Jets 2013 - 2014

Sunday May 8th, Ditton FC Annual Tournament

Looking for a change of opponents and a fresh challenge the Jets travelled to Ditton for their 5 a side tournament. One attraction of the format was that it allowed the new (and enlarged) squad to field two sides…labelled the Jets and the Mets for the day. It was great to absorb two new arrivals for their debuts – Ben and Sam; they teamed up with Toby, George, Will and Woody under the banner of ‘Mets’ in group B, whilst two Harrys, Matt, Cam, Taig and Todd did battle in group A, under the ‘Jets’ label.

Ben announced himself with the only goal of the Mets first game vs Redhill, whilst Will’s brace saw off hosts Ditton. Things got bumpy when they went a goal behind against Aylesford, but Sam’s first Langton goal (a fine left footer from range) and another pair from Will made it 9 points out of 9. Meantime on the adjoining pitch the other Jets were also on 9 pts after a pair of 3-0′s and a hard fought 2-0 vs Aylesford. Todd had 5 of the goals, Matt 2, and Taig the other.

Then followed a Mets hiccup gifting Barming a goal and not being able to get it back, whilst the Jets were getting the points they needed to win the group against Holtwood (2 more from Todd) and Ditton. To avoid the Jets in the semi final the Mets needed not just a win but goal differential too. The formation was unashamedly ‘go for it’ and the boys delivered. Ben scored after 3 seconds from the set piece kick off prepared before the game, Will added a couple, then George, before Ben added a 2nd, 3rd and 4th to seal the deal. A semi final for each side.

The semis took place concurrently, forcing Chris to bounce between touchlines. The Jets made life harder, twice taking leads, from Matt then Todd, only to toss them away on the break. Next door the Mets were putting in their most efficient performance of the day, and going ahead from a George drive at about the same time as Cam crunched forward to score an excellent winner against Barming Dynamos.

In many respects this was job done – an all Langton final was the height of ambition for the day. The new arrivals were imposing themselves, and forcing more intensity from their team mates. The final was strange to watch. No-one wanted to cheer too loud! Woody was bold in taking the game to the Jets, rising to the challenge of the occasion. On balance the Jets had the best chances, and the one on ones required Toby to get his angles right to deny Todd. Extra time…and a penalty given for a handball that surprised both teams – George did what he had to do, and then Toby made a fantastic save on the line to keep Matt and Todd out…game over.

For the record the goals were scored by: Todd 8, Matt 3, Taig, Cam, Will 6, Sam, Ben 5, George 3. Todd wins the award for the most unusual part of the body to score with, but might prefer not to do it again if he wants kids one day.

It’s potentially divisive for the team to play itself, so it was good to put the boys back together as one team for the presentation. They’d gone to a new place and received many generous plaudits from spectators and opposing coaches. They’re ready for 11 a side and the next step.

Saturday May 31st, Langton Fiesta

That time of year again….with a twist. As we grow and move towards 11 a side fiestas get complicated! This year we entered 2 teams, one as the Jets, defending the trophy won each of the previous years, 2010 and onwards, and one as the Mets, a team for the day. Neil and Chris hopped backwards and forth, as did the supporting parents.

Group Stages:
Mets: Played 7, Won 4, Drew 1, lost 2. Scored 12, conceded 5 – Goals from Taig 4, Will 2, Harry 2, Angus 2.
Jets: Played 7, won 7, Scored 31, conceded 1 – Goals from Todd 14, Cam 5, George 4, Matt 3, Harry 3, Nutty 2

The Jets’ journey through the group was comfortable, and gave the chance to try folk in different positions. It also marked the debut for Cameron, who mixed solid defence with powerful attacking intent. For a couple of games the goals wouldn’t come but when they did they were worth waiting for. His scissors-volley from George’s corner is a late entrant for the goal of the season. Matthew had his own volleyed moment, Todd scored a hatful from all angles, Harry and Nutty took the chance to get forward, and George also banged some home. The theme was the need to avoid complacency….

Meantime the Mets had to forge themselves into a team. With 9 year old James on loan from the Giants in goal, Eddie and Angus covered deep, allowing Harry N, Will and Taig to be the attacking thrust. 7 points from the first 3 games on the back of goals from Taig and Will put the Mets into contention to advance, before a hiccup versus Edenbridge, where the comeback came too late. But Harry N’s first goal won the next match, Angus scored twice in the one after that and the Mets were advancing. The last game against the Jets fortunately counted for nothing, although Harry scored again, proving the theory about London buses!

The next phase was harder work:

1/4 finals: Jets 4-1 Langton Comets (Cam, Todd 2, Matt)

The lesson from last week was to not lose a goal in the knockout stages; it remained unlearned as the Comets boldly took the lead and threatened an upset. Fortunately the Jets settled down to win with room to spare, and also with time to spare, to go and see what was happening on the adjoining pitch to their team-mate Mets.

1/4 final: Mets 1- 1 Broad Oak , (Taig) Mets win 10-9 on penalties

The game of the tournament. The Mets grabbed an early lead against a strong Broad Oak side after a great solo effort from Taig. From that point on it was a lead to be defended, with a great save from young James, and some defiant tackling from Eddie and Angus. Will and Taig threatened to put the game out of sight but the equaliser was unavoidable, as was the upcoming shootout:

Mets went first, and the 5 outfield players all scored calmly. James got close to saving some Broad Oak efforts but at 5-5 he had to take a penalty himself. 9 years old in an under 12 tournament there were many expecting it to be too much to ask of him, but those who doubted were probably unaware that he is more than capable from the spot…6-5 and on we went…6-6, 7-6, 7-7, great kicks, hope for English football. Then finally a Met miss, and the chance for Broad Oak to kill the contest. To a huge roar from a crowd that was swelling by the minute James saved, and on we went. The excitement built with each successful kick; the u10 parents had gathered to cheer James on, the Jets were there cheering too, and the Mets kept the pressure on by scoring every time….and then the moment…a dive, a save, and James the Giant had won the match. Apparently the last penalty coincided with a dust storm to judge by the watering eyes it caused the u10 parents. Special. Arguably his save in the first half was the best of all, but he and we will always come to Langton fiestas and say ‘do you remember when James…..’

Semi Final. Jets 4- 0 Mets (Matt 2, Cam 2)

After the feel-good came the reality that the Jets and Mets would have to fight for a place in the final. The outcome was not a surprise, but the Mets went out with their heads high, and then stood on the side to cheer ther team-mates on in the final.

Final: Jets 0 – 0 Ridgewaye, Jets win 3-1 on pens

Reminders not to concede the first goal were ringing in the Jets’ ears. The chances came their way as Todd and Matt forced good saves, and in the second half there were goal line blocks, but no winner. Toby was untroubled, and probably looking forward to the shootout, having only lost one out of 10. Matt scored, then it was 1-1, George was calm, 2-1, Ridgewaye missed, and then it was Harry-time. It always seems to come down to him at the Langton fiesta, and he made no mistake, to maintain the Jets’ undefeated record over the years at their home fiesta.

A long day, job done on all counts. Exhausted players and fans….the new players had announced themselves, the regulars had delivered, but the day belonged to a special guest star.

