Jets 2015 - 2016

Sunday April 3rd, KYL Under 14 South

Tunbridge Wells 2 - 2 Langton Green (Ned, Ben R)

Lightning does strike twice. History does repeat itself. Life isnt fair. Sport can be cruel. Pick your own cliche.

Just as last season the Jets came to their final game, against a local rival, knowing a win would earn them at least a play off for the league title. The Tunbridge Wells pitch was dry, very bumpy, and sloping; not good for passing football, and a frenetic game was to be expected. The Jets were missing Jack, Scott, Nathan and Ollie, and in the warm-up also lost Luke, which forced some difficult choices. Gus went in goal, and Toby gave up his gloves for a centre back role.

Adversity is there to be overcome and it looked to be going that way when in the first minute Ned joined an attack from left back and smashed a shot that hit the inside of the post and the diving keeper, before ending in the net; 1-0. Soon after Ben R, playing in midfield for the first time this season put in a cross from the left that looked sure to be converted but somehow evaded everyone. It was largely one way traffic but the pitch was breaking up the moves before they could reach a fruitful end. Then, disaster number 1: a hand-ball shout went unheeded, the Jets froze and from 25 yards a TW player volleyed a shot. It hit Toby outside the box, but ballooned in slow motion over the stranded Gus and into the net. A freak own goal. Tough to take.

The Jets regained the lead when Ben R muscled his way into the box. The shot was scuffed but the uneven bounce saw the ball roll home. Back on track. Anton and Matt almost added the much desired third goal but at half time things were comfortable given how little defending had been required. The second half started with a TW attack, and a shot against the post, which served as a wake up call. Thereafter the chase for the elusive 3rd goal continued. Declan's long range free kick was excellently saved, Ben W volleyed over, and the clock ticked along. To see the game home Toby resumed goalkeeping duties.....irony. A long punt down the middle bounced through to him, and he came out of the box to boot clear. Disaster number 2: the ball hit the back of the flinching striker, ballooned over Toby, and trickled into the empty net. You could play many seasons and never see a goal like it, but today was the day, of all days.

With little more than 5 minutes to go the Jets flung everything forward. Matt headed over, then just wide, and then had a shot graze the post. Playing 2 at the back made from some exposed breakways, but it almost paid off when Harry at centre forward (one of several) had his shot blocked from 5 yards out and trickle harmlessly into the TW keeper's hands.

The final whistle brough exultation from the hard battling TW side. And, as last year, the Langton boys were on their knees, dealing with a crazy, harsh, utterly undeserved end to the season. As last year they finish the season a point clear. Last year they needed Maidstone to win their last game of the season to win the big prize, but Maidstone blew a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes to go. This year they need Maidstone to lose or draw next week; they wont oblige this time either :)

The season ends with only 2 losses, but punishingly also with 2 one-sided draws that will mean the difference between first place and second. For the second season in a row the Jets will be runners up to a side they beat both home and away during the league and cup season. A case of what might have been. That's sport.

In the late afternoon everyone decamped to the end of season party. It was subdued for the first 5 minutes, then everyone recalled favourite moments from the season, ate, drank, enjoyed each other's company. We watched England blow the 2020 final, to show it is not only Langton Green who can watch it all go up in smoke, and then we went back to the pitch the season's dream had ended on......and played cricket together. Life goes on.

Sunday March 20th, KYL Under 14 South

Bearsted 0 - 2 Langton Green (Anton, Jack)

A morning kick off, and 4th away game in a row. A bit like a tennis player needing to hold serve the Jets faced Bearsted on a huge and bobbly pitch, knowing they had to win to stay in the title race. Any game at this stage of the season can be a banana skin, and the uneven surface had the potential to make goal scoring difficult, not to mention the problem of getting midfielders into the far distant penalty box.

Life became a little easier less than 25 seconds into the game when Jack knocked a ball down the middle, Anton won the foot race, and had the confidence to jink to the left and finish with a cross shot. The Jets were playing most of the game in the Bearsted half, but chances were scarce - a second goal on 15 minutes when Jack dispossessed a defender and scored from close range set things up nicely, and Anton had the chance to make it 3-0, but put the ball just wide. From there till half time the chances dried up, and Bearsted almost found a way back into the match when the ball was turned over in a dangerous area, and resulted in a breakaway that might well have become a goal.

The half time team talk was all about the lessons of that near miss. Provided the Jets kept the ball deep in the Bearsted half it was really going to be hard for the opposition to make chances or support strikers. It was going to take a defensive error, an unwise dribble, or a set play, to open the door. The boys took this on board and went 'no-nonsense' at the back. Some of Harry's clearances served as attack-setters as Anton kept winning the chase to long balls. Jack's pace down the right, and Ben in the hole, meant there was constant threat, even if the goals didnt materialise. Matt set Ben up with a chance to put the game away, that was well saved, a couple of fee kicks went close, and Matt had a header cleared off the line (resulting in one of the odder goal kick decisions of the season!).

The clock ticked on and the need for a third goal diminished, as the need to keep Bearsted pressed in their half, and denied the time to play an accurate passes forward, grew in importance. George was instrumental in closing everything down, whilst Jack, Harry, and Ben R won every aerial route 1 ball. Toby didnt have to make a save. In the end 2-0 was a larger margin of victory than the score might suggest. Job done. A third consecutive clean sheet, a fourth consecutive away win, and it means the destination of the u14 title will remain contested until the final week of the season, and perhaps beyond.

Sunday March 13th, KYL Under 14 South

Hollands & Blair 0 - 3 Langton Green (Ben W, Anton, Jack)

First thing this morning there were many different ways the day could turn out - Maidstone had the chance to seal the league in their 10.30 kick off at Aylesford, which would also pretty much tie up 2nd place for the Jets. A win for Aylesford would open the door, but also put the Jets into a situation where even the runners up spot was in jeopardy. And never mind the permutations elsewhere, it was a challenging day anyway: Hollands and Blair came into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw at Maidstone on Monday, whilst the Jets were missing their goalkeeper, two centre backs and a full back - no Toby, Ben, Scot or Nathan.

Aylesford did the business - The Jets knew from last year how hard it is to close the divisional deal, and Maidstone had a bad week, potentially giving up a 5 point lead in 6 days. What team to field was the Jets' dilemma ? Angus came in for a goalkeeping debut, having attended his first training session on Friday night. Luke, having debuted in midfield on Tuesday night, was thrown into the defensive deep end, as a centre back partner for Harry. The intention was to keep together the midfield and front line that had scored 11 in the previous game, and hope to play the game in the opponents' territory.

It wasnt a smooth start, as H&B pressed early. Gus' first contribution in goal was to win a tackle - playing out from the back is commendable but this was taking it to extremes ! For ten minutes the game was all up the wrong end, but then Matt won a free kick down the right, and Jack's low curler was given the faintest of touches by Ben W, to make it 1-0. It was a reward for countless free kicks taken from the same spot last Friday night in training. It ought to have been 2-0 as the football flowed. A nice move saw Declan reach the by-line and square for Matt who lifted the ball over the bar when it seemed easier to score. He almost redeemed himself when he put in a cross that Anton headed just wide, and the Jets were value for their half time lead, even if they had needed Gus to step up at just the right moment and show safe hands.

The second half was a mixture of good attacking play, and watching time count down. H&B made occasional breaks against the tide, but the defence were brilliantly defiant; Luke looked like he had played there all season; Harry had played there all season, and that showed too. Ned and Will balanced defence with well-timed attacking. Meantime the midfield were tenacious in the tackle, and smart in their distribution. Declan had his most complete game of the season (aside from his corner taking!), on both sides of the ball, George owned the centre circle, allowing Matt and Jack to get forward in wide areas, whilst Ben and Anton provided different problems for the H&B defence. The second goal came after Jack again hit the by-line, cut in, and pulled the ball back; Anton thumped the ball home, with his left foot (yes, left foot again! And again exactly as the Friday training plans had scripted it).

Ollie replaced Anton, and almost made it 3-0, Matt shot wide, Ben came close. For all the pressure to deliver the win there was no sitting back, and attack remained the best form of defence. With 10 minutes to go Ben was again creator, dinking a ball behind the defence for Jack to volley home, 3-0. Angus didnt look threatened aside from set pieces, but his punch clear from the first corner that came his way made clear he was confident in hs role.

