Giants 2014 - 2015

Saturday 11th July 2015 - Tonbridge Fiesta

So after a long successfull summer, the Giants took to the pitches of Tonbridge for one last time, trying to win their 5th tournament of the summer and keep up their extraordinary unbeaten run.

Langton Giants 1 - 0 Paddock Wood Predators
DJ

Not the greatest of starts as the Giants struggled to get into rhythm against a well organised and hard working Paddock Wood team. Brodie, DJ and Simba all had shots on goal in the first half but we couldn't find the opening. Thankfully a second half strike into the roof of the net from DJ after he met Bertie's well delivered corner meant we managed to secure the 3pts without ever really getting going. Paddock Wood put us under some pressure in the closing minutes but Jack, James and Tom stood firm.

Langton Giants 3 - 0 Ashford United Youth
Simba x2, DJ

Next up were the highly fancied Ashford United Youth, and in the opening minutes it was obvious why they were highly fancied as they passed the ball around smartly and put the Giants on the back foot. Thankfully Tom and Jack were able to deal with most of it, and James came to the rescue when they couldn't, making a smart low save from a well struck shot from distance. Suddenly though it was like the quality of the opponent raised the Giants as they scored two utterly remarkable goals in two minutes to put themselves firmly in the driving seat. Firstly Tom won the ball at the back and fed Brodie, who first touch found Simba who then also first touch found the sprinting DJ to score a delightful team goal where the ball travelled the length of the pitch in 3 one touch passes. With the applause barely finished, if anything they then topped it. DJ finding Brodie with a wonderful reverse pass, which Brodie chipped delightfully into the path of Simba to volley home, sensational stuff. Ashford didn't know what had hit them and were well and truly beaten when Simba attacked Bertie's corner to head home a third and final goal. An outstanding performance.

Langton Giants 3 - 0 Coxheath & Farleigh
Simba x2, Bertie

Another new opponent, this one from the Maidstone area as the games were coming thick and fast. Simba got us off to the perfect start by firing an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net. DJ and Bertie both went close before Brodie won the ball in the midfield with a crunching tackle, carried the ball forward and slotted it inside the defender to Simba who cleverly checked back onto his left foot and slotted the ball under the goal keeper to double the lead. Bertie was having an outstanding day and thoroughly deserved his first goal of the day when he skipped past a defender and hit a powerful shot into the top corner to complete the scoring.

Tonbridge Junior Lambos 0 - 7 Langton Giants
Jack x2, Bertie x2, DJ, Tom, Brodie

It was clear in the opening moments that the Giants were going to cause big problems for their opponents, Bertie heading over a Brodie corner before Tom weaved his way magically through the entire Lambos defence only to shoot straight at the goalkeeper. The first goal was only round the corner though, Brodie getting it with a controlled finish into the roof of the net after receiving a good pass from DJ with Tom doubling the lead moments later when he weaved through the defence for a second time, this time slotting the ball into the corner. Bertie squeezed a goal in from a tight angle at the near post, Brodie almost broke the cross bar with a thunderous strike before DJ knocked in the 4th. Jack them helped himself to a double, powering his way through and Bertie finished well into the bottom corner with his wand of a left foot. The Giants did stop shooting for most of the second half and retained possession beautifully, with goalkeeper James once again having more than his fair share of the ball.

Tonbridge Junior Porsche 0 - 3 Langton Giants
Bertie x2, DJ

Another game, another host team and another early goal. Bertie brilliantly volleying the ball into the roof of the net with the outside of his boot from Simba's superb cross. Jack then won the ball and showed his incredible technical improvement by lofting a through ball forward, chipping 3 defenders and perfectly weighted for Bertie to tuck home for his second. Bertie's finish was good, but Jack's pass was sensational, like Dennis Bergkamp in his pomp! Simba powered his way down the right wing and crossed to the back post, with both DJ and Bertie sliding in but just unable to make contact. From the resulting goal kick though, DJ stole the ball and slotted the ball into the empty net to wrap the game up.

