Lions Into Cup Quarter Finals After Dominant First Half Performance
Lions extend winning run to 10 games
The Lions took to the field at full strength this Saturday for a rearranged cup match which had been pushed back a week due to the snow. There was also a change of venue with the match being moved from Hatherley Park and seeing the Lions return to last season’s ‘home’ pitch at King George V playing fields. The die-hard Lions support was also out in force to cheer the boys on.
The Lions started with Luca between the sticks, Dylan at centre back, Harry D and Thomas on the wings, George F sitting deep in midfield, George E in the advanced midfield role and Olly upfront. Noah, Hugh and Louis were all waiting eagerly on the bench ready to make an impact.
The Lions set about playing their brand of football, attacking at pace down both flanks and probing the Gotherington defence for gaps. This was a tougher test than in the previous round with the opposition attacker keeping Dylan and George F busy in the early stages of the match with some swift counter attacks.
The Lions had more of the possession in the opening 10 minutes and carved out a number of half chances with George F, George E, Thomas and Harry D all going close from distance and Olly firing just wide from inside the box. The first clear chance came 6 or 7 minutes into the half when Thomas drew a strong save from the Gotherington keeper with a powerful shot from the edge of the box.
Gotherington had looked dangerous at times during the opening 10 minutes but the pace of Dylan and George F in the defensive 3rd of the pitch had led to most of these attacks being stopped before a clear chance could be created. Luca didn’t have a lot to do in the first half but he was quickly off his line to gather the ball when required.
The Lions made a decisive breakthrough with around 12 minutes of the first half played. Harry D went on another marauding run down the left flank before finding George E in the centre of the pitch. George jinked his way past two defenders and fired the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal from the edge of the box. 1-0 to the Lions mid-way through the first half.
Just 3 minutes later the Lions doubled their lead through an excellent solo goal. Dylan was now played slightly further forward and dispossessed a Gotherington player in the centre circle before dribbling past 3 players at speed to finish low into the corner of the goal from just inside the box. 2-0 after 15 minutes with the Lions now taking control of the match.
Despite doubling their lead the Lions couldn’t afford to take their foot off the pedal with Gotherington still looking dangerous. Hugh and Noah were tracking the opposition players well and made a number of vital tackles and clearances, Louis was in the thick of the action in midfield making tackles and also looking to get forward in support. George F was breaking up attacks and looking to turn attack into defence and Harry and Thomas were getting up and down the wings. Dylan and George E were carrying the ball forward well through midfield and Olly was finding chances hard to come by due to being tightly marked, but he was making runs into good positions and linking play up well. Luca wasn’t called into action much but he remained alert and was confident in gathering the ball when it was played into the box.
With 6 minutes of the first half remaining the Lions demonstrated their set-piece prowess to put the result beyond much doubt before half time. The 3rd Lions goal came when a superb corner by Thomas landed at the feet of George F just a few feet from the goal. The skipper made no mistake with a tidy close range finish to stretch the Lions lead to 3-0.
Just a minute or so later the Lions struck for a 4th goal before half time. After some tantalising footwork down the right wing Thomas whipped an inviting cross into towards the back post which was finished by Dylan with a technique which can best be described as a ‘diving chest’. 4-0 to the Lions with half-time approaching after Dylan’s 2nd goal of the game.
Half time arrived without further incident and the Lions had established a comfortable 4-0 lead after some flowing attacking football and some strong defending which had restricted Gotherington to just one or two half chances.
Gotherington changed goalkeeper at half time and the 2nd half was much tighter in terms of clear chances, but the Lions still had more of the ball with Gotherington looking to counter attack at pace.
At the start of the 2nd half the Lions continued to look to break forward in numbers with Louis, Hugh and Noah all taking turns to provide a strong defensive platform with some crunching tackles and powerful clearances. George F seemed to be wherever the ball was to frustrate Gotherington and always looked to pick out a forward pass to get the Lions back on the offensive.
Olly was still finding space hard to come by due to being closely marked by the Gotherington defence, and it was one of those games where the ball didn’t quite fall right for him, but he did continue to link play up well. He also demonstrated some good individual skill, particularly when getting away from the defender with a smart Cruyff turn before playing the ball down the flank for George E and also when controlling a long ball and putting it through the defenders legs and looking to run round him.
With Olly largely tied up the Lions bombarded Gotherington with runners from midfield and this paid dividends with the Lions adding their 5th and final goal of the day 5 minutes into the second half. Harry D played a ball forward towards George E which looked like it was going to run out for a goal kick. However, George E managed to keep the ball in and laid the ball back to Harry D who finished between the keeper’s legs from just inside the box to make it 5-0 to the Lions.
Just a few minutes after this Dylan went charging through the middle and found himself one-on-one with the keeper and on a hat-trick. It wasn’t to be on this occasion as Dylan’s shot drew a strong save from the keeper which kept the Lions lead at 5 goals.
The Lions had a few more half-chances during the 2nd half but the Gotherington keeper made a number of fine saves and there were a number of times where the ball didn’t quite bounce the right way for Olly and George E in the box. Louis and Noah continued to battle in midfield as well as getting forward to join the attack. Hugh used his strength and thunderous right boot to quickly stop opposition attacks and Luca was a little busier in the 2nd half, using his agility to dive to his left on a couple of occasions to make excellent saves. Thomas, Harry D and Dylan continued to demonstrate their impressive fitness levels by getting up and down the pitch and threw in some excellent skills when on the ball. George F led by example by being a constant thorn in the side of Gotherington in the defensive half and getting forward into space to join the attack more and more as the game wore on.
With the Lions sitting on a comfortable lead and the clock running down Gotherington did manage to get a consolation goal with just a minute or so left. The dangerous Gotherington attacker manage to find a rare chink in the Lions defensive armour and was bearing down on goal but Luca did exactly what we have been working on in training and was quickly off his line to make an excellent save from the initial shot. Unluckily for the Lions the ball fell directly at the feet of the attacker who was able to roll the ball into the empty goal before Luca had even had time to get back up from the initial save. It was an unlucky goal to concede and a shame that the Lions hadn’t managed the clean sheet that their defensive work throughout the match had deserved, but their dominance in the first half meant that this goal was of no consequence to the result with the Lions running out 5-1 winners as full time arrived.
The result sees the Lions progress to the quarter-final stage of the cup and this was also the Lions 10th win in a row in all competitions, with us having to go all the way back to early November and a 3-3 friendly draw with Charlton Rovers for the last time that the Lions failed to win a match.
Once again it was a real team performance this week with everyone contributing to the victory, but the man-of-the-match award went to Dylan who played in both defence and midfield during the match stopping a number of dangerous looking attacks as well as getting forward from midfield to score 2 goals, and he was just inches from completing his hat-trick.
Captain – George F
Goals – George E, Dylan x2, George F, Harry D
Man-of-the-match - Dylan