Sunday May 25th, Rusthall Fiesta

Group Stages:

Jets 0 – 0 Angels

Jets 6- 0 Wadhurst (Woody, Matt 2, George, Angus, Will)

Jets 7 – 1 Ridgewaye (Nathan, Angus 3, Will 3)

Jets 2 – 0 Paddock Wood (Angus, Woody)

Jets 1 – 0 Raw Skills (Angus)

Jets 0 – 0 Rusthall

1/4s: Jets 2 – 0 Rusthall, (Angus 2)

Semi: Jets 0 – 2 Angels

The Jets took a new look to Rusthall, going there without Toby or Todd, and playing Harry B in goal. And….they welcomed Will to the team for his debut. The objective was to forge new partnerships and play with a smile. The first group game was a cautious draw with the Angels, before rolling up sleeves for the meat of the group. Things clicked despite some unfamiliar positions; George played a deeper role, Angus found himself further down the pitch, and Will, Matt and Woody provided attacking width, whilst Nathan just set off from wherever he received the ball! Woody got things going with a rare header, Matt tapped in a couple, and George Angus and Will all got off the mark. 6 goals in a 10 minute game was going some, but that was topped in the next match with 7. Angus and Will both grabbed hat-tricks, and Nutty scored for the second week running….Matthew kept goal but still managed a couple of shots as he played a more advanced role than a normal no.1 – everything seemed to be clicking….boys were smiling and laughing, Will was playing like a team veteran, and Angus was scoring goals for fun.

The next two games saw the quality of passing maintained, Angus kept scoring, Woody added a left footed goal to his earlier header, and qualification was sorted. The last game required a draw to win the group versus Rusthall, who were warded off reasonably comfortably. Will had to endure some rough treatment against old team-mates, but walked off knowing the group was won.

So it was on to the knockout stages where anything can happen. Another Rusthall side beckoned; they defended valiantly and it took two quality goals from Angus-the-goal-machine to break them down. One was a Zola-esque back heel from Matt’s corner, the second a brilliant lob from distance. Every dog has his day….Angus was top dog. The semi final saw a rematch with the Angels – but where the goals had been flowing now they would not come. The chances and shots didn’t dry up, but an old friend, George N, put in an outstanding goalkeeping performance. And, as can happen, the Angels broke, found the extra man, another familiar face, and Zak smashed the ball home. Chasing the game Harry spent more time up the pitch chasing an equalising goal then defending his own, but it wouldn’t come, and another breakaway sealed the result. Credit to the Angels who counterattacked with great efficiency, and they saw things home by winning the final. A great way to put a tough season behind them.

Lessons for the Jets – falling behind in a short format is scary; the temptation for each player to do their own thing to fix it must be overcome, because it is teamwork that creates most chances. After 8 finals in a row it was a reminder to take nothing for granted. The positives far outweighed the disappointment however; Will slotted in beautifully, and Angus showed a side to his game that has been hidden. When his mind-set is right he can do great things. The other good news was getting home for the team BBQ and awards – there’s no shortage of team spirit to be tapped into going forward.

Sunday May 18th, Pembury Fiesta

Group Stages:

Jets 0 – 0 Rusthall

Jets 4 – 0 Pembury (Matt, Todd, Harry B, Angus)

Jets 3 – 1 Maidstone (Matt, Todd, NUTTY)

Jets 0 – 0 Holtbury

Semi final: Jets 0-0 Ridgewaye, (2-0 on pens)

Final: Jets 0 – 0 Angels (5-4 pens)

After a year of new experiences this was the first time the Jets did something for a second time, by going back to Pembury to retain their crown won last year as they were starting out together. The u12s tournament was packed with strong sides, as typified by the opener against Rusthall. Matt had an early chance, but after that both sides were punching from a distance, and the Jets were content to take the draw, and settle down. Neil and Chris were commuting to the distant u9s tournament which didn’t help organise things but by the second game the boys were ready, and Pembury succumbed to a barrage of quality goals. This performance was followed up by another decisive burst against Maidstone, who crept back into the game with a penalty, only to be killed off straight from the kick off as Nathan went the distance and scored his first goal (for us) of the season. He was immediately substituted and walked off to announce ‘I just scored’ – did he have to sound so shocked? The final group game was a one-sided 0-0 draw against Hartbury.

First place in the group meant the Jets went straight into the semi finals, so had the luxury of watching their next opponents, who were Ridgewaye after a fine win over Rusthall in the 1/4s. The semi final saw Toby untroubled, but the Jets couldn’t take a lead; an injured Todd watched from the sidelines as the game went to penalties. Toby’s track record in shootouts meant the boys were very confident, and Matt and Harry scored, Ridgewaye missed twice, and it was over quickly, with a final beckoning.

The Angels had come through the other half of the draw to be the final opposition of the (blazing hot) day. Like the semi final Toby didn’t have to deal with any shots but the Jets couldn’t turn dominance into goals. Todd came back and almost flicked home a corner, but it was time for penalties again. Matt and Harry scored again, as did George, but so too did the Angels. Nutty, clearly still in shock from scoring, saw his effort saved, and it was match-point against, and Toby-time….somehow he turned a thumping shot over the bar and we were all square again. Todd’s penalty was saved, again putting the Jets on the edge, but the Angels failed to convert. Up stepped Angus, who had at various points covered every outfield position in the group stages, and despite assuring everyone he cant take penalties he smashed his home…advantage Jets, but the Angels made it 4-4. The last Jet left was Toby, whose penalty taking has improved immensely since he started playing in goal….5-4. Finally the Angels succumbed as a shot went high over the bar; agony for them, victory for the Jets.

A long hot day, with the burden of expectation heavy, but the boys came through. That’s 8 finals in 8 fiestas, which is credit to their ability to see things through. Sometimes it is about technique and skill, sometimes about mental strength. And all were on display…..

May 4th, Tandridge ‘A’, Tonbridge Angels 1 – 3 Langton Green (George, Todd, Woody)

A month since their last match the Jets travelled to Longmead to meet local rivals the Angels. The Jets found themselves with a man advantage and in the slightly unfamiliar position of being expected to win. And after 10 minutes all seemed smooth, with a 2-0 lead from a George free kick and a Todd tap in. However the rhythm was missing, and the teamwork disjointed, and the Angels started to fight their way back into the game. After some good long shots they pulled a goal back from a fine solo effort, and the momentum had shifted. The opposition were boosted by their success, and the Jets were out of sorts, knowing they had not landed a knockout blow against vulnerable opponents.

After half time Matthew and Todd had a succession of shots, then Todd hit the bar, then put one over, after which Harry headed just wide. But the 8 Angels kept coming, and to their great credit forced Toby into action. In the final minutes the Jets became more direct, Nathan was pushed into midfield, and he reached the byline, put in a great cross, and Woody smashed the ball home. Game over. Finally. The man advantage didn’t go the way one might have thought, so there were lessons to discuss after the game. It is perhaps a measure of the journey the boys have been on that they were so dissatisfied with a 3-1 away win. Progress of a sort.

Results Table, Under 12 A, Tandridge Youth Football League

April 6th, Tandridge ‘A’, East Grinstead Football Academy 3 – 5 Langton Green (Todd 5)

Coming into the game the Jets had beaten everyone in their division at least once, aside from champions-in-waiting Selsdon, and EGFA. Last time out EGFA had out-passed the Jets, who three times had to come from behind to draw. This time, despite the pre match talk, the game took on a very similar flavour, as EGFA passed neatly, whilst the Jets huffed and puffed and lived on scraps. The first goal deservedly went to the home team, and could have been more. In some respects it became a story of two goalkeepers, as Toby stood strong, then cleared long, Matthew flicked neatly and Todd chased…optimistically, but he was there for the keeper’s mishandling and poached the Jets back into the game. Gradually the tide turned as the boys became clearer about how to play their opponents.

