|P, W, D, L, F, A, D, P
|Cassiobury Rangers U13 Clarets||16 14 2 0 61 22 +39 44|
|London Colney U13||16 12 1 3 70 30 +40 37|
|Oakhill Tigers U13 Warriors||16 12 1 3 71 32 +39 37|
|Berkhamsted Raiders U13||16 8 1 7 58 44 +14 25|
|London Maccabi Lions U13||16 7 1 8 42 58 -16 22|
|Nascot Wood Rangers U13||16 5 2 9 40 60 -20 17|
|Finchley Revolution U13 Green||16 4 2 10 57 57 +0 14|
|Alexandra Park U13 West||16 3 1 12 38 61 -23 10|
|Aldenham Juniors U13 Panthers||16 1 1 14 23 96 -73 4|
A quick trip to Rowley Lane saw us play our penultimate League match of the season with 12 available; Jake was at a Tae Kwon Do event & Sean remained unavailable. WE lined-up with George starting as sub and Lewis in goal behind Liam, Gibbo (skipper) & Ryan with Kyran, Charlie, Simon, JR & Jamie across the middle of the park and Tom & Lew T up front. Before the match, the lads were reminded to be on their toes, be competitive, play football and enjoy a pretty good playing surface. Lions lined up with 10 available & hoping a team mate would arrive later; this didn't alter the fact they're a good side with skill allied to strength & presence so it was set for a fascinating game.
Nascot took the start & looked to get on the front foot; the early exchanges were pretty even with Nascot just edging the clearer chances; we were rewarded for good team play with Tom's 21st League goal of the season on 10 minutes following a great move. Several other final passes didn't quite find their mark to let us increase our lead and we noticed Lions were becoming increasingly dangerous; we gave the excellent & hard-working Lewis a rest for George on 17 minutes; however when the "three Cs" (concentration, communication & cover!) deserted us at a throw-in near our box on 19 minutes to leave Liam with three opponents to mark, an equaliser duly resulted. This gave Lions extra heart and they edged the next 10 minutes before we got back into the game with some nice moves, touches & runs but without a second goal.
Half-time saw Charlie given a rest for Lew T to return and we asked the lads to get back to basics: simple, effective passing, team work but above all else to TALK TO EACH OTHER!!
Despite us having an extra man on the pitch & a sub, Lions were playing some great stuff on the counter attack and we couldn't get passed their 'keeper (who made some great stops) or a resolute defence well marshalled by an excellent & skilful centre back. We huffed & puffed but were too often out of position & no midfield cover in front of the defence allowed the quick Lions forwards the extra time & space to cause mayhem. It wasn't too long (44 minutes in total) when we failed to clear a corner & they crashed in their second goal to leave us an uphill task. We continued to compete & sent Charlie back on for the hard-working Kyran on 60 minutes in a final change; we were unable to finish a couple of decent chances and had a flurry of corners in the final few minutes that Lew C went up for without any joy.
Fair play to Lions: a strong, skilful & competitive performance from their 10 lads meant they probably deserved their win in the end - even if it did mean they edged above us in the League table! And I'd like to praise Sean Ladier for a great game as ref; controlled the game where necessary whilst allowing it to flow most of the time.
Although we started better than recent matches, the 'usual' problems (lack of talking, lost shape & not using the time available on the ball) meant we didn't dominate the match as we should have. The lads are very talented footballers and can go on to achieve great things; they just need to have more self confidence, believe in themselves more and express their talents on the pitch to succeed. It will be a whole lot simpler if they talked to each other, though! No-one had a bad game again; the tackling was good, passing better than of late but we often take an extra touch rather than hit an early shot or cross and need to improve awareness of where our team mates & the opposition are around us. JR deserved the Starman award as he never gave up, tried things and worked up & down the pitch.
Our last home WFL divisional match of the season saw us welcome London Colney to Woodside; with Tom enjoying a school trip to Spain, George & Sean not available, it would be a "big ask" for the lads to get something out of a match with a strong, skilful & competitive London Colney team. The team selection pretty much took care of itself with Simon running a few minutes late; Lew C started in goal with Ryan, Gibbo & Liam in defence; Jamie, Jake, JR, Charlie & Kyran across the middle and Lew T up front.
Colney took the kick-off and started better than we did; some of our tackling was a little less than successful & we gave away too much space & time when Colney had the ball. A 9th minute corner where we didn't "switch on & pick-up" fast enough saw us go one behind. Simon arrived and we pushed JR up front with Lew T to allow Simon to take centre-mid. Immediately, we looked more balanced, our tackling improved and were further helped when one of their players inexplicably kicked Simon after the ball had gone out for a throw-in & the ref correctly awarded a straight red card. Simon was causing them problems with his strength & ability (not bad for an U12!) but we were not able to create enough clear-cut chances to equalise. Colney were always dangerous in attack, especially through the right side, and we continued to allow them too much time & space to exploit when they had the ball. Our usual "curses" - too quiet & losing shape - meant we didn't make enough headway against their 10 men.
With no subs to freshen things up, our half time instructions were to get involved, retain shape & discipline but above all to keep the ball, play our football & work hard for each other.
Sadly, another early goal (down to missed tackles & no cover) meant we were 0-2 behind in the 39th minute & had given ourselves an even bigger mountain to climb. We were trying to play football but too often the ball carrier held on rather than pass, got tackled and we were back under pressure. The half was pretty even but, in truth, Colney looked more likely to score than us; it wasn't much of a surprise when they took a 0-3 lead in the 52nd minute through a very well taken effort. This did seem to have an effect & we got back into the match on 57 mins when Jake did what he does best: took the ball on his chest in midfield, took a couple of steps towards their goal & unleashed a 25 yarder into the top corner.