The final whistle brought relief, and great satisfaction. The boys had adapted to adversity, dealt with pressure, and put in an emphatic performance that totally justified the scoreline. The result puts them back in a share of first place, with 2 games to go. In their last 3 away games they have scored 18 and conceded 2, and handled the pressure of the title run-in by winning when they had to. A true team effort.

                             P   W    D    L     PTS
Langton Green    16   12   2    2      38
Maidstone            16   12  2    2      38
Aylesford             16   10   3    3      33
Bredhurst             16   10  1    5      31
Rusthall               16     8   4    4      28
H & B                   15    6   4    5      22

Tuesday March 8th, KYL Under 14 South

Cuxton 0 - 11 Langton Green (Jack 5, Anton 2, Declan 2, Ben R, Ned)

An evening fixture deferred from Sunday, under lights at the 3G. Missing Nathan, Scott and Ollie, the Jets gave a debut to Luke, stepping up from the u13s. The game had become slightly more important with the news that Maidstone had been held 1-1 at home to H&B the night before, leaving a small glimmer of title hope still alive, and a chance to make Maidstone's game at Aylesford this weekend a little more 'must-win'. And never mind that it was just a chance to play.

Cuxton hung in there for 10 minutes before the Jets repeated their first goal of the week before, Jack heading in a Declan corner. The second was a header from the same player, this time George providing the pinpoint delivery. Room to breath gave the team confidence to play from the back, switching play to great effect. Ben W was playing in a deeper role, and without scoring he remained a significant attacking influence throughout the match. He teed Matt up, who volleyed the ball onto the post, but it was not long before another spectacular effort found the net. Declan's left foot effort was reminiscent of Kasami's goal for Fulham vs Palace - a serious goal of the season candidate. However it might not even win goal of the match as centre-back Ben R intercepted a through ball, took the ball past the Cuxton striker, sliced through their midfield and shot a howitzer into the roof of the net. If you are only going to score one goal in a season, this would be the one to score.

At half time it was fair to say the points were safe. However a few weeks previously a similar half time lead turned into a poor second half where solo efforts took over from team play, so the emphasis was placed on doing the right thing across the pitch. It worked. Seven more goals resulted, with many more near misses. Jack took his tally to five for the game, Anton added a couple, including a left footed finish as he had been challenged to deliver in training, and Dec and Ned each scored from close range. Without scoring there were other fine performances; Ben continued to drop into space and create chances for others, Will had his most incisive attacking game of the season, setting Matt up to hit the woodwork again, whilst George worked as hard at 10-0 as he had at 0-0. Debutant Luke will face much harder matches, but made a fine first impression.

Overall 11-0 tells its own story. Some of the Cuxton players never gave up, others lost heart as the score mounted, and it was a merciless night. The title race goes into Sunday...

                     P   W    D    L    PTS
Maidstone   15  12    2     1     38
Langton       15  11    2     2     35
Bredhurst    16   10   1     5     31
Aylesford     15    9    3     3     30
Rusthall       15   7     4     4     25
H&B             14   6    4     4     22

Sunday February 28th, KYL Under 14 South

Bredhurst Juniors 2 - 4 Langton Green (Jack, Declan, Harry, Anton)

Incredibly this was the first time in 3 months that the Jets ran out to play on grass, at the very excellent stadium that Bredhurst Juniors call home. A win for the home side would put them in with a big shout of second place, a win for the Jets would leave that position very much in their own hands, whilst keeping pressure on Maidstone above. Bredhurst came into the game on the back of a fine win against Aylesford, whilst the Jets were missing Scott and Nathan, and waiting in the hours before the game to find out if Ben W was healthy enough to give it a go. He was.

The early stages went the Jets' way. Declan scuffed the first corner of the game, but the ball went out of play and allowed him to try again. The second time he put the ball right where Jack wanted it, and he headed home emphatically. This was a good nerve settler and most of the next 10 minutes was played towards the Bredhurst goal. However a solo effort, on the back of powerful running down the left flank and a rasping shot into the roof of the net, made it 1-1, and served as a warning of the home team's forward-line threat.

After a few alarms Langton regained the lead - Jack's throws were as good as corners with the wind at his back, and this time it was Declan's turn to rise and head home; 2-1. Declan then had 2 shots just wide, after which Anton cut in onto his left foot and saw his shot blocked, as was the rebound, and the rebound after that, and, as the pin-ball continued, Matt's effort rolled just wide. On balance the lead at half time was fair, perhaps slightly less than it might have been. Ben R at the back was solid, as ever, whilst Ben W up front was playing in 5-10 minute bursts, as energy his allowed. When he came to the bench he looked ready to pass out.....Ollie came in and was tidy on the left and almost got a toe to a cross at the far post.

A third Langton goal might have sealed the game, but instead it was Bredhurst who pushed on. Their equaliser was another good individual effort as a tackle was made outside the box, and the long range shot perfectly placed beyond Toby and into the bottom corner. Now it really was game-on and the Jets endured a succession of corners and crosses, and struggled to find a shape going forward. The game was poised to go either way. A free kick was won by Langton on the right hand side, and despite the risk of breakways a host of players were committed forward. Jack delivered, and left-back Ned got on the end of it, only to see the ball hit the inside of the right post and travel left across the front of the goal. Centre-back Harry is pretty reliable with an empty net in front of him, a yard out, 3-2. The last time he scored was the last time the Jets played on grass, so it is clearly his surface.

Bredhurst faced climbing back into the game for the third time. As they tried to do so the game opened up, and Jack and Anton's pace on the break became a greater threat. Jack bombed down the left with pace and aggression, made it to the byline and cut the ball back......Anton was arriving at speed and volleyed home a goal that shouted 'game over'. Finally a two goal lead. It almost became three when Dec went through but was denied by the keeper. The Jets tried to hold onto the ball and deny their tenacious opponents a way back into the game, and in trying harder to keep the ball than to score actually played some of their neatest football.

It finished 4-2, a fair result. With at least four players carrying knocks or on illness-weakened legs, it was a very good Langton effort to keep going on a large pitch. Training last week had focused on set pieces and finishing from crosses, so to have all 4 goals scored have some connection to the training efforts put in was very satisfying.

Bredhurst were gracious in defeat, a credit to their manager. Second place is there for the Jets' taking over the last 4 games of the season, and Maidstone have to clear a couple more hurdles to earn the title. It's a marathon, but some of the tougher miles have been safely negotiated.

                           P    W    D    L     PTS
Maidstone          13    11  1   1       34
Langton Green   14    10  2   2       32
Bredhurst           16    10  1   5       31
Aylesford            15     9   3   3       30
Rusthall              15     7   4   4       25

Sunday February 21st, KYL Under 14 South

Langton Green 4 - 0 Cuxton (Jack 2, Anton, Ben W)

One of the biggest worries today was getting to 11 players.....losing Harry and Scott over the weekend added to the worry, but the 3 who were flying or driving back to the UK today all arrived on time, so it then became a question of picking a formation. The Jets lined up in an attacking 4-3-3 on the 3g, with the wind behind them. For the first 10 minutes the possession didnt turn into chances, then for the next 10 the chances didnt turn into goals as Jack hit one post, and Matt headed into the other. Anton came close with head and feet before finally finding the back of the net when sent through by Ned's intelligent angled pass. Jack capped a mazy dribble with a low shot into the corner and a two goal lead felt comfortable providing errors were avoided at the back. Perhaps the best of the 3 first half goals came when Matthew took a long ball out of the air with one touch, and then with his second slid the ball through to Ben with the outside of his right foot, and Ben raced through to make it 3-0.

The second half saw plenty more chances that just didnt quite go. Declan ran aggressively and to good purpose, Ned got forward, and George kept setting the plays up, but the temptation to shoot from range into the wind might have been better avoided in the name of passing the ball in, and the goal that came, from Matt to Ben, and finished by Jack, was the kind there should perhaps have been more of. Cuxton forced Toby into two good saves but generally Ben and Nathan were calm and assured. It is fair to say that trying too hard to get on the scoresheet meant less goals were scored than on a another day, but a 4-0 win after four very hard games in a row was a nice way to get back into the groove - given how easily this might have been 8 vs 11 without huge parental efforts to get people there on time it counts as a good day.

