U11: Chipping Norton Swifts vs Stonesfield Strikers
Swifts U11's continued their good run of form, as a quite superb second half performance flipped their home match with Stonesfield Strikers completely on its head.
Swifts were without their goalkeeper, Oliver Hayes, for the game - meaning some changes to the starting setup were needed. Theo Petrosanu bravely put himself forward to cover the goalkeeping position, protected by a defensive duo of Beau Lawrence and Ben Seward. Swifts were much more familiar with their surroundings going forward; with their usual 2-1-4-1 formation completed with Jacob Kedward holding, Henry Clements up front, and a midfield four from left to right of Oliver Edwards, Toby Norman, Joe Walsh and Alex Goode. From the bench, both Daniel McAndrew and Tom Sayers made important contributions.
Chippy started fairly well, they moved the ball from side to side quickly and were looking to create chances - Joe Walsh, Toby Norman and Henry Clements all had shots on target saved and held by the impressive Stonesfield goalkeeper. However after a solid opening 5-10 minutes, the visitors started to grow into the game; two decent half-chances from the edge of the box came to nothing, before another smart move forced Theo Petrosanu into making a good reaction save - with the rebound somehow put wide by the Stonesfield forward, with the goal gaping.
The opener eventually came though and it came for Stonesfield - a very, very harsh free kick was given right on the edge of the box for a foul by a Swifts midfielder. Only a couple of yards away from the penalty area, the Stonesfield number 4 stepped up and struck the ball firmly towards the left corner - Theo Petrosanu parried the ball onto the post, only to see it flick off of the woodwork and trickle over the goal line.
Despite conceding the opening goal, Swifts continued in a similar vein and the game remained close. Chippy just didn't have their shooting boots on and missed several good opportunities - Alex Goode and Joe Walsh both had shots go wide of the mark, before a stunning touch and pass in the midfield from Toby Norman split the defence and set Henry Clements on his way through - but the keeper came out quickly to smother his effort and prevent Swifts once again.
Typically, as is football - the missed chances were punished. Stonesfield couldn't get out of their own half for at least 10 minutes following their goal, such was the Swifts pressure, but once they did, they took their chance. A really impressive interception from the midfielder set Stonesfield on their way on the edge of their own box, as a sweeping move saw them work the ball forward, out to the right hand side, and back into the centre where the number 14 opened the ball onto his left foot, and curled a lovely effort into the far corner.
Stonesfield then hit the post in the final move of the first half, just seconds after scoring - which signaled serious warning signs for Swifts, they were nearly out of a game that they had enjoyed so much possession and territory in, before the half-time break.
The half time team-talk focused mainly on the teams' struggle to hit the target. It was clear that they were by far the dominant side for large parts of the game, but they had to make those periods in the game count for something. They were wasteful at the best of times in the first half, and needed to improve, and more importantly, believe they were good enough to still get something from the game.
They started the second half brilliantly. They had found a weakness in the visitors' goal kicks and were quick to pounce on that, pressing high and early to win the ball back, and as a result were penning Stonesfield deep in their own half, and getting shots away on a regular basis. Eventually that pressure told and they got a foothold back in the game; A corner from the right by Alex Goode was met on the half volley by Henry Clements, who was alive to the rebound after his initial effort was blocked, to poke the ball beyond the keeper from close range for his 3rd goal of the season, and 2nd in as many games.
Henry Clements almost got his and Swifts second shortly after, after a superb run and square pass from Joe Walsh, only to be denied by a stunning last-ditch tackle - and then Joe Walsh got a shot of his own away after being teed up by Oliver Edwards, which was expertly saved. Swifts were firmly knocking on the door, and looked likely to score again. Theo Petrosanu was called upon once though, Swifts were caught really high and a long ball set the Stonesfield number 9 clear, but Theo stood firm, and kept his team in the game.
Then came some real controversy. Alex Goode turned his marker well and slipped a ball through for Oliver Edwards - who was one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Edwards looked offside at the time, but, the flag stayed down as he bared down on goal, opening his body up onto his left foot, and tucked the ball into the far corner for a much deserved equaliser. However, despite the pass coming a good 10-15 seconds before the goal, the linesman's flag was raised conveniently as the ball rolled into the net, and it was disallowed. Did the linesman change his mind? Did the referee give the decision even though he would have had a worse view? No-one really seemed to know the answers, but, the goal did not stand.
Thankfully this didn't knock Swifts, and the pressing continued again. They FINALLY got their deserved goal late on - Toby Norman found himself in some space to crack a shot at goal, but he was quickly closed down, with his deflected effort falling out to Alex Goode on the right, who took a touch, shifted the ball past his man and drilled a beauty of an effort into the far corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. Suddenly, the air of optimism around Greystones changed, as the lads on the pitch realised... there was still time to win this.
So despite working so hard to level up the game, Swifts continued to go for it, with 5 minutes to go. Countless shots from the edge of the box, countless corners, pressure beyond means. Toby Norman then saw the pitch open up for him as he smashed a venomous effort just over the crossbar - Swifts had made their intentions abundantly clear.
Then came the very last throw of the dice. Swifts won one final corner, from the left this time, which was once again swung in by Alex Goode. The cross was met by Oliver Edwards, and blocked. It then fell on the penalty spot at Toby Norman's feet, where it was smashed at goal, and blocked by the face of a Stonesfield defender, with the ball spinning wide towards the left flank. Alex Goode picked up the loose ball, and swung in back into the box one final time - Stonesfield still had a man down after he was hit in the face, and Swifts took advantage; the ball dropped inside the six yard box, where it was poked into the net by Daniel McAndrew, through the legs of a helpless goalkeeper. Somehow, Swifts had won the game... and what a game.
The final whistle blew during the goal celebrations. Swifts definitely deserved the points, although it did seem very harsh on Stonesfield to lose the game the way they did, after holding firm for so long, and being clinical when they needed to. But, the unbeaten run for Swifts U11's stretches to SIX matches; with their next one coming in a couple of weeks, when they face an away league game against... Stonesfield Strikers (November 17th).