A grass pitch, 11-a-side football and linesmen…it was a whole new ball game for Santos at under 13 level as they began their 2019–2020 league campaign. And first up was a local derby against High Crompton Park, who were hampered by only being able to field 10 players on what was (for a pleasant change!) a glorious, sunny morning.
Given the extra man advantage, it was no surprise that Santos enjoyed most of the early possession; the only problem was knowing how to make it count. Some thoughtless passing littered the opening stages but slowly the chances began to materialise.
Lucas Ward broke through the defence but he shot tamely at the High Crompton ‘keeper, who did well throughout, and then Hayden Wood shot narrowly wide. Oak Champarath and Samee Rashid had sights of goal too, but their finishing also showed signs of early-season rustiness.
Just as a sense of frustration was growing among Santos supporters and management, High Crompton made matters worse with their first serious assault on goal. A free-kick inexplicably pierced the Santos defence, enabling a High Crompton forward to spring clear and slot the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Sebastian Toms, who had been a virtual spectator up until that point.
Fortunately, that shock to the system seemed to concentrate minds a little better and Santos replied before half-time when Wood supplied Rashid, who crashed the ball into the bottom corner on what was his league debut for the club.
The second-half gave Santos the further advantage of playing down the slope and Joe Bamford’s introduction from the bench led to a much more composed display of passing. Champarath put Santos into a 2-1 lead with a skewed shot just inside the post and the chances continued to flow before he slotted in his second with a low finish to the keeper’s right.
At the back, Connah Brown impressed at centre-half, being decisive in winning the ball both in the air and on the ground. And someone else who hardly put a foot wrong was Harrison Crowther at right-back.
An exquisite through-ball from Bamford presented Wood with the perfect opportunity to score the goal he had been threatening all match and he duly made it 4-1 from close range. But Rafael Correia saved the best until last, as he wrapped up the victory with a great strike from the edge of the box right on the referee’s final whistle.
Santos (4-4-2): Toms; Crowther, A Shallcross, Brown, C Shallcross; Rashid, Correia, Wood, Pitts; Ward, Champarath. Subs: Whatmough, Bamford
Goals: Champarath 2, Rashid, Wood, Correia