Stevenage welcomed Chelmsford & Mid Essex to Hertfordshire today in the first round of the Danone National U11 knockout cup. The draw could have been a bit kinder, from my sources I understood that our visitors were a very decent side.
It was strange being a home tie, the fact that we have been moved from our regular home venue to a new location didn’t feel like we had any sort of home advantage at all other than slightly shorter travelling time! But thanks to Stevenage Starlets FC for coming to our rescue and providing us with the pitch for today’s fixture as we attempt to close out our extended season which is usually coming to an end just around now.
On a bright and sunny Spring morning we set about trying to warm up the boys and get them into the right frame of mind for a very difficult game ahead. Following last week’s impressive victory over St Albans in the league we made several changes to our squad with John, George and Zach all coming in but unfortunately we would lose our top scorer Alfie, which would be a big loss as he has been influential in every game this season.
We started with John in goal and a back three of Preston, Muno and George. In the centre of midfield we paired Tom with Elvis and had Conor and William providing us with some width and Blake up front. Our two subs today were Zach and Louis. From the start it was clear that the visitors had a number of really good players and we seemed a little too standoffish as they took a grip of the game in the opening stages.
John will put his hands up to an error when he should have come and collected a ball into his box but was hesitant to go to ground and a Chelmsford player nicked the ball and scored into an empty net. When Chelmsford scored a second five minutes later I thought it might be a long morning, but to give the boys credit they rallied in the last ten minutes of the half and started to cause problems with one effort from William coming back off of the post. We made some changes at the break with Louis coming on at centre back so that we could push Muno further up the pitch, and Zach replaced Conor on the right.
But the game was over as a contest when we made further mistakes, gifting a penalty and then allowing a speculative shot from distance to end up in the back of the net. To John's credit he pulled off a couple of excellent saves in the second half and although we were four goals down the boys kept putting in the effort right until the final whistle and we created a few more chances towards the end, managing to hit the post again. But even though some of the goals were preventable, overall Chelmsford deserved their victory and will likely go a long way in this competition and we wish them luck.