At half time the discussion was focused on how to press EGFA deep in their own half. It required serious hard work from the midfield, with the aim being to create pressure, and win the ball near the EGFA goal and create one on ones for Todd. It was the same plan as was mapped out before the game but the execution went up a notch for a number of reasons. Matt and George found the right shape to be able to compete for everything across the pitch, whilst Nathan and Woody were pushed on up the flanks. This inevitably left Angus, Eddie and Max exposed if EGFA could escape the trap, but they held a firm and decisive line in Harry B’s absence, with Toby increasingly comfortable at sweeping up behind. Another factor was the volume of supportive noise coming from the sidelines, which kept the boys pumped up for the hard work in hand.

For a second time a Matthew ball forward led to a goalkeeping slip under Todd’s pressure and he poached the Jets into the lead for the first time. Matthew’s next through ball put Todd through for an expert finish and some breathing room. Thereafter there were passages of play where another goal looked certain. George had several good shots, Angus came close, as did Max and Nathan with a fine header. Then Harry N found the side netting. But being the Jets they found a way to make it interesting when EGFA’s most route 1 attack of the game produced a goal, 2-3, and it took a brilliant Toby save and a brave dive at the striker’s feet to get the rebound to keep it that way. Attack was clearly the best way to defend against these opponents, and it was a great relief when Todd scored two typical Todd goals to make it 5 for him and 5 for Langton. There was still time to concede a goal to keep it interesting, but it ended a 5-3 away win.

It was a very tough journey over two matches against a fine EGFA side. The boys eventually solved the puzzle and found a style that worked. Any time a striker scores 5 goals in a game it is easy to know they had a good game, but it took a committed team effort to produce the chances created for Todd today. He didn’t stand around waiting to be served, he harried and chased for every ball, and turned lost causes into chances. In turn George and Matthew worked tirelessly to deny any comfortable time on the ball for their creative opponents, and the wide players pressed better than ever before. Eddie and Max were determined and Angus was defiance personified. Toby showed the value of a good goalkeeper on a slick wet pitch. Chewy came on and was commendably no-nonsense in a couple of key defensive situations. The effort put in by every squad member over the last two games has been very impressive.

18 games, 35 points, finishing the season strong. Time for a good Easter!

Mothers Day, March 31st, Tandridge ‘A’ , Jets 4 – 2 Junior Elite, (Harry B, Matt, Todd 2)

The Jets have had 2 weeks to ponder the disappointment of their performance at Selsdon. If that felt a long time they have had all season to wait to avenge their defeat on the first day of the season at Junior Elite, in a game that might have gone the other way. Conversation before the game focused on the need to avoid going behind early because of a lack of concentration, commitment or readiness. That concentration was tested by the late arrival of the opposition, who were stuck on the A21, and it was to Junior Elite’s credit that they started so fluently despite the disruptive beginning, never mind the clocks going forward as well.

The game was even early on, with the Jets playing uphill on a dried out and bouncy Rec. Gradually their pressure meant the midfield were getting into more dangerous areas; Woody was combining attacking threat with determined tackling, and Harry B was showing great composure at the back. The linking of passes reflected much Tuesday night training effort. Then a free kick was won, outside Matt’s shooting range, but near enough to be a serious set play. Matt put the ball into a dangerous area, and Harry loves putting his head into dangerous areas, great goal, 1-0. 5 minutes later, another free kick, this time in range, and Matt delivered the ball into the roof of the net, 2-0. Two set pieces, two goals, can’t ask for more. Everything was going well – sunny day, good football, Mother’s Day, happy mums on the touchline. And then, on the stroke of half time a speculative shot from distance took a big bounce and deceived the distraught Toby to make it 2-1. It wasn’t a good goal to concede (if there is such a thing) because it gave hope and momentum at a time when there was none.

The half time talk was important. The boys knew they could win, but that they had opened the door. Toby was asked to focus on what was coming next, not on what had just happened. Unsurprisingly Junior Elite were spurred on search of an equaliser, and their approach play put the defence under pressure. The pattern of the game changed – Todd was an increasing threat as he found himself with acres of space; as in the first game the goalkeeper kept doing just enough in one on one situations, but it was a counter attacking threat with less midfield support than in the first half as George and Matt worked to protect the back 3. Ironically then it was the Jets who got caught on the break, and a good finish made it 2-2.

The lead lost it would have been easy to see the day fall apart, but typically George redoubled his efforts, Woody pressed on, Nathan started going forward. George shot from outside the box, the keeper parried and Todd was there first to finish with a delicate and difficult flick. With 15 minutes left the intensity cranked up another notch as the Jets battled to hold their regained lead. The clock ticked down, Todd’s breaks were a constant thorn, Angus flew into every challenge, Harry held the line, Nathan and Eddie kept the left side solid. But, as is often the case, there was going to be one more moment – a goalmouth scramble, a prodded shot and it was redemption time for Toby; he may have virtually sat on the ball, but not only had he stopped it, but there was no rebound on offer.

One last time, in injury time, Todd got away, round the back, in on the keeper, and poked the ball home to close the game out. A great goal, and a credit to persistence as well as skill. Today he completed his collection, having now scored against every side in the Tandridge league. In terms of collections it was a good day for the Jets, who added Junior Elite to their collection of top Tandridge scalps in this first season. The really pleasing aspect today was the level of performance – this was no sneaked victory; they ought not to have had to win the game twice over, but that they did was a credit to determination and quality of performance. 6 months on from their debut in the league it is possible to look back with pride on the progress made. Happy Mothers, Fathers, kids; all good.

Sunday March 16th Tandridge ‘A’, Selsdon 5 – 2 Jets (Todd 2)

A gorgeous sunny day. That was all the good news as the Jets picked a bad day to have a bad day. With the opportunity to play the league leaders, and bring the form that had brought recent wins over Bromley and Croydon, the Jets came out of the blocks backwards. Important first tackles were lost or uncontested and the Selsdon striker took full advantage. A bad start was made worse when a straightforward pass behind the defence was not dealt with and again clinically finished, 2-0. Meantime, up the other end of the pitch chances were behind made; Woody was battling hard, Todd was probing, and he latched onto Matt’s chip forward and finished sweetly to give a little hope. The last 10 minutes of the half proved key. Selsdon scored from another attack whilst the Jets hit the inside of the post from Angus’ long shot, Matt shaved the same post, and them Todd came close on the other side. With a little twist it might still have been closer at half time.

Gambles needed to be made to get back into the match in the second half, but Selsdon sat deeper and contained the midfield whilst the Jets imploded with another defensive clearing error. Even then Todd pulled one back, Matt had a free kick well saved, and another ball bounced just wide. Each time it threatened to get interesting another goal was conceded and it ended 5-2. It was a very hard post game talk, as many of the boys knew they had significantly underperformed. On another day they might have scored more, and should certainly have conceded far less, and made a game of it, but today they let Selsdon feel comfortable for 50 minutes.

Credit to Todd for being a constant thorn, and to Max for an able performance in for the injured Chewy, but it turned into a day to learn from not a day to be proud. Credit also to a very well run Selsdon team, who were sporting when denied a goal by an early blown whistle. They will likely go on to win the league, and the Jets will have to find another day to be their match.

