It was a tale of missed chances as Santos U12s suffered a frustrating defeat against second-bottom Aim Blacks in Division 7 of the East Manchester JFL.
Weather conditions reminiscent of the Beast from the East made it difficult for both defences but it was the Blacks who had the better 'aim' in front of goal.
Oak Champarath shoulder-charged a Blacks defender out of the way to create the game's opening chance but the keeper made the first in a series of good saves to deny him. The Santos defence seemed frozen to the spot at times and Aim took advantage to build a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.
Jayden Mackie was deputising in goal behind Adam Shallcross at centre-half and they stopped the damage getting worse before Aim made it 3-0 when they reacted quicker to a shot that Mackie had tipped on to the bar.
Santos were continuing to create chances at the other end but Lucas Ward, Finn Whatmough and Hayden Wood were all denied by a combination of wayward finishing and good goalkeeping. And when Sebastian Toms headed a corner against the crossbar, it seemed destined not to be Santos' day.
Hopes of a comeback flickered into life early in the second-half when Whatmough poked the ball through to Champarath and he slotted the ball into the net. Santos continued to apply the pressure but no-one could find the finishing touch until they did finally bundle an effort over the line, only for the referee to chalk it off for a foul on the keeper.
Connah Brown and Harrison Crowther put in steady performances at full-back to help to restrict Aim to half-chances, while James Pitts and Champarath - Santos' best performer on the day - did their best to win the midfield battle. With time ticking away, Aim made it 4-1 on the counter-attack with a well-executed chip.
Joe Bamford pulled one back for Santos in the closing stages as he swept a shot into the bottom corner, but it was little more than a consolation as Santos spurned the chance to nail down a fourth place finish in the league.
Author: Richard Toms