Jets 2017 - 2018

Sunday May 6th, KYL u16 south

Dover 2 - 0 Langton Green

And, not for the first time it, came down to the final game of the season for the Jets, who need a win at Dover. Blazing hot day, small pitch, a lot of spectators, and all to play for. The first half was a hard fought contest - energy levels were high, everyone was closing opponents down fast, and with not much room to work in everything was tight. Dover put a couple of shots over the bar, but the 3 gilt edge chances of the half fell to Langton:

Ben's very skilful volleyed cross went straight across the 6 yard box eluding everyone. Jack blocked a delayed clearance by the Dover keeper and watched the ball trickle inches past the post. The big moment of the half (and with hindsight of the whole game) came when Matt's free-kick was on a plate for Jack to head home from a couple of yards out. But his glance took the ball just the wrong side of the post; a chance he would finish 9 times out of 10, just not today.

Half time saw everyone head for some shade. Dover had edged possession, but the Jets had come much the closer to scoring. For neutral observers the game was brilliantly poised and the expectation was for more of the same, but the second half went a different way. Both Langton full backs were struggling, and having been key in the Jets' play from the back all season it meant the rhythm was missing. Neither could link with the midfield, and allow the midfield to link with the forwards, so the balls going forward were imprecise; poor service meant less chances. Defensively it meant vulnerability too, as Dover attacked with menace on both flanks.

Final season games have been unkind to the Jets in their KYL years. And again today Lady Luck turned her back on the Jets at the vital moment. Mid-way through the half a loose ball was latched onto by a Dover player, and he shot from outside the box. Harry got in the way, partially, but the ball looped off his foot and top-spinned perfectly over the stranded Angus in goal, and into the far corner. Cruel in such a big game. And 1-0 was a big lead given the way the game was going.

Matt was injured out of the game, forcing Tom into a makeshift defender. John had no choice but to limp on. The absent Nathan was sorely missed. Dover pressed on, and BenR was magnificent in holding the fort, whilst around him Toby George and Harry were running themselves ragged to keep Langton in the game. But not much was being created, which meant pushing more players higher, and leaving ever larger gaps at the back. With 10 minutes left a second goal ended the contest. The Jets waited for an offside flag that never came, and the Dover striker finished the one-on-one comfortably.

It ended in brave defeat. 2nd place, again, and a 4th runners up medal to show for the blood, sweat, and tears. Dover were the only side the Jets failed to beat this season, so were worthy winners. Had Langton grabbed the lead it might have been a different story. But that's football; the boys gave it everything, and that was all that could be asked of them. Jack will again pick up the award for top scorer in the league. In all he scored 66 goals in 63 league games over the four seasons (and another 19 in the cups) - a standout sportsman in all senses of the word.

So many brilliant memories....

98 games have come and gone. BenW and Matt played 95 of them; incredibly Ben hasnt missed a game in over 3 years. Toby played 93, and each of Jack, Harry, George, and BenR played more than 80, with Nathan and Declan not far behind. With Tom, Anton and Angus debuting in the u14s, that makes 12 players who have pretty much been there through thick and thin. Only 3 of them ever picked up a booking, which also speaks volumes for the character of this side.

What else to say? Thank you to the KYL for providing such a wonderful opportunity through these boys' teenage years, and to all the teams Langton Green shared a pitch with, and to all the coaches who gave their time so willingly, and to all the parents who cheered and applauded.

And last words:


Langton Green - our journey

They arrived, five years old, and all dreaming of being
The heroes that on their TV they were seeing:
Dressed as Lampards and Rooneys, Christiano, Stevie G;
Mums and dads dreamed also of what they might be.

For the most part we knew it was only dreams that we fed,
And we all knew the reality of what lay ahead,
On their journey from boys to men.

Mini-soccer was pure, the best day of the week,
Lighting up Saturdays on cold winters bleak.
The first team, the first kit, worn all day and night,
Still dreaming, believing in a future so bright.

From Crowborough League first steps, and on to West Kent,
Still every weekend the football was their main event.
On their journey from boys to men.

Then the Tandridge League, to blood the Jets,
Junior Elite away, as tough as it gets.
Bigger opponents, and tougher games,
But for lovers of football it just fanned the flames.

No longer pretending that they were great every time,
Reality nudging in, on their upward climb,
On this journey from boys to men.

Now the Kent Youth League, as the ultimate test,
For those that want to be seen as the best.
And these boys decided that they would be seen,
On this new big stage, still in Langton Green.

Representing a village from nowhere, 
Defining themselves,
As they journeyed from boys to men.

The Kent Youth League was all that they hoped,
Each challenge was met, as the boys more than coped.
New teams to play, and from the beginning,
These Jets got the taste for regular winning.

Expectations upped, new pressures to feel,
No longer dreamers, this was very much real,
Along the journey from boys to men.

Bittersweet memories of a glorious first season,
With two runners up medals the cause and the reason.
There was no blaming the tears that they cried,
For the effort put in, in the name of their side.

Disappointment the price of daring to dream,
Hard lessons becoming a regular theme,
Less boys now, and growing towards becoming young men.

Then a repeat performance, a second great season that crashed,
With a freak goal conceded, which the title hopes smashed.
Two years in a row made this hard to believe,
Happy all season, but then a summer to grieve.

Could this be the moral, the tough learned hard truth
That dreams arent worth having at the end of your youth?
Laying down a cruel pathway on the road to to becoming young men.

Two more seasons followed, the Jets came back for more, 
Whenever knocked down they got back off the floor.
On their best days unplayable, and scoring for fun, 
And as a team they evolved, one-for-all, all for one.

The lesson? In life they have learned there is more,
Than victory at all costs, it's not all about the score.
These boys are learning what it is to be men.

The final KYL chapter just ended, and much like the first,
Second place, some disappointment, but life could be worse.
These boys succeeded, and scored the ultimate goal,
Of maintaining perspective, preserving their footballing soul.

From five year old dreamers, right up to the end of the ride,
My pride in these boys i just cannot hide.
These boys, my Langton boys, now truly wonderful young men.

Chris Allen, May 2018.


Sunday April 29th , KYL u16 south

Langton Green 3 - 2 Hollands and Blair (Gallagher 2, Manuel)

Very difficult to know where to begin. The presumption after last week was that the season was over, and the Jets woud in effect be playing H&B for 2nd place in the league, with the outcome of the scheduled away game on May 6th at Dover being irrelevant. As such it seemed likely this would be the last KYL game for these boys. The post-game party was arranged, invites went out to spectators to come and watch the Jets final game, and the plan was to go out in a blaze of glory.

Then, just prior to kick-off the news came through that Bearsted had held Dover 0-0. This meant that if the Jets-HB game was drawn Dover would still win the league, but if either Langton or H&B was victorious they would still able to catch Dover the following week.

So...not the normal pre-game preparation. With this being the final game (so everyone thought) the plan had been to make it memorable, and go for it. Anton was away at athletics (running a national qualifiying time in the 100m) and Toby took the gloves for only the 2nd time since Christmas, but the formation was somewhere between 4-3-3 and 2-5-3, with both full backs being encouraged to get forward. And things began perfectly, as Matt did exactly as planned and joined the attack. Fed by BenW his curled cross was magnificently headed into the far top corner by Jack. Great goal, great start, and almost immediately after that the Jets came close again, and won a corner. What hadnt been discussed pre-game was taking a short corner and losing the ball with all the Jets' midfield and half the defence waiting expectantly in the Blair penalty area ! The breakaway was ruthless, and an absolute masterclass in how to expoit a man advantage on a fast break; 1-1 after 5 minutes.