Sunday March 9th, Tandridge ‘A’, Jets 3 – 3 EGFA (Todd 2, Woody)

The Jets hosted the East Grinstead Football Academy on a sunny day at the 3G. They barely had a kick in the early passages of play as EGFA passed patiently, whilst Langton failed to put a foot on the ball. Before the game emphasis was put on not diving in, but in the heat of the game that was forgotten, and unsurprisingly the punishment came as EGFA passed their way into the box and tapped home. A great goal to score, an unnecessary one to concede. Lessons unlearned have a way of coming back to haunt.

The Jets scratched their way back into the game when Woody was first to a dropped ball in the box, but they quickly went behind again as Toby could only parry a shot into the roof of the net. This time they came back with a good goal as Matt threaded the ball through for Todd to finish clinically. Unfortunately Matt was still unwell, and had to come off. In his absence Angus threw himself about in midfield, and two forced errors by the EGFA defence gave Todd great chances to snatch the lead, but one was inches wide, and the other hit the post.

The second half saw much more Langton pressure. Commendably EGFA tried to pass their way out from the back; the Jets pushed forward to try and steal the ball which led to some chances, but also led to EGFA breaks when the press was broken. Twice the Jets were not clinical in their clearing danger, and the third time they were suitably punished. So yet again they had to go in search of an equaliser. Harry N and Nathan made progress down the left, Angus had shots from the right, and George drove the team on, but a goal wouldn’t come. Then one of Todd’s softer shots squeezed under the EGFA keeper for a slow rolling equaliser, which set up a barnstorming finish. Angus flicked a corner just wide, George beat the keeper but saw his long range shot dip just too late, then Todd forced a save that saw the ball dribble across the goal with no-one in the right place to finish it off.

When all was said and done there had been enough near misses that the Jets will regret not getting the win. However the lesson they were taught about keeping possession made it hard to begrudge their opponents taking something from the afternoon. The match was played in a good spirit and excellently refereed, and for the first time in a long time the boys could complain about being hot and tired at the end.

Sunday Feb 23rd, Tandridge ‘A’, Jets 3 – 2 Croydon (Todd 3)

After a week off the Jets resumed with a huge weekend fixture against Croydon, having to play two games back-to-back, at the very windy 3G. The first game got off to a thunderous start when from the kick-off Nathan released Todd, and it was 1-0 before 10 seconds had elapsed. This galvanised one team, and shocked the other, and after 5 minutes it was 2-0 as Todd headed home Matthew’s corner. It was clear conditions were going to be a factor and it was hard to know whether to push for more with the wind at the Jets’ backs, or set up to protect the lead.

Croydon had no choice but to push on, but Harry, Angus and Nathan were largely solid in their protection of Toby, but he answered the call when brought into action, and from one save he launched a huge kick that Todd reached first, and finished excellently for a brilliant first half hat-trick. It might even have been 4, but it was a great half-time lead to have. No-one was under the illusion that the game was over and every knew the task ahead of them.

For the first 10 minutes of the second half the Jets swayed with the punches and Toby was excellent in blocking the on target shots. One sailed over him and onto the bar, but the clock ticked down – Matt and George had little hope of being creative but closed down and contested every ball, whilst Angus stood no nonsense down the right. As the wind grew stronger it became difficult to reach the half-way line and the pressure built. A corner was conceded, and headed home at the back post, giving Croydon a flicker of hope. Not long after and another corner, same result. To concede that way once was understandable, but twice was not good in any sense.

Croydon chucked everything forward and it was desperation time. It was a great fight back, but time ran out, and the Jets had hung on to the 3 points. The first half performance probably meant they deserved it. Croydon are clearly one of the very top teams, so this counted as a significant scalp.

Feb 23rd, game 2, Tandridge ‘A’, Croydon 5 – 3 Langton Green (Todd 3)

There was no time to savour the victory, as the second half of the double header began 10 minutes later, this time Croydon enjoying the wind behind them in the first half. The Jets’ defensive intensity perhaps dropped a little without the incentive of a lead to fight for, and the clearances were less controlled, and the midfield was a little slower to close down. Twice Croydon scored at the back post when a ball was not wisely cleared from danger, and the Jets were reeling. Remarkably they got back in the game when George put Todd through, and on this day he never looked like missing.

Had the Jets gone in a goal down at half time it would have been a decent situation, but they leaked one more, and were looking exhausted as the whistle blew. The first goal of the second half would be key, and it went to Croydon, who held the ball and kept it on the ground, the right strategy for the conditions. The Jets had no choice but to push on, and pushed Harry B forward, as they had against Mellwood. He almost scored with a header, Woody went close, but Croydon clinically killed the match off with a 5th goal against a stretched defence. With Matt and George out the game it looked very much over, but Todd was first to the rebound from Harry B’s free kick, and then added a second hat-trick on the same day from a free-kick.

Croydon deserved their win, but the fightback meant they were perhaps as relieved to hear the final whistle as the Jets had been in the first game. There was much mutual respect at the final whistle. Across 4 periods of football the boys of both teams had given everything they had – conditions had been hard, and it wasn’t as pretty as it might have been on a calmer day, but the game was a credit to the Tandridge league. Neither side could really afford to lose twice today, and for both the season is far from over. Credit to the referee Josh Smith for handling both games with calm assurance, and to the supporters of both teams for their passionate encouragement. Both sides deserved the applause.

Sunday Feb 9th, Tandridge ‘A’, Jets 1 – 1 Mellwood (Matt)

Mellwood came to town on a very windy day, and the game was evenly balanced for most of the first half, as the Jets played up the hill and into the wind. Todd came very close to scoring an early goal, but his shot looped over the keeper but the wrong side of the post, then Matt poked a rebound just over the bar. Mellwood were dangerous on the break, and it was always hard to get back to the half way line into what became an ever stronger wind. Then Mellwood took the lead, when the marking was sloppy and an inswinging corner was headed home uncontested. Thereafter it became seriously hard work; Chewy won a free-kick in a good position but nothing came of it, and half time arrived at 0-1, not ideal, but not the end of the world.

As expected with the wind behind the character of the game changed as the Jets pushed down the hill. Chances came and went, and there remained the risk of pushing too hard and being caught by a counter attack. George crashed a shot against the bar, then Harry N had a curling shot very well saved. A succession of corners saw different players take it in turn to head just over, before a freak hailstorm caused a break in play. As the minutes ticked away it was time for a gamble, and Harry B was pushed into midfield, with Matthew going further upfield to support Todd. It paid off as Eddie intercepted an attack, Harry B collected the ball and hit a precise pass that sent Matthew away. As with the first goal against Bromley the week before, Todd peeled away to creates space, and Matt carried the ball from half way to the edge of the box, and finished calmly with his left foot.

With 5 minutes to go the Jets chucked everything but the kitchen sink at Mellwood. Todd was thwarted bravely by the keeper in two one on ones that seemed certain to produce a winning goal before disaster struck and the Jets were exposed in a 3 on 1 breakaway. Toby stood firm and made a brilliant stop to preserve a point.

It was disappointing not to win, but a relief not to lose as well. Enough chances were created that there was no need for inquests; perhaps chasing the game had inclined the boys to be a little too direct and a little less patient in their approach play than usual….but all in all it was good match against a sporting team, played in a fine atmosphere.

