Jags power to joint top of the League Table…!!
By Kierran Groom
…with an impressive convincing 1-4 away win at away Spartans
Saturday saw the Jags journey to Leighton Buzzard for the second time in 3 days, as Spartans made a late switch of venue for their “home” fixture. With Spartans being one of only two teams to overcome the Jags during the 2018/19 league season, this was a long awaited date to make amends - and, now on a 7 game winning run, to notch an 8th and share the league lead with pace setters AFC Oakley.
On a bright but chilly morning, the boys relished the opportunity to play on a fine astro surface - and they put in one of their most convincing performances of the season. Although applause for scoring 4 goals, first mention goes to the defence and midfield who were, to a man, absolutely immense.
Spartans began the game with real urgency, moving the ball around quickly and using their pace to test the Jags boys. However, within 10 minutes, Newport had got into their stride and the momentum changed as Jags put together their own impressive passing game.
Without doubt one of the 3 best teams on the league, Spartans were always going to be a test, but the Jags dealt with everything - the midfield boys never stopping, as they moved the ball forward, moved the ball wide and dropped back to help with the defensive line. In defence, the boys were rock solid and reading the game so well, to ensure that they were not undone by the rapid Spartans strikers. Such was the defender/midfielder teamwork, that if Spartans did manage to break through, another Jag quickly arrived from a covering position to present the next obstacle. Huge credit then to the wall of Charlie D, Billy, Sam and among the midfielders Sonny, Roman and Seo. A big big game for all of them.
The Jags opened their account when Alex struck home – connecting first time with a Harry corner. It gave the boys real belief that they could overcome Spartans. After further pressure, with Theo, Harry, Alex and Seo all driving forward, it was Luca who then netted with an accurately placed low shot to the corner - only to find the score was ruled offside which, although correctly flagged, was by the finest of margins.
The 2nd goal came, when Alex picked up the ball, slotted to Dylan who went on a solo run, beating two players before slamming home to make it 0-2 which was then the Half-Time score.
Switching ends for the 2nd half meant playing into the wind, which presented another challenge - but the Jags very quickly settled back into their rhythm. Their determination evidenced in a scrap for every ball. Henry with his mazy runs and swift turns was a constant thorn in Spartans side. Sonny and Roman always providing outlets to the side with their own fine wing play and constant energy up and down the lines. Harry, having a great game, joining Henry and Theo with their attacking runs at Spartans defence. When the home side did break back into Jags territory, again Billy, Charlie, Luca standing firm - and, when Spartans looked like they might finally get through with some really nice movement, a memorable “save” as Sam managed, at absolute full stretch, to intercept the pass and divert the ball away from a waiting Spartans striker who would otherwise have been through on goal.
The smooth surface certainly allowed the boys to show off their footballing ability, repeatedly putting together quality passing moves. A great example down the left with interchange between Dylan, Harry and Theo that then set Dylan up burst through and make it 0-3.
After so much disappointment and criticism of the poor home pitch at Willen Road, it has not gone unnoticed that, on away pitches which have (with one rare exception) been of a rather better quality, the Jags ability has come through as they’ve won every single away fixture. A perfect 10 out of 10.
Unrelenting through throughout the 2nd half, the next Jags score came when a Seo free-kick found the right range but with a strong wind that seemed to carry it wide of the goal. However, the ball then held up and dropped to Alex beyond the far post, who controlled very well and decisively drove the ball into the net.
After a massive all-round team performance, perhaps inevitable that some tired legs became evident in the last 10 minutes - and everyone mindful that the boys had played out another league game less than 48 hours previously. So, with coaches rotating players to provide relief, a shame that the home team did finally manage to score, but it was a well taken goal and, late in the game, it never looked likely that Spartans would come back into contention.
A shout for the referee who was first class, beginning with a nice engaging pre-match chat with the teams - and then clear consistent decision-making during them match. In the post-match debrief, a neutral observer came over to volunteer his compliments about the quality of the game - and how" very young boys" had played so much “proper” football, not lump and run.
In a truly tremendous all round team performance, inevitably difficult to pick out one single player, but coaches’ Man of the Match went to Alex, who showed persistent and considerable determination, with a really fine box to box performance throughout.
So, in front of an enthusiastic and always encouraging Newport touchline, the boys secured the 3 points that saw them now draw level with AFC Oakley, whose own very good form has seen them top the league since February.
Already a fantastic year, which has seen these U12 boys compete head on with some very big, fast and able U13 teams …there remains, with Oakley’s season over, still a chance for Newport, with another positive result, to win the title outright and cap a truly outstanding league season.