Lions Hand Leckhampton Vulcans First League Defeat of Season
Lions 3-0 Leckhampton Vulcans
The Lions had a tough task this Saturday as they looked to bounce back from last week’s defeat. The Lions took on Leckhampton Vulcans who had won all 8 of their league games so far this season, winning the autumn league and currently sitting at the top of the winter league. However, the Lions could draw some confidence from knowing that they had got the better of the Vulcans in a friendly back in November which was their only defeat of the season so far.
The Lions hopes were dealt a blow on Friday when Thomas had to pull out of the match due to illness, but the coaches still had a squad of 13 players to choose from.
The Lions started with Olly in goal, now firmly cemented as the Lions’ number 1, protected by a back 3 of Luca, Freddie and Noah. George F and George E started in the centre of midfield, with Louis down the right flank and Bella down the left. The coaches decided to try a slightly reshuffled line-up this week and so Dylan was pushed further forward to play as the lone frontman. This left Sonny, Nina, Hugh and Harry C on the bench waiting eagerly for their chance.
Leckhampton clearly came into this match with the confidence of a table-topping team and put the Lions under relentless pressure for the first 10 minutes of the match. Luckily for the Lions George F put on a masterful display of reading the game to frustrate Leckhampton at every turn and Olly was alive from the start making a couple of strong saves and being quickly off his line to gather loose balls inside the first 10 minutes.
The middle section of the first half saw the Lions grow into the game and from 10-20 mins of the first half it became end-to-end play. The Lions created some good chances with Bella drawing a save from the keeper, Dylan firing just wide, Louis having a shot blocked and George E firing just over the bar. George F was linking play at both ends of the pitch with some characteristically precise passing and the Lions were having much more joy going forward than in the opening 10 minutes. At the other end of the pitch Luca, Noah and Freddie were working hard to keep Leckhampton out and Olly was having another excellent game as he was always first to any loose ball around the edge of the box as well as making 5 or 6 important blocks and saves inside this opening 20 minutes.
With 23 minutes played the Lions got a decisive breakthrough with a perfect display of counter attacking football which turned defence into attack instantly. Leckhampton had got forward in numbers and were chasing a lofted through ball into the Lions box. Olly was out quickly to get a hand to this on the edge of the box and knock it out of the air. Olly then recovered quickly to fall on the loose ball before the advancing striker could get there. He then took a quick kick out of his hands which found George F on the halfway line, who in turn saw George E in space and fed the ball into his path on the left flank. George E was able to beat the last defender and was one-on-one with the keeper. George then put the ball past the keeper and into the path of Dylan who lost the defender and got to the ball first to finish from the edge of the six yard box and give the Lions a 1-0 lead. An excellent team goal where the ball had gone from Olly’s hand to the back of the next in less than 10 seconds before Leckhampton could recover and get back.
The game remained a close battle over the next few minutes, but the Lions remained calm and took their 1 goal lead into the half time break. The Lions took a well-deserved break and refuelled ready for the second half.
The first 10 minutes of the second half saw Leckhampton come out and pile the pressure on the Lions once again, creating a number of chances early in the half. The defence all played their part in keeping Leckhampton out, with Hugh and Harry C making some big blocks and tackles, Noah wining a couple of vital headers, Luca and Freddie making a number of interceptions and tracking their man well and Nina and Sonny getting up and down the flanks to support the defence. George F was incredible just in front of the back four and cut short dangerous attacks on too many occasions to count. Olly was also proving to be a thorn in the side of the opposition as he was so quick to clear any through ball or to come off his line to narrow the angle for a shot. The Lions battled through this period of pressure with George E, Dylan, Sonny and Nina, Louis and Bella providing some respite for the defence by threatening on the counter attack.
The Lions were able to make a crucial breakthrough 10 minutes into the second half, once again turning defence into attack quickly. Olly made another tackle on the edge of the box and was able to knock the ball clear to George F. George F played the ball forward to Dylan who then found George E in space on the left flank. George was able to cut inside the defender and fire a lobbed finish over the keeper and into the goal to give the Lions a 2 goal advantage with 20 minutes left to play. An excellent finish by George, and another goal where the Lions had worked the ball from box to box in a matter of seconds.
At roughly this point Olly started to ask how long was left, and I could almost see the words ‘clean sheet’ going through his head in neon lights! :-)
Leckhampton clearly still felt that they could get something out of this game and piled on the pressure over the next 15 minutes or so, and I would be lying if I said that the Lions coaches weren’t feeling the nerves at this point as it was clear that 1 goal could drastically swing the momentum of the match.
Perhaps the moment that raised the blood pressure most for the coaches was when Olly cleared the ball upfield only to see the Leckhampton defender launch the ball back goalwards from the half-way line whilst Olly was still on the edge of the box after taking the kick. The ball looked like it was destined to provide Leckhmapton with the goal to get them back in the game until Olly managed to stretch every inch of his body to get his fingertips to the shot and deflect it just wide.
The Lions continued to work hard to keep Leckhampton at bay with everyone putting in a shift and running their socks off.
Leckhampton continued to probe for a chance but Olly kept flying out to clear the danger, and after rushing out to clear another through ball on the edge of the box the Leckhmapton coach came over and told us “your goalie is really starting to annoy me today, he gets to everything first!”, and “ your number 7 (George F) is a fantastic player”.
As the game moved into the final 10 minutes the Lions were still having to repel repeated Leckhampton attacks, but they remained resolute and as the game enter the final minute the coaches were starting to breathe a sigh of relief as it looked like the Lions would take a 2-0 victory. However they stretched their lead to 3 with the final kick of the game via another quick break. This time a Lions clearance found Dylan in the opposition half with just one defender in his way. Dylan easily beat his man and fired powerfully into the back of the net for his second, and the Lions 3rd, of the day. At this point I think the coaches should be forgiven for an enthusiastic high-five on the sidelines as the final whistle came immediately after the re-start and the Lions ran out 3-0 winners.
The Lions had shown a lot of character to bounce back from last week’s defeat and had handed Leckhampton their first competitive defeat of the season. The work rate and commitment from the players throughout was superb and everyone did their bit for the team. Once again there were a number of candidates for player-of-the-match this week, with Dylan leading the line superbly with 2 goals and an assist, George E getting forward from midfield add a goal and an assist, and Olly putting in another excellent performance for his (and the Lions) first clean sheet of the season (he didn’t mention it at all for the rest of the day!!! ;-) ). But player-of-the-match this week was George F who was literally everywhere, showing the energy of Kante, the passing range of Pirlo and the defensive commitment of a bloodied Terry Butcher!
Captain – George F
Goals – Dylan x2, George E
Assists – Dylan, George E
Clean Sheet – Olly
Player-of-the-match – George F