Overall, I was very impressed with London Colney; a powerful outfit capable of playing on the break and worked hard for each other when 10 v 11. Good luck for the rest of the season. And a word for Rob Simmons as ref; thought he was excellent: let the game flow when able, made clear decisions which he explained to the players when required and kept the game under control.
From our perspective, we started too slowly, never found our rhythm, didn't talk to each other and lost our shape too easily & too often. Yes, our lads worked hard & our defence was more than capable of holding the Colney attack at bay but when our midfield are out of position, it allows the opposition to support their attack which in turn makes it very difficult to defend once out-numbered. Again, our basics weren't as good as they can be; when they are, we're a match for every team we play but we must come out of the blocks faster and stay focussed. The team did OK; to pick-out a few individuals, I thought Jake had a good game when in midfield (his best position); JR did well up front and all the three defenders were solid when not over-run but Simon was the stand-out performer: his power, strength & ability were first class today.
With the chance to reach a Cup Final in our own hands (win & we're there!), we welcomed Whetstone Wanderers to Woodside with a full team as only Sean was missing today. JR & George took the subs places at the start so we lined-up as Lew C in goal with our first choice defence of Ryan, Gibbo & Liam in front; Jamie, Jake, Simon, Charlie & Kyran as our midfield and Tom & Lew T in attack. We asked the lads to be focussed, disciplined & work hard for each other but to enjoy the occasion; it's not often you get to be one match away from a final.
From kick-off, it was clear Whetstone were a good side capable of playing football with a competitive edge and that this was likely to be a tough match. We have been starting matches well recently but today we didn't get out of the blocks quick enough and that allowed Whetstone the chance to impose themselves on us. It meant we needed to switch on and compete but we didn't manage that fast enough; hence, we paid the price at their first corner through leaving players unmarked and we were 0-1 behind. We did try & pick-up the pace from then on but we were leaving too many gaps and not "matching-up" well against their players; the lads were having to compete against the wrong opponent and that meant we didn't really start playing until after 20 mins or so. We did create some chances but we either wanted too much time in front of goal or chose the 'wrong' option to shoot or beat another player when a simple pass would have engineered a better opening for a team mate. JR & George came on in a tactical switch to see if we could get Whetstone on their back foot for a while; try as we might, it didn't quite happen. The ref did give a penalty against us but it stayed 0-1 as they missed the target - which did seem to spur us on more towards the close of the half.
We made some tactical decision during the break and asked Liam to follow their number 18 in a man-marking role to reduce his surges forward and for the team to pass the ball with more accuracy & quality.
The second half was a more even affair with both teams battling hard but not really creating clear openings in the opening 10 minutes; it seemed to be a cancelling-out of each other with both defences standing firm. Gradually, I felt we got more into the match but lacked the killer pass to setup a chance to equalise. There were goalmouth incidents at both ends but both sides seemed unable to turn possession into opportunities .
Good luck to Whetstone in the final; they beat Harvesters 3-2 to go through to face the group A winners in the final.
None of our lads should be disappointed; it was just not meant to be. They gave pretty much all they had but have learned the biggest rule in football & life in general: you need to be able to handle pressure situations to get where you want to be. It's matches like these that help build strength of character; I'm sure the next opportunity to succeed will be grabbed with both hands as the boys now know what it feels like to be so close yet so far away from a deserved reward. It's little consolation but I didn't reach a Cup Final in my playing days until I was 20; the lads have a seven year head start on me & I'm certain they'll beat my age by a good few years! For his performance in two different roles during the match, Liam earned the Starman award this week.
First trip for a while to Harvesters for Cup match on a beautiful day saw us missing George (enjoying a day out), JR (nasty cold - get well soon, mate) & Sean all unavailable, so we took the field with Lew C in goal with our first choice defence of Ryan, Gibbo & Liam; a midfield quintet of Jamie, Jake, Simon, Charlie & Kyran and Tom & Lew T as the strike force. The game brought home recent events with a minutes silence impeccably observed for Sapper Tim Akimzar who was shot recently in Northern Ireland.
We got the match underway and we hit the ground running: some of the passing & movement was exceptional in the early minutes as we forced Harvesters into their own half. As the game progressed, we kept our standards high and their 'keeper very busy. In the 7th minute, a fine move saw us win a corner on our left; Jake swung in a beauty for Liam to power home a header from his late run. Harvesters were defending like tigers as we took the upper hand; some of our football was superb to watch but their 'keeper was in fine form and making save after save to keep the score down. There were some good breaks from the home side which we tried to "over defend" & that nearly let them back into to the match until Tom finished-off another effective passage of play for our second. We were reasonably comfortable for the remainder of the half and kept testing their 'keeper from distance as well as inside the box. There was a first class move along our left to admire; Liam chased-down a loose ball at left-back, knocked a simple pass to left-mid for Kyran who then exchanged passes with Tom who was only thwarted by good defending.
With no subs to rest anyone, it was important that the boys listened to the half-time advice to let the ball do as much work as possible, keep things simple, hit shots early into the corners of the goal and keep on working hard. The secondary messages were about concentration & communication; get those right and most things will work!