Sunday Feb 1st, Tandridge ‘A’, Bromley 1 – 4 Jets (Matt 2, Todd 2)

Having come undone at Bromley in a November cup match when Harry was injured it felt a bit deja vu to lose Nathan before the kick off, requiring a bit of a team juggle. The sense of having seen it before was amplified when after 5 minutes Bromley went ahead after the Jets lost possession from a short goal kick, and were punished by the same centre forward who had done it to them the last time round. What was different was that 3 of his next 4 chances were saved one on one by Toby, and the other was put past the post. In those first 15-20 minutes the Jets were like a boxer who was one more punch from being knocked out, but the blow never quite came, and gradually the Jets inched their way back into the match. Two good penalty shouts came and went, which was frustrating, yet encouraging, and then 5 minutes from half time George slid the ball to Matt who was breaking into the Bromley half. Todd peeled away to the right, and the centre back followed him; the space this created gave Matthew the chance to run dead straight, and by the time the defender realised no pass was coming he was too far back. The keeper came out, bit on a shot that never came, and Matt rounded him to walk the ball into the empty net. On a stand alone basis it was a great goal, but today it was more than that, it was the trigger to self belief for the whole side.

The half time team talk was all about the fact that the boys had survived 30 minutes with scores level, and that there was every reason to feel they were in the match. Down hill and down wind Bromley inevitably brought pressure. Harry B and Angus were defiant in their tackles, and Harry N in an unfamiliar position covering Nathan was unselfish in doing a job that needed doing. Meantime Woody and Chewy were putting in a shift in support of George and Matt’s central midfield excellence, and still Bromley couldn’t get past Toby. As the game went on Langton’s time on the ball in midfield grew, which allowed the quality of the passes to Todd to start giving him chances to run at the defence. With 20 minutes left he span away once more, leaving defenders trailing and his finish was as calm as his celebration wasn’t! Now 1-2 both sides were struggling to believe the scoreline but the Jets grew into their lead, and almost made it 1-3 when Todd was one on one but couldn’t get the ball over the line. More pressure up the other end, and Toby turned two shots over the bar, before another counter attack. This time, after the referee played a fine advantage, Todd got through on goal, and hit both posts with the same shot before getting there first to ensure the ball really was over the line.

The clock wound down and the pattern remained the same. Bromley pressure without getting into the box; the long range shots became more hopeful than likely to beat Toby in the form he was showing. Then Matthew got down the right, cut inside and was taken down as he set himself to shoot – a clear penalty, and the no.10 got up to finish confidently. 1-4 up with 5 minutes left and the deal was sealed. The last few minutes took a very long time with a succession of head injuries, but the Jets never lost their focus, nor let go of what they had earned. The Bromley coaches were sportingly generous in their praise at the final whistle.

The Langton coaches enjoyed the post match team talk. It’s very easy when there is so much praise to hand out. Truthfully this was a game that could have gone the other way early on, and there are great lessons to be had from hanging tough and working back into a match. Early in the season when the Jets were new to the Tandridge league this was a game they would have lost. Their reward today was a fine looking league table. We’ve always said to stay in the top places the boys would have to start beating the big teams; this was an important and very enjoyable day.

Sunday January 26th, Tandridge ‘A’, Jets 5 – 1 Balgowan, (Matt 2, Todd, Angus, OG)

The Jets finally kicked off the 2014 leg of their season at home to Balgowan. ’Home’ for this week was the St John’s 3G, where they are used to training on a 1/3rd slice, but today were let loose on the whole field. Given the cold and driving rain this was a game that would never have happened in the mud.

It was a small uphill slope for the first half, but the wind and rain made it feel like more. With the ball holding up into the wind Matthew kept delivering balls behind the Balgowan defence that Todd fed on to but couldn’t quite put away. Then Woody made a good block on the left and swept the ball inside to Angus who saw Matthew free as the man over. The pass pushed him wider than he would have wanted but his angled delivery sailed all the way back into the far top corner. On the whole it was a deserved lead, and Toby was rarely threatened as Harry cut out every direct ball down the middle. George refused to allow any opposing midfielder the time to choose a pass, and Nathan and Chewy let nothing beyond them down their wings, whilst Woody did make inroads down the right side of the Balgowan defence.

Half time had a familiar ring to it – not for the first time the Jets had survived the worst of the conditions in the first period, and now needed to push on. And so it turned out; most of the second half saw Balgowan penned deep in their half with Jets’ midfield pouncing on clearances to set up fresh attacks. Todd kept going close, and the pressure told from a corner that Matt drilled and the deflection put the ball in at the near post. This gave a little breathing room which was just as well as the opposition had their best phase of the game, winning corners that required good defending to endure. Harry and Toby both had to be brave and determined to scramble one ball off the line and round the post.

Still most chances were up the other end and Todd again closed in on goal; the keeper saved, Todd shot again and a defender stopped it on the line, before (finally!) the no.9 bundled it over the line. It wasn’t pretty but he had earned it the hard way. Matthew capped an excellent game by finishing into the roof of the net, before Balgowan made it 4-1, a reward for their persistence. Just before the end Angus added his own contribution, slamming the ball home emphatically; he had waited a long time for his first goal of the year and enjoyed it accordingly.

It was a fine all round performance – the second half saw a lot of rotating, which was necessary to stop the substitutes from freezing to death. Eddie made a robust contribution on the right, Chewy enjoyed a brief foray further forward, whilst Harry N enjoyed linking up with Nathan, whose forward runs caused constant headaches. Meantime George and Harry gave the central solidity that every team needs.

Thanks to all who endured the conditions to cheer and shout. Balgowan will be remembered for the sportsmanship of their players, coaches and supporters across both games this season.

Sunday December 15th, Tandridge ‘A’, Rusthall 1 – 2 Langton Jets (Todd, Matt (pen))

The Jets travelled round the corner for the local derby against Rusthall, keen to put the disappointment of last week behind them. For the first time this season they had a full squad, fit and healthy, for a game played in tough conditions, with the wind and rain blowing down the slope. Very much set up to be a game of two halves. Toby won the toss and the Jets elected to play up the hill. Toby calmed nerves with some assured handling of an early shot, and gradually the team began to assert themselves. A free kick right on the edge of the box was curled into the top corner by Matt, and looked for all the world a goal, but the Rusthall keeper got fingertips to it, and the rebound was scrambled off for a corner.

Inevitably Rusthall surged down the hill, but were met solidly by Harry B, and by Nathan, who was also taking the ball back the other way with determination and threat. Then, midway through the half Chewy found space deep in his half and slid a nice pass wide to Matt, who chipped a ball over the defence. Todd then did what Todd does, getting there first, avoiding the central defender, cutting in and finishing; a lovely team goal. He almost repeated the trick, denied by another good save onto the post. Before half time the Jets made a change, moving Angus into defence and shuffling the midfield, and saw out the half with an invaluable 1-0 lead.
It was no surprise that most of the play came down hill with the wind and rain in the second half. Rusthall held on, but twice it was precarious as Todd was deemed to have been obstructed but not fouled in the box, and the indirect free kicks were blocked. Harry, Nathan and Angus combined to block the supply line to the Rusthall striker, and keep chances to a minimum. Woody showed a battling side to his game that was exactly what was needed in the conditions, and George and Matt battled for every ball in central midfield; George would have covered every blade of grass if he could, but had to settle for being covered in mud instead.

Rusthall pushed on for the equaliser and forced some corners which were defended well, and with 7 minutes left Todd again got away from the last defender, and was again pulled down, this time a clear penalty. Matthew finished calmly, and that looked to be that, 2-0. Eddie came on to toughen up the midfield and the clock ran down. With a minute left Rusthall pushed forward and the Jets tried too hard to tackle rather than just cover, and gave away a needless penalty, the third they have given Rusthall in 2 games! It was coolly put away, and nerves jangled, but Matt and George got down to the corner flag and saw out time.