This knocked the home side back, briefly, but after 3 weeks of playing on really bad surfaces before this, it was now possible to play slick attacking football, and with 3 fast strikers and a supportive midfield the chances created began to tot up. Jack knocked the ball past the stranded H&B centre back only to be physically grabbed and pulled back. The free kick was given, but the absence of any card meant the defender had learnt the lesson that he could get away with things, which was a shame. But, soon after, a ball into the Blair box was only half cleared into the path of Tom who smashed it into the bottom corner from distance. A third great finish of the game. 2-1. Thereafter there were plenty of first half chances to extend the lead, with several visits to the by-line resulting in crosses that just didnt fall right, and last ditch tackles to block shots. Meantime there was also the lurking threat of another counter attack. One of these was only just survived with Matthew diving back into Toby's net as he dealt with a cross that had 2 Blair strikers eager to head home.

But, at half time it really was just a case of saying 'brilliant, keep going, dont switch off'. The second half was never going to match the first for quality as the tensions that come with playing for high stakes starting to get into minds. There was also the risk that a 3 man midfield on a big pitch would struggle to keep going. George and Harry were relentless, aided and abetted by Tom and Dec who rotated the role. As the game progressed BenR and Nathan at the back were coming under increasing long-ball pressure. From one Ben was adjudged to have pushed the striker and a 25 yard free kick was conceded. The ball was curled goalwards. Toby may have had it covered but it crashed off the intersection of bar and post and fell perfectly for Blair to bundle home. 2-2. With this scoreline the only team now winning was Dover !

Momentum switched as the Jets struggled to deal with the fact that after such a preponderance of chances they werent winning the game. Maybe an element of 'here we go again' was filling minds. For a few minutes the defence had to hold tight. At one point Nathan Toby and Matt played a risky game of 3 versus 3 possesion in the Jets 6 yard box, as they took it in turns to trade risky passes around pressing forwards. Heartstopping for spectators; no-one is sure if Nathan knew there were opponents in close attendance!

Gradually the tide turned and with 20 minutes to go the chances started to come.....and go, sadly.Jack and BenW moved closer together to play off each other and their understanding and pace looked like it would unlock the door. Ben's byline cross was met a yard out by Charlie, but he hit the keeper. Declan shot just over, Charlie shot wide, Tom had a goal bound shot blocked by a green shirt. Finally Ben fed George, who slid the ball into the path of Jack on the right. He blazed past the defender and hit the ball early, and low. It's not unusual to see Jack score; this was his 85th Jet goal across the 4 KYL seasons, but this was special. Right footed ! And possibly a match winner.

It took courage to continue to play 3 up front. It nearly paid off with Matt's half volley only half saved. Inevitably Blair threw the kitchen sink at finding an equaliser, and in the dying moments won 2 corners. Their keeper came up; 22 players in the box. The first corner was smuggled out just inches from the far post. The second was headed away, and brought the final whistle. 3-2.

It was an exhilarating game. One of the most memorable. Having played out an ugly draw earlier in the month on an unsuitable pitch, this time both sides put on a show. On the basis of chances created the better team won, just.

The end of season party went ahead, despite the fact that the season may not be over. Parents and kids ate, drank, laughed; it was how it should be, always. Awards were handed out. For the second year in a row the players' players voting left Jack and BenR all but insperable, but it is a tribute to the depth of talent that 8 different players garnered top 3 votes.

So.....that was meant to be that. 97 games in their KYL lives....62 wins against 30 different sides, 312 goals scored, 150 conceded. 6 yellow cards in those 97 games, no reds. There may or may not be a final chapter. For the 3rd season in 4 a small village no-one has heard of has taken their Kent Youth League title run down to the final game. And all whilst still liking each other!

Sunday April 22nd, KYL u16 south

Sheppey Utd 4 - 1 Langton Green (Gallagher)

The Jets travelled to Sheppey for a key game. The late change in kick off time meant 3 key players were unfortunately missing; the blazing hot day made it a bad one to have just 11 players, and no subs, and even then 4 of the 11 were caught in traffic and did not arrive until 10 minutes ahead of the kick off.

To make matters worse the pitch was well below the standard the game deserved. A large slope, and deep grass that held the ball up, significantly impacting the ability to play football. All the wrong ingredients. And the mood darkened when after two minutes an inswinging corner went in off George's knee for an own goal, and after ten minutes it was 2-0 as a cross was headed home from close range at the back post. To say that everyone was reeling, and feeling sorry for themselves was an understatement.

Trying to claw their way back into the match the Jets got the ball past the Sheppey keeper only to see the ball hooked away. Then a 3 on 2 breakaway was mystifyingly whistled dead to give Langton a free kick they didnt want, back in their own half. The number of decisons that seemed at odds with the game was growing, and adding to the sense of disorientation. It would have been easy at half time to focus on all the things that felt unfair, but that wasnt going to change anything.

The second half started with Anton going clear through but shooting just wide of the near post. Then the Sheppey keeper handled outside the box and Jack's resultant free kick was spilled; Harry's rebound shot was blocked back to him, and he smashed the next one into the post from a yard out. Charlie went through and hit the side netting, then did it again only to thump the base of the post. Tallying all that up was plenty enought to feel the game was not dead. Then the keeper made fine diving saves to deny both Jack and then Ben. It was starting to feel inevitable that a goal would not come, and Sheppey were (understandably) doing all they could to keep the ball of the pitch as time ticked down. Then Charlie fed John down the left wing and his deep cross was beautifully headed back across goal by Jack, 1-2. With may be 10 minutes left there was a glimmer of hope.

The flames of hope were extinguished when the ball was lost at the back with almost everyone upfield, and the breakaway goal killed the game. Another was added in injury time. It was a studs high finish in the face of the keeper and the goal ought not to have stood but it was by far from the only frustrating moment to be endured in the game. Adding up the chances the result was an absurd reflection of the second half.

The game was played in the shadow of the ground whether the u16 cup final had been played 3 days earlier. Perhaps 'under the same cloud' is more accurate than 'in the shadow' given how that game sadly descended and ended in such shame for both participating clubs. And for some moments today the frustrations of losing in a game that needed winning threatened to boil over. The Jets picked up their first booking of the season when George objected to getting whacked in the face. It is so tempting to say that poor refereeing is a valid reason to lose the plot. But it isnt. However frustrating the pitch, the referee, the circumstances, it is still just a game.To their credit the boys took it on the chin, shook hands, and moved on. The toys stayed in the pram. But yes, there were plenty of reasons to feel aggrieved.