The early stages of the second period were pretty much one way traffic toward Harvesters goal; our pace, passing & perception were outstanding as we grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Once again, their goalie was in top form to deny us the third until Jake unlocked them with a fantastic chip across the penalty box to Tom for him to finish. Meanwhile, our defence were keeping Harvesters attacks at bay by working with the midfield; as we tired, gaps started to appear in the middle that Harvesters were able to exploit a few but unable to fully capitalise. Another Nascot team move saw Jamie wriggle clear then finish for 4-0. Our defensive duties were still required as we began to let Harvesters utilise some of the gaps that were now appearing but a superb save by Lewis Cowper kept the clean sheet intact before Jamie again broke free for our fifth.
We wish Harvesters & their supporters all the very best for the rest of this season; I think they gave all they had and they deserved a goal for their efforts.
What about ourselves, then? One word: superb! This was a team effort of the highest order; everyone played their part all over the pitch with energy, effort & endeavour. I picked Jake as Starman as he was immense today but that wasn't a simple decision as I couldn't see anyone in a purple shirt who hadn't deserved the award. It was great to watch all of the lads give everything and now we have one foot in a Cup final; it's up to us to press that advantage home and get both feet in the final!!
A short blast down the M1 then round the North Circular saw us hosted by an Alex Park West team that held us 5-5 in an exciting match earlier in the League season. With George & Sean both unavailable, we had the luxury of a sub today and lined up with Simon started on the bench; Lew C in goal with our first choice defence of Ryan, Gibbo & Liam in front of him; a midfield quintet of Jamie, JR, Jake, Charlie & Kyran and Tom & Lew T "up top".
Nascot took the kick-off and adjusted to the blustery conditions better; we looked to have settled well and all our lads looked confident in possession & were playing passes early as asked. A couple of early chases for Tom & Lew T showed we could get behind West's defence and we began to break along the flanks to make space for crosses. In the 7th minute, a great Nascot move saw Tom's cross swept goal wards by the marauding Liam but the West skipper flipped the ball over the bar with his hand for a penalty to Nascot. There was some discussion over who should take it until the manager stepped in & asked the skipper, Gibbo, to take responsibility (he doesn't often get a chance to shoot at goal but he's one of the most accurate penalty takers in the team); he was the coolest head on the pitch as he struck an unstoppable penalty inside the right-hand post for a 1-0 lead. We created a number of chances after that; Tom's pace was causing problems when he chased Lew C's huge kicks and we deserved a couple of more goals for some of the moves we put together. West were largely restricted to counter-attacks in the first period which we had to defend well to keep 'em out. Overall, I felt we were good value for our half-time lead.
Concerned about Nascot being physically smaller than the West midfield, I took Lew T off, pushed Charlie upfront & brought Simon on with instructions to stick with the West ?7 as most of their good work was going through him. We asked the team to keep playing early passes (we'd been overdoing our running with the ball a few times) but to remember we now had the blustery wind against us so the ball would hold-up in the air. We needed to be first to win headers, work as a team & keep playing football.
West kicked-off the 2nd half and had made some positional changes to provide more robust attacking options; they were up for it so we needed to match them. It was pretty even for the first 15 minutes with both sides playing good football & trying to gain the upper hand but both defences held firm. Then on 45 mins played, we put together one of the best moves of the season along the right involving Ryan, Jake, JR, Jamie & Tom in some good first-time passing to engineer a great finish by Tom for a 2-0 lead. Funny thing, a 2-0 lead: very easy to give-up & go on to lose the game! We retreated a little too far at times which allowed West to come on to us; several close shaves were cut-out by good Nascot defending or saves by Lew C before West got the goal they deserved on 59 mins. A very tense final 10 mins followed that could have seen us concede a penalty, allow one too many unmarked attackers to poach a goal, etc. Fortunately, we dug in & held firm for a very good away victory.
Quick word to West: keep at it, guys, you're a handful for any opposition and we wish you well for the rest of this season.
Considering this was only our second game since December, the excellent form we were in at the end of 2008 looks to have been carried over to 2009. I thought Lew C gave a fabulous display of 'keeping (bar the throw-out with 45 seconds left on the watch!) again; Ryan was strong, solid & sensible at right-back; Gibbo again marshalled the side well, wasn't afraid to head the ball & took his spot kick with cool authority; Jamie was a tiger in midfield & not afraid to battle giants twice his size; JR worked really hard in attack & defence to ensure his team stayed in front; Jake gave a virtuoso performance from dead balls, free kicks and looks a class act capable of damaging opponents with quality early passes; Charlie chased, tackled & battled all game long; Lew T put in a superb first half performance & is maturing into a fine player and Tom scored his accustomed goal to cap another good showing. But the stand-out performers amongst a team of gems were Kyran & Liam on the left. Nothing got passed them, they backed each other up when required, played some super little triangles with Charlie & Simon and forced West to play through the middle more than the wanted to. I couldn't decide between them, neither could several other s so I'm awarding them both Man of the Match. Well done, fellas!
Our first match of 2009 and a short trip to Shenley; after 9 weeks of not playing competitive football & no training until yesterday, it would be interesting to see if the Nascot lads could pick-up the superb form we hit at the end of 2008. With Sean, Ryan & Charlie all at family events, we had just 11 to field so it was imperative we played sensible football: keep the ball, pass with quality & accuracy and take our chances when they came along. That was not going to be easy with a few of the guys playing out of their normal positions but there's an old proverb about learning something new every day!
