U9 Champions Cup: Chipping Norton Swifts vs Chesterton Juniors
By Luke Newman
Swifts U9s run of maximum points from their Champions Cup group continued, despite not at their free-flowing best for a while, against Chesterton at Greystones.
Swifts had a full contingent of players for the game, and began as normal, in their 2-3-1 formation. Finley Ashworth remained in goal as ever, this time around, supported by a defensive pairing of Taylor Hunt, and Joseph Darlow. In midfield, John Seward played through the middle, with Sammy Clews on the right, and Milo Hughes on the left - all tasked with supporting Isaac Kedward, who began up front. This left a strong substitutes bench to choose from; with Ivan Clements, Jack Benyon, Sam McCabe and George Meathrel all making first-game appearances.
Chippy started the game well, with a lot of joy coming down the right hand side with Sammy Clews, whose hard work and trickery was causing problems for Chesterton, winning several corners, to the point where they had taken more than 10 in the first half. The first chance of the game fell for Milo Hughes, who took a shot from the corner of the penalty area, which was well saved.
Eventually Swifts positive start was rewarded - and it was that man Sammy Clews who grabbed the goal. Clews was found brilliantly in space on the right by John Seward, who won the ball back for his team before spraying it out to the wing - Sammy Clews took two touches, one to control the pass, and another to shift the ball out of his feet, before cracking a low drive into the near bottom corner, with the Chesterton 'keeper unsighted as the ball whizzed past two defenders.
Swifts were continually pressing, even after the goal - and continued to pepper the Chesterton penalty area, with so many corners being delivered into the box - however, a mixture of rushed efforts and some decent defending prevented Swifts from running away with the game in the opening 10 minutes. Maybe the level of control in the game caused a little bit of complacency in the Swifts side, as they allowed Chesterton's number 8 a free run at goal after the simplest of long passes. One on one, Finley Ashworth made a superb, brave stop at the feet of the forward to stop a goal that would have came firmly against the run of play.
In the final moments of the half, Isaac Kedward and Sammy Clews combined brilliantly to fashion a chance, with the latter shooting just wide of the far post. The goal would have been richly deserved for their first half efforts, but even still, Swifts seemed to be just that half-yard slower than they had been in previous weeks. It was clear that they had the game in their grasp, and with a little more, which would see them hit the performance levels of their last couple of fixtures, the game was theirs.
Swifts reshuffled the pack slightly as the second half got underway - Milo Hughes and John Seward took a break from the action momentarily, and were replaced by Ivan Clements and George Meathrel.
Instantly, it seemed the half-time pep talk had worked wonders for Swifts, as they set about putting their opponents to the sword. They got sharper and sharper as the second period progressed, crafting a big chance in the opening minutes, as Joseph Darlow, now operating from midfield found George Meathrel, who with one touch slid the ball through for Sammy Clews, who shot just wide. A Lovely turn by Joseph Darlow then set him clear before finding Isaac Kedward, whose shot was really well saved by the goalkeeper.
This wasn't to say that Chesterton weren't in the game though, as Finley Ashworth was forced into another brave stop, throwing himself at the striker's feet to save another one on one, and keep his team on the front foot.
Ashworth's save looked to have done the trick, as a couple of minutes later, Swifts woke up again and scored their first goal of the second half. Sam McCabe, who had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes - put the Chesterton goalkeeper under immense pressure after he came off of his line to sweep up a long ball - he could only scuff the ball into the path of Isaac Kedward, who rolled the ball back where it came from, into an empty net.
From this point on, it was complete one-way traffic. Sam McCabe ran the ball clear for Swifts after Chesterton committed players forward, only to be brought down on the halfway line. Play continued with Swifts clearly having an advantage as Isaac Kedward found George Meathrel, he struck the ball well and saw his effort well saved, with the rebound falling back to him, but it was dragged wide. Swifts just couldn't find the finishing touch, Isaac Kedward was played through but also had a shot saved - he then found Sam McCabe with a drilled cross, but he could only direct the ball up into the air, rather than towards goal.
Swifts persistence was worthwhile in the end though, as the final few minutes saw them take the game away from their opponents in typical style. A lovely corner kick from George Meathrel caused panic in the Chesterton defence - they failed to clear effectively, and were punished, as Sam McCabe touched the ball back to set up Isaac Kedward to drive the ball home comfortably.
They then finished the game off with another goal - George Meathrel again heavily involved just a minute after his corner - he rolled the ball across the penalty area for Sam McCabe, who got a deserved goal for his efforts as he tucked the ball into the corner of the net. Meathrel so nearly rounded off a perfect final few minutes for both the team and himself, as with the final play of the game, his powerful drive from range cannoned off the right hand post.
Another impressive victory for Swifts in it's own way - a different type of performance to that against Carterton the week before, but one which ultimately ended in another convincing result, despite not looking fully at their best in certain periods. A sign of a strong team, and a team that sit top of their Champions Cup group with two games to go - their next encounter coming against Launton, their first Away trip for around a month (February 23rd).