Sunday February 7th , KYL Under 14 South

Maidstone United 5 - 1 Langton Green (Ned)

For the fourth and last time this season the Jets lined up against Maidstone, this being their third trip to the Gallagher Stadium. Whoever won today would be in control of their own destiny in the division, as both teams were well aware. With 13 in the squad there were more selection dilemmas than for a while, and the chance to have fresher legs in the final quarter than has recently been the case.  

As it turned out it didnt matter. The game was over after half an hour. The deadlock had been broken in the worst way when a totally scuffed Maidstone shot turned accidentally into the perfect pass, although the scores were almost levelled when debutant Anton hit the bar. From that moment forward it turned into the first half from hell. Maidstone attacked, scored, did it again, and again, and again. The Jets knew the recipe for winning against these strong opponents, having done so at home in the league, and away in the cup, but the recipe involved defending well, and taking their chances, not making errors and seeing them ruthlessly punished.

Had this been boxing the referee might have blown early and stoped the fight, but the half time whistle merely signalled a brief respite, not a merciful end. There have been very few half time team talks that have had to deal with being five goals behind, especially with a league title in ashes on the dressing room floor. The choice was to point fingers, seek to blame, or man up. The challenge was to find some reason for pride. The options discussed were whether to seek to score, and risk an even greater drubbing, or just try and limit the damage. The boys unanimously wanted to score.

It was a second half that looked more like most of the other halves contested between these two strong teams. Toby made some seriously good saves in one on situations as Maidstone sought to extend their lead, but it was an even contest. A late arriver would have never guessed the scoreline. George, who had been denied by a fingertip save in the first half, ran like someone defending a lead, not someone who was dead and buried. Nathan tackled as hard as we have ever seen, and the passes that went astray in the first half started to connect.

And then....George flicked forward to Ben who slid the ball to Declan, and then ran on to his backheel to burst into the box. Unselfishly Ben squared to Ned, who side footed into the corner. A really good goal, and whilst some could see it as too little too late, it was well made, well taken and well earned.The Jets battled hard for their second half victory. Across 8 fiercely competitive halves with Maidstone ths season the boys won 4, drew 2, and lost 2. That they were blown away in the one that mattered most today is to Maidstone's credit. The league is theirs for the taking now - for the second season in a row it looks as if the Jets will end up having won at home and away during the season against the ultimate title winners, which shows what a marathon it is to come out on top.

After the game the dressing room conversation was as serious as it had been at half time. There is no point taking such pain if there is no desire to learn and improve. With 5 of the final 6 league games against sides in the bottom half of the table, there is the chance to fight for second place, and be ready should Maidstone slip up. The Jets were hit hard today, but got off the canvass and started fighting back when they might have stayed down and felt sorry for themselves. Character emerges at least as often from adversity as from success.

Sunday January 31st, KYL Cup semi final

Langton Green 1- 2 Welling United (Ben W)

By the time you reach the semi finals of the Kent Youth League Cup there are 36 teams who have already fallen by the wayside, so no soft games to be had. Welling United arrived riding on the wave of an unbeaten season, and the depleted Jets looked on jealously as 18 players warmed up on the other side of the pitch. Harry was still out injured, but still and all it was 11 versus 11, and much to play for, on a blustery grey afternoon in Tunbridge Wells.

With the swirling breeze favouring Langton Green the first half started cautiously. Gradually the chances totted up in the Jets' favour, as Jack twice shot across the keeper and just wide. He then robbed the goalkeeper and rolled the ball back to the top of the box, but Ben missed the beckoning net from 18 yards - in a tight game would that be the moment ? No, as it turned out.....Ollie, on for the ailing Will, slipped the ball throught to Jack and his low shot was kept out by fingertips, but Ben was there first, to tap into the unguarded goal from close range. 1-0 and something to fight for.

Half time came, with the game clearly in the balance. With the wind picking up it would clearly be a game of two halves, and inevitably Welling pushed and pressed on down the slope. For fifteen minutes it was a case of bending without breaking. The Jets weren't linking passes, so the attacks were too frequent for comfort. Toby made a fantastic double save down at his post to preserve the lead......and then the turning point: at the Welling end Jack had a shot low and into the corner that the Welling keeper did brilliantly to keep out. Matt's corner went straight across the goal and out the other side, 2 yards out with no-one getting the touch that would have doubled the lead.

And then the tide turned. Free kicks were always going to be dangerous in the wind, and the boys were urged to be wary, but in a tough tackling game they happen. The first ball was only half cleared, and it fell, as they do when it isnt your day, straight to a Welling player....1-1. From then on it was going to be tough. Squad size maybe was a factor, as Welling looked fresher, and the Jets looked exhausted. The death blow came with 8 minutes on the clock. Thereafter more and more players were committed forward looking for an equaliser, but Welling held firm.

The Jets needed the second goal and room to breath - it didnt come and the pressure told eventually, and there are lessons to learn in keeping the ball, rather than going into panicky-defensive mode too soon. But everyone gave everything, and there was no disgrace in losing; it happens. Thanks to the fans for their support, and to the not-so anonymous texter for inspiration for the team talk.....time to concentrate on the league!

Sunday January 24th, KYL u14 South

Rusthall 0 - 0 Langton Green

Both Langton centre backs, Ben and Harry, had been ever present all season, so losing both in the 48 hours before a vital fixture was not good. Add to that Scott playing rugby in Watford, Jack coming back from the injury that kept him out of the Maidstone game, and Matthew not having played a full game in 7 weeks and it all added up to adversity.

With the Langton Green Comets' match called off it enabled the Jets to re-borrow Tom, and with Scott hurtling round the motorway, 11 players on the pitch was a good place to start, albeit in a very unfamiliar shape. Nathan lined up as centre back for the first time in a long while, and Tom settled in in the hole behind Ben W, a solo striker.

The first few minutes saw some scares as the new Jet back line got organised. Rusthall hit good diagonal balls down the right flank, earned a couple of corners, and pressed hard. The tide should have turned quickly when Jack sent Ben clear through; he was taken down when set to score, and the non-penalty was a great escape for the opposition. It did signal a change of momentum however, as the rest of the half was one way traffic. Ben shot over, then wide, and forced 2 excellent saves. Declan put one over the bar, and George had a free kick cleared off the line.

Tom was only available for one half, so Ollie was moved to the left side of midfield as the Jets set out to chase the game up the slope. The tackling and commitment from both teams was thunderous, and the Jets had no room to absorb any further injuries. Toby was well protected by Nathan and Scott who paired up very well, and Will and Ned protected their lines comfortably. Long shots were safely handled, whilst at the Rusthall end the shots were coming from closer, and more regularly. Ben sent Jack clear and his shot was brilliantly saved high to the keeper's left - and then five minutes later the moment of the match; Matt put Ben clear, and his shot was well parried, Jack's rebound was low to the right and again just stopped, and Ollie got to the rebound first, and finally the fantastic Rusthall keeper was beaten......only to be saved by the post.

Where a goal had felt inevitable it now started to feel like a re-run of recent Langton-Rsthall games where the Jets could not turn a shots-on-target domination into a decisive victory margin. Ben came close twice more, Matt had a volley blocked on the line by a brave defender, and Declan headed straight into the keeper's arms from a yard out. A couple of corners just needed a toe, but it was not to be. There was even time for a scare at the other end. Rusthall have burned the Jets late before...

The final whistle marked the first goalless draw in the under 14 south division this season. For the second season in a row the failure to win games against Rusthall may come to haunt the Jets at the end of the season. How different it might have been had the early penalty been given we will never know. It happens. Both sides gave all they had. The Jets can be proud that a makeshift formation with players carrying knocks still made so many good game winning chances. But sometimes you just have to tip your hat to brave defending and an outstanding goalkeeping display.

