Black Hawks away
Great end to the league season!
So, in the blink of an eye we reached the 14th and final game of our league season. It doesn't seem long since we were playing pre-season friendlies! That being said, the words 'Black Hawks away' have usually meant a spell of bad weather with this being the 4th attempt to play this fixture with previous postponements in January, March and even last week. Our brilliant fixtures secretary Becky even reserved us a time on our home pitch this week so we could switch the fixture this time if necessary.
We had been to the Eastbourne Sports Park earlier this season when I led some of the parents the wrong way as there is a sign that points left to football pitches when in fact the ones we want are actually to the right. There is also a seemingly impenetrable hedge that divides some of the pitches and last time I lost 2 of the players on the other side of it as well Big Al during the match when he went to retrieve a ball.
This time I consulted a map in the leisure centre reception and found the pitch ok, the referee arrived but the home team was nowhere to be seen. Luckily Andy - later to nearly get entangled in the hedge himself - had seen the opponents in the car park (perhaps they followed the arrow on that wretched sign).
I took the maximum allowed squad of 16 players for this week. They all deserved to play - in fact all 20 squad members deserved to play - and while I don't normally like to make too many changes all at once, I decided this time that all of the outfield players would play 2/3rds of the game each with 5 substitutions to be made each after 23 and 47 minutes. I know my phone has a stopwatch on it and I wanted to start it so I could be sure when 23 minutes was, but as the whistle went I could not remember how to find the stopwatch - it's not like the old days when I just pressed the top right button on my digital watch - luckily Finlay was on hand: 'press the one that looks like a clock Gary' 'yes now what' 'it says stopwatch at the bottom' 'ah yes so it does'
Feeling suitably out of touch, I got the thing going in time to see a quite brilliant goal from Daniel Pr to put us in the lead, but all of my team/formation tinkering had some effect on our normal fluency and our opponents were soon 2-1 ahead. We then got a penalty, after a brilliant run from Alex, and I had decided on penalty takers a couple of weeks ago in training - neither were on the pitch though, so Billy M went up and took a great penalty, so he is back on taking them again (sorry to my Daniel, don't tell him).
2-2 at half time and I was ready to make the next substitutions after 46 minutes, but unfortunately I forgot to stop the watch at half time so it already said 43 minutes when we kicked off again. Luckily, I could ask resident timekeepers Michelle and Bruce when the 46 minutes actually was. By then, we were in the lead with goals from Alex and Daniel Pe. Richard then got another, and Alex and Daniel Pe scored further goals to finish off a brilliant second half performance during which every player was on the pitch at some point. A fantastic end to the season!
Kaden - A particularly brilliant flying save was the highlight of his performance in the second half. Coped well with the narrow pitch which meant we could not play short from goal kicks as we often try to.
Callum - Played in 2 different defensive positions and was as completely reliable as always in both of them.
Billy M - Great penalty but also great tackling as we were often outnumbered at the back in the first half and he came to our rescue
Ben R - Didn't appear to be gloating after yesterday's M23 derby and proved to be more secure than Albion's defence with a very steady performance
Richard - Earnt his place with a keen training performance and was superb in the match. I was so pleased to see him score a deserved goal too, my moment of the game.
Georgia - Another I asked to play in 2 different positions during the game and for the first time as a pair in central midfield. As always, coped brilliantly with what I asked
Steffan - Worked very hard in central midfield as always where it was often 3 of theirs to 2 of ours and was driving the team on very well
Daniel Pr - Played in midfield and then defence. Another unstoppable run up the wing leading to one of the individual goals of the season.
Daniel Pe - Really came into the game second half with 2 goals, the first a typical cut in and finish and the second finding the most bouncy bit of the pitch to take it over the goalkeeper. 16 for the season, a very good return.
Billy I - Was helping create opportunities up front and more than 1 good pass very nearly led to goals for the team - deserved an assist
Sam - Worked very hard against strong opponents and got us important respite on more than one occasion by holding the ball up well
Felix - It was the sort of game where fresh legs and energy would prove decisive and Felix really provided this when he came on
Ben W - Fair to say that we looked even better when Ben came on as he really got us going in midfield, provided an excellent pass for one of the goals
Finlay - Not only a watch helper, but this was one of Fin's best games, he won a number of midfield balls and was playing some intelligent passes
Rhys - I wanted to try something different with Rhys today in defence and I liked what I saw, really made an effort in an unusual positional role
Alex - I spent the last 10 minutes hoping he would get another goal to make it 30 in league and cup - but he had already scored it, as I had miscounted! 30 goals in his first season with us is an absolutely amazing achievement and fully deserved, a real asset to the team.
and that is the end of the league season, 14 games, 9 wins, 53 goals and a 3rd place finish. The only league games we lost were both by the score of 2-1 so it is no exaggeration to say that the team has done well in every single game. They have exceeded my expectations not just in results but more as a group in terms of their teamwork, supporting each other, never giving up and even respecting my decisions, however daft they are on occasion! All 20 of the squad have been absolute pleasure this season and we should be very proud of them!
Now onto the summer tournaments...