U11: Chipping Norton Swifts vs Bicester Town Colts
By Luke Newman
Swifts' U11s began their campaign in the UEFA Plate competition with a tough match, against a strong, and organised Bicester outfit.
Chippy had a squad of just 10 for the game, with Tom Sayers, who took a knock in the warm-up, the only Substitute. The starting nine continued in their slightly adapted, 'new' formation, which saw them gain success in their last game against Launton. Oliver Hayes continued in goal, with Beau Lawrence and Jacob Kedward partnering each other at the back. Supporting them in a deep midfield role was Oliver Edwards, which gave a license to run forward and create to a midfield three of Theo Petrosanu, Joe Walsh and Alex Goode. Up front, the dynamic duo of Henry Clements and Daniel McAndrew completed Swifts' 2-1-3-2 formation.
Such is the harsh nature of the Champions, Europa, and UEFA competitions in the Witney and District League, Swifts opponents for the game play their football in the division above, and are right at the top of it, after a very impressive run of victories. Swifts knew from the outset that they would have to work hard for anything from the morning, and after the opening 10 minutes, it was clear to all that Bicester were firm favourites for the clash. The visitors had several openings early on, but Swifts, as ever, held firm, and were prepared to battle and fight for every ball.
But that wasn't to say that all Swifts did in the first half was hang on for dear life - they are much better than that. They began to grow into the game and just over 15 minutes had gone, when a huge chance dropped to Henry Clements following a long ball forward. Clements, looking to add another to his 3 goals this season, took the chance on the stretch, got there ahead of the Bicester defender, but could only lift his shot over the goalkeeper and crossbar, rather than just the former.
Swifts then had a flurry of corners, and put some considerable pressure on their opponents' goal, but couldn't force another clear-cut opening to break the deadlock. Instead, they began to tire a little as the half continued, and needed two smart saves at the other end from Oliver Hayes to keep the sides level going into the break. His second save, a very well managed stop with his knees, after a deflected shot bounced right in front of him, at an awkward pace.
Unfortunately for Swifts, the second half didn't quite go to plan, particularly in the early stages. Swifts just allowed their concentration levels to drop momentarily, and all their good work from the first half was undone after just 3 minutes of the second period, as the Bicester forward nipped in front of the defense following a goal kick, and squared the ball across for the winger, who lashed home the opening goal in ruthless fashion. This clearly knocked the stuffing out of Swifts, and once they gave the ball away immediately from kick off, and watched Bicesters' number 8 crack an effort off the crossbar from the resulting corner, the belief began to slip away.
Following 5 minutes of quiet play, the next 10 became minutes of madness for Swifts, as the game ran away from them in relentless style. Another square pass and finish from the visitors doubled their lead, before a stunning effort from the edge of the box and a goal direct from a corner made it four second-half goals for Bicester, in the space of 15 minutes. As if that wasn't enough, Swifts just stood and watched as a short corner routine from the away side culminated in their number 14 walking past four Chippy defenders, and rolling the ball into the back of the net for 5-0.
To their utmost credit, Swifts woke back up in the final 10 minutes of the game and were actually very unlucky not to grab a consolation goal - Alex Goode had an effort deflected wide, Henry Clements had two efforts blocked, and a shot from Theo Petrosanu from a tight angle was cleared off of the line by a Bicester defender. It just wasn't to be their day.
Swifts can take serious positives from two-thirds of the game. For 40 minutes of a 60-minute game, they more than matched a strong Bicester side, who next season may well be two divisions above them. On their day, they can compete with anyone. These positives need to be taken into their next game in the UEFA Plate - they face Highfield Juniors at Greystones next weekend (January 26th).