But 11 lads gave their all. It's worth noting that the last 3 games played have all been played on poor grounds, and all led to disappointments. Perhaps the team has failed to figure out how to win ugly, and become too accustomed to the luxury of playing on such a fine home surface. If so then there is at least some hope next week. Results at the weekend mean Dover are set fair to claim the title. For 3 seasons of their 4 in the KYL Langton Green have taken it down to the wire, whilst maintaining the standards of sportsmanship that are asked of them. As they have moved through the age groups the atmosphere at games has become worse, the attitude to referees and opponents has gone the same way,and the things spectators think it is acceptable to say to players and officials have been appalling. The u16 cup final showed that in bright neon lights, but it was only a symptom of the malaise that has spread across youth football. Everyone needs to wake up to the collective responsibility of changing what we regard as normal on a Sunday.

Sunday April 8th, KYL u16 south

Hollands and Blair 1 - 1 Langton Green (Bachorski)

6 weeks since their last match (a real waste of time in GCSE year) the Jets were back in action, finally, on the road at Hollands and Blair. Things went wrong on the weekend when Tom dropped out unwell, as did Archie, Charlie was absent, and John caught the same bug as Archie. With George also missing that meant only 10 players travelling, until John decided to give it a go, arriving 10 minutes before kick off.

This was not the best way to get ready for such a key game. Hollands and Blair ran a warm-up session on the pitch, whilst the Jets wandered the car park looking to get to 11 players! When the game kicked off one technical area had 5 subs, and 3 coaches.....the other had no subs and just Chris looking a bit lonely!

Once underway it was still 11 versus 11, though it quickly looked like 22 versus the pitch, which was muddy, bobbly, sloping, and generally designed to prevent good football. Clearly this would be a hard game between 2 sides still aiming to win the title. It was a generally even contest, with neither side easily able to pass the ball around, and all the danger coming from set pieces which stood more chance of being successfully executed. The delivery from H&B was excellent, so it was unwise to give corners away too easily. The Jets did, and were punished, 0-1. It would be an awful long way back in these conditions.

The game looked to be level when Matt's free kick was curled in from the left. No-one touched the ball on the way into the net except the H&B keeper. But the linesman raised his flag, and although no active player was offside or played the ball, or even came close to the ball, the goal was disallowed. Puzzling and disappointing. The score remained 1-0, and half time arrived with little to cheer. 

The second half was much like the first. It was still H&B corners that caused the trouble, and one hit the woodwork. A headed goal from a free kick was disallowed when Angus was impeded; every set piece was a crisis. To get back into the contest the Jets needed to gamble and they went to 3 strikers, which placed a huge burden on Harry, Dec and Matt in midfield, in an attempt to get Ben Jack and Anton further up the pitch. The equaliser came when Matt got down the right wing and delivered a fine cross. Anton's shot wasnt pure, but the keeper went down too early and the bobbling bounce took it over him and into the corner. 1-1.

With 10 minutes left it was hard to know if to stick or twist. The strikers combined again, and set up Jack who was taken down in the act of shooting. A penalty for sure, but there was also a red card, not for the challenge but for the words that followed. This was the key moment.....H&B faced being a goal down and a man down....Jack hit the ball cleanly but struck the keeper's legs, and the rebound was sliced over the bar. Momentum shifted and for a few minutes H&B attacked with passion, and again were dangerous from corners and throws. A couple of times Langton came close to breaking away and settling it, but in fnished a passionate draw. A game that either side would have hated to lose. Regrets for both sides.

By the end of the game Langton had 8 fit players plus 3 who would certainly not have been on the pitch had there been anyone else to bring on. The effort in heavy conditions, in a physical contest, had been heroic. It would  have been very easy to let the setbacks overwhelm the day. The supporters were vocal in their encouragement and it is perhaps better to commend the boys' refusal to lose than to mourn the failure to (smash and) grab all 3 points. 3 games left; not dead yet!

Sunday February 25th, KYL u16 south

Ramsgate 1 - 1 Langton Green (Gallagher)

There is no longer KYL road-trip; the most westerly team in the league versus the most easterly. A 6 hour round trip on a freezing day, to play on a muddy but solid pitch in a freezing coastal wind. All in all not good football conditions.

The Jets were missing Anton to national athletics, George to sickness and Dec to injury. So....after years in goal, and some of this season at centre back Toby lined up in central midfield, and we prayed for an injury free afternoon.

Playing upwind a critical moment occurred almost immedately when BenW went through, slipped the ball past the keeper and was flattened. A corner was given!?!?!. The Ramsgate coaches were kind enough to acknowledge it was a clear penalty, not given. The second away game in a row with a tough call in the first minute. Thereafter the Jets did battle with a strong wind that made every long clearance into a dangerous through ball, and every corner a nightmare. Even so they played some excellent football, denied many times by an excellent Ramsgate keeper, and occasionally by a bobble that made accurate shooting a problem.

At half time the only thing to say was 'keep going'. It was hard to imagine playing better in the circumstances. The restart was delayed. It was finally realised that the ref had been locked in his dressing room, which was unkind of Ramsgate given his generosity to them in the first minute :)

Early in the second period Toby won a midfield ball, fed Harry, who slid Jack through and he ran the ball into the box and passed it home. Very like the away game to Bredhurst (in similar conditions) a 1-0 lead felt huge. It was almost 2 nil with some corners that just didnt quite lead to goals and then a heartbreak; A Ramsgate player smashed a long distance volley into the roof of the net....a worldy. 

The rest of the game saw one way traffic and a succession of near misses, great saves and frustrations. It is hard to remember a better performance by the boys that ended in a draw. A victory was deserved, but that's football. More than 10 good attempts at one end, a single shot at the other. There was no reason to have an inquest; everyone gave their all, and conditions were the defining reason the Jets did not win. Only at the end of the season will it become clear if it was a crucial point gained or two that were sadly lost.

It was a 6 hour round trip. Well done to those who came to support in bitter weather, and a big tip of our caps to Ramsgate for having such warm and generous coaches, a pleasure to meet them.

Sunday February 18th, KYL u16 South

Langton Green 5 - 1 Bearsted (Gallagher 3, Bachorski, Rolf......yes, really, Rolf)

A home game at the Bennett 3g, so none of the weekend dread of a phone call to cancel the fixture. The boys were eager to play, with a strong squad to choose from, with 9 of the 13 thinking of themselves as attackers or midfield players! The solution was to play one of them in defence (Matt), and rotate all the others around the solid midfield base of Harry and George. 

Inside the first 5 minutes it should have been one nil but Jack guided his close range volley directly into the arms of the stranded Bearsted keeper. A couple of other chances were deemed offside when they might not have been, before the first goal finally came. And it was a classic Langton fast break that began with John's ball through to a full-speed BenW, who carried the ball into the Bearsted half before dinking a chip through to Jack, who brought the ball down and smashed home; from their own penalty area to in the opponent's net in no time at all.

Bearsted hung in, and the game bore the fingerprints of the last 3 encounters as they moved the ball nicely around the defence and midfield, but found it hard to get deep into the Jets' final third. The rotating wide midfielders were working hard to protect their full backs whilst BenR and Nathan dealt brilliantly with anything long and straight down the middle. When Anton came on he immediately caused havoc with his pace, getting in behind defenders, but the crosses just would fall to attacking feet. Matt had a left footed chip tipped over the bar, then Tom grazed the bar with a great back post header from Jack's cross. 