Sunday January 17th, KYL Cup 1/4 final

Maidstone United 1 - 2 Langton Green (Ben W 2)

We woke to find Tunbridge Wells under a blanket of overnight snow....would we, wouldnt we ? 'Game on' was the message, and the Jets returned to the wonderful Gallagher Stadium for their third encounter of the season with the formidable Maidstone United. In the league encounter the Jets scored a last minute winner, in the county cup they went behind to a controversial last minute penalty, so it was well understood there would be no easy ride in the KYL cup quarter final.

During the week Jack sustained a bad injury; not a player any team would wish to lose. The pre-game was spent in the dressing room working on minds rather than on the pitch warming up bodies, and the boys agreed to a new formation and a game plan for the occasion. For the first two encounters the Jets had played 3 strikers, whereas this time it was a wholly different set up - also different was that Scott lined up in defence and Harry in midfield, both for the first time this season.

The game started cautiously. Maidstone enjoyed possession in their own half but were denied the ball in the Jets' box. Where often the Jets attack fast, today it was a more measured approach, which created less chances but meant less time for fast opponents. Mid-way through the half Declan got into the box on the left, found Ben inside, and it was 1-0. It was against the run of play, but was exactly what the Jets had been playing for. Maidstone pressed harder, and a striker cut inside and finished powerfully into the corner, and 1-1 meant it was back to square one. It was time to absorb pressure....both full backs, Nathan and Will, took knocks, but with only Ollie on the bench each had to take a turn resting whilst the other limped.

Half time was welcome; a chance to regroup. The boys knew the gameplan was to roll with the punches and counter-attack hard. Scott and BenR were outstanding in the centre of defence, enjoying Harry's protection, and George contested every piece of Maidstone possession. Further up the pitch  Declan and BenW were going side to side, ready to pounce on any loose ball. Toby had to be brave off his line more than a shop-stopper, and did that job impeccably. With 15 minutes to go a short goal kick from Toby to Will was played up the line to Matt, back to George, and on to was fast and slick, and whilst it only ended in a corner it was a warning shot. With less than 10 minutes to go the decisive break came down the other flank: Ned to Ollie, and on to Declan, who threaded the pass of the day perfectly in behind the Maidstone centre back. Ben got there first and touched the ball past the stranded keeper in the D. The keeper saved a certain goal by handling outside his box - we will never know how the referee might have dealt with that because he allowed play to go on, and Ben prodded the loose ball into the empty net from 18 yards out. 2-1. Two breaks, two goals from Ben (and credit to the referee as well).

Yet another grandstand finish was inevitable. The Jets tried to resist the temptation to sit deep and make it easy for Maidstone to bombard the penalty area. They bombed it anyway, but generally from distance, making it easier to defend. Inevitably there were a couple of goalmouth scrambles, and saving tackles required, and the heart-stopping moments kept the enthusiastic crowd shouting till the end. But the end did come, to the relief of one team, and frustration of the other. Three rip-roaring games now between two top sides, and one more to come in three weeks time. Maidstone will feel they had the possession to win the game. Langton Green will feel they had a plan and executed it perfectly, making the best of the resources available.

Sunday January 3rd, KYL Under 14 South

Langton Green 5 - 1 Chatham (Jack, Ned, Matt, George, Declan)

A new year, torrential rain, gales, what's not to love? Football is back. Players regathered from all directions, but it's hard to have a warm up before the game when all you can do is get cold and wet! Chatham elected to play downhill, downwind, and with the tide, and the game was even in the early stages. The danger ball was the one in behind the defence and holding up in the wind, and after some near misses Ben W landed one perfectly, and Jack's pace got him there first, 1-0. After a couple more near misses Ben hit the bar from distance. Scott took a bang in the face and had to be replaced by Matt. As he received treatment Will threaded a ball forward, Jack released Ned in on the right side of the box and his cross-shot was perfect. Soon after it was another ball behind the defence that caused problems - Declan was there first with his head, and Matt first to the loose ball to knock home, 3-0.

3-0 almost became 4-0 when Ned's cross was diverted fom Jack, but from the ensuing breakaway the defence took a risk in the wrong area, and Chatham's striker finished lethally. It was reminder of how fast momentum can shift. It made half time a wake up call more than a celebration, though there had been much good work. And, with the wind dying and the rain abating, there was plenty left to do.

The traffic in the second half was mostly one way, but the goal wouldnt come. Jack pulled a ball back for Declan who finished well - hard to see how he could be off-side, but that was the call. George then settled any nerves with a run, a jink and a ball into the roof of the net from outside the box; great goal. Declan then got the goal he deserved and wanted, and Ollie was inches from opening his account too.

The best weather of the day came at the final whistle. A good win, and back in stride for the New Year...

Sunday December 20th, KYL Under 14 South

Langton Green 4 - 2 Aylesford (George, Scott, Ben W 2)

The final match of 2015, on a wet and windy day at the 3G, and a game played in the shadow of the tragic death of Stephen Adams, a coach and father known well to us. Respects were paid before the game, as both sets of players and supporters stood together, and the boys were tasked with playing in the right spirit.

It was always going to be a blood and thunder contest, not much more than month since the reverse fixture ended in a 3-3 draw. The Jets played downwind in the first half and for a while the territorial advantage created by the conditions proved also an impediment, as forward passes were blown too far forward and collected by the (again) excellent Aylesford keeper. However, as the half wore on the wind was twice an advantage as curling set pieces from a free kick and a corner proved very hard to defend. George nodded home Declan's corner, and the lead was doubled by Scott doing the same - a welcome return for him after a concussion injury.

In a game of few chances 2-0 felt a big lead, and whilst the Jets couldnt add to it the tenacious battling of George and Finn in midfield was preventing any time for Aylesford on the ball in the Jets' half. Ollie came on and put in a calm shift and in central defence Ben and Harry looked comfortable, limiting the need for Toby to be involved. Then calamity; Aylesford ran with strength down the right wing and the cross from the edge of the box found its way into the far corner; perfect if probably accidental placement. Momentum can shift on such things. Aylesford were back in the game, and composure for the Jets was going to be that little bit harder to find. The half time whistle was a welcome chance to regroup.

A bit of a formation reshuffle in acknowledgement of the wind in their faces was the plan. The bonus was a quick second half goal to settle nerves, as Scott hit a technically very difficult left foot half volley from the corner of the box. The keeper diving to his left did well to stop it, but the ball was on the ground a yard out....Ben doesnt miss from there, 3-1.

For the next 15 minutes the two goal cushion dominated proceedings as Aylesford pressed, but the Jets played deeper and deeper, often leaving Ben W alone up front. Declan and Jack were making forays down the left, but it was more breakaways than pressure. Ben R and Harry timed tackles well and their penalty area was a no-fly zone. However, keeping Aylesford at arm's length wasn't enough to keep them out of the game as an on-the-turn volley from outside the box gave Toby no chance; a worldy, and with 15 minutes to go it was very much game on. Ben W broke clear and was one on one....a chance to win the game, but a fine save with no-one on the end of the rebound.Then Ben got down the right and his square cross was inches from Finn's outstretched toe...

Then the turning point.....having failed to put Aylesford away they came tantalisingly close to making it 3-3. A powerful shot from long range saw Toby at full stretch to turn the ball round the post. It is a sign of excellence when a keeper has to watch for so long, and then step up when it really matters. And then the death blow..... the Jets' best goal of the season....defence turned into attack by a tackle won, a precise forward pass, a first time lay off by Ned, and a first time ball from George slotted into Ben W's path, and he was through. The previous one on one had seen the keeper spread himself and stop Ben's shot with his body. This time Ben dummied the shot and as the keeper went down he dinked the ball into the far corner....utter quality. And so good it was applauded by the Aylesford coaches, which said much about them, as well as the goal.

The last few minutes were played out with every ball keenly contested. In possession the Jets' managed to keep the ball longer and more calmly than they had at 3-2....there's a lesson in that, somewhere. The final whistle was met with applause from the touchline, and handshakes on the pitch. A true sporting contest, excellently refereed. Both teams had been asked before the game to give their all, and then shake hands, with respect, in honour of a tragically missed football coach. They did. Both sides and supporters ate and drank together, not apart, after the match - proof sportsmanship can win, and lives on in both clubs.

