U9: Chipping Norton Swifts vs Aston Youth
2018 was finished off for the Under 9s and the club as a whole, in a festive thriller at Greystones, just 3 days prior to Christmas day.
Swifts were almost at full strength for the game, with Milo Hughes the only absentee. They opted to start the game in their familiar "2-3-1" setup; with Finley Ashworth in goal, covered by John Seward and Taylor Hunt. The two defenders not only sat deep, but were prepared to bring the ball out from defence, allowing a creative, hardworking three-man midfield of George Meathrel, Joseph Darlow and Sam McCabe to support Isaac Kedward, who began up front. From the substitutes bench, Jack Benyon, Sammy Clews and Ivan Clements all made first-game appearances, and made an impact.
Despite being so close to Christmas, and being so late in the year, the game began at a frantic pace. Swifts scored almost immediately following the first whistle through Isaac Kedward, only for Aston to follow the trend and grab a goal for themselves instantly, from the resulting kick-off. As if that wasn't enough action so quickly in the game, Swifts continued to pile the pressure onto the visitors goal, with Isaac Kedward and Sam McCabe both scoring again, meaning there were FOUR goals inside the opening ten minutes of the game. Eventually, everyone involved was pleased to watch the game settle down to a much more manageable pace after the early mayhem.
Chippy were the team doing all the pressing in the first half, and despite finding it much more difficult to carve a way through the Aston defence after they made a slight tweak to their defence, they continued to put pressure on, with shots coming in from Isaac Kedward and Ivan Clements, before a wicked cross from Sam McCabe was inches from being turned in at the back post by George Meathrel.
Eventually they did find a way through, with a lovely, well-crafted move. Joseph Darlow started the move - doing brilliantly to get in and win the ball back for his team after a good tackle from the Aston midfielder on Sam McCabe sent the ball loose. Darlow then shaped a ball down the line to meet the run of Isaac Kedward, who took a touch, turned his man inside and out and lifted a beauty of a through ball into the path of Sam McCabe who had picked himself up off of the ground after the earlier tackle and made a lighting-fast run into space. McCabe opened his body up and cracked a brilliant low drive into the net at the near post.
That was all the action for the first half (thankfully!), and the second started in stark contrast - Swifts were a little sloppy and gave the ball away cheaply on a number of occasions, which luckily for them, didn't lead to any clear-cut chances for their opponents. Instead, it was Swifts who scored the next goal as they showed off their clinical edge - Isaac Kedward chased down a long ball and got to the forward pass ahead of the Aston goalkeeper. Kedward got his head up, realised he couldn't get the finish himself with several defenders tracking back onto the goal line - instead, he turned sharply and set the ball back for Sammy Clews, fresh off the bench, who took one touch before rolling the ball calmly into the far corner to score his 6th of the Season.
Despite being a few goals down at this stage, Aston were by no means out of the match, and proved it not long after the Swifts goal. Chippy messed about with the ball a little too much in their defence and allowed the visitors to press them in dangerous areas - eventually they were punished for doing so, as the number 2 nicked the ball away from Taylor Hunt and smashed the ball into the back of the net past Finley Ashworth, who was left completely isolated and given an immensely difficult task to try and keep the ball out when one-on-one.
Soon after, Swifts were their own downfall again - two brilliant opportunities went begging, only for Aston to clear the ball long, back towards the Swifts goal. The ball was allowed to bounce by the Chippy defence and this left them stuck facing their own goal and with a difficult situation to manage - eventually, with the team again under pressure in a dangerous area, they gave the ball away and once again, the Aston number 2 stole possession and found the back of the net with his finish.
With two quickfire goals for Aston, they had their tails up, and it was clear to see that the belief had suddenly returned to the side and they began to chase everything that little bit faster. In truth, this may not have been the best plan for them - Swifts are impressively confident at playing around a team that presses at such a rate, and after Aston began to come out of their defensive shape a little more, Chippy punished them for doing so. Immediately following an Ivan Clements free-kick that went wide of the goal, Swifts won the ball back from the goal kick. Taylor Hunt played the ball into Ivan Clements who took a couple of touches, before sending over a quite superb long ball, right into the path of Isaac Kedward, who had all the time in the world to let the ball bounce into his path, before setting himself, and finish with a cool, side-foot effort.
However there was still enough time for Swifts to gift another goal to their opponents - a back-pass meant that Aston were awarded a free-kick from inside the penalty area, which was converted with a powerful effort into the roof of the net.
Not quite a 'vintage' Swifts U9 performance, but enough for them to get the result, and still notch plenty of goals in the process. Perhaps the team can all be forgiven for a slight off-day so late in the year and so close to Christmas. The team will regroup in the new year, and all at the club are sure they will be firing on all cylinders again. Special mentions for the morning also go to Sammy Clews for a hat-trick in the second match, and also to Finley Ashworth, who made a quite unbelievable save in the penalty shoot-out...!
Swifts' first game of the new year sees them finish off their league campaign for the season with an Away trip to Bloxham on January 5th, before the return of the Champions Cup the following week.