tracks. Watching that run on the side-lines, that was the only thing that was going to stop him to be quite honest. He got up and carried on though, and it wasn’t long before he unleashed his free-kick high into the net. That was Ben’s 12th goal in 20 games, and the third consecutive match he’s scored in.

 

Oliver Hendry scored for the 4th game in a row (his 14th goal in 12 games) and took up some great positions in forward areas that made him a threat throughout the match. As I’ve said before, Oliver doesn’t get sucked into already crowded areas and chasing the ball. He senses when to hang back or maintain the space he is in. He had another effort at goal today with his left foot (this boy is trying to bankrupt me, one day before payday as well). In all seriousness I’m delighted with how much Oliver is trusting both of his feet, and just striking the ball with whichever foot the ball is best set up to hit it with. He’s been showing a great appetite to learn and is always asking questions in training and before games. When I moved Oliver to a slightly deeper position later on, he was more involved in the build-up of our attacks too, and drove us forward with the ball several times in search of more goals. He also knows he can’t always run with the ball himself, and he often chooses to play a simple pass to a team-mate before running off into space again himself.

 

Rhys Racey not only showed the confidence in defence and bravery in goal that I’ve already mentioned. He nearly got a goal himself, running down the right before hitting a shot from a very tight angle that only just missed the post. And after playing in goal for 20 minutes during which he only conceded 1 goal, he came back out of goal in the 4th quarter to help us get back into the game, attacking well with Ben Crolla and Oliver Hendry.

 

Man of the Match

 

Lucas Gill was like a new player today. The confidence this boy had on the pitch was outstanding and we’d like to see more of the same. Lucas joined Waltham FC later than most of the Lions/Millers players, but in the last few months he’s consistently made great strides. He’s been constantly becoming more and more relaxed with the ball, and comfortable taking his time when in possession. Today, however, he took it to a new level. He showed us twists, turns, quick changes of direction and generally making other players feel dizzy. He seemed to be really enjoying himself as his self-belief grew each time he got the ball. At one stage, an opposition player was trying to come and tackle him, and I felt like I was watching a tennis match at Wimbledon as I kept having to turn my head one way, then the other, then back again, as Lucas used both feet to manoeuvre the ball away from the defenders back and forth. Also impressive was that it usually had an end product too. When they’re older, the boys will learn that any trick or dribble needs to be followed by an end product, whether it is a pass or a shot. Today, every time Lucas dribbled, he finished it off by looking up to see what he could do next. This was usually followed by a good pass to a team-mate. He fully deserved of the Man of the Match trophy today, well done Lucas.

 

In summary it was an excellent match; against a team I’d be happy to arrange friendlies with during the summer. Speaking with their coach beforehand it seems they’re a well-run club set up with the same principles and ideas that Waltham FC is built on. I thought the Lions were actually outstanding today and I don’t think anyone could’ve argued if we had been comfortable winners. If it was a boxing match going to points at the end, we would’ve been the winners. But that’s not the important thing at all. The performance that got us to think that is. I believe that a lot of goals we concede come as a result of a long kick up the pitch or a bit of luck in the ball falling to their player in a good position. But today, we created so many chances with fantastic, creative play. And I’ve never seen so much individual skill from our boys in one game. If we can play that way at u7 level, imagine what we could be like in a few years. I’m excited by today’s performance and hope there’s much more skill to come in the near future, as individuals and as a team. And this isn’t the first time the boys have come back from a losing position either, so well done again for keeping spirits high, enjoying yourselves and not giving up.

 

Up the Lions!!!

P.S. Ethan said to me as I was getting in my car afterwards “Make sure you do a write-up Tom”, so I don’t think I’m going to get out of writing them anymore.

 

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.

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!!!