Aldenham kicked-off & looked a much better team than in our home fixture. They played some good stuff & kept us at bay very well. However, we soon began to find our feet & our passing range and got ourselves back into the match. The slightly makeshift (but you wouldn't have guessed!) defence of JR, Gibbo & Kyran were looking very strong and started to give the midfield of Charlie, George, Simon, Jake & Jamie a platform to feed Lewis & Tom up top with some decent passing. When Aldenham did break, they were strong, quick & caused some serious problems but then we had Lewis "The Cat" Cowper to keep them out when all seemed lost. Our defensive efforts were being matched at the other end by Junior's 'keeper & fellow defenders so a hugely entertaining half finished 0-0 but with both teams rightly feeling they could have taken a lead into the interval.
Our half-time talk was about being as positive in the second half whilst remembering it's easier to win matches if you don't concede goals which means working hard for each other & the team. Quality of passing, tackling, effort & above all communication all help to make that look possible.
The second half was probably even more entertaining than the first had been; both teams played the match in a great spirit and both sets of supporters were enjoying some fantastic football. There were good passes, super running, well-timed tackles, interceptions, shots & saves to admire from both teams. I felt Juniors just about shaded possession during the half but we probably created clearer-cut chances that we couldn't quite finish - however hard we tried!
In conclusion, both teams played to win but without getting "over competitive" and a draw was the best result for both after serving-up one of the most entertaining 0-0 results I've seen at any level. Dave can be very proud of his team & supporters; they were a credit to themselves, him & their Club.
I was chuffed with our display as the lads gave everything, stuck at it and showed some great touches of class. Lew C was superb all game in goal - an exemplary display of safe handling, distribution (kicking & throwing), shot stopping and positional play meant he more than earned his first clean sheet of the season. Gibbo, JR & Kyran worked well as an unfamiliar back three and were instrumental in repelling several dangerous moments as well as making some intelligent passes into our midfield. Kyran had another outstanding match, JR again impressed at right back & Gibbo lead the team brilliantly as a very vocal skipper. George, Simon, Jake & Jamie battled, passed & tackled their hearts out for the team; all four showing good appreciation of space & time and able to get shots on target - Jake was very unlucky with a couple of free kicks & his corners were superb. Simon didn't duck any tackle & was unlucky with a near-post header, George improves in every training session & match whilst Jamie is a real "pocket battleship" of a player. Lew T ran all game, challenged any opponent in his way and is becoming a great footballer. Tom caused all sorts of problems with his pace & tenacity and was unlucky to come-up against a 'keeper having "one of those games"; he will score more goals with fewer chances once his sharpness returns. My MotM award went to Charlie Paxton; he worked very hard out on left midfield and like all his team-mates, he ran his socks off but he lasted the 70 minutes well, played with a smile on his face & just edged several of his team-mates to the Award.
Our final match of 2008 saw us with an afternoon kick-off against a Lions team we've never met at any age group; it would be interesting to see how we coped with an unknown quantity. With Ryan & Charlie both at family events and Sean somewhere in the Lost City of Atlantis, we had no subs again and, with this being our 11th of 16 League matches this season, I wondered how energetic we may be. The good news was the guys listened to the pre-match message to keep it simple, retain possession, work hard for each other and enjoy the game.
We started well against a quick & skilful Lions team; our lads stood up well to the task and remained calm on the ball. We always look better when pass the ball rather than run with it; there were several good, quick passing moves to admire. We had chances cut-out by their impressive centre-back or well-saved by their 'keeper and it looked for a while it might be "one of those days" in front of their goal. Gibbo, JR & Liam kept the Lions forwards at arm's length if they did get through the midfield of Kyran, Simon, Jake & Jamie which restricted them to shooting from distance that, in turn, allowed Lewis C to work on his handling and, on the few occasions they did get clear, he mopped-up very well. Eventually, our finishing improved as Jake got us off the mark with a well-taken effort which Simon added to with a near post flick from Jake's corner for a 2-0 half-time lead. Tom, Lewis T & George worked well as the three forwards to make space for each other and showed good awareness & some nice touches.
The half-time team talk was for more of the same but to make sure we didn't let their speed & passing get them behind us too often.
The second half started pretty much as the first had with good play from both sides; Jamie notched a fine solo goal for our third before Lions attacked well to score their first. Now it would be a big test of the Nascot lads' resolve to stay in the game; it was great to see them lift their heads and continue the excellent work they'd already put in. A first of the match for Tom following another long clearance form Lew C was quickly followed by his second when he raced into the box and finished with a touch of class for a 5-1 lead. Another fine Nascot move saw George not quite able to take a strike at goal but he played a great pass into Jamie who finished with aplomb before Lions got another goal on the break with less than two minutes to play.
Overall, Lions played well & perhaps the scoreline doesn't reflect that effort; both 'keepers & defences restricted the number of clear chances so it's probably fair to say our finishing was the main difference & we look forward to the return fixture.
I was very pleased with everyone today; it was another strong team performance against a good side so we had to concentrate and work hard at both defensive & attacking duties. We look better when we pass the ball rather than try to be over-elaborate and we need to remember it's a team game: sometimes, the short sideways or backward pass means we gain a better position from which to attack. I thought the lads did themselves, their families & our Club credit today and finished 2008 in good style - well done, fellas! It was yet another close thing between everyone for Starman; I picked George as he came into the team half-way through the season and is now beginning to find his feet & look capable of achieving good things.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all of you; see you on Sat 3rd January at training!
A trip into North London with only 11 available (Kryan ill, Ryan at a family do & Sean in the Bermuda Triangle) against the divisional leaders who have lost just once in eight was going to be a stern test of the lads resolve, effort & ability.