On balance it was a deserved win – everyone played well and contributed. Anything less than 100% and Rusthall would have gained a foothold. And, briefly, the Tandridge League table had the Jets sitting on top. Bromley, Croydon and Selsdon will all view the top of the table as their territory, and unless the Jets win games against them they won’t stick around near the top, but for a first season there is much to be pleased about. Having only taken the plunge to think about playing together 7 months ago things have happened very fast. Seven fiestas, seven finals, then one pre season match and straight into a very hard league, with only 4 boys who had ever played a 9 a side game in their lives. The learning curve has been steep, and the injuries haven’t helped; Woody and Max had never played in goal in their lives before! But, still and all, the boys have taken it all on board, and are progressing with each week. Learning from the setbacks is part of the process, but for now enjoying the successes is the job in hand until the New Year.

Sunday December 8th, Tandridge ‘A’, Glebe Lions 3 – 2 Langton Jets (Harry B, Matt (pen))
The return match with Glebe saw the Jets welcome back Harry B to the defence; on paper the Jets looked stronger, but a number of boys were still carrying sickness bugs, and Glebe were quickly on top in the first half, forcing some outstanding saves from Toby to keep the game level. Against the run of play Todd wriggled himself a chance but unfortunately picked out the goalkeeper. Then from a Jets’ goal kick everyone switched off, and Glebe won possession too easily, and took the lead with a fine shot. Going in 1-0 down wasn’t a good feeling, but Toby had kept the team in the game.

With Matt still under the weather a variety of formations were tried. However being defensively tight left Todd lacking service, and George feeling overrun in midfield, whereas pushing Angus up into the midfield battle left Harry N in an unfamiliar defensive role. There were no easy answers, and the task involved hanging in there. Glebe’s second followed a failure to clear at the first attempt, which is becoming a theme unfortunately. The boys must learn to play the situation they are in – trying to control and run with the ball is not the right choice in all places on the pitch. Another theme is that defensive errors get punished quickly.

A two goal deficit looked a long way to come back from until a penalty decision opened the door. George hit the ball well, but at a height that allowed the Glebe keeper to turn the ball round the post. Chance gone; but no, from the corner Matthew floated the ball perfectly onto Harry B’s head, 1-2. The atmosphere changed, the momentum was all the other way. The Jets poured forward, but were caught on the break 3 against 1,and the score became 3-1. But yet another swing of the pendulum saw a generous penalty awarded and Matt came off the bench to make it 2-3 with only injury time remaining. The Jets won the ball back and Nathan and George went down the right wing to earn a last ditch corner. Even Toby went up, Matt crossed, Harry headed again……but this time inches over the bar.

It was a heart-breaking end; the Jets had given all they had to try and salvage a draw. Losing hurt, but the fact that Toby was so clearly man-of-the-match suggests Glebe deserved credit, especially for their first half performance. There simply aren’t any easy games in the Tandridge league, and until all the team are fresh, healthy, and rested, it will be a battle every week.

Sunday December 1st, Tandridge ‘A’, Langton Green Jets 5 – 3 Glebe Lions (Todd 3, Matt 2)

The Jets played a home league game for the first time in 7 weeks. It felt unfamiliar to start with, as the opposition arrived first, and it took the valiant help of Langton mums to get the goals up in time for kick off. When the game did start Glebe went straight down the middle and it needed Toby to save one on one. With Harry B still unavailable it was a makeshift defence for the third week in a row, and unfortunately it showed. Going forward Nathan was a threat, setting Matt up after a great run, but the shot screwed just wide. Then George threaded a ball through to Todd who got there first and it was 1-0.

Briefly it looked the Jets would take control of the game but the defensive unfamiliarity was punished twice in two minutes, 1-2 . Midfielders were dribbling in the wrong areas, losing the ball, and exposing the defence to forwards running at them, and through balls between them when they lined up spread too far apart. Then Matthew won a tackle and lifted a perfect through ball behind the Glebe defence, and Todd lobbed the keeper for a beautiful goal, 2-2. Back on track, or so it seemed, but almost straight away the defensive uncertainty emerged again, and Nathan and Toby confused each other with a back pass; Nathan’s first goal of the season was at the wrong end, and after only 20 minutes it was 2-3. Back up the other end and George’s long range free kick was spilled, Matt was first to the rebound, and it was all square yet again. Just before half time Todd again got clear through, but couldn’t find the finish.

Taking stock at half time the Jets knew they were level with half a game to play down the hill. That was good – the fact that they had been architects of so much of their own misery was not so good. Chewy replaced Eddie, and it was time to find a goal to take the lead. It didn’t come for a while, but as the pressure built Todd was taken down in the box, and he got up to make it 4-3. Rather than push hard for a 5th goal the decision was taken to stabilise the defence, with George dropping into a centre back role, releasing Nathan to play in midfield. There were less panics thereafter, and Toby became more comfortable playing as a second sweeper. Harry N on debut found himself contributing more defensively than on the attack, but it was the job that needed doing and his positional play was excellent. Then another free kick to Langton, in Matt’s range this time, and he made no mistake. A 5-3 lead was enough for the points, but Glebe pushed hard all the way, and it took a timely right foot from Eddie to prevent another goal after a corner.

It was by no means a pretty performance, but it meant 6 points out of 6 whilst Harry B was absent, which is a great credit to the boys’ adaptability. Winning is a good habit; next will be to find a better rhythm, rather than have to scrap for the points!

Sunday November 24th, Tandridge ‘A’, Mellwood 0 – 3 Langton Green Jets (Matt, Todd, Max)

Last week it was ‘one of those days’. This week it was a ‘Carlsberg don’t do games of football, but if they did….’ kind of day. Last week the Jets went behind in the first minute, this week that was when they went ahead. Matt was unceremoniously taken down going through on George’s pass, five yards from the edge of the box. He got up for the free kick, took aim and put the ball in the top corner. A brilliant goal and a brilliant start.

Mellwood came back hard. The new central defensive pairing of Nathan and Angus needed to make several last ditch interventions; the only time they didn’t, Toby did. Chewy got a foot in at the right moment, then Toby got a hand to a one on one, and as the ball crept across the front of the goal it was Nathan who wanted it most, and he got there just ahead of the hungry Mellwood forwards. The degree of pressure was a concern, but Mellwood were playing down the hill, and running out of time with that advantage. Todd broke away and almost added to the lead, but 1-0 at half-time was a great place to be.

The pattern changed in the second half. Rather than enduring pressure the Jets went looking for a goal to give breathing space. Matt went close, Todd too, then Nathan took the ball from half way, linked with Woody all the way down the left, into the box, and was only denied goal of the season at the last gasp. George narrowly missed at the near post. Then another Matt free kick, this time the keeper got a hand to it, and somehow the rebound threaded the gap between 3 arriving Jets.

Meantime Angus was playing a blinder at the back. Last man standing on several occasions he stood defiant, denying anyone a shot on target. The only anxiety was the failure to get the second goal. And then a near disaster; Chewy was injured in a defensive scramble, and with 12 minutes to go he had to hop up front, with Matt tucking into the back three and Todd coming deeper. Mellwood scented a chance, but the defence held firm. George worked his socks off, ably supported by Max in a new role, and Chewy showed huge heart in holding the ball up and doing anything he could to help, despite the pain.