It was cold, wet, windy, and a special day. The Jets reach half way in the league season with their destiny in their own hands, with plenty of good things to look back on, and plenty to look forward to.

Sunday December 6th, KYL Under 14 South

Langton Green 2 - 1 Hollands & Blair (Ben W, Jack)

Wet and windy. Tough conditions. Two late withdrawals leaving the Jets with a bare 11, no subs. Hollands&Blair were the visitors, and no-one has beaten them by more than a single goal. Never an easy week in the KYL !

The aim was to build on the back of the performance the prior week, and the early passing was good. Harry almost repeated his opening goal of a week before, but hit Matt's cross straight at the keeper. Jack put a good shot over the bar, but gradually the chances dried up and the momentum seeped away. Toby saved with his legs one on one, and it became an even contest until in the swirling wind Harry headed a clearance into his own arm. Not the first strange penalty seen given against him in recent weeks, but the kick was well converted and the Jets had to deal with going behind for the third league game in a row.

Jack was pushed forward in a reshuffle, but the excellent H&B sweeper kept being in the right place to defuse potential attacks. Finally, just before half-time Langton found their way back into the game when Ben smashed home first time from the edge of the box; a proper striker's goal. 1-1 wasn't where the Jets wanted to be at half time, but they deserved no better, and it might have been worse had Toby not made a full stretch flying save from a powerful long range shot. The next 35 minutes would be very important, either restoring the winning league habit, or watching a great start to the season erode way.

The second half saw most of the game played towards the H&B goal, but shots were blocked, or final passes went astray. Clearly in a tight game conceding could be fatal, and the Langton back line dealt very well with the balls played forward. George protected the space in front of the defence, and the game started to open up as legs tired. With 20 minutes to go Matt threaded a well judged pass behind the defence and into Ben's path, he nudged the ball inside to the fast arriving Jack, who kept his finish low, and into the corner; a lethal fast-break goal, and hugely precious in such a tight match.

Jack dropped back to reinforce the midfield and protect the lead, which served to release Declan who turned a quiet first half into a much more dynamc second. Ned kept getting clear down the left and a game ending 3rd goal seemed more likely than an equaliser. However, with the stakes high some defensive scares were inevitable; both Will and Nathan made decisive interventions and everyone dug in.

When the final whistle came it signalled 3 very hard-earned points were in th bag. Very much the kind of game that makes or breaks a season. Everyone had played a full part in a contest that never paused for breath. not the prettiest performance but in its own way as good as the one the week before.

Crayford Arrows 0 - 5 Langton Green Jets (Harry, Jack, OG, Ned, Ben W)

November hadnt been an easy month for the Jets - penalties not given, a penalty given that ought not to have been, a penalty missed, and then the comedy of errors that saw them lose soft goals in defeat last week. Plenty of reasons to be crying about how unfair (sporting) life can feel. And to end the month an away cup tie at a side top of the Kent Youth League North division, Crayford Arrows. In a gale. Straight down the pitch. The excuses were ready and waiting....

But out of adversity comes the choice to roll over, or to evolve and improve. Before the game the boys looked at a new formation and decided to give it a go.....and then they went out into the gale and realised it was a case of 2 new formations, one for each half.

Electing to play downwind in the first half placed a burden of expectation on the boys' shoulders; it was hard to know what a par score would be at half-time. There was no doubting the not-so-secret weapon. Jack's wind assisted throws were reaching the back post - he threw one from in his own half into the Crayford penalty area, and throw-ins took on the value of corner kicks. Harry headed one magnificently into the far top corner to grab the lead after 10 minutes, and then after a short corner Jack bobbled a shot through a crowd and past the unsighted keeper. 2-0 was a nice place to be, but it was not clear if that was enough. Chances came and went; Ben shot just over, George headed just wide, and Jack smashed the underside of the bar from a 35 yard free kick. Would 2 be enough ? Fortunately it became 3-0 after yet another long throw was turned into their own net by Crayford defenders struggling to cope with the bombardment.

Half time was a serious business. For probably the first time ever Langton went to five at the back, and set about trying to keep the ball on the deck, worrying less about where they were on the pitch so long as they had the ball. It was pointless trying to knock any ball long or early as it would blow straight back. It was all about linkages and as it turned out the boys played their best half of the season. Time and again they worked the ball forward with connected passing and movement. Meantime Toby was living on the edge of his box and first to every long ball knocked downwind, and showed calm composure in setting up the next wave of possession with his passes out wide.

Despite the conditions it was the Jets who scored the next goal.....Ned curling a beauty into the far corner. 4 became 5 when Jack's through ball found the tireless Ben who ran away from everyone to score and cap an outstanding game as lone striker. Everyone played well. Will and Nathan were always a good outlet to set up play, Harry and Ben timed their interventions well, and Matt, George, Dec and Ned kept it simple, when simple was a very hard skill given the conditions. The final word goes to Jack who at various times was centre forward, centre mid, and centre back, but always contributing.

So November will be remembered as a hard month but one that ended with the most complete performance of the season. The appetite is back.

Sunday November 22nd, KYL Under 14 South

Langton Green Jets 1 - 2 Rusthall (Matt)

6 months since Rusthall's injury time equaliser ended the Jets' dream of the KYL u13 league title there was the chance to ease that pain in the first game on the 3g this season. Instead Rusthall again played the part of the pantomime villain, as it all went wrong again.

It almost began well, as Ben hit the by-line and pulled the ball back for Jack in front of goal. His shot was low and it took a magnificent save to keep the ball out. Thereafter things went badly; very badly. The first goal was conceded when Toby left his box to deal with a long ball forward; his clearance thumped straight into the oncoming traffic of strikers and centre backs and fell to the feet of our old nemesis Anton, who passed into the empty net. If that was bad it got worse when he came to collect a miscued cross, but had it headed out of his hands by a well-intended team-mate, straight in front of a striker with an empty net. 0 -2 and Rusthall were given the inspiration to fight to hold what they had grabbed, not that this rivalry needs an extra reason.

Without ever looking comfortable in dealing with Rusthall's route 1 threat the Jets tried to get a foothold, and pulled a goal back just before half time when Jack's throw ended at Matt's feet and a 1-2 scoreline. Half time was a chance to regroup and rethink.

The second half was a succession of near misses as the Jets searched for an equaliser, interspersed with panics at the other end as a fast striker latched on to long balls into the space behind the defence. On another day Jack would have had a hat-trick, and one of 3 free kicks from scoreable distance would have found the target, but it wasnt to be. Very frustrating to know the chances were there, and the local rival is the last team to want a bad day in front of goal against.....again! Credit to Rusthall for being committed and determined throughout, and bending without breaking.

The result flings the division wide open. The Jets have endured 3 games in a row littered with 'what-might-have-beens' but self pity won't move them forward. Time to take a deep breath and plunge forwards....

Sunday November 15th , KYL Under 14 South,

Aylesford 3 - 3 Langton Green Jets (Ben W 2, Jack)

From Monday night under lights on a 3g to a windswept Sunday morning in long grass and mud - something of a contrast, and something the boys perhaps failed to adjust well to. Despite stealing an early led when Jack sent Ben clear the Jets didnt look comfortable, and too often the clearances were wild swipes, the passes underhit, and the running with the ball on a pitch that didnt suit it was a bad choice. Hesitation at the back opened the door for a soft equaliser which gave Aylesford the belief to get at the Jets. The pressure was relieved when Jack ran on to Ben's through ball to make it 2-1, but again a failure to tackle hard and clear properly allowed it to become 2-2, and then suicidally 2-3 with the last kick of the first half.

Half time team talks can take different styles. This one was a call for heart and desire, rarely a request that needs to be made. Almost straight from the restart Jack went clear but missed where he usually scores. Soon after he redeemed himself by setting up the excellent Ben for the equaliser, and there seemed plenty of time for a winner, aided by the wind at their backs. To Ayleford's great credit they continued to press, and missed a good chance to retake the lead. And then the crucial passage of play: First Scott hit a screamer from the edge of the box that was magnificently tipped over the bar, and then Ben was taken down for a penalty. In the mud George's strike was not as clean as he would have liked and the keeper managed to scramble the ball over the bar to keep the scores level. Another excellent penalty shout was ignored, and from a game that looked there for the taking it became a tussle to keep a point. Toby's handling was sound, Ben's tackling well-timed, and Ollie Harry and Will did their jobs well, but there were still too many scrambles that were borne of panic whereas coolness was what was required.