However, they passed all three with flying colours - especially after going two down after three minutes played. Gibbo, Liam & JR looked solid in defence and, after dropping Simon into midfield to help out, we restricted Oakhill's play much better. When we did what we're good at (get the ball down, quick passing & runs off the ball) we looked at least as dangerous as anything they created. I felt our defenders were more positive, better in the air and covered for each other well whilst, once our midfield & attack realised they were at least as good as the opposition, we started to believe we could get something out of the game.
The first half ended 0-2 in Oakhill's favour so we can take heart from keeping the division's top scorers at bay for over half an hour whilst looking into a very low sun rise (their first goal was due to this) on a shorter, narrower pitch than we're used to. We called for belief, organisation & communication in the second half - and we got it.
We really got into them and stopped them playing - by fair means, not foul. We stood up, battled, worked hard and we looked at least their equals as a team. They were beginning to overplay in an effort to get round us but we all stuck at it; yes, they scored a third 15 minutes in to the second period but we created enough chances to have scored a first goal that may have started their nerves jangling. One of their players picked-up a yellow card then threw himself somewhat recklessly into another challenge after which the final whistle early; I doubt Oakhill's win was in danger but I thought we were starting to get on top & worth a goal or two.
Oakhill are undoubtedly a good team but not much respect was shown by a number of their adult supporters, substitutes & general touch line 'activity' i.e. standing on the touchline not at least 2 metres away, comments to me as assistant referee (this was pre-meditated during half-time as overheard by two of our parent's), laughing at the few Nascot mistakes but not their own, etc. Suffice to say we wish them well next season.
I was more chuffed at our own lads - both on & off the pitch. We stuck at it, got into a good rhythm once we Simon joined the midfield and coped well with the majority of their attacks. When we played the ball over the top for Tom or Jamie, their defence didn't want to head it so we had time & space but couldn't get enough support into the box to capitalise. Lewis C made some great stops at their feet; Gibbo lead the team well as usual, Liam was assured at left back & JR did extremely well as stand-in right back; Jake & George are beginning to forge an understanding in the centre and dropping Simon back from attack in the first half helped this whilst Jamie was superb on the right & Lew T did brilliantly out on the left. Tom & Charlie worked hard up front and Tom was unlucky not to get at least one goal & possibly a penalty awarded. This made it very difficult to pick a Starman but there has to be one; in the end, I picked Simon just ahead of the rest of the lads as he has been improving week on week.
Another cold, wet morning at Woodside saw us take-on 10-man Berkhamsted with only 11 available ourselves; matches between the two sides have been keenly fought but in the right spirit so this would be a chance for us to compare ourselves against old adversaries.
Gibbo won the toss, changed ends & Berko kicked-off; four minutes later, Tom had a "birthday pair" for a 2-0 lead to a Nascot team playing some very nice football. It was looking like we could sweep Berko away before half-time but we gradually lost shape, discipline and began "over-complicating" our play which meant we had big holes int he midfield which allowed too much space & time for Berko. We still created plenty of chances but couldn't finish them and this allowed Berko to score two break-away (& well-finished) goals for a 2-2 half-time score.
With no fresh legs to bring on for the second half, we asked the guys to retain their discipline, play the ball simply when able to retain possession and asked Liam to man-mark their very quick centre forward. This work as our midfield stooped Berko's playing whilst kicking us back into life as a potent force going forward; a burst of four goals (two more for Tom & two for Simon - inc a header from a corner) in 15 minutes from the 40th minute on gave us a better foundation to work with and we played superb football during those first 20 minutes. Berko kept at us and scored a very good third with around 12 minutes left but we were defending better as a team all over the pitch and we kept the door shut at the back.
Credit to Paul's lads; they played well with one man less and caused us more than a few problems in both halves.
Once again, the Nascot lads rose to the challenge when asked to do so at half-time; very early on, we looked like we might run up a cricket score but our own lack of shape & discipline meant the match was closer than it should have been at half-time. The boys listened, took on all the advice & went out a gave a much improved second half performance; if we play that way from the off, we will cause problems for every team we play. Lewis C, Liam, Gibbo & Ryan once again performed really well in defence; Jamie & Kryan never stopped working both backwards & forwards as wide midfielders, Jake & George began to work well as central midfielders once we pushed Simon up front in the second half with Tom & Lewis T. Overall, it was a good display with some great stuff played; what we now need to do is start every match focussed whilst remembering to stay disciplined. We do need to work harder at keeping the ball (we're winning it pretty well now!) and playing simple, effective passes rather than get over-complicated.
With Finchley being told on Saturday evening their pitch was double-booked, we agreed to swap the fixture to Woodside as most of the Nascot squad had made other family arrangements based on a 10:00AM kick-off in Hampstead; the weather forecast was spot on and it was one of the coldest Sunday mornings I can remember with snow, sleet, wind & biting cold but, somehow, pitches fit for play.
All but Lewis T were available for us so we took the kick-off and hoped to stay warm! Despite the conditions being more suited to polar bears & penguins, we played some really good stuff throughout the first half and looked more able to contain Finchley than in our fixture a few weeks back. Intelligent passing allied to tenacious tackling, terrific teamwork, tigerish temperament (that's enough alliteration!) and a renewed self-belief meant we were the better side for the majority of the half and deserved Jamie's slick finish for a 1-0 lead.
We called for the same again at half-time and to stop the over-elaborate play we'd indulged ourselves in the latter stages of the half as it was putting us back under pressure; simple & effective is how we need to play our football.
