U15: Chipping Norton Swifts 8-4 Launton Athletic
By Luke Newman
Swifts' U15s made it two wins from two in the 'B' League, taking all three points away from a 12-goal thriller against Launton Athletic at Greystones.
Swifts started in a somewhat unfamiliar 5-2-2-1 formation, which they have trialled to good effect since their friendly win over Banbury Irish. The team had a good sized squad of 14 to choose from - they began with Sam Hurst in goal, behind a back five from left to right of Zach Ibrahim, Rory Hlustik, Jonny Carroll, Charlie Fisher, and Louis Akers. It is worth noting that after the losses of all three of their centre backs since the turn of the year, this was essentially a make-shift back five consisting of a new addition, two fullbacks and two central midfielders. They continue to adapt quickly and will still improve further. In midfield, captain Jack Williams partnered Felix Robertson - with Kyle Hurley on the right, George Thomas on the left, and newest recruit Ben Reeves-Smith as the lone striker. From the bench, Swifts could call upon the services of Max Walsh, Josh Hart and Daniel Broome, who all made appearances.
Many would have been forgiven for assuming this would be a straight-forward and routine three points for Swifts, such was their dominance over both Launton sides last year - but since merging and forming one solid team, today’s visitors seemed to have gelled and offered much more of a threat throughout. With that said, Swifts took the lead inside the opening minute - a lightning start culminating in Kyle Hurley cutting inside from the right, and finishing into the far corner for his first goal since his return from Forest Green Rovers.
Soon after the lead was doubled; a free kick from just inside the defensive half was clipped into the box by Charlie Fisher and met by Jack Williams, who’s touch back towards him took a wicked deflection off of a Launton defender, and trickled into the corner of the net for an own goal.
Swifts looked dominant in these opening stages and few would have bet on the next goal coming courtesy of the boys in blue - Launton scored from nothing when a free kick was poorly dealt with, and as a scuffed clearance fell onto the edge of the box, the visiting midfielder slammed an effort into the bottom corner to restore some belief into the away side.
From then on Swifts seemed to lose a bit of confidence - cracks in the new formation began to appear and Launton were dominating play, with Swifts constantly setting up with a flat back 5 despite really not needing to, and ending up marking 5v1 on multiple occasions, allowing the visitors to totally overrun a sparse swifts midfield. Swifts could see their opponents clawing their way back into the game and with both teams desperate to gain that competitive edge, the game became a particularly hot-tempered affair.
Then, with 33 minutes on the clock, Launton got themselves a deserved equaliser. Another deep free kick, this time from just inside the Swifts half, found its way through several Swifts players on its way to the back post, where it was bundled in.
HALF TIME: SWIFTS 2-2 LAUNTON ATHLETIC
Thankfully, after the half time break, Swift identified the areas for improvement quickly, and switched up their formation to better suit the job in hand. Jonny Carroll joined the midfield to create a three with Jack Williams and Felix Robertson, which began to stifle any creativity Launton possessed in the centre, and a more familiar set-up in the back four, albeit still without a recognised centre-back, began to look more comfortable.
Only a couple of minutes had gone in the second half when the ball hit the net - a shot from the edge of the box by Jack Williams was parried by the goalkeeper into the path of Rory Hlustik, who had come forward to attack an initial set-piece. He rolled the ball into the net, only to be denied by the linesman's offside flag. Still inside the opening 5 minutes of the half - a corner from the left by Ben Reeves-Smith met the head of Felix Robertson, who saw his effort cannon back off of the crossbar. Swifts somehow not in front once again, but their dominance in the early stages following the break was a sign of things to come.
Eventually they got their goal. A long throw from Rory Hlustik was allowed to bounce by the Launton defense and Jack Williams was on hand to touch the ball over the goalkeeper, who was left in no-mans land as it sailed over his head and bounced into an unguarded net. Williams doubled his tally and made it 4-2 to Swifts very shortly after his first goal - Kyle Hurley completed a one-two with the Swifts captain, before he danced past two players and cracked a low drive into the far corner from the edge of the area. Swifts had their two-goal cushion back, and Williams had scored his 1st and 2nd goals of the season in a matter of minutes.
Suddenly, goals started to fly in from all over the place - as both teams seemed to be geting the better of their opposing defenses. Launton responded to going 4-2 down instantly - not even a minute had gone after the restart when a low through-ball split the Chippy back four, with the ball eventually falling to the Launton number 4, who turned the ball in to give the visitors a lifeline again.
But after a small 3 or 4 minute spell of Launton pressure, Swifts regained their control on the game and seemed to have answers for every question asked of them - in the next 15 minutes leading up to the closing stages of the game, Swifts put the game out of sight.
A poor Launton clearance from a deep free kick fell to Jonny Carroll - whose shot found the back of the net despite a strong hand from the opposition goalkeeper, who may have felt he should have saved the shot. However he could do absolutely nothing about the second Jonny Carroll effort that made it 6-3 - the set-up was almost a carbon copy of the first goal, with a poor clearance dropping to him - but this time his shot was firm and precise, into the left hand top corner with the 'keeper only able to stand and watch as it flew into the net.
Despite all the Swifts openings, there was one player who would have gone away from the game thinking it just wasn't his day - and that was Felix Robertson. After hitting the crossbar early in the second half, Robertson latched onto a loose ball before striking another firm effort off of the bar once again, before another Swifts goal to make it 7-3 came after Robertson cracked a shot off of the post this time, only to see it turned in on the rebound by Ben Reeves-Smith.
Charlie Fisher then saw his swerving corner helped straight into the back of the net by the Launton goalkeeper for his first goal of the season - before the scoring was rounded off by the visitors with another instant reply from a kick-off. A beautifully weighted pass into the number 8, who managed to lob the ball over Sam Hurst and into the net. Final score 8-4.
Swifts' 100% record remains in tact, after a good second half performance from the team. They will look to adapt where possible at training, and regroup ahead of their next fixture, an away league fixture against Chesterton Juniors (September 23rd).