U9: Chipping Norton Swifts vs Carterton Town Colts
Swifts' U9s good run in the Champions Cup was extended to three games, after a hard-fought encounter with Carterton Colts at Greystones.
Swifts had a squad of 10 players for the game, meaning rotation was necessary, and also kept the team fresh throughout the game. To start; Finley Ashworth continued in goal, with Taylor Hunt and Ivan Clements covering him as the defensive duo. A midfield three consisted of Sammy Clews on the right, John Seward through the middle, and Sam McCabe on the left - with George Meathrel up front. This meant that from the Substitutes bench; Issac Kedward, Jack Benyon, Joseph Darlow and Milo Hughes all made appearances.
Both teams looked to start the game strongly, with players working hard and pressing all over the pitch. This set the tone for the entire first half - it was a hard-fought, closely matched affair, in which neither team were allowed any time or space to work a considerable opening for themselves.
Swifts posed more of a threat in the opening minutes though; their brightest moment of the opening 10 minutes came early on, a shot from George Meathrel was comfortably saved, before a Mary run from Sam McCabe on the left hand side saw him skip past a couple of Carterton players, before the last defender got across to touch the ball out for a corner.
After a brief stoppage in play, to allow the referee a chance to speak to the very vocal Carterton coach - Swifts have best chance of the game so far. 13 minutes has gone in the game when a cross-field pass from John Seward was smashed goal-wards on the half volley by Sam McCabe. The Carterton ‘keeper did brilliantly to not only get down quickly to his left and reach the ball, but also hold it and somehow not need to parry to safety. A mention is also needed for Sam McCabe’s first touch from the resulting kick out; which killed the ball dead from a huge punt forward - gaining some groans of appreciation from spectators, and coaches from both sides!
Beyond this, nothing really happened for either side - both teams just needed that 10% extra to find a way through, which wasn’t forthcoming in the first period. Swifts and Carterton both made changes before the break, and during half time, to try and tip the balance of the match in their favour - but the game remained close.
Swifts started the second half well, and set the tone for their performance once again as they chased down three Carterton passes, with the ball ending up with the visitors' goalkeeper. His kick was closed down as well, with it being picked up by Joseph Darlow on the edge of the penalty area, but he dragged his shot just wide of the left post. Immediately after, from the resulting goal kick; Carterton carved out a chance of their own - the number 9 took a touch and did brilliantly to cut inside of Ivan Clements, before his low shot was well held by the ever-impressive Finley Ashworth.
However from this point onwards, the second half belonged mainly to Carterton. Swifts seemed too light in their tackles for the next 10 minutes and the visitors were really pressing. Despite their efforts, the wind was clearly a huge factor in Swifts struggles, with their clearances coming straight back to them. The only thing the visitors didn't do in their 10 minute spell was score - their approach play seemed to cause Swifts no end of problems, but they couldn't find that little bit of space to work a shot, as Swifts battled with everything they had to block every shot and pass they could.
Colts then won a free-kick in a dangerous area, which was blocked by the head of Taylor Hunt - and the rebound blocked AGAIN by Ivan Clements as Swifts looked to be hanging on - Finley Ashworth was then forced into making another really good save to deny the number 10 from the penalty spot.
Swifts continued to battle and keep the game goalless, as Carterton took a string of FIVE consecutive corners, all pumped into the penalty area. All were brilliantly dealt with by Swifts, who didn't panic, didn't lose their concentration, and were rewarded. The sixth corner in succession was cleared by Taylor Hunt, and helped on by Ivan Clements. The clearance caught out the last Carterton defender, who looked to shepherd the ball back to his goalkeeper after it flew over his head. What he didn't bank on though, was Isaac Kedward sprinting forward to press as high as possible - nicking in between both 'keeper and defender, to set himself clear of both and roll into an empty net. A lesson to all that working hard as a striker will get you rewards, as he completely changed the tone of the game with his 15th goal of the season.
Despite the goal, the wind continued to be an important factor in the balance of play and Carterton continued to press forward, but Swifts, now with points to defend, persisted with their battling, hard-working attitude - blocking everything they could and giving everything they had to protect their goal.
Such was their good work; Swifts ended the game with a huge chance to seal the match - Isaac Kedward rolled the ball square of the last defender and found George Meathrel - he took one touch forward before drilling a shot goal-wards which was tipped onto the post by the goalkeeper, with Isaac Kedward's rebound somehow skewed wide of the right post and out to safety. But it didn't matter, as the final whistle sounded seconds later.
A brilliant result for Swifts, utterly deserved for the work they had put in. Their 100% record in the Champions Cup continues - a run they will hope to increase further, starting in their next game, in which they face Chesterton Juniors at Greystones (February 16th).