Finchley came out on the attack from their restart and finished a good move for an equaliser just two minutes in; would we rise to the test or fall at the first hurdle? This week, we rose to the challenge & regained the lead when Charlie finished well following a scramble in Finchley's area barely a minute later. The match was then pretty much open; both sides played good football, worked hard & used what subs were available to change personnel around as necessary - including impending hypothermia! It was pretty even until a good break by Finchley saw their skipper race onto a through ball & equalise with around 15 minutes remaining. Now it would be a mental challenge as much as physical; who wanted the game most & who was prepared to gamble on a winner? It turned out to be Nascot with just under 10 minutes left when Tom raced away to finish one of several chances his pace created.
Finchley played well, deserve credit for their efforts, created some good chances but couldn't find a way passed our midfield, defence & 'keeper as easily as in the first match; on balance, Nascot created more chances and deserved our win. Jake & JR were a more effective pairing in centre-mid this week whilst Kyran kept up his impressive run of form. Lewis C, Liam, Ryan & skipper Gibbo are a very strong defensive unit who are putting-in superb performances each week. George, Sean, Charlie, Simon & Tom all played really well but Jamie earned the Starman award through yet another strong & intelligent display.
Another home League match saw us entertain Alex Park West; matches between us have generally been close & exciting - this one was perhaps the best of the lot! All 14 players were on duty for this one and we decided to change our usual formation to see if we could boost our attacking & midfield options without losing any of the resilience we'd built-up in defence.
Alex Park got the match underway and scored the first goal after just a few seconds to set the tone for the rest of the game; both teams were capable of playing good football and set about entertaining themselves & those watching whilst playing the game in a fantastic spirit. Tom finished well for the equaliser after 18 minutes and he doubled our tally on 25 minutes for a 2-1- lead that we looked great value for. Unfortunately, we conceded a penalty for handball in the final minutes; Lew C again got hands on the strike but was unable to keep it out of the net.
Half time saw subs made and the lads asked for extra effort, self-belief and to keep it simple. Alex Park took the lead after 42 minutes before Tom equalised ten minutes later and then the goals flew in; Alex Park made it 3-4 on 54 minutes, JR levelled with a great goal on 56 minutes but Alex Park then went back in front on 58 minutes. Both sides kept up their attacking instincts and it looked like Alex Park would leave with all three points until Tom's last minute equaliser meant the fairest result of all: a fantastic draw.
Credit goes to Derek's team; they played some superb stuff in the right spirit and it was the most pulsating encounter I've been involved with. Well done! And A word for an outstanding refereeing display by Jasper Owen; he helped the game flow, made clear decisions and looked like he enjoyed it as much as we all did!
What can I say about us? Everyone gave everything they had and a bit more! Good performances were seen all over the park and we thoroughly deserved our point. Starman award went to Jake Griffiths for controlling the midfield, defending better & playing some super stuff - it was very close between him & most of his team mates but I felt he did enough to earn the award.
With just 11 available for the re-match with Cassiobury, this was always going to be a difficult fixture to take anything from in terms of points but give a better account than our last outing; in terms of the latter, I think we managed it.
Cassiobury took the lead after 18 minutes but we equalised later with Liam's first for the season; he got his head to a great corner from JR & was first to react when that came back off the post. We proceeded to play some better football and fight hard to contain a talented Clarets side and were unfortunate to go a goal behind in the half's final minute.
With no subs, half time was pretty simple: stay organised, don't overplay the ball and work hard for each other. Unfortunately, three goal in the first ten minutes made it much harder than we'd have liked; Tom scored our second with around 15 minutes left to give us a little hope and we played reasonably brightly until Clarets finished the scoring with two more in the last 5 minutes.
Thanks go to Garry from Cassiobury for agreeing to ref at no notice and to Chris & Christian for their sporting comments before & after the match; they have a talented squad of footballers who will provide many teams in higher divisions with a tough challenge.
I guess our major consolation was Lew C's fabulous tip over from Dod's pile driver early in the second half! The Nascot lads all stuck to their task against a good side and delivered a much-improved performance. The defence were well-organised & kept us in the game but we lacked shape, discipline & cool heads in centre midfield to help cut-out the runners & spare men. Pick of our bunch today was Kyran; he's been playing some very consistent stuff lately & was outstanding today.
Back in League action with a chance to move away from the bottom of the table after two excellent performances, this became a "bad day at the office". The superb progress made over the last two matches was in little evidence as the pre-match warning about thinking we had won the match before kick-off wasn't heeded and we slipped back into bad habits: ineffective passing, lack of effort, poor communication & decision-making, patchy teamwork and no shape or discipline.
There were few bright points after a 10 minute first-half spell where we managed to get almost into second gear but no higher; even then, our final pass was wayward or non-existent and our shooting delayed or no trouble for their defence. After they took a deserved lead, Finchley grew in confidence and began to assert themselves on the match; we didn't have enough leaders & fighters to get us back in the match.
A full-power half-time blast still didn't raise us from our slumbers and we began chasing shadows as the game was played increasingly in our half of the pitch. We tried making subs to turn things round but still no improvement was evident; therefore, a defeat was the deserved outcome.
Well played, Finchley: you played well as a team & never looked like loosing the match after the first 10 minutes had gone by.
Thanks to Gary for running the line & to Tyran for managing the team whilst I reffed.