With 10 minutes left the Jets got back up the other end, and Todd wriggled a space in a crowded area, and curled a sweet shot into the far corner. An ugly goal would have been fine, but this was even better. The two goal cushion changed the atmosphere, and a few minutes later the game was sealed when Max finished strongly for his first goal for the team. To the end Angus Nathan and Toby stood firm to preserve the fourth league clean sheet in a row, and there were many proud and happy boys at the final whistle.

It’s worth mentioning how good a game this was in all aspects. Well refereed, played in the right spirit, and with great support for both teams on the touchlines. How it should be. Carlsberg don’t do Sunday football, but if they did…

Sunday November 17th, Tandridge Cup, 3rd round, Bromley FC 6 – 1 Jets (George, pen)

After 3 weeks without action the Jets travelled to Bromley for a cup fixture. Harry was still injured so they took to the field with Max in goal and Toby at centre back. From the kick-off they ball-watched, unprepared, and were a goal behind in 15 seconds. A disastrous start, entirely of their own making. This was compounded when a weak goal kick was pounced on by the Bromley centre forward and returned into the top corner. Again the tactic of standing around and watching proved an inadequate approach against hungry and skilful players.

Frustratingly in the ebb and flow of play the Jets were competitive; George and Todd linked well, Matt probed on the right, and Todd had a string of goalmouth moments that didn’t quite work out. Chewy had a chance but didn’t get the power into the shot that was needed. And then Bromley attacked again, clinically, and it was 3-0 at half time, almost four had Max not dived to turn a shot away. The lesson was an easy one – the performance has to be at the highest level for every second of every minute, and good teams punish even minor errors.

In the second half the Jets battled to get back into the game. Bromley’s fourth exploited a hole down the middle that ought not to have been there, before a deliberate hand ball stopped Woody’s goal-bound shot, and George made it 4-1. There was pride to be played for at least, so it was hugely disappointing to again watch Bromley go straight down the middle in response. Yes, Harry was absent, but he ought not to have been missed quite so badly. All the way to the final whistle the Jets spent time threatening to score, whilst it was Bromley who actually did so.

George, Woody, Matt and Todd stood out for their effort and resistance today, but it needs everyone on their game to beat the best teams. Bromley weren’t unbeatable, but they were too good a team to be given a head start. Losing is uncomfortable and unpleasant, and only worth it if lessons are learned.

Time to concentrate on the league!

Sunday Oct 20th, Tandridge A Division, Balgowan 0 – 4 Jets (Woody, Todd, George 2)

Heavy overnight rain made us wonder if this game would go ahead, a thought that would recur as we drove through huge puddles in the A21 up to Beckenham. But, amazingly, the sun came out and the pitch was in surprisingly good condition, albeit with long grass. The Jets had the lions’ share of possession in the first half, but never managed to score the goal that would open the game up for them. A couple of times Todd wriggled free but his shots were in range of the Balgowan keeper, who had a fine match. He also turned a Matthew shot over the bar, and watched another Matt effort creep past the post. Other chances were thwarted by the offside flag. Halftime came without having conceded a shot at the other end; Toby was patrolling his penalty area as an underutilised second sweeper, and Harry had things in sufficient control that Nathan was frequently to be found down the right wing rather than on the left side of defence. Max was given the chance to get acclimatised in defence as he came on for Mattchewy, and Woody was beginning to assert himself as an offensive danger down the left.

The half time team talk again preached patience, and reminded of how goals had come in a rush late in previous games. For the next 15 minutes it remained a case of near misses. The chances were being created, but the goal just wouldn’t come. Then a spell of Balgowan pressure, that culminated in a one on one for a breaking attacker; the shot was good, but Toby somehow turned the ball onto the crossbar. Perhaps that was the final wake up call required, because then Matt slid a precise pass down the right wing for Todd, who unselfishly found Woody on the edge of the box, and he struck home cleanly into the far top corner. After all the huffing and puffing this was a quality team goal, and hopefully the first of many for Woody who after a frustrating start to the season was finding his form, and deserving the cheers from his supporters club on the touchline.

Not for the first time this year one goal quickly brought another. Matt beat a full back and two central defenders and had the composure to finish the dribble with a pass that Todd jubilantly put away. Todd also set up George for a late third, and fast feet from Woody allowed George to add an even later fourth.

Another week without conceding a goal, another week where it took a long time to get ahead and then the floodgates opened. Harry deserves mention for keeping concentration for 60 minutes, as does Toby for being there when it counted. It was good to see three goals coming from midfield; George and Angus gave everything as always. Todd’s idea of a bad day was to score once and assist twice, so he needs to be a little less hard on himself when his finishing isn’t quite clicking. All in all a good morning; lessons are being learned and progress is being made, though Neil and Chris will undoubtedly have ideas they want to work on. Finally a tipped hat to the travelling supporters, who made themselves heard; clearly heard, all morning!

Sunday October 13th, Tandridge A Division, Jets 3 – 0 Tonbridge Angels (Todd 3)

In cold weather and driving rain Langton Green and Tonbridge Angels served up a high quality match that was a credit to both sides. Angels attacked down the hill in the first half and earned several corners, but their main chance was a breakaway that Toby stood large against and saved with a big right knee; a key moment. The Jets had their own chances in a couple of goal-mouth scrambles, and were consistently getting behind the Angels’ defence down the right wing, as Matthew was fed frequently by Angus and George, who were doing the hard work in the middle of a muddy and crowded midfield. One great pass from George gave Todd an opening, whilst Woody had a shot blocked, and Nathan came close with a scorching long distance shot. The half ended all square, which was fair, but the Jets knew that in every other game this season the side attacking down the hill in the second half had won the game.

Early in the second half Eddie came on to replace Woody who had been neat with his passing. Ed covered often as Nathan was increasingly bold in carrying the ball forward, looking dangerous. Still the goal wouldn’t come. The best chances came from free kicks; Toby held the slippery ball well, whilst Matthew’s shot was only half stopped, but the Jets couldn’t quite force home the rebound. Harry had been decisive and solid at the back, and with 10 minutes to go he was the catalyst of the game changing move, weighting a quick free kick down the right to Matthew. As he had done all game Matthew tormented the left side of the defence before squaring and finding Todd, who took a touch and found the net. With a lead to preserve the pace of the game went up a notch, and the rain came down harder. The Angels were harried in the midfield by the tireless Angus and George and couldn’t get behind Harry and Mattchew (who had his best game of the season both defensively and with his distribution), and were obliged to take attacking risks to pursue the equaliser. This left them exposed at the back and an early through ball gave Todd what he had been seeking all game, the chance to run; he couldn’t be caught and finished with aplomb. With so little time in the game it was too much to come back from. The patient Max came on for a brief stint at the back, and in the final minute Matthew again got behind the defence on the right hand side, carried the ball to the by-line and pulled it back for Todd to tap into an empty net for his hat-trick. That was the last play of the game, but not the end of the rain which fell harder and harder.

Three nil looks comfortable, but it was hard work all the way. In all four games at the Rec we have seen late clusters of goals down the hill, as legs grow weary, and the Jets knew enough to be patient and keep probing in the right areas. Consecutive clean sheets speaks of growing comfort with the defensive shape, and the confidence that comes from winning is infectious. Thanks to all who supported and helped with the set-up and take down; it was wet and horrible but a win made it easier work, and credit to the referee who was clear and commanding with his running of the game.

