U9: Chipping Norton Swifts vs Launton FC
Swifts U9's continued on their super run, with a top performance against Launton in the Champions Cup at Greystones.
Swifts were without Isaac Kedward for the game, but could still choose from a healthy-sized squad of 10, opting to go with their familiar 2-3-1 setup. Finley Ashworth was in goal as ever, this time supported by two defenders, Taylor Hunt and Ivan Clements, who dropped back from a usual midfield role. In the midfield, Joseph Darlow played through the centre, with Milo Hughes coming into the side on the left wing, and Sammy Clews on the right. That just left the central striker position, which was filled by Sam McCabe. From the bench; Jack Benyon, George Meathrel and John Seward all made appearances.
As is to be expected in the Champions Cup, both teams were switched on from the start, and as a result, the opening 10 minutes were tight, with defences clearly on top for the most part. There were no real chances of any note for either side until 12 minutes into the first half; where Launton began to gain a foothold in the match, with a couple of decent openings. The game-plan was clear - both of the visitors wingers were lightning fast and good on the ball, and countless crosses were being fizzed in through both channels, but the Swifts defence dealt with them well, and when they didn't quite get enough on the ball, Finley Ashworth was there with safe hands to clean up any danger. Their biggest chance of the first half came from a corner, which was brilliantly swung in, and directed onto the foot of the post, before eventually being cleared by Swifts.
Instead of frustrating Swifts, the pressure from Launton seemed to spur them on, and it was Chippy who began to create chances of their own, making the game much more of an end-to-end affair. Some superb work from Sammy Clews to race down the right flank set up a chance for Sam McCabe, who was fouled on the very edge of the box as he tried to cut back. Ivan Clements took the free kick and fizzed a shot just over the bar.
As the half drew to a close, Swifts grew into the game even more, and dominated the final 5 minutes. Launton were pegged back and couldn't clear their lines as Sam McCabe skipped past two men - he then cut the ball back for Joseph Darlow, whose shot was superbly blocked by a last-ditch tackle by the defender, looping the shot over the bar. Sammy Clews then forced a good save from the 'keeper, before another through ball into Sam McCabe was poked just wide of the mark.
The second half began with Swifts making a few tactical switches; Ivan Clements and Joseph Darlow switched roles, and Sam McCabe moved across to the right-hand side of midfield, with George Meathrel coming on up front, in place of Milo Hughes.
Swifts were much the better side in the second half, and deservedly got their rewards for their performance. Their first goal came within minutes of the restart, albeit in fortunate circumstances; A good passage of play between George Meathrel, Sam McCabe and Sammy Clews eventually saw a shot blocked, with the loose ball dropping kindly for Ivan Clements. Clements' shot wasn't one of his better efforts, but with the 'keeper un-sighted by his defenders, the ball bounced awkwardly in front of him and squirmed into the net.
Very quickly Swifts grabbed another - a long ball from Taylor Hunt out to the right found Ivan Clements, who crossed towards George Meathrel - unfortunately the pass was slightly over-hit, but Sam McCabe latched onto the ball. McCabe ran across the top of the box over to the left side, before going down under contact of the Launton defender, and winning a penalty. McCabe took it himself, sent the keeper the wrong way.
Swifts were much more comfortable now, and there were far fewer scares in defence for them as they went through the second half confidently. They did grab one more goal before the finish - a superb, Ederson-like long kick up-field from Finley Ashworth, after collecting a cross, found Sam McCabe, who did the pass justice as he brought it down well, sprinted clear of the Launton defence and finished well to round off the scoring, with his 14th goal of another prolific season.
The final whistle sounded shortly after, and Swifts perfect start to the Champions Cup continued. They will hope this run of form lasts, however they will be made to wait an extra week to extend the run, with their next game coming on the 2nd February, when they face Chesterton Juniors at Greystones.