At half time the game was far from over, but the performance had been good enough that it was a case of asking for more of the same, with a little more emphasis on getting the ball played into feet in the penalty area.The Jets knew that in the prior 3 encounters with Bearsted a tight game had been blown open in the second half. And on a day of repeating themes it was another fast break that widenered the lead....Harry broke up play deep in the Jets' half and released BenW at speed, again. Ben might have carried the ball forward but instead got his head up and threaded a curling pass on the ground between the centre back and goalkeeper. There is no other horse you would want in this race more than Anton, who was there first, and finished in style.Two fast breaks, two great passes from Ben, and a goal for each striker.

Given how few chances the Jets had given up a two goal lead felt a big one. Jack almost killed the game stone dead whe he rose to head another perfect cross from BenW, but the Bearsted keeper saved brilliantly. The keeper was left stranded when Jack's free kick curled beyond him, but saved by the side netting, then BenW had a goal disallowed for high feet as Jack brought the ball down and fed him the pass.

And then a moment to change the momentum, as a not particularly hard shot from outside the box dribbled into the corner - anguish for Angus, 2-1. Given fresh hope Bearsted pressed forward, but inevitably this played into the Langton strength of counter-attack. Declan and Anton burst down the left, Jack was set up to score, and the defender had no choice but to try and tackle from behind, and could only get to the ball by goinng through Jack's ankles. A clear penalty. Jack stepped up and hit the ball low to the corner. The keeper guessed correctly, but could not get enough on the ball to stop it creeping into the net. 

There was a brief moment of further anxiety when a back pass to Angus was a little short, and the Bearsted striker blocked his clearance, and looked sure to score, until Gus dived back and scooped the ball off his toe and round the post. But if the game was in any doubt Declan and Anton pressed Bearsted as they tried to play out from the back, and forced the error which put Jack through, and he rounded the keeper and walked the ball home for his 4th hat-trick in a row against the same opposition. And not long after this there was a second hat-trick, this time of assists for BenW, who won a penalty as he was simply too fast in the box for tired defenders. With Jack resting in the dugout there was only one person to trust with the spot-kick. Nathan had the enviable record of scoring one goal every 4760 minutes since Langton Green joined the KYL (his only blemish on a goal-free record being a match-winner in December 2014 at Ebbsfleet). The keeper dived to his right, the ball went high into the opposite corner, and the only thing missing was a goal celebration to match the moment! Nathan's minutes-per-goal is now a healthy 2380, which isnt as good as Jack's record of a goal every 67 minutes throughout his KYL career, but now he has a taste for scoring who knows where he can take this.

This was an excellent team performance. The defence was solid, marshalled by the always excellent BenR, the midfield regularly saw George and Harry break up play and turn defence into attack. Anton's pace was too much for any defender, and complimented by hard work by Tom, Dec, and Charlie. The icing on the cake was Ben's creation, and Jack's marauding. Put it all together and more often than not it turns into a lot of goals. And another win.

Sunday January 21st, KYL u16 South

Langton Green 3 - 1 Ramsgate   (O'Shea, Gallagher, Bachorski)

Hideous weather saw a last minute change of venue, and a KYL baptism for the brilliant new Bennett 3g. That seemed a great idea on Saturday night, but on Sunday morning at 11.30am the Jets had in effect lost 2 goalkeepers and 2 centre backs, with Toby playing rugby for Kent, BenR injured playing rugby on Saturday, and Angus having back spasms. Things looked up when Angus responded to treatment in the morning and declared himself able to take the gloves (to Matt's relief!), and Charlie scrambled to arrive by kick off, whilst Harry prepared himself for a first game at centre back this season. With enough players in green shirts it was back to moaning about the weather, though in truth the pitch was so good that the only people suffering were the spectators.

Ramsgate arrived with an excellent track record from the u15s and a lot of pace up front, and some neat passing. The Jets started out hoping to erase the memories of the awful start vs Kennington, and did so in the best manner when Jack slid BenW through on the right. Ben couldnt get the shot away, but was smart enough to hang on to the ball, and square it across the goal for Declan to tap in from close range. It didnt take long to add to the lead; again Ben was creator, dinking a chip to Jack who crashed a left foot volley into the roof of the net. It was still wet and very cold, and Ramsgate were reeling. A third goal would have been fatal but their keeper made 3 great saves and saw a few other chances flash by. Without the 3rd goal it was always possible this game might turn around if Ramsgate pulled one back, and with great pace up front, and down the left, they launched a number of good attacks. Angus took a kick in the face as he bravely dived for a cross, and again Matt anxiously pondered how badly he wanted to play in goal. Fortunately Angus got up and insisted he was fine, proving it with fine handling of the next two crosses that came his way. The biggest alarms were self inflicted - for some reason the Jet defence was keener to try and play possession football than the midfield or strikers. All well and good except that the consequences of losing possession were potentially far greater in their own final third.
The half time team talk dealt with the conflicting signals - there was a need to pass more and pass better in some areas of the pitch, but a need to de-risk the choices at the back. It was a second half that was dictated to by the score line. The side that was behind kept pushing for a goal, the side in the lead kept looking dangerous on the counter-attack. Without having significant shots on target Ramsgate did manage to pile up the corner kicks. Nervous times for all, but Angus was loud and decisive with his punches which was what was needed. And it was a Ramsgate corner that killed the game. As usual Jack defended and Anton stayed forward, so when the ball came to Jack deep in Jets' territory it was his long ball that put Anton into a race with the Ramsgate defender. If you had a describe a typical Anton goal this was it....the defender had a 3 yard start, but was overtaken within 20 yards. The goalkeeper had come out for a ball he expected to get to...and was nowhere close, as Anton touched it past him. The angle was tight, but the net was empty and Anton slotted home. Impossible to defend without a rugby tackle.

With a 3-0 lead it seemed possible that it could go 4,5,6. Lots of chances for Jack, Anton, Ben, and some very good saves, not least from Matt's screamer from distance. But it wasnt a good finishing day (perhaps getting used to the pace of the new pitch) and Ramsgate to their credit refused to lie down. Harry, excellent throughout, was forced to make a last ditch tackle, there was also an almighty goalmout scramble to endure, and then finally a corner was mishandled and poked home, 3-1. A two goal lead probably felt like a lot to Ramsgate who were chasing, but very little to the Jets as they saw the game out. the end the cold and wet became sideshows, and the football game was what we will remember about the day. Ramsgate had a brilliant attitude, a credit to their coaches and supporters. The referee was excellent. A banana skin of a morning was safely avoided in the afternoon. All good.

Sunday January 14th, KYL u16 south

Kennington 3 - 0 Langton Green

A new year and a rematch with Kennington who the Jets had pipped on the first day of the season. A big game in the context of the league, so it was a total disaster when a penalty was awarded to Kennington on 20 seconds. More so because frankly it was a crazy decision. The Kennington player who went down was nowhere near the ball which was running out of play, and tripped over the Langton full back who was not attempting to make a tackle. Not sure anyone at the game saw a penalty in the collision except for one person, wearing black. 1-0 and the game tarnished at the very outset. 