Not many positives, I'm afraid. Gibbo, Liam & Ryan lead the way - again - in terms of communication & organising into an effective unit but they were generally out-numbered as the midfield didn't pick-up runners or over-played the ball then lost possession. Jamie & Kyran were the most effective midfielders & played some nice passes to team mates, Tom scored two more but Starman was Lewis Tierney: as the youngest in the team (officially an U12 playing up an age group) he showed some nice touches with good awareness of when & where to pass allied to an improving first touch.
Hopefully, the lads will remember to each bring their list of three areas of their game they will work on during the rest of the season to training this Saturday morning or Sunday's match if they cannot make training.
A tough draw for any division 4 team against Croxley Guild Jaguars of division 1 was always going to a stern test but, after last week's superb team display, our confidence levels were high. With only Charlie unavailable, the 13 strong Nascot squad gave everything in an enthralling encounter and deserved more than just one goal for our efforts.
We started brightly, looking capable of creating & taking chances when we got them; allied to better organisation & improving communication, we were playing some good stuff and keeping Croxley very busy worrying about us. We came close a few times in attack before Tom fired home to give us a 1-0 advantage mid-way through the first half. With all the Nascot lads working hard for each other, Croxley were not able to get totally on top and we defended superbly at times whilst Lewis Cowper was equal to anything - and everything! - they threw at him. To reach half-time 1-0 up was a hugely encouraging feat both on the day and in respect of where we're heading.
As mentioned at half-time, Croxley came at us big style from the moment the second half kicked-off; all 13 Nascot lads worked really hard to stop their attacks and we managed to get forward ourselves to create a few half-chances. Once Croxley equalised around the 50th minute, they seemed to kick-on and we couldn't respond to their pace & power but the defensive strength & qualities we showed were heart-warming; there was a genuine belief about us until, at just 1-2 behind, we felt we equalised but their linesman signalled corner instead of goal (bit like Watford/Reading but in reverse & one of their players said it hadn't gone out for a corner) that knocked our confidence a little. Despite that setback, we continued to defend & work hard to counter Croxley and we kept running to the end.
Thanks to Ian Woods for a great display of refereeing; he explained decisions when necessary and kept the game flowing so two good teams could enjoy the match.
Croxley look a class outfit; good midfielders (well, Jack was a Nascot player for three seasons!); quick, tricky wingers and lots of pace & movement mean they will win far more games than they lose. Good luck for the rest of your season.
To lose 1-4 was harsh; I thought we were equally as good as Croxley for 55 minutes and that's credit to our lads for the improvement they continue to make. We need to work more on communication, not waiting for the ball to come to us and hunting in packs of 2 & 3 to give options to each other when (no longer if!) we win the ball back. From such a strong team performance where everyone contributed, I'd like to pick-out a few individuals: Kyran had arguably his best match in a Nascot shirt; Liam never stopped chasing, tackling or working to stop his winger; Ryan & Gibbo defended sensibly all match but particularly late on when we were tiring; Jamie got stuck in & played some intelligent stuff; Tom again showed what a classy goal-scorer he can be but the Starman award went to Lewis who is now showing his potential as a truly top-draw 'keeper. He kept us in the match with some brilliant stops, safe handling and excellent distribution.
Back at Woodside to play an unknown Aldenham side new to the WFL this season, we had all bar one available for the match and we lined up in our now-usual formation with instructions to remember what we talked about in training: play with confidence, pass the ball, talk to each other and believe in ourselves, each other & the team. We started brightly against a very strong Aldenham and created a couple of early chances with some good movement off the ball allied to quality passing & awareness. However, Aldenham proved a handful in attack and we were indebted to our first choice 'keeper for some useful stops backed by good organisation in midfield & very determined defending to be able to take the lead with Tom's first goal. Our lead didn't last long, though, as they came back at us and it looked like our good football but bad luck in front of goal meant we may regret our missed chances and excellent stops by Aldenham's 'keeper. We made a couple of substitutions with fifteen (Kyran on in centre-mid for Simon) then ten (Sean W on for Lew T up front) minutes left of the half to freshen legs & make some positional changes but the half finished 1-1.
We re-started with the same 11 that finished the first half and with instruction to believe in ourselves, talk to & listen to each other more but above all, don't be frightened to try things. Again, the early exchanges looked pretty even until we really got going; our passing & discipline were improving as was communication. The defence & 'keeper were again laying a solid foundation for us to build on and we began to peg Aldenham back in their own half & penalty area. On 46 minutes, we got our just reward when Jake smashed home a superb free kick from out on the right wing which started a spell of 5 goals in an eight minute spell where everything we tried worked; George crowned his Nascot debut by finishing a brilliant move with a cracking shot, Tom raced onto a huge Lew C drop-kick, Jamie headed home after their 'keeper made a good stop to a first effort from a great left-wing cross, Tom raced onto a pass following Gibbo's jinking run after a cool interception and then Sean finished at the back post after another super move & cross along the right side of midfield. We subbed Simon on for JR, absorbed some decent Aldenham pressure whilst still playing great football on the break until Jake cracked home another belter on 65 minutes. Jamie took a well-deserved rest for JR to return on the left followed by Lew T coming back on in attack for Sean. Tom again used his pace & skill to break free & produce another classy finish on 67 minutes with Simon completing the scoring through an exquisite left-footed chip from the edge of the box on 69 minutes.
A word for Bryan the ref; he was excellent throughout as he explained each decision to the players on both sides and played with common-sense allied to an appreciation of the spirit of the game to keep things under control without being over-the-top.
And to be fair, Aldenham were much better than the score line suggest; strong, determined and more than able to compete, they need to gel with each other as new teams generally need time to get that understand & I'm sure they will be a very tough proposition later in the season.
