Having slept on it I think I’m now convinced we are on the correct tack. In many matches it’s hard to read the underlining ebbs and flows in either team’s tactics but this match I think was a clear contrast.
2 years ago the team went the season without losing, using quick passing and direct football with passes threaded through inexperienced and unorganized defenses. If a goal was conceded at our end, as our defence gained experience, then there was always a goal scored at the other end. However this was when all teams were new to 9 v 9 and teams all were of similar stature. Last year things were not so easy as defenses became better organised, faster and the physical size and power in opposition teams began to have an effect. So while our defence honed their skills and kept the score down (our loses were only ever by single goals), scoring at the other end became harder and harder. This year we’re now playing “11 v 11” on full size pitches and the only crumb of comfort is the goals are bigger. But the boys are still only thirteen so they can’t cover the extra 20-30 yards on the bigger pitch either chasing the ball or dribbling the ball at full pace. Defenses now have plenty of time to deal with these attacks and either dispossess the attacker or comfortably block any shots. At the beginning of the season, and having seen the patience of German teams on a trip to Ibbenbren in June, it was clear that there is no future in trying to pursue the tactics and pace of our previous seasons. A new approach was explained to the team at the beginning of the season. Unless a strike on goal is possible (and by that we mean a shot away from where the goalie is 🙂 ) then play the simple high percentage pass to a team mate. Keep possession. However this requires the whole team to be constantly giving the player with the ball simple passing options and anticipating the needs of other team mates – perhaps 1 or two passes down the line. While it was exciting to see the quick fast football we played in the past, I think our greatest achievement yesterday was at the start of the second half. We smashed our previous record to retain unbroken possession for 24 sec – some say it was more. The whole team touched the ball at least once except the GK, LB and one CB. The remainder passed the ball simply, ran into spaces to receive simple unforced passes and moved on. The ball was shepherded around the pitch like an Olympic torch, finally being lost on the edge of the Frogpool penalty box. The problems and hiccups of the first half were behind us and it was now inevitable that eventually a chink would appear and ball maneuvered into a space where a simple single strike would go in. The first clean shot at goal was unfortunately fired at the goalie. The player breaking my only coaching advice 🙂 – “Don’t aim for the goalie !” The second shot came via a short through ball that I would have bet my house on being put away but player’s toe got caught in the pitch and the simple toe flick was foiled. I am now homeless. However the third shot was a sublime lob from Kian. With a defender blocking his way he had spotted the keeper too far forward off his line and with a quick side step gain the milliseconds needed to push the ball to the side of the defender and deftly flick it up over the keeper into the goal.
However with possession comes dispossession. This is where the team victory was earned. When Frogpool gained possession, and this they did alot in the first half, they quickly moved the ball forwards and and out down the wings. However the defence, while shaky at the start of the match, kept any meaningful chances on goal down to three in the first half. Danny dove down and palmed the a shot from Scott wide of the post. The a hard struck half volley from Jake would have certainly been difficult to keep out without breaking fingers but it sailed over the bar and a third shot from only 15 yards out, with only Danny to beat ,was struck straight to him. Other attacks resulted in crosses where no Frogpool players there there to receive it or shots taken from distance that they where easily held or ignored for goal kicks. At the other end we made few chances and never looked like scoring. The team talk at half time was about reminding players that possession is not achieved by any one boy keeping the ball, but rather the team moving to make sure the team keeps the ball no matter if the pass is backwards, sideways, forwards, upwards etc. Unbelievably they must have listened and from the kick off we have set ourselves a new record to beat. The second half saw us with the majority of clean possession until our goal – while the defence just absorbed Frogpool’s attacks. They petered out on the sidelines or the occasional corner. However after the goal, and being a knockout Cup game Frogpool had to equalize, with perhaps 10 minutes to go. It was always going to be tough concentrating and not making any mistakes. We rode our luck on a number of occasions as Danny got out of position – relying on Dale, Lucas and the rest of the team scrabbling to rectify this and clear the ball – Headers off the line – toe pokes out for corners – bicycle kicks – anything was used. We were lucky to keep the lead to the final whistle.
So it was a match that could have been won by either team playing two different systems and while we stuttered and spluttered with ours, it showed enough promise for me to conclude we are making progress as we develop new skills and abilities.
So congratulations to all for a great thrilling game and lets see where we can go from here. It was all down to your hard work and perseverance
Squad – Aaron, Bailey,Cameron, Dale, Danny, Joe, Josh, Kian, Lucas,Sam P, Sam W, Taylor Toby, Trafford – Floyd away partying for the weekend 🙂