Still unbeaten, and many will find it hard to get anything from Aylesford on their home ground. It may yet prove a valuable point.

Monday November 9th, Kent County Cup 2nd round

Maidstone United 3 - 2 Langton Green Jets (George, Jack)

An evening game at the Gallagher stadium - a grand setting for what proved a blood and thunder match. The Jets lost Nathan to a rugby injury at the weekend, and with Declan struggling it opened the door for a debut for new signing Finn. It isn't ideal to have the midfield meeting each other for the first time in the dressing room, but it seemed to work as the Jets dominated the first half. George curled home an early free kick after Ben was taken down, and Finn almost drifted in a second after a slick move. Jack had a succession of shots he didnt quite get hold of, but then lifted home a 'worldy' from 30 yards to double the lead; another outstanding goal. With the defence keeping the potent Maidstone strikers away from shooting range it was very much an excellent first half performance.

Unfortunately half a performance doesnt see a game home against good opposition and the first 15 minutes of the second half were crucial. Ben W almost scored the goal that would have killed the game, but things never quite fell as they might. Then a mis-control in the centre-circle, a long ball forward and in a few brief seconds the game had changed. With a slender lead to chase down Maidstone poured forward and created a succession of chances; Toby was outstanding in dealing with one on ones. But with 10 minutes to go the equaliser came.

With 3 minutes left Ben made it to the byline and with 3 in the box waiting he chipped a cross that Finn couldnt quite convert.....that was the moment if things were to end happily...but in injury time another scramble at the other end saw Harry hook the ball away and go down in pain. To the surprise of all, and especially injured Harry, the foul was given against him. There was an air of disbelief and inevitability as Toby got fingers to the kick, only to see it squirm in off the post.

The game deserved extra time; it was no way to decide the match on such a controversial decision. Sport can be cruel, and sometimes you just have to hope the fortune balances out in the end. We'll never know what extra time might have brought, and it was a painful journey home. Lessons to be learned about dealing with a momentum shift, but positives too. Maidstone and Langton haven't seen the last of each other this season - each has reason to respect the other after two intense contests.

Sunday November 1st, KYL Cup, 2nd Round

Fisher Athletic 4- 5 Langton Green Jets (Ben W 3, George, Scott)

After the international break the Jets resumed with an away cup tie at an opponent not faced before. Fisher Athletic started downhill with some confident and tidy passing whilst their opponents dozed; an accident waiting to happen. And the inevitable happened when tackles and clearances were insufficient and weak, and a cross shot gave the home side the lead. For a while the Jets were on the ropes, but gradually they started to connect the passes. Nathan came on in midfield and put in his best shift of the season, and the chances started to come. Eventually George threaded a smart pass in to Ben W who finished like a striker full of confidence.

Having scrambled back into the game the Jets wasted that work by being caught twice, once on the break, and once from distance. 3-1 down was bad news; the glimmer of hope was that chances were being created, and a tighter defensive performance down the slope in the second half might see a turnaround.

To shift the momentum a goal was needed. Instead a succession of near misses were a source of frustration. Ned, Dec and Ben all came close.The key was to spot the tide had turned, and keep plugging away - eventually George showed up at the back post to reduce the deficit, and it was game on. The scores were levelled when Jack's long throw caught the defence too high and Ben was never going to be caught with a head start, 3-3. By now it was one way traffic - Jack curled in a free kick that Harry headed goalwards from close range.....across the line or not? We'll never know as Ben banged the rebound home and grabbed a hat-trick. Harry was torn between delighted about the lead and annoyed not to be on the score sheet.

The fight-back had come so fast it was too early to shut up shop so the sideline encouragement was to keep going, and the positivity was rewarded with the goal of the game. Toby intercepted a Fisher through ball at the top of the box and turned defence into attack with a smart throw to the right; Will (who had a very tidy game) and George linked neatly to take the ball to half way, and then George released Ben down the right wing. Ben hit the by-line with defenders strung out behind him and pulled the ball back (exactly as has been worked on at length on training).....Scott had made the run from deep and arrived on the edge of the box right on cue...and his side foot shot was timed so sweetly it roared into the far corner. Five players had taken the ball the full length of the pitch at speed, and with perfect execution had lethally delivered what proved the winning goal.

But the Jets being the Jets decided to make it a heart stopping last few minutes. Having dealt with everything down the middle for most of the second half Harry had a Strictly Ballroom moment and it was 5-4 with 5 minutes left. Scott dropped deep to bolster the defence, Jack tucked into midfield, and the game was seen home. It wasnt a perfect performance, but it was a very impressive fightback. Winning becomes a habit, and the Jets' 'refuse to lose' attitude was pivotal in getting them over the line.

A long drive home through the fog and traffic of south-east London.....but a day to say 'do you remember when?.....' 

Sunday October 18th 2015, KYL U14 South

Langton Green Jets 4 - 0 Tunbridge Wells (Jack, George, Matt, Ben W)

A freak of the fixture list meant the Jets were playing their 7th game at the Rec in 8 weeks, but also possibly their last for several months.It has been a fortress, and the aim was to go out on a high against local rivals Tunbridge Wells. With 13 players keen for action there were plenty of permutations on a bright afternoon.

Not for the first time Jack opened his account early, first to the rebound as the TW keeper parried Ben W's low left foot shot, and not long after it became 2-0 as George's headed flick from Jack's long free kick found the corner. Despite the goals the Jets werent particularly on song, often trying a little too much on a surface that was far from smooth. Tunbridge Wells had one big chance to claw their way back into the game when ex-Jet Harry found his way clear on the left side; unselfishly he squared from a good shooting position, but his pass was wasted by a scuffed finish, and the opportunity was gone.

Soon after BenW was tipped up in the box which allowed Matt to make it 3-0. Scott smashed one from range only to see it land on the roof of the net with the keeper nowhere, and Nathan twice came close from outside the box. Yes, Nathan.....from outside the box. Honest.

In the second half the football was probably more controlled, but there was less goal mouth action. Harry and Ben saw home their 3rd consecutive clean sheet with decisive interventions, and good distribution. The opposition defended hard but never really gave Toby any alarms, and it took another rocket from Ben W from outside the box to extend the lead. Jack had a shot well saved at close range.

All in all it was a comfortable win. The Jets have been more clinical in their attacks in other weeks, but the defensive shape was as good as it has been all year. TW deserve credit for never giving up, and will present problems to teams if they snatch a lead and defend as valiantly.

A week off beckons, followed by 2nd round games in both cups....time to hit the road.

Sunday October 11th 2015, Kent County u14 Cup, 1st Round

Langton Green Jets 4 - 0 APM Holtwood (Jack, Ben W x3)

Another gorgeous autumn afternoon, and another date at the Rec, as the Jets welcomed Holtwood from the Maidstone League. Having not always had substitutes lately things went from the ridiculous to the sublime as Scott and Nutty started on the bench. The game began explosively as Ben put Jack in behind the defence and he raced away and thumped home his shot. Not the way underdogs would wish to start so it was greatly to Holtwood's credit that they hung in, and almost found a way back level as Toby first clung on to a rasping shot above his head, then needed Will's help to scramble another away.

Down the other end the Jets again demonstrated an inability to hit the target from close range...Jack dragged one wide, Ned headed against the post from close range, and various rebounds were crashed into the goal-line defenders. While the simpler chances werent going in BenW solved the problem by adding two high class goals. A turn and a screamer off the underside of the bar from distance, and then (not for the first time this year) he got between the centre back and advancing keeper, to be first to the through ball. The touch took him wide left but from what seemed an unlikely angle he swivelled to guide his left shot into the far corner, a fantastic finish. (So he was immediately substituted!).

