U15: Chipping Norton Swifts 7-0 Chesterton Juniors
Swifts' U15s finished off 2018 by extending their lead at the top of the 'B' League, following a convincing win over mid-table Chesterton at Greystones.
Chippy had the full contingent of 15 boys available for the game, and set up in their ever-familiar 4-3-3 formation. Sam Hurst continued in goal, supported by a back four of Zack Ibrahim, Charlie Fisher, Rory Hlustik and Matthew Lonsdale, from left to right. Jack Williams sat slightly deeper of all the midfielders through the centre, allowing Jonny Carroll and Felix Robertson to play ahead of him in the more box-to-box role. Going forward; George Thomas was on the left, Kyle Hurley on the right, and Ben Reeves-Smith operating through the middle. Louis Akers, Daniel Broome, Josh Hart and Max Walsh all came off the substitutes bench, and made an impact.
The hosts were by far and away the better starters in the first half, but were left frustrated by a stubborn Chesterton defence, which was needed to step in on several occasions to prevent Chippy from claiming the opening goal. Shots from Jonny Carroll, Ben Reeves-Smith and George Thomas were either sent wide or blocked, before another chance came after a superb turn of pace from Kyle Hurley saw him win the ball back for his team and cross towards Ben Reeves-Smith; who would have nodded the ball in if he was just an inch taller.
As the first half continued, the frustration was beginning to creep in, as two huge goalmouth scrambles still couldn't bring the opening goal. First, a Jonny Carroll free-kick from the edge of the area was struck low and parried by the Chesterton Goalkeeper - where a combination of three Swifts players and a couple of defenders all threw themselves at the ball, only for it to be blocked on the line and hurried away. From the resulting corner, the goalkeeper could only flap at the cross and touch it on to the feet of Ben Reeves-Smith, whose effort was again cleared off the goal-line and scrambled out of danger.
But on 19 minutes, it finally came - and the relief was there for all to see. Kyle Hurley and Jonny Carroll both harried their opponents on the right wing and forced the Chesterton fullback into a misplaced pass, which was picked up by Charlie Fisher. He took a couple of touches forward before drilling a shot towards goal - it was well blocked by another Chesterton midfielder but fell into the path of Ben Reeves-Smith, who blasted the ball into the roof of the net from all of 12 yards to finally give Swifts the lead their pressure duly warranted.
Soon after the confidence in Swifts finishing returned, and it was 2-0 on 23 minutes. Charlie Fisher gained another assist from Centre-back as a beautifully lifted corner was met by the bullet header of Felix Robertson, who doubled the lead with his 7th goal of the season.
Swifts had their tails up now, and were putting Chesterton to the sword. The lead was extended to three on the half-hour mark; Ben Reeves-Smith flicked the ball forward and through to George Thomas, who shifted across to his right foot, before side-footing past the onrushing keeper. The floodgates had clearly opened, as from the kick off, Swifts stole the ball back, and Ben Reeves-Smith was played clean through on goal by a Louis Akers pass, who had only just came on off of the bench, to finish and make it 4-0. Just two minutes later it was made FIVE-nil to the hosts, when another touch across the box by Louis Akers was well read by a Chesterton defender, only for his clearance to fly into the back of the net off of the shins of Ben Reeves-Smith. Swifts' forward sealing his first-half hat-trick, and taking his tally for the campaign to 8 goals.
HALF TIME: SWIFTS 5-0 CHESTERTON JUNIORS
A mixture of things all meant that the second half played out in stark contrast to the first. The opening 40 minutes were played at a frantic pace, with Chesterton struggling to maintain any real possession, and Swifts pressing forward at every opportunity. In the second half, Swifts seemed to take their foot off of the gas a little, and allowed Chesterton more time on the ball to play out of deep areas. Chesterton themselves clearly improved after the half-time break, and this had a lot to do with the much tighter second half - but you feel that if the score had been a little closer, Swifts had plenty more to offer, and could have gone up a few gears.
In fact, nothing of any note whatsoever occurred until beyond the hour mark - Felix Robertson struck the top of the crossbar with a shot from long range, but that was comfortably left by the goalkeeper, and was the only shot of note in 20 minutes of football.
It was a Chesterton chance that sprung the game into life. From nowhere, a lovely turn and through pass from the midfielder split the Chippy defence, and the number 8 was completely clear, bearing down on goal. He seemed composed, did everything right - took the extra touch to set himself and slot the ball home, only to be denied by a stunning, one-handed save from Sam Hurst, who was quickly down to his right to tip the ball wide of the post and out for a corner.
This woke Swifts up, and almost immediately after clearing the corner following that save from Sam Hurst, they put the game even further beyond doubt, as Jonny Carroll rolled the ball into the path of Louis Akers, who did what the Chesterton forward couldn't - slotting the ball cooly into the far corner for 6-0 Swifts, and his first goal of the season.
There was time for one more goal before the final whistle, rounding off the game at 7-0 when a one-two between Jack Williams and Ben Reeves-Smith set the former away on the counter - Jack Williams strode past three Chesterton players before the game opened up for him to shoot - his effort was well blocked but dropped between both the goalkeeper and George Thomas, who did brilliantly to poke the ball up and over the goalkeeper with a deft flick.
Despite a real scare in the final seconds of the game where the visitors really should have grabbed a consolation goal, Swifts grabbed a deserved clean sheet - their 3rd in a row, and sixth in seven games. A remarkable record.
Their lead at the top of the 'B' League is extended to 6 points, with Swifts on 24, and their nearest challengers Ducklington on 18, with just three league games to go in the new year. After the Christmas break, they have a considerable wait for their next game, which comes on the 20th January, in a Home tie against current bottom side Deddington Colts.