Tonbridge Junior Sharks 0 - 6 Langton Giants
Simba x2, DJ, Tom, Brodie, Bertie

For the third game in a row we faced one of the host teams, and another victory was comfortably achieved. The first goal started with James who passed the ball out of defence to Simba who charged forward and found DJ who pulled off his famous 'put-the-goalie-on-his-bum' trick and then rolled the ball into the gaping net. Brodie then saw a shot tipped onto the cross bar before Tom showed quick feet again in the box and fired home the second. Brodie won the ball in midfield, strode forward and fired a brilliant shot into the top corner to make it three before Simba went on a mazy run and finished low into the bottom corner from distance. Unfortunately, when closing down a long shot, Brodie got a whack on his big toe and had to come off injured. Simba and Bertie both helped themselves to another goal each.

Langton Giants 2 - 0 Foresters Spartak
Bertie, Simba

The last game was always likely to be the most tricky with Spartak also in possession of a 100% record up to this point, and we were now missing the inspirational Brodie. The Giants didn't start well, in fact for a few minutes they were barely recognisable from the team that had been producing such wonderful flowing football all morning. Thankfully, at times like this Tom, Jack and James can all be relied upon to make us difficult to beat and that just what they did, and despite being second best for the whole first half, we did actually come closest to scoring when Simba hit an amazing shot from miles out that rattled the cross bar. The boys woke up in the second half and started playing their football. One incisive move was ended when Tom was felled on the edge of the box, with a free kick being awarded. The wall was only moved back a couple of yards but as it turned out this played to our advantage, Bertie's shot taking a wicked deflection off the wall and nestling into the bottom corner. This was very harsh on Foresters who up until that point had been the better side and had worked extremely hard to be so. As Foresters came forward looking for an equaliser the Giants counter attacked and DJ gave Simba the simplest of tap-ins to double the lead in the closing minutes. It has to be said though, the score-line flattered the Giants on this occasion.

1/4 Final
Langton Giants 2 - 0 Ashford United Green
DJ x 2

Our quarter final opponents were to be the other half of the Ashford United team we'd faced earlier in the day. Again the perfect start, Tom powering in a low shot which was well saved but DJ was on hand to poke home the rebound. Bertie then continued his fine form by beating two players and delivering perfectly for DJ to slot home his, and the teams, second goal. One moment of danger came when Ashford were awarded a free kick around the Giants box and the shot was well struck. No problem, up leaped Bertie with an outstanding defensive header to direct the ball wide of the post. From the resulting corner, James was called upon to make a good save, tipping the ball onto the cross bar.

1/2 Final
Langton Giants 1 - 1 Dragons YFC (Dragons YFC win on pens)
Simba

Our semi final opponents turned out to be the very strong Dragons team who had beaten us in the Paddock Wood Fiesta Final 12 months ago which is effectively a West Ham academy side. A year on though, the Giants are a very different proposition as they were about to find out. With Tom and Jack imperious at the back the Giants looked secure as anything and were able to counter attack freely when winning the ball, and in the opening moments we came close to creating clear cut chances on several occasions, and then we did. Jack found DJ, DJ spun and played the perfect ball to Simba who was bursting up the pitch and forced the ball home at the second attempt after his first effort was well saved. Now we had something to hold onto and were able to do so, quite comfortably for most of the match. A big blow though was losing Tom to injury just as the first half came to an end. Our captain had been a colossus all day, but especially in this one and with no subs left, there was no choice but for Brodie to come limping back onto the pitch. A re jig saw Simba drop into defence and he was magnificent, as was Jack, in fact as were they all. Bertie tackled everything, DJ worked his socks off, James marshalled the whole thing superbly and Brodie showed immense character to fight through the pain for the team. Just as it looked like these wonderful boys were going to get there we conceded a scrambled equaliser, in the very last minute. Gutting.

Somewhat inevitably, the penalty shoot out didn't go our way, but the way our players behaved themselves and represented their club in such disappointing circumstances was far, far more impressive than winning a penalty shootout. Sadly the same cannot be said of our opponents, or their parents, who were frankly a disgrace.

So it wasn't to be, but don't let that diminish this summers achievement for one minute. The statistics are almost unbelievable. especially given the lottery that fiesta matches can be. They read:

Played 52
Lost 0
Scored 133
Conceded 6

Oh.... and won 4 tournaments.

Just incredible, thank you boys, you're all an absolute joy to watch, let alone coach. Roll on September.

