Lions Score 5 to Start 2019 with a Win
Lions 5-3 Leckhampton Hurricanes
The Lions returned to league action this week after a few weeks off over the Christmas break, and were eager to get back onto the pitch and start the year with a win.
Harry D was still missing due to ongoing injury problems but everyone else was available for the first time, giving the Lions a full match day squad of 14 (the maximum allowed under league rules). Olly started in goal with a back 2 this week of Freddie and Noah. The coaches decided to employ a midfield 5 at the start of this week’s match with Hugh sitting deep, George F in the middle and Thomas in a more advanced central midfield. Bella started on the left Flank and Dylan on the right with George E as the lone striker. This left, Harry C, Sonny, Nina, Luca and Louis all ready to add their energy from the bench.
The Lions got the best possible start to the New Year as they opened the scoring inside the first minute of the game. Shortly after kick-off George E was brought down just outside the box and stepped up to take the free-kick. The free-kick was saved by the Leckhampton keeper, but Dylan had followed the shot in and was first to the rebound, making no mistake in finishing from close range. 1-0 to Lions with the game barely underway.
The Lions doubled their lead with just 4 minutes of the match elapsed. Bella made an excellent tackle in midfield to win the ball back and found Thomas. Thomas then fed Dylan who was on the overlap and continued his run into the box. Dylan was able to beat the first player and then square the ball to Thomas who fired in from the edge of the 6 yard box. 2-0 to the Lions inside the first few minutes.
Leckhampton did start to work their way back into the game in the next few minutes, but found Olly in excellent from once again as he made two excellent saves down to his left to keep the Lions ahead.
The Lions continued to work hard to preserve their advantage, with Freddie and Noah keeping things tight at the back with Hugh and George F work hard to get back and help when needed. Bella, Dylan and Thomas continued to cover a lot of ground to help out in both boxes and George E worked hard up front to create chances.
George E had a number of chances to extend the lead in the first half, but couldn’t quite force the ball in due to a number of saves from the keeper and also seeing a couple go just wide of the post.
The Lions did add to their lead 10 minutes before half time when Thomas picked the ball up outside the box and sent a powerful strike over the keeper and into the top corner of the goal from distance. 3-0 to the Lions after a superb strike from Thomas.
Harry C, Sonny, Nina, Luca and Louis all came on during the latter stages of the first half and brought some tough tackling and fresh legs to both defence and midfield, which were needed with the high tempo of the game taking its toll on some of the Lions legs after the Christmas lay-off.
The last 10 minutes of the 1st half saw Leckhampton enjoy their best spell of possession, perhaps realising how vital a goal before half time could be to their chances of getting something from the game. However, they found Olly putting in an excellent performance getting 2 strong hands to a well hit strike from inside the box and then sweeping another shot past the post and out for the corner as an attacker looked to pounce on the loose ball. George F was also putting his usual lung bursting performance, making tackles and interceptions left, right and centre in all areas of the pitch.
The Lions were able to use their pace to counter attack during the final few minutes of the half with Thomas, Dylan and George E all going close to adding to the goal tally. However, as the half time whistle went it was still 3-0 to the Lions after a strong half, but there had been signs towards the end of the half that Leckhampton were not beaten yet, and the Lions would need to be at their best in the 2nd half.
As the 2nd half started it was clear that Leckhampton had regrouped and felt they could still get something from the game, and they were often beating the Lions to the tackle during the early minutes of the 2nd half. This early pressure resulted in Leckhampton getting themselves on the scoresheet 7 minutes into the 2nd half. The Lions had failed to clear a corner and after a couple of attempts were blocked the Leckhampton striker managed to fire a powerful strike into the far corner of the goal, giving Olly no chance. 3-1 to the Lions but with Leckhampton starting to generate some momentum in their favour.
After this goal early in the second half it was clear that the next goal would be crucial and this led to a nervy next 10 minutes or so (for the coaches at least!) as Leckhampton continued to pour forward in search of another goal. Fortunately for the Lions Olly was having another storming game in goal, making 3 vital saves over the next 10 or 12 minutes. The first was to get his fingertips to a ball heading towards the top corner, just a minute or two later he flung himself full length down to his right to make an excellent one-handed save and finally he came flying off his line to make an excellent tackle on the edge of the box followed by a block on the follow up which created enough time for the Lions to get back. George E had tracked all the way back to head the 3rd attempt away on the edge of the 6 yard bow with the goal behind him gaping.
The Lions went in search of the vital 4th goal and looked to be in luck as Dylan got goal side of his defender as he approached the penalty spot, but he then received a two handed shove in the back, but the referee didn’t award what looked like a clear penalty and the chance had gone. The Lions could also feel slightly aggrieved a minute or so later when George E had his legs taken from under him as he advanced towards the box, but this time the referee put the whistle to his lips and then appeared to change his mind.
Having weathered somewhat of a storm the Lions did get the vital 4th goal just as the final 10 minutes approached. The Lions counter attacked at pace and George E played a through ball into Dylan’s path. Dylan was able to cut inside and fire a shot across the goal which was helped in by a deflection off a defender, but Dylan assured us that it was going in anyway so he’s claimed that one! The Lions had now given themselves a 3 goal cushion, but it was still to be an eventful last 10 minutes.
With just 5 minutes left to play Leckhampton gave themselves a glimmer of hope, tucking away a penalty after George E had tripped the Leckhampton attacker, mistiming a tackle in the box.
The Lions knew that Leckhampton would be on the hunt for another quick goal to give themselves a slim chance of stealing a late point and Noah, Freddie, Harry C, Luca, Nina, Bella, George F, Louis and Sonny all made a vital contribution defensively in the final minutes of the match. Dylan, Thomas and George E all looked to maintain attacking pressure and Sonny also got forward to draw a save from the keeper in the final few minutes.
With the final minute approaching the Lions got a 5th goal to kill-off the slim hopes Leckhampton had of getting anything from the game. Thomas picked the ball up in midfield and played it into the path of George E as he passed the last defender. George made no mistake in slotting this one home and the Lions had now made sure of a win to start the year.
Leckhampton kicked off inside the last minute and went on the attack, and then the post-Christmas tiredness perhaps took hold in the legs of the Lions as they failed to clear the ball a couple of times before the ball was fired into the corner of the goal with just 20 seconds left. The Lions now led 5-3 with virtually no time remaining.
The final whistle went shortly afterwards and, despite some tense spells in the game, the Lions started 2019 with a win.
Everyone worked hard to maintain a strong performance throughout the match, and there were a number of candidates for player-of-the-match. George F made an unfathomable amount of tackles as ever and once again showcased his range of passing, Olly made a number of excellent saves at vital times in the match, George E worked his socks off throughout, Dylan got 2 goals and an assist and got up and down the flank all match and Bella had a strong match down the left flank both defensively and in getting forward. But ultimately the Player-of-the-match this week was Thomas for another excellent all-round attacking performance where he scored 2, got one assist and created a number of chances for others.
Captain – George F
Goals – Dylan x2, Thomas x2, George E
Assists – Dylan, Thomas, George E
Player-of-the-match – Thomas