Mixed fortunes for Herons in mini tournament at Crofton
By Ian Blackburn
Panthers join in and a couple of Herons become Lions in a 3 way friendly round robin.
With Crofton Lions struggling for numbers the Crofton Panthers were invited along and with full attendance from the Stubbington Herons, a three-way mini six a side round-robin tournament was set up with each match lasting twenty minutes. To even the numbers out and ensure maximum participation, Taylor and Alfie bravely volunteered to become Lions for the morning joining players they had never played alongside before. This was to prove a good choice which paid off for them in the end.
The first match saw the Herons in red take on the Lions in Green bibs and the customary Crofton blue shorts and socks. Both teams took a little while to get going in this match with packs of Lions and flocks of Herons all chasing the ball around the pitch together and not creating space for themselves to pass the ball, often resulting in teammates tackling each other and numerous throw-ins and corners. Despite interjections from coaches, the ref and parents alike the players were slow to react. It was the, however, the Crofton Lions who managed to sort themselves out the quickest and as result went 1-0 up in the first half. The confidence grew amongst the Lions and to some frustrations amongst the Herons the Lions scored again in a more open-ended second half. Both teams had chances but the Lions defence came out on top and ultimately turned out winners. Bad news for the Herons apart from Taylor and Alfie who were both pleased to be on the winning side in this early match.
After a short team de-brief and discussion on how to improve for the second fixture, the Herons were straight back on the pitch up against the Panthers in the Croftons blue strip. The pre-match chat had the desired effect and the Herons started to space themselves out more and incorporate more passing into their play. This resulted in more attacking play and it was the Herons who took an early lead through Jonathon in this game. Buoyed with confidence from their first goal the Herons began to control the game with some excellent midfield tackling by Ben sending Josh, Jonathon and Daisy forward on a regular basis. Noah and Olly were both very effective in sweeping up the counter-attacks from the Panthers. The strength and speed displayed from Noah saved Herons blushes on a couple of occasions when the Panthers broke free. Jonathon added to his first goal before halftime with a well-placed shot leaving the Panthers keeper helpless to stop it. A rotation of subs saw Louie involved in midfield and he made a couple of good runs down the left wing before reverting to goalkeeper for the second half. The Herons third goal was a real well-worked team effort in which Jonathon, Josh, and Daisy exchanged passes to the right of the Panthers goal before Daisy let loose with a powerful shot which beat the Panthers Keeper at the near post. The game ebbed on with little in reply from the Panthers except for a few long balls which were easily claimed by Louie in Goal. The scoring was complete in this match when Jonathon secured his hat-trick after winning the ball and running forward to beat the last defender on the left and unleashing a powerful shot across the goal and past the keeper to nestle in the back of the net near to the far post.
The third match saw the Crofton Panthers face up against the Crofton Lions with the Herons Taylor and Alfie once again donning the green bibs to play with the Lions. The confidence gained by the Lions with their first win was evident in this match and they dominated from start to finish. Taylor and Alfie both played their part with some excellent defending from Taylor stopping numerous Panthers counter attack attempts and some battling midfield action from Alfie using his strength to win a few tackles too. In an impressive display amongst a team of strong Lions players Taylor almost managed to get himself on the scoresheet, he got forward and the ball was played to him inside the Panthers box, he gathered it up and turned to unleash a shot that was well saved by the Panthers keeper. Taylor almost picked up the rebound only for the keeper to make another good save diving at Taylors feet before he could get his second shot away. His performance and bravery in this match whilst playing amongst some relative strangers saw Taylor pick up the Herons MOM award. The Lions ran out comfortable winners finishing top of the mini-tournament with two wins. The Herons were in second with one win and one loss and the Panthers third with two defeats. A great morning of football in the sunshine and everyone went home happy with all players gaining maximum participation.