The half time talk was, for a change, less about how to win the game in the second half, and more about how to play better. The tendency in the first half was to be dragged into a long ball competition, and the challenge for the remainder of the game was to set up phases of play, and use the flanks more. Not for the first time this year the boys looked more composed up the hill. Harry and Ben were determined to preserve another clean sheet, and with protection from Scott the route down the middle was effectively snuffed out. George put on a clinic in ground coverage, and led the way in terms of turning the possession in the final third into clear cut chances. The fourth goal epitomised some of the work done in training in recent weeks. Will received the ball wide, and played the ideal ball for George to run onto down the channel, George hit the by-line and pulled the ball back for Ben to provide the text book finish, and seal a quality hat-trick.

There was time for George to break down the middle and feed Matt coming in from the left. He showed great technique to hit the ball with the outside of his left foot and was unlucky to see the ball rocket back off the inside of the post. Jack went clear through twice more, and was thwarted by a mixture of brave keeping and his tendency to miss more often from inside 10 yards than outside. He was frustrated, the price of setting himself such high standards, but once again he and Ben had scored multiple goals between them, and importantly each continues to bring out the best in the other.

Overall a good day. A comfortable scoreline, but at no time did Holtwood give up. Declan was unlucky to keep collecting injuries, but picked a good week for it with Scott and Nathan putting in strong midfield shifts. The defence did secure their second clean sheet in a row, and with both cup runs successully underway the team can now turn its focus back to building on their lead in the u14 south division. But for now it is 7 games this season, 7 wins, and winning is a good habit to get in to.

Sunday October 4th 2015, KYL u14 South

Langton Green Jets 3 - 0 Bredhurst Juniors (Jack 2, George)

For the fifth Sunday in six weeks the Jets found themselves setting up at the Rec, with an early kick off for a change. Also for a change they had the luxury of a substitute, so decided to make it a good one; Jack, on his way back after the injury picked up 3 weeks ago. Nathan was also back from injury, and back in the team.

Bredhurst arrived with the chance to clamber above the Jets in the table, and set about the game very well. There were few chances in the early exchanges before Toby had to stretch to keep out a good cross shot, but was only able to parry the ball towards a striker coming in from the left, who looked sure to score. Toby gambled and dived to where the shot might go, and smothered the ball, a great instinctive effort, which kept the match in the balance.

Conditions were slick with a carpet of dew still on the pitch, and the Jets were guilty of trying too much, and adapting too little to conditions. The tide started to shift a little, and BenW got between the central defence and Bredhurst keeper to flick a lob towards the empty net, but a back-tracking defender did brilliantly to hook the ball off the line. George took a knock and sat out the last ten minutes of the half, so when the half time whistle came the chance to regroup was probably worth more than the loss of the downhill slope.

As with every game this year the half time conversation felt important. As usual the game had neither been won nor lost, and all was to play for. 4-4-2 hadnt been working, so the consensus was to be bold, go to an attacking 4-3-3 and tighten up on the loose distribution of the ball. The defence knew the price of a mistake could be high. The game remained tight for the next 15 minutes before Jack transformed the match, intercepting a weak clearance on the left touchline, and sending the ball back over the stranded goalkeeper from 35 yards out. A fabulous goal. In some games a single goal isnt worth a great deal, but in a game like this it was particularly precious. For the next 15 minutes it might have gone either way - the Bredhurst keeper made a great save, and a defender somehow stopped Ben's rebound on the line, preventing the killer second goal. Then Will, increasingly looking comfortable in his hitherto unfamiliar role, made a crucial intervention on the near post to preserve the lead. Ben and Harry made a succession of key tackles and had the composure to use the ball well in turning defence back into attack.

And then the critical passage of play: Bredhurst pressed on, and a striker's shot eluded Toby's grasp, and the rebound was slammed home from close range. The first shooter was onside, but the next player on the scene for the rebound had not been, and the goal was disallowed. Almost immediately the ball was played up the other end, BenW turned, released Jack and he finished decisively, 2-0. Joy for the Jets and a major body blow for Bredhurst. It was easy to understand their disappointment. For the sake of a yard or two they were level, instead they were a long way back and running out of time.

The disappointment probably caused Bredhurst to lose focus, and the Jets had their most profitable time. Matt was taken down in the box as he set himself to score. The injury meant he was done for the day, but no penalty given, though shortly after that BenW's quick feel in the box meant he was clipped, and with Matt on the sidelines George calmly took over penalty duties, 3-0. All that was left was for Ollie to make the tackle of the day on a player twice his size, as the defence protected its hard-earned clean sheet.

The winning margin was larger than the overall game would have suggested. The Jets were stronger for longer and shaded it rather than romped home. A number of players were far from 100% either after injury or illness so again it was the collective effort that saw them home. The absence of a pre-season, and the problem of never having more than 6 players fit for a training session means the team is doing its bonding and developing on the pitch during the matches. Not ideal, but the boys are getting stronger and more formidable every week in consequence. One of these days they will all be fit and ready for the same game!

Sunday September 27th 2015, KYL u14 cup 1st round

Langton Green Jets 6 - 3 Sheerness East (Ned 2, Ben W 2, Matt, George)

At various times during the week the Jets were down to 7 fit players and picking a team was more about asking who could walk. But by Sunday afternoon there were 11 boys in green shirts ready to take on Sheerness East, but no-one on the bench should the need arise.

Down the hill in a 4-4-2 it was even early until a through ball caught the Jets' defence out, and Toby didnt quite get there in time to do more than slow things up, but the Sheerness striker finished well, 0-1. A bad start, made worse when equalising chances went begging several times, before Ben W made the by-line and squared for Ned, who was relishing a more advanced role and he finished off the underside of the bar. In short order it became 2-1 and then 3-1 as twice Ben W raced onto ball from Matt and BenR, and finished well. He and Matt came close to adding to the lead before a 40 yard 'worldy' at the other end made it 3-2 and at half time it was again a case of a closer home game than the chances might suggest, and work to do up the hill.

In an unfamiliar formation made necessary by the injuries it was no surprise that the performance was more energetic than fluent, but debutant Tom linked well, and George Matt and Dec kept feeding BenW a steady supply of dangerous through balls. Harry and Ben were outstanding again at the back, Toby was coming loudly off his line, and Will and Ollie dealt valiantly with the problems that came their way. Some very good penalty shouts were waived away and the physicality of the tackling went up several notches. Declan's dead ball delivery kept causing problems. Matt had a great header well saved before Ned rose at the back post to make it 4-2, and when BenW was once again taken down in the box, this time bringing a whistle, Matt made it 5-2. It felt like game over, and Tom almost scored the goal his contribution deserved, but a route one goal down the other end made it 5-3 and lined up yet another nervous finish that ought not to have been necessary.

Thankfully George made it 6-3 - his energy levels were awesome, and to be in the box so late in the game was a great effort. That ought to have been it but sadly the beaten side were now taking out frustrations in some challenges that seemed more about revenge than ball winning. For a team that has suffered so badly to injuries already this season it wasnt what the Jets neeeded. Declan took a beating all over the pitch and the Jets had to play on without him, down to 10 men for the final minutes, when he was clattered for the umpteenth time. Fortunately Ben was too fast for the player who tried quite blatantly to take him out, but it wasnt a pleasing spectacle, nor was the opposition's unwillingness to shake hands at the end.

Sometimes football is art, sometimes science, sometimes it is a battle. The Jets managed a little of each at various points, and have reason to be pleased with the result, the performance in adversity, and their conduct. When the going got tough, the tough got going.

Sunday September 20th 2015, KYL u14s

Langton Green Jets 3 - 2 Maidstone United (OG, Matt, Ben W)

Maidstone arrived at the Rec with a 100% record, 19 goals scored, 0 conceded. The Jets showed up with two wins that had been secured with last ditch defending and no little relief at the final whistle. But the opening games of this season perhaps counted less than the mutual respect of two teams that had been through the fire of the u13 Central division the year before.