Sunday October 6th, Tandridge A Division, Jets 4 – 0 Tulse Hill (Todd 3, Matt)

A beautiful autumn morning, and ultimately a good result. The Jets welcomed a healthy Woody back into the midfield, and started Eddie and debutant Max on the bench. Up the hill it was mostly the Jets in possession, with occasional bursts from Tulse Hill down their left wing. A goal was needed to settle things down and it came when Todd expertly headed home Matt’s curled free kick. Another followed soon after from one of several breakaways as Todd was released down the middle. George and Angus were both having good games going forward, but the lead didn’t grow as the shots were too often aimed at the Tulse Hill keeper. The half ended with the Jets under pressure, and Matthew did well with defensive headers from a succession of corners.
The second half, down the hill saw the Jets pushing forwards, but without the quality of passes to make the chances easy ones. There was always the risk that a slip up would encourage Tulse Hill back into the game, but Harry and Nathan were steady at the back and Toby always ready to come out and meet whatever came down the middle. Finally Todd scored a typical Todd goal to seal his hat-trick and put the game away. This allowed Max the chance to play up front; he did well to get into position, but will regret not putting his chance away. Woody is also banging on the door of his first score, but it was Matthew who made it 4-0, from close range.

There was no doubting it was a deserved win, but with room to improve, and to be more clinical in attack. But, a win is a win. Thanks to all for the support.

Sunday September 29th, Tandridge A Division, Jets 2 – 5 Selsdon Lions (Matt, Todd (pen))

Another day, another tough fixture. The Jets lined up with the injured Woody as a makeshift keeper, allowing Toby to play in a back 3, and giving the luxury of a substitute, something that proved very necessary as it turned out. Selsdon started well, but the Jets absorbed the pressure before Todd forced a great save. Having hit the same crossbar twice last week he did it for a second time in five minutes this week, from an outrageous angle, and this time Matthew was there first to net the rebound. Down the hill the Jets were going well until a clumsy clearance deflected straight into the path of the big Selsdon centre forward. Bad luck turned to calamity in the last moments of the half as George was injured, and then sloppy marking gave away a second soft goal from a corner.

This meant chasing a 2-1 deficit up the hill. The boys gave it a go, and Matthew was inches wide, then Todd hit the post, which made a change from the bar, before being denied a breakaway by a deliberate hand-ball. But Selsdon hung on then broke fast, and broke hearts with 2 quick goals. The game seemed dead, but Todd pulled one back from a penalty, and Matthew brushed the post. Hopes of a fightback ended when Todd tussled with the keeper – the reaction it provoked left him down, and sadly injured and out of the game. There was no way back, and another break led to a final goal.
Credit to Woody for being so valiant as a stand in goalkeeper. He provided some scares and made some brave saves. All in all there was admirable effort all round, but a painful lesson that small mistakes pay a high price in this league. There will be happier days, and ideally in later fixtures we’ll play the top teams with a goalkeeper and 8 fit outfield players – there hasn’t been anyone yet that the Jets would regard as unbeatable.

Sunday September 22nd 2013, Tandridge League, u12 division A, Jets 4 – 3 Rusthall (George (pen), Todd 2, Matt)

The first home game, and local rivals Rusthall, the perfect ingredients for a barnstorming Sunday morning……except that Woody was still injured, Toby had broken his toe on Friday, Todd was off school sick, and Matt and Harry had played 3 u13s school games in the 4 days prior to this match. Plenty of reasons for nervous people to make excuses, but when Toby limped onto Langton Rec and pronounced himself ready, no-one else had the right to complain about anything, it was time to suck it up and play.

Rusthall attacked down the hill in the first half, and did so at speed. Often they strayed into offside territory to end the danger, but finally a run and a pass were well timed, and Toby was beaten. A big setback. Despite the pain it was clear Toby would need to sweep behind Harry to cancel out such attacks, and when he did so it forced Rusthall to find new ways to go forward. The Jets were hanging in, but not dominating, the closest effort being a chip from Matthew, but then a break came their way. George held onto the ball in the Rusthall box and attracted over zealous defending that earned a penalty – technically the right decision, but very frustrating for Rusthall. Given the chance George punished the error to make it 1-1. The rest of the half was even – Nathan and Eddy were forming a good partnership on the left, whilst Matt was tormenting the Rusthall defence down the right hand side, both giving grounds for optimism in a downhill second half.

In the second half Rusthall found themselves pressed deeper in their own territory, partly because they were trying to address the problems being caused down the right wing. However, rather against the run of play they retook the lead when Harry tried to keep possession at a moment where safety first was more needed. Dispossessed he had to watch in horror as the breakaway led to a penalty; 2-1 to Rusthall and back to square one. This was when the Jets inner core of strength shone through. Todd unleashed a fierce long shot that Rusthall’s keeper brilliantly parried onto the bar, only to see it spin and loop into the corner. The disappointment of conceding a second equaliser seemed to throw the Rusthall defence temporarily off balance and the next 10 minutes proved pivotal. First Nathan won possession, gained ground and passed inside to George, who from central midfield played a perfectly weighted diagonal pass that split centre back and full back – Matt running on hit the ball first time, a great goal, and the Jets had their first lead. The momentum snowballed as a brilliant individual goal from Todd made it 4-2 as he crashed a shot off the underside of the bar. That might have been it as the clock ran down, but Rusthall refused to give up, and for a second time the Jets conceded a penalty that arose when they failed to put a clearable ball out of play and paid the price. This felt a harsh decision, but defensive mistakes are there to be punished, and it was 4-3 with 8 minutes to go. With no substitutes it was time to dig in – George and Angus continued to work relentlessly in the centre of midfield, Eddie was a battling presence that stopped many wide attacks early, and Mattchew showed great reading of the game in his timing of interceptions to balls that would otherwise have been dangerous. But, in the end it came down to Toby, who broken toe notwithstanding was there to make a crunching tackle on the edge of his box, showing all his centre back skills to come out with the ball. Very few would have had the courage and bravery to be there where it hurt right at the end.

4-3 it finished. Both teams deserved the applause of a large and sporting crowd. It isn’t easy to play a big game against schoolfriends and District football friends, and the spirit the match was played in was a huge credit to both sides, players and coaches. Nor was it an easy game to referee but the decisions were clear and consistent. Both teams will learn to be more careful in their own penalty area, both sides will take away positives, and learn lessons. Fortunately for the Jets the rough justice of last week can be quickly forgotten, as they start to hit their stride in what will be a very hard division.

Sunday September 15th, Tandridge League, Junior Elite 2 – 0 Langton Green Jets 0 

The Jets started a new era away to last year’s Tandridge A division champions, and felt the bitter taste of an undeserved defeat, having come close many times to taking the lead. Football can be tough sometimes, and this was one of those days when it didn’t land the way it might have. The decisions through the game went the wrong way, Woody was lost to injury after only 5 minutes, and the Junior Elite goal seemed protected by an invisible force field; on another day Todd might be celebrating a hat-trick.

We shouldn’t lose sight of what a blood and thunder baptism of fire it was, and the effort put in by everyone. This week it would not be fair to single out names as everyone gave everything. For the record it was 0-0 at half time, the Jets went behind to the first shot on target they conceded, with 8 minutes left, then conceded to the last kick of the match as they chased the equaliser. It was tough, but we joined this league because we wanted tough, and there will be days that go our way too.