Unfortunately the Jets were in a daze for the next 10 minutes. Everyone was in muted shock and Kennington took full of advantage and scored again. Langton shuffled formation and tried to claw their way back. Jack had one shot tipped over the bar and another parried inches from the waiting BenW. Either chance might have turned into the goal to change the contest, but it continued to feel like 'one of those days'. In the second half that sense of inevitability was fed by 3 more near misses as twice Jack put the ball across the 6 yard box but it just didnt fall the way it needed to. Jack then headed just over, Matt put one in the side netting, and Ben had a shot blocked at the last moment. So, all in all enough chances to have had a seriously good contest. At the other end BenR was magnificent in defence. Toby had to be brave off his line on more than one occasion - then a long ball left him out of his box and needing to head the ball clear. He did, but was also headed by the Kennington striker; two lads in a heap on the ground was a cause for anxiety to both sides and spectators. Toby being Toby he insisted on carrying on, and produced something very like Gordon Banks' 1970 save versus Pele. Bizarrely a goal kick was given for arguably the best save we have seen this season!

On the break Kennington killed the game 3-0. They passed well and seized their chance. We will never know what might have been had the game not started so terribly. It was tough to take. Sometimes the life lessons from sport arent the easy ones to absorb. 

Sunday December 17th, KYL u16 south

Langton Green 4 - 1 Bredhurst Juniors (Manuel, Bachorski, Gallagher 2)

Bitter cold, damp, very much a late December kind of day, and a reason to be grateful to be playing on a 3g! Bredhurst arrived with the best defensive record in the league, having only conceded 8 goals in 8 games. The Jets welcomed George back for his first appearance of the season, starting on the bench, and giving him time to get used to wearing the no.2 shirt!

Early skirmishes went the Jets' way, as Jack's cross was met first time by Charlie but his shot picked out the keeper. Another Jack cross fizzed across from the left with no-one to prod home, and it felt like a matter of time. Then BenW played George in on the right side of the six yard box for what looked a certain goal, but he pulled his shot straight into Anton's path a yard out. No-one, least of all Anton, knows how he got the ball over the bar, and all of a sudden it stopped feeling like a question of 'when' the boys would score, but 'if'. And on those days it doesnt help when in a solitary Bredhurst attack two tackles were missed and the ball was slid under the advancing Toby, 0-1. It starts to feel like 'one of those days' at that point.

Having been on top and fallen behind the Jets then swapped good passing, which had created early chances, for mis-placed slices. Composure was having a time out. But a minute before half time John pinged a diagonal cross to the back post that eluded everyone.....except Declan who chased it down and kep the ball in play down by the corner flag; he got it back to Matt who sat the ball up on the far post; Charlie rose well to knock it down, and Tom volleyed home. An excellent goal, amidst the raggedest phase of the game.

And a crucial goal, as it allowed  different half time tone, emphasizing that with better finishing the game was there for the taking. It was agreed to go 4-3-3 and attack, with Ben Anton and Jack up top together for the first time this season, a luxury forward line made possible by George's return alongside Harry. The rewards for that came quick. Jack's corner from the right was flicked by Matt and reached BenW on the left byline inside the Bredhurst box - he had the calmness to side foot the ball into Anton's path, and he thumped the ball home, to put the horror miss behind him, as he had been asked to at half time. It doesnt matter what has happened, it matter what you do next. Anton delivered. 

Soon after that Jack sent BenW clear and his finish looked good, but was brilliantly saved. Another corner. This time Charlie put it in a dangerous area, Jack crashed his header home. Breathing space. Now with the lead the defence were asked more questions, but conceded no shots, a tribute to Ben and Nathan, whilst alongside them Matt and John provided support in defence, and a starting point for many attacks. George had a couple of runs into the box that were 'almosts' and then Charlie threaded Jack through, 4-1. Charlie's third assist of the game. He had limited game time, and used it well.

The game ended less than gloriously - Bredhurst were frustrated at the turnaround in the second half, and George was kicked up in the air, and reacted. Not the best way to end the game, and briefly a distraction from the main event which was another win. There were numerous positives, all over the pitch. For the third year in four Langton Green will spend Chrismas on top of their Kent Youth League division, which is worth being very proud of. A small squad, from a small village, punching above their weight in a big league. Seasonal greetings to all.

Sunday November 19th KYL u16 South

K Sports 0 - 6 Langton Green (Gallagher 2, Bates 2, Balcombe, Watkins)

A late afternoon roadtrip to the excellent new 3g facility that is home for K Sports. Not a game to take lightly as KS only lost in the last few minutes of their home and away games versus Kennington. Angus and Dec were unavailable, Archie travelled as 12th man.

The surface was perfect for good football and the Jets took advantage, as each of Jack, Charlie, and Anton burst through but could not find the finish. Matt headed JC's cross just wide, then Jack poked an effort just wide. But then Jack celebrated his 16th birthday with a typical solo effort, slicing past defenders with aggressive running. Unlike the Bredhurst game last week it looked like there were plenty more goals to be had, but missed chances started to frustrate, and a couple of too-easily conceded corners meant some moments of anxiety.

Just before half time Matt got deep into the box, and pulled the ball back for Anton in tap-in range but a last ditch defensive block meant it was only a corner.....Charlie curled it in and Harry headed home decisively. This made the team talk much easier, because there was space to relax, providing defensive lapses in concentration were avoided. BenW nearly settled the matter with a mazy run only to slide the ball inches past the far post, and Anton scored what looked a good third only to see a linesman's flag. Then a free kick was won wide on the right, Charlie took it quickly, Anton pinged in a curling cross that tempted the keeper to come, but he was never getting there before Jack, who planted home a fine header, 3-0.

The sun set, the floodlights came on, and the Jets turned on the style. Matt hit a gorgeous diagonal ball that sent BenW in behind the defence, 4-0, and then followed the goal of the game as Tom, Jack, Anton and Ben all triangled first-time passes that cut the KS defence to pieces, and Charlie arrived late to smash home a fantastic team goal. BenW again broke through, and his parried shot was followed in and finished again by Charlie to make it 6, and no-one in green wanted the game to end.

Amidst all the goals perhaps the standout peformance came from Tom who put in a tireless shift, but in truth everyone had a good game. Toby didnt really have to deal with a shot in anger, but was good off his line to sweep up. So, six league wins in seven games. This team can beat anyone, but will need the fixture list to be kind as exams beckon. The grade for the exam on the pitch today earned an A*.

Sunday November 12th, KYL u16south

Bredhurst Juniors 0 - 1 Langton Green (Watkins)

Finally, after 7 weeks of cup matches and idle weekends the team was walking out for a KYL league fixture again! It was a cold and grey November afternoon, which didnt matter too much. However there was also a strong wind blowing straight down the truly enormous Bredhurst pitch which was also dry and bouncy. A game of two halves beckoned.

The Jets welcomed back HarryB who last played in September, and James who last played at the end of April, which prospectively added some midfield bite that was missed in October. The first half saw the Jets playing ito the wind; it quickly became obvious how hard it would be. Goal kicks didnt get anywhere near the half-way line, and long passes were easily blown off track. The problem to layer on this was that short passing was hampered by the size of the pitch - rarely were team-mates close together. And if midfielders ventured far forward they could quickly be 50 yards out of position with a wind assisted clearance. Bredhurst passed the ball nicely, but to some extent this was preferable to their launching the ball down wind and putting te chance of errors into play. Both sides send a corner dangerously across the six yard box, but overall the half was dominated by high work rate but patchy passing. The wind and the bounce tended to cause play to break down before it was occurring in dangerous areas.