There are no selection issues when you only have 11 fit players left; perhaps even less so when one player is still bearing the scars from the week before; the only choices were team shape and mental preparation, and which way to kick if the toss was won. Toby won the toss and pointed the boys down the on. The balance of play was in the Maidstone half, as the Jets pressed as they do best. The speed of Maidstone's strikers meant their offensive threat would never go away, so keeping the ball up the other end seemed the best plan. And with no small slice of luck the Jets went one up with an own goal from a pressured back pass. It might have turned into two, except that Matt, Jack and Declan took turns to miss the target - very like the home opener at the same end of the pitch, not to mention the Rusthall game at the end of last season; what is it about shooting from 6 yards out at that end ?? And, unsurprisingly, this generosity reaped ts reward as the Maidstone no.9 smashed in a shot off the underside of the bar....back to all square despite the imbalance in chances.

The Jets pushed on, and Jack fed BenW in the box, and his fast feet meant an ill-timed tackle resulted in an indisputable penalty. Matthew made no mistake, 2-1. No goals from the pretty chances but 2 from the uglier ones. Meantime Scott had arrived from his motorway pilgrimage, and came on just before half time to head against the post. A two goal lead might have helped calm everyone, but the 2015 Jets dont seem to like a smoother journey.

The team talk recognised it was a deserved lead, but that the contest wasnt remotely over. It would literally be an uphill battle to hold on. And that is how the game played out for the next 25 minutes. Ben and Harry were magnificent in dealing with all the direct attacks down the middle, whilst Ned and Will (in an unfamiliar but measured role as a full back) tucked in as required, and broke out when they could. George and Matt and Scott allowed no comfortable possssion in front of Toby, whilst Jack and Dec mixed sideline attack with midfield duties.

The Jets had very few chances in the second half, reflecting caution in protecting the lead. Maidstone were restricted to long shots, and a succession of close run things as balls down the middle turned into tests of Toby's willingness to be brave and come to the edge of his box. With Ben and Harry holding the defensive line in the right spot Toby was (just) winning the races. And then with 10 minutes left George and Dec pushed down the right looking for a game ending goal, but as the ball broke from them for once the centre of midfield was more open, and a Maidstone midfielder exploited the hole to advance and smash a fantastic unstoppable shot into the top corner. It was now 2 - 2 and momentum had shifted. Maidstone pushed down the hill for the winner, and there were alarms but not clear cut chances. Then Matt volleyed a ball forwards, behind the defence but lofted enough not to be going quickly to the keeper. The keeper came, but didnt arrive ahead of BenW who had not stopped running all afternoon; his toe poked lob drifted slowly goalwards, barely disturbing the back of the net, perfect in its execution, 3-2 and maybe a minute left.

For the third week in a row the final whistle came as an exultant relief. Devastating for Maidstone to come back twice only to lose at the death. Two top teams had gone at it hard but fair for the entirety of the match. The Jets had missed the easiest chances of the day, and Maidstone had scored the best goals of the day, but the home side had found a way over the finish line, and perhaps just deserved it. Injury hit, and needing everyone to pull full shifts, the Jets scrambled home. Credit to Ollie for again delivering at an unfamiliar level, to the defenders old and new for giving a lethal strike force so little time on the ball, to the midfield for huge work rate, and for the pace up front that the strikers never eased up on delivering. A team effort with a capital T.

Sunday September 13th 2015, KYL u14 S

Chatham 2 - 4 Langton Green Jets (Ben W, George, Declan, Jack)

Scorelines do not always tell the whole story. 11 Jets arrived in Chatham, leaving 3 behind injured, and another somewhere on the m25. Ollie made his KYL debut, and the Jets lined up on a large 3g looking to build on the win last week. Things went far from to plan. Chatham poured forward, moved well, ran hard, and the Jets looked all at sea. Chances came and went, and Toby had to be on top form to keep things level. Something clearly wasnt right and the Chatham goal was well deserved, and only Toby and the post stopped the lead from doubling.

Scott eventually arrived from his daytrip round the M25, came on, and the formation was shuffled to snuff out Chatham's journey down the field. Just before half time a couple of chances suggested a way back into the game, but with Matt now unwell more change was needed. There were no new cards to play, just the ability to reshuffle the deck. To the boys' credit the half time talk was constructive; problems were addressed with great maturity, no bickering.

Early in the second half Jack broke away but scuffed his shot just wide. It was encourging or discouraging depending on your outlook. Ben W followed Jack's lead, and was sent away down the middle, finishing calmly, 1-1. There were still some defensive alarms but Harry and BenR were increasingly dealing with problems early, excellently protected by Scott, who provided a partner to George in a key area of the field. Declan was fouled 25 yards out in front of goal, and a clear opportunity beckoned. George made no mistake from his flighted free kick, and the lead had been stolen.

Grateful to be back in the game the Jets then powered on. Jack made inroads down the right and crossed low and hard; Declan had covered half the pitch to get in front of the defender and side foot home a really excellent goal. Jack then hit the bar with a 30 yard curler, before ramming home from close range, 4-1. It was an incredible turnaround in such a short space of time.

To complicate matters Jack was knocked out of the game with a head injury, and Matt had to return. Ned was pushed forward, and Will tucked in. The challenge was to see the game out and avoid the panics of the week before. However Chatham continued to pose problems going forward and Toby made 2 great saves before the third attempt pulled a goal back. The Jets were better than last week at seeing the game out, Harry, Ben, and Scott first to every aerial through-ball, but everyone was still glad to hear the whistle. There were plenty of exhausted people by the end.

Having had next to no pre season there was always going to be rust to shake off. Gaining 6/6 points whilst adapting to new players and some new positions is a reason to be cheerful. To keep enduring injuries within a small squad is very difficult, and so far it has been unfortunate in that regard, but necessity has forced some performances out of people in unexpected places, which will serve the team well in the long haul.

Sunday September 6th 2015, Kent Youth League, U14 South

Langton Green Jets 3 - 2 Bearsted (Jack, George, Ben W)

At the start of the game it felt like a very long time since a competitive match had been played at the Rec. By the end it was getting a bit deja vu as a comfortable win threatened to turn into a heartbreaking draw, invoking memories of the last game of last season.

A beautiful sunny day saw the Jets start down the hill....the team was largely familiar but a couple of new starters in Ned and Declan, and Ben R lining up alongside Harry in a new look defence. For 45 seconds Bearsted had possession, but Nathan won a tackle, passed to Jack, and it was 1-0 into the roof of the net inside the first minute. A statement start. Then for the next 30 minutes the boys took it in turns to miss from 6 yards out - Matt, Ben, Jack, Declan all looked sure to score but didnt, which led to the obvious anxiety that it might come back to haunt. Meantime the new centre back pairing was dominant in the air, and in the tackle, and the full backs were proving effective attacking outlets. The next debutant, Rory, made a good early impact and finally the important second goal came when George passed home left footed, a reward for his effort to get into the box.

Half time came and 2-0 looks good if you havent seen the slope at the Rec, and if you couldnt see how much a hot day, and a first game in a while had taken its toll. Momentum could clearly switch quickly. For the next 15 minutes Bearsted enjoyed possession without making it to key areas, or having any shots. Will and Dec worked well down the right to make chances that fell the wrong way, then Ben W pulled a ball down with great skill, took a neat touch and curled home a classy finish, 3-0. That ought to have been that, based on all that had gone before, but with 15 minutes to go a corner was conceded which enabled opponents to fill the box, and a simple cross and header was all it took to ignite the game.

Tiring legs meant less passing and moving, less fluency but it was all pretty much fine until Harry went down in his own box and whilst on the ground the ball was kicked into his arm.....not a penalty you often see given, and a soft way back into the game. 3-2 was a crazy scoreline given the respective attacks on goal, but it meant the last 10 minutes were going to be intense. They were, partly because Bearsted chucked everything forward, partly because of some understandable was almost calmed down when Nathan set off on a typically mazy run, one-two'd his way to the edge of the six yard box, but then his shot was as poor as his run had been great, and the game kept going....

Harry and Ben held firm in the middle, and with Jack's help headed mostof the route one attacks to safety. Up front and more isolated now, Ben chased every ball to take the pressure off, and Matt and George worked tirelessly. The final whistle was a relief, which was a credit to the fight back Bearsted had attempted, but on balance the points had gone to a good home.

Early season rust will have been knocked off - for some it was their first game or even training session for 2 months. Amidst some stand out efforts credit must go to Ben R for a brilliant first stab at central defence, but it was a typical Langton team effort that saw the result home. Off an running!