As said after the match, this was (in my opinion, obviously!) our best team performance in the last five seasons. It proved to me what I've known all along: our squad is packed with talented players who are now beginning to show they are mastering football. They showed great discipline yesterday and played some outstanding stuff in that second half; they have worked hard to set themselves a very high standard but must now work even harder to maintain it. All of us on the touchline were very proud of every player yesterday and it was a very tough decision to pick out one performance from the whole team; in the end, Jake just shaded it over his team mates (particularly Tom after scoring four goals) for his tenacious tackling, superb engine and two fabulous strikes. In all honesty, I would like to have made all 13 players "WFL Starmen" as they all deserved it. After this performance, I might ask for religious dispensation so all our matches kick-off at 2:00PM! But this match is already history; enjoy the memory but we start all over again with training next Saturday before a tough Cup match home to Croxley Guild next Sunday morning and we'll go into it with this message for the lads: in football, you're only as good as your next performance, not the last one.
We found this match against opposition from the second division tougher than expected. Whilst we had 12 players available for the game, we didn't get into the match as an attacking force and were on the back foot for much of the first half. With our regular keeper having a damaged thumb, we asked for volunteers and up stepped two brave lads who did a half each & acquitted themselves very well in an unfamiliar & specialised role.
We ended the first half 0--3 behind and there was always the possibility an early goal in the 2nd would settle us down & unsettle Enfield. Unfortunately, the early goal went against us and we never recovered; despite defending doggedly, we were outgunned for a final score that was probably right on reflection. Our best efforts came later in the game and I felt we were worth a consolation goal at least.
Not much can be said about the match other than Enfield played the type of football we're capable of but have that extra belief in their ability allied to discipline & good communication. In short: talk to each other, pass the ball well, stay in shape, make good decisions & believe in yourselves as well as the team and you're well on your way! Now's the time to start showing what we're made of and move up division 4 through good teamwork, effort & belief.
Probably best to mark this down as a "bad day at the office"; we started brightly, played some nice stuff then forgot all the basics: talk to each other, believe in our ability, pass & keep the ball and make chances. There were few good points and most of the goals were down to not picking-up runners, missed headers, holding the ball too long and a general lack of communication. The back three stuck at it but lack of covering from midfield meant they were & the keeper over-run; the midfield tended to get caught in possession and we didn't create much for the forwards to get their shooting boots out.
Whilst the guys stuck at it, most of the best bits were defensive; a superb sliding tackle from Ryan that won & kept the ball, a similar skill from Tom chasing back into his own area and some neat interchanges early doors were about it.
As mentioned at the end, it can't be stressed enough: our lads must talk to each other during matches so they help each other out. It's probably the most simple & effective part of any football team; when you get the chance, listen to the better teams at any level: they never stop talking or encouraging each other. That's generally what makes them better than their opponents.
We knew we would struggle to make 11 for this fixture following a number of players having other things arranged but to start with 8 due to last minute problems or lack of info was a real blow. The lads that played all put in maximum effort and made a game of it; some were in unfamiliar positions but stuck at their task and, despite going 0-1 down after just 2 minutes, we struck back through Tom to make it 1-1 and it looked like we could create chances going forward if we could defend as a unit. We did that but three men spare is just too much extra time & space despite everyone doing their very best and three late goals (after Bengeo made it 2-1 on 13') meant we had a mountain to climb.
The second half was a much tighter affair and we kept them at bay pretty well; we had a few chances to score but luck was not on our side today. Jamie made a great run to earn himself a last-minute penalty that he stuck away calmly for his debut goal and a final score of &-2 against us.
Overall, I was immensely proud of all the played; the effort was superb, some of the passing much improved but it's hard to compete with just 8. I reckon just one extra player could have made a huge difference to this result. The abiding lesson for me is that as much as the lads need to communicate on the pitch, this has to be backed-up by similar good communication off the pitch during the week from families.
Final score didn't reflect the good start to the match we made or the good football we did play with just 11 registered players against a strong Oakhill side. We passed the ball quite well and made a few half chances but were still 0-2 down until Tom scored his first after nearly 20 minutes and that helped us back into the game a little; half time saw us 1-3 behind but still in the game. Understandably, we began to tire in the second half and that lead to more space & time for Oakhill to exploit as we became stretched & began to lose discipline, shape & confidence. Tom's second proved to be a consolation for us as we did try to keep creating chances when able.
Overall, glimpses of what we might achieve with more self-belief, teamwork & communication throughout the team.
With Jamie making his debut for us & Sean now WFL registered, we had a squad of 12 available for this match as Kyran was injured. We changed formation slightly to bolster the midfield and we did very well defensively with the 3 centre backs and good covering from the midfield. However, we still lacked shape at times and didn't use the time available to get the ball down & pass; most of this is easy to fix if the team talk to each other. We went into half-time 0-1 down following a corner where we didn't pick-up runners well enough and were too late in making challenges or blocks in front of the ball.
The second half again saw us defend very well with better communication helping this. Once again, though, our ability to keep our shape and failure to use time meant a lot of our good work was unproductive as there was no outlet or simple 5 yard pass to be made; it was also noticeable our first touch was generally quite heavy & that gives any opponent a chance to turn us over. The second goal was again due to not marking well enough at a corner and then allowing the ball to bobble around the six yard box. Having said that, we battled well and, with tow more possible additions to the team, the future looks more promising.
To sum up, a better display, good improvement in terms of attitude and we now need to work on some of the basics (control, touch, communication, etc) to be a more effective force.