Half time at 0-0 felt like half a job well done. There wasnt much point working out how to improve on what had gone on as it would clearly be different going the other way. Almost immediately Jack took on a 35 yard volley which troubled the keeper, whereas in the first half it might not even have reached him. Anton skewed a shot just wide; he was clipped just as he lined the effort up, and would have given the ref a difficult decision had he gone down.  It wasnt one way traffic but Bredhurst were facing the same problems into the wind as the Jets had, and the pressure grew. The goal came when Jack whipped in an inswinging corner that was sliced onto the underside of the bar, and came out to BenW. He adjusted his body and executed a high-quality volley that threaded unstoppably through the crowd and into the net. On a difficult day this piece of skill shone out.

Sometimes a one goal lead looks like not very much. In this game it was a mountain for Bredhurst to climb. Archie was moved into a back 5 to cut out any aerial options for a quick route to the Langton goal, forcing Bedhurst to try and pass their way through a hard working midfield and a determined defence. For the remainder of the game both sides gave it everything. It is a testimony to the rearguard action that there were no meaningful shots on target . James made it to the Bredhurst byline in search of the goal to kill the game, but his cross somehow eluded both Jack and Anton, but it turned out 1 goal was enough. Heartbreakingly for Bredhurst they have now lost by a single goal to each of the top 3 sides in the division. Their defence was the best the Jets have encountered this year. Fortunately it was a day when the Jets defence was at its best too. Stand outs were Matt who had his best game of the season, and BenR who yet again won every tackle. In front of them Harry showed excellent positional sense to break up play alongside James, BenW, Tom and Declan, but it was very much a team effort. The front line had to live on scraps, but instead of moaning about it Anton and Jack gave everything to the cause, denying the Bredhurst defence the time to set play up.

Back on track

Sunday October 29th, KYL Cup 2nd Round

Langton Green 1 - 5 Dulwich Hamlet (O'Shea)

Another October cup-tie and again a less than usual line up with HarryB and Nathan absent, Jack injured, and James and George still unavailable. A lot of talent missing therefore, and no easy task ahead. Unfortunately not a lot went right in the first half. Early on Declan was flattened in the box - even the Dulwich coaches saw it, but nothing given! Then Anton went clear through but the one on one was saved by the advancing keeper. Two great chances to go ahead, after which it all went awry. Three corners conceded, three headers conceded, three goals conceded. Failing to learn from errors is destined to be punished, and it was, decisively.

There was little choice but to change things at half time. An aggressive 4-3-3 risked breakaways, but when Declan scored a trademark long range wobbler of a free kick it looked like game on for a while. Certainly a change for the better, but mid-way through the half the Dulwich centre forward powered through, saw his shot well saved by Angus, but was also first to the rebound, and killed the game. A late (and very good) 5th was icing on the cake, but the damage had all been done by the first half corners. The best team won. Langton simply missed too many players - but with no more cup ties this season, and with those missing today returning the obvious next step is to concentrate on the league, which is wide open still.

Sunday October 15th, Kent County Cup,

Langton Green 2 - 2 Ebbsfleet, (Watkins, Gallagher), aet, Ebbsfleet win 4-5 on penalties

The county cup gave the chance to field a different line up; starts for Harry N and Archie B, and a return to goalkeeping or Toby, on a sunny day at the 3g. And the sun was an influential factor, causing problems particularly in the first half to the Ebbsfleet defence from Toby's long drop kicks. The common thread of the game was established early, as chance after chance came and went. The well hit shots from further out kept finding the keeper, the great chances from close range kept being scuffed when it seemed easier to score. Ebbsfleet had their own chances and Toby was required to be brave in some tasty one on ones. 

Amongst all the wasted chances some neat interchanges saw the ball laid back to BenW outside the box and he lashed home a screamer low into the bottom corner. A goal that was as good as all else was bad. At half time the focus was on trying to be upbeat about just how much was being created, and in the second period again there were a multitude of opportunities to extend the lead. But, again, somehow the net would not bulge, and the longer Ebbsfleet hung in the more belief they gained.They too had a couple of good chances before finally finding the net with a worldy of a volley from a half cleared corner.

At 1-1 after 80 minutes extra time was required, and early in the first period Ebbsfleet nosed in front. It wasnt as if the Jets could apply any more pressure, it was a question of getting one over the line. With 5 minutes to go Jack was felled in the box, and got up to make it 2-2 from the spot. In the final 5 minutes there were three separate occasions the Jets managed not to score from inside 8 yards; not 'good chances' so much as 'harder to miss than score' chances. But that was the kind of day it was, so it perhaps inevitably Ebbsfleet then won the penalty shoot out.

It does no good to name names. All those that missed gold-plated chances have on other occasions scored the goals that proved vital. It happens. BenW deserves a mention for creating so many of the spurned opportunities. Toby played brilliantly in goal and did not deserve to lose; Nathan had arguably his best game in a green shirt. It was hard to swallow defeat the way it played out. On another day the boys might have won by a landslide, and over the long haul creating that many chances can only be a good thing. Just not this day.

Sunday October 1st, KYL u16 south

Langton Green 2 - 5 Dover (Gallagher 2)

Perfect September gave way to less than ideal October as Dover came to the 3g. They are a team one would want to play at full strength, but with no George, James, Harry or Charlie it was a depleted squad, which was further tested by Declan's early injury. BenR had been pushed up into midfield but was hastily returned to centre back in the face of a pacey Dover forward line. The first half was a heavyweight contest as two strong teams battled it out. Dover were definitely ahead on points but some good last ditch defending kept the game poised at 0-0, and there was always the threat of a counterpunch.

The Jets' unfamiliar midfield was obviously taking more strain than was desirable, but it was hard to find a way to improve that without taking something away elsewhere. Dover probably needed a win more than Langton so the onus was on them, and the passing of time with scores level was to the advantage of the Jets. Unfortunately, where Dover had kept shooting themselves in the foot with first-half offsides they went ahead early in the second with a chance that was probably also from the same family. Jack had a great chance to equalise almost immediately from a great cross from John, but now that Dover had the lead the strategy of just holding on was no longer such a sensible option.

Chasing the game the Jets gambled and pushed BenR back into midfield. But the next three moments all fell the wrong way.....two penalty box deflections took a ball to the feet of a Dover player in the right place at the right time, 2-0. Almost immediately Jack was flattened as he closed in on goal...a penalty in the eyes of everyone but the man who matters most, and then Anton chased a ball into the box, and for the second year in a row his collision with the Dover keeper was painful, and the end of his day.

Which left the Jets two goals down, out of substitute options, and with no tried and tested shape they could go to, whilst needing to chase the game. Jack scrambled a goal back on the back post to make it 1-2 and hope flickered despite the adversity. But in chasing the game the back door was left open and with less defensive cover the loose balls went the wrong way and at 4-1 Dover were home. There was still time for the best goal of the game, as Tom flicked on to Matt whose half volleyed cross was as good as Jack's header...but yet again the pressing to score led to another concession.

The match was played in a great sporting spirit and Dover were worthy winners. Given the circumstances the Jets needed everything to go their way, and things didnt - it wasnt a day they could easily chase a game, and in trying to do so only inflated the scoreline. Lessons to learn, and the need to bounce back.

Sunday September 24th, KYL u16south

Langton Green 3 - 0 K Sports (O'Shea, Balcombe, Allen)

On a perfect September morning the Jets played K Sports at the TWBG 3G looking to make it a perfect 4 wins out of 4 this month. Jack was away on a  geology field trip (Lukaku never does that at Man Utd ?) but BenR was back from injury. The question was how to set the team out, and the answer chosen was to move 'centre back Ben' up into midfield, and play 'midfield Ben' up front, which did at least make for continuity at the back.

For the most part it still looked like the Jets. Plenty of pace up top, and a fiercely contested midfield. The chances looked set to come from getting the fast strikers in behind the defense. Anton might have opened the scoring but was just wide, BenW came close as well, whilst at the back Toby and Nathan were usually in control,with Angus bold off his line behind them. 

Then, 15 minutes into the game Anton broke clear and into the box, and drew the keeper, who did well to block the shot, but Declan was there first to force the rebound home. It was his first touch since coming on, and he took a knock in doing so, and came straight back off, the epitomy of an impact player! With the lead came some room to relax, and the traffic for the remainder of the half was one way. The second goal was simple; Ben W's perfect corner pretty much begged Harry to head home, and he did, 2-0. A third goal might have ended the matter, but two very strong appeals for a penalty were turned away. Charlie was splattered as he teed up a shot, whilst BenR's marker nearly tugged his shirt off in stopping what looked a certain goal.

Half time led to some debate whether to change things or go with more of the same. As usual the breeze down the hill was going to make it tempting for KSports to go route 1, and Toby and Nathan knew they would need to act decisively to nullfy that threat. Going forward it was still the case that Anton was winning the races, but twice he got there first and twice his lob beat the keeper only to roll inches wide. K Sports werent really creating much, but nor were they going away. BenW smashed a free kick into the ball, Charlie threatened, Tom shot wide, but the goal wouldnt come. Finally Anton found the energy for another burst down the wing, and into the box, and was pulled down; penalty. Matt stepped up, saw his effort saved, but was calm enough to put the rebound into the opposite corner, and extend the lead to comfortable levels.

In the end the whole game was reasonably comfortable. In Jack's absence the Jets had to find their goals elsewhere, which ultimately they did. It wasnt the tightest performance, but it was workmanlike. Amidst some late pressure Angus was loud and decisive in cleaning up, and the defence deserved their clean sheet. A perfect September. 

Sunday September 17th, KYL u16south

Bearsted 1 - 6 Langton Green (Bates, Gallagher 3, Bachorski 2)

A first road trip of the year, down winding lanes to the excellent Bearsted pitch. Sadly centre back Ben didnt travel after a Saturday rugby injury, so it was a small squad of 12, no defensive cover, and fingers crossed to go injury free. The Jets lined up in their usual formation, the main difference being that Angus was in goal, and Toby was lined up alongside Nathan as a new centre back pairing.

The huge pitch, and perfect surface, made for an excellent first half. Bearsted moved the ball very well across the back and into midfield, though their threat in the final third was limited. With less possession the Jets were making more chances. The Bearsted keeper blocked two one on ones as Jack closed in from the right, and made a great save to turn BenW's hooked volley over the bar. Headers from corners kept finding their way over the bar. At the other end Angus was assured in goal, and the new look back 4 looked to be coping until injury time in the first half. Two clearances that ought to have either found touch, or a green shirt, were instead handed back to Bearsted. A precise through ball set a striker in on the right side of the box. His shot was wide, but perfectly into the path of the left sided striker to squeeze home.

 0-0 at half time would have been an easier team talk, but for the third week in a row a tight game concentrated minds on what needed to be built on, and what changes might be made. Chris and Charlie made some points, before a collective decision was made to tweak the formation. The aim was to preserve the good attacking outlets, but contest the midfield space in greater numbers. The boys had a cunning plan......

And two minutes into the second half it was 2-1 and the game was transformed. Jack came in from the left but was well tackled just 6 yards out. Whilst on the ground he still managed to hook the ball across goal where Charlie controlled calmly and lifted the ball into the roof of the net. Moments later Anton also got clear on the left, drew the keeper and squared for Jack to find the empty net. It was a goal that looked like several this season and reflected the growing understanding between the two of them this year.

The shift in momentum seemed also to shift the Bearsted approach, which became more direct. In chasing a way back into the game they pressed on, which exposed their defenders to the full force of Langton's attacking pace. The third goal came as Jack shot first time from 20 yards out, with a lot of spin on the ball. The goalkeeper went down too early and the bounce took the ball beyond him. He'd done much to keep his side in the game so this was a cruel moment for him.

More goals followed as Jack headed home Toby's free kick to complete a second half hat-trick . This assist from a Langton defender was matched when Angus fed John early at left back, and his perfect long ball set up another fast break for Anton to finish well. Then Ben made the pass of the season, Anton raced between keeper and defender and walked the ball intothe empty net. No goal, offside. Oh well. Sometimes Anton's ability to be 2 yards clear makes it seem like he must have been offside. He's in the form and shape of his life. So, to prove a point Ben uncorked another perfect through ball, Anton gave the defence a head start, blew past them, and thumped the ball home.

In between times Angus made two fine saves to deny Bearsted any hope of a comeback. Too often they inched off-side - actually much more than inches offside often - which was a tribute to the defence getting their line right more often than not. The scoreline ended a deceptive 6-1. Yes there were a load of chances to score more, but this game was in the balance for the first 41 minutes. The strikers took the glory, but it was a serious and rotated effort from Tom, Harry, Ben, Dec and Charlie to contest and close down in the right areas. Nathan and Toby looked like they have played at the back together since they were 4 years old - which is true, just not often in recent years, whilst both Matt and John made the full back positions a place to springboard attacks from with quality delivery into the right areas.

Good game, good ref ....we're saying that a lot!

Sunday September 10th, KYL u16south

Langton Green 4 - 2 Sheppey Utd (Balcombe, Gallagher 2, Bachorski)

A sunny September morning turned into something more akin to November, as grey clouds rolled in along with Sheppey Utd for the afternoon KYL encounter. Sheppey arrived with some new players and the confidence of a pre-season win over Aylesford. The Jets, like the weather, were in the midst of some turbulence. Goalkeeper Angus was absent, Eddie and Charlie had missed training with knocks, and on Saturday both Ben and Toby took big hits in their rugby matches. Matt spent the morning getting used to the idea of being keeper, whilst Archie got used to the idea of a debut in the KYL.

In the end Toby and Ben decided they'd rather give it a go - Toby had also spent the morning thinking about Matt playing in goal, which was probably the inspiration to convince him to put the gloves on. Nathan took his place in the centre of defence, alongside aching Ben,and Matt started as right back. With Anton running in Bromley for the chance to race at the Olympic Stadium (yes, he really is that quick) Jack lined up with Harry N and Charlie either side of him in an unfamiliar forward line.

Downhill and downbreeze it took a while to click. Most of the passing moves were one-way, but Sheppey had potent fast break potential. The Jets went in front on 15 minutes when Jack floated a free kick in from the right and Harry skilfull guided the ball home with a controlled volley. One goal nearly turned into two on several occasions as Jack and Ben came close, and Matt and Declan (on his return) both tested the keeper. Meantime Sheppey almost drew level but failed to test Toby from a good position. As the half went on the breeze started to become more of a gale, straight down the pitch, which was making the Jets' lead look a little less than enough. A couple of Toby's drop kicks became seriously hard to defend, but the chances wouldnt fall in the right places. Then a bonus; a penalty. One of those where it was a clear handball - not what the defender intended, but there for all to see. Jack stepped up, 2-0. Was that enough as the wind grew stronger? Had Tom's shot gone in rather than crashing back off the bar it might have been a comfortable half time team talk with a three goal lead, but it wasnt, and the possibility of a classic 'game of two halves' was easy to anticipate.

The Jets have put in some good 'into the gale' performances in their time, most memorable in the cup at Crayford Arrows, keeping the ball on the ground, and trying to take small strides up the pitch. It's the right tactic but still requires the defence to be bold and brave when the inevitable long balls come downwind, and it is vital to have a keeper willing to be brave off his line. The courage was never in doubt, but for as long as the third goal eluded the home side the game felt undecided, and there were too many corners and free kicks conceded, allowing Sheppey to fill the box from set pieces in a way that they could not from open play. Twenty minutes into the 2nd half a corner was headed home, 2-1. Now it really wasnt going to be easy. From open play the Sheppey strikers werent hitting the target, but set pieces and long kicks were a nightmare. Jack took matters into his own hands, and set off on a run that took him past the midfield line, and then beyond the trailing full back and into the area. As the keeper advanced he planted the ball into the far bottom corner to re-establish the two goal cushion. 

Again with the 2 goal lead the Jets could not get the decisive next goal as Tom, Anton, Ben and Jack all had chances. Declan belted one from the edge of the box, goal bound until it crashed off Tom's back as he tried to get out of the way. At the other end a Sheppey striker finally got one on target only to see Toby fly away to his left to make a brilliant save. But ....more corners, and with the wind howling a lethal inswinger was whipped in like a Brazilian free-kick, 3-2. Thereafter Toby had to be brave off his line again, and took the inevitable collision as the price for making the save. Sheppey pressed, lost possession and a fast break was on, as Jack took the ball on half way with Anton and Tom alongside, and only one defender between them and goal. Jack went left and into the box to almost the same spot he had previously scored from. The keeper advanced, and was stranded as this time Jack squared the ball to his right and Anton side footed firmly home. A lethal break, perfectly executed. 

Last week the Jets had shown they could win despite trailing twice. This week they were more Mo Farah, front-running, refusing to give up the lead, and then putting in a burst each time their opponents tried to draw level. With a two goal cushion for the third time there was a determination not to let it slip again. Jack almost killed things off totally but hit the post. Archie came back on to add another aerial component to the defensive line. Harry and BenW in the middle of midfield contnued to break up play and distribute wisely as they had all game.

And so it ended, 4-2. A deserved win, but like last week, very hard-earned. Some had played through the pain. It was great to see Matt make it through a full 80 minutes for the first time since the horror tackle at Maidstone all of 6 months ago. Anton had managed to race with distinction in Bromley on the same afternoon as he put in a shift on the left. In the final reckoning 4 goals had been scored downwind from set plays, 2 for each team. It was the fast breaks on the ground, into the wind that proved the winning margin. Jack in full flow remains almost unplayable, and with pace around him in the team it's hard to mark without leaving gaps elsewhere. Good game, good ref, good day.

Sunday September 3rd, KYL u16south

Langton Green 3 - 2 Kennington (Bachorski, Bates, Manuel)

Did you miss us? 4 months and 3 days after their last game (also against Kennington) the Jets came out of hibernation for the new season. Well, not total hibernation; they went unbeaten through 2 summer tournaments in June, and then took 10 weeks off before getting back together 10 days ago for an unusually long pre-season, by their standards. 3 whole games!!! Huge thanks are due to Wadhurst, Forest Row and Whyteleafe, who served as the ideal preparation for today's game.

What wasnt ideal preparation was to lose George and James until Christmas - that's a big midfield hole to fill. Then this morning they also lost Declan, and some of Jack, who was looking like an absentee to illness, but arrived 10 minutes before kick off. Debuts beckoned for John, Charlie, and Eddie. The team lined up with Angus in goal, and Toby partnering BenR at the back, with the new look central midfield of BenW and Harry. Jack started on the bench (which is either a sign of a scarily strong team, or a reflection of how under the weather he was!).

Kennington's team sheet made clear they were not the team the Jets played on the last day of last season. Early stages were even. Anton was first to a through ball (he's always first to the through ball!) and his lob over the keeper bounced inches wide. Unfortunately the knock he took was a factor for the rest of the day. Jack was soon impatient with watching and came on to the lead the line. Slightly against the run of play things went wrong when Harry blasted a penalty area clearance straight into Matt, and the ball fell to Kennington feet. The cross shot was straight at Harry who saw it rebound in off him for an own goal. Thereafter Kennington played with confidence and as a team who felt success was their due; very much an upgrade on last season.

Finally the Jets found a way back when Eddie set Jack away down the left, he cut in, went to the by-line and had the composure to roll the ball back to Anton, who side footed the ball firmly into the net. The set-up deserved the finish. All square. Both teams looked dangerous on the break, both had a midfield giving it everything in the centre circle. Anyone's game at half time - an upbeat team talk, and a reminder that the experience of coming back against a team as good as Whyteleafe last Wednesday should reinforce the mindset that adversity can be stared down.

The second half was tight. Angus was excellent in his positioning and early distribution, the flow of the game was towards the Kennington goal, assisted by a growing breeze. But the ever present danger of the excellent Kennington striker (signed form Dover) always looked a threat, and he regrabbed the lead with a brilliant left foot volley from the left side. The Jets needed to learn to deal with him before he got the ball, not after.

Chasing the game again the boys set to work. Jack's header beat the keeper but hit knees on the line. BenW intercepted a mis-placed pass, and shot goalwards only to see an exceptional save. Then Charlie was inches wide at the far post. For all the good chances that came it ended up being a bit of a route one equaliser - BenR's free kick found a space in the packed area and Charlie volleyed into the roof of the net for a debut goal. What was already a hotly contested game went up a notch. This was where the midweek Whyteleafe experience paid off as the self-belief was apparent. BenW dinked a ball through and both Tom and Jack were clear. Tom took it on himself, approached the keeper, and rolled the ball left footed into the corner. You dont need to break the net, sometimes you just have to miss the keeper.

Kennington had led twice, but now it was the Jets' turn, and with a lead to cling to, the heart was there. With Anton injured and out of the remainder of the game Eddie dropped in to make it a defensive 5 in midfield, Matt slotted in at right back, and Harry Ben and Toby worked to deny supply to the strikers. With one or two alarms it worked out. No-one told Nathan of the need to panic, he just indulged in a few mazy runs to change the pace of the game :)

At the whistle there was relief and elation. Kennington came close, and on other days will have much success. This was a well fought match, excellently refereed, and played in an impeccable spirit. The new arrivals all contributed. The old hands showed why this is the 4th home opener, and the 4th win. Off and running!