Final season goal totals:

Simba 67 (a new single season total for the Giants) DJ 38, Bertie 26, Brodie 20, Alf 14, Tom 13, Eddie 6, Jack 4, Sid 3, Henry, Gonzalo, Finn all 1.

The Giants with the Premier League trophy at the Tonbridge fiesta...

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Sunday 5th July 2015 - Jarvis Brook Fiesta

The Giants WIN the Jarvis Brook Fiesta!!!

For the penultimate fiesta of the season, the Giants took the short trip to Jarvis Brook hoping to retain the title they'd won last season, but having to do so without the influential Alf and Bertie who were taking their turns on the side-lines, and in the pouring rain.

Langton Giants 6 - 0 Lewis Bridge View Pumas
Jack x 2, Brodie, Simba, DJ, Sid

If they've been guilty of starting fiestas slowly in the past, the Giants certainly couldn't be accused of that today as they ripped into their opponents from the first minute, Brodie feeding the sprinting Simba who nutmegged the goalkeeper to give us a very early lead. Jack then burst through and finished smartly with the outside of his foot to score his first goal of the season. Having waited so long for his first, the wait for his second was significantly shorter, just a few minutes as it happened thanks to a thunderous strike from DJ's pass. Between Jack's double, Brodie had fired in from distance and Sid had volleyed home smartly, so when DJ then added a 6th the instruction went out to take the foot off the gas. What followed was an absolute master class in passing, as the Giants retained possession for a full 7 minutes in their own half, with goalkeeper James having as many touches anybody. Both the oppositions coach and referee thanked the boys for not continuing to rack up the goals, which was a nice touch.

Langton Giants 5 - 0 Uckfield Grasshoppers Yellow
Simba x 3, Brodie, DJ

Ignoring the heavy rain, the Giants carried on where they left off, scoring for fun. Brodie got the opener with a smart finish after DJ found him with a good pass, Simba and DJ then combined beautifully to complete a wonderful 1-2 which carried them half the length of the pitch before the former slammed home the second goal. DJ then got one himself, this time Brodie finding him to return the compliment from earlier before Simba helped himself to a hatrick with two more goals before again the message went out to cease the scoring again. Through all of this of course, Henry, Jack and Tom were in complete control at the back, and once again James happily joined in with the passing as we retained possession to see the match out.

Jarvis Brook Junior Eagles 1 - 4 Langton Giants
Simba x 2, Tom, DJ

Our next match saw us take on the strongest of the host teams, the very big Junior Eagles. Henry was magnificent in this one, striding out of defence and finding Simba with a defence splitting pass which the powerful striker slotted home expertly with his left foot. Tom then slammed home a second with a hard low drive from outside the box, before DJ showed great strength as he ran through two bigger boys to poke home our 3rd. Simba wrapped up the scoring with another good finish. With the last kick of the match a rare goal was conceded, by way of a deflected shot which gave James no chance.

Langton Giants 6 - 0 Foresters Gala
DJ x 2, Simba, Sid, Tom, Henry

The Giants continued to steam roller their opponents as their level of football was reaching new heights. Tom opened the scoring this time, firing into the top corner from DJ's pass. Gala always try and play the game the right way, and a very good passing move put them in, but James came to the rescue, making a smart double save, before DJ settled things back down again by rounding the goalkeeper after receiving a superb ball from Jack. DJ then added another with a low finish, before James was called upon to make another save, this time from a long shot. Sid then found Simba with an intelligent pass which was duly dispatched into the back of the net, before Sid then got a deserved goal of his own from Brodie's delicately chipped through ball. A shift of formation ended up with Henry up front, and it only took him a matter of moments to get on the score sheet, rounding the goalie and smashing the ball home. This was Henry's first goal of the season too, and once again the breaks were put on for the final few minutes.

1/2 Final
Langton Giants 3 - 0 Hastings United
Brodie x 2, DJ

So after securing their 12th Group win a row, the Giants progressed to the semi final to face the team they'd beaten in the final 12 months ago. They couldn't have got off to a better start, Tom and Simba combining to set up DJ to slot home from a tight angle with no more than 30 seconds gone. The Giants were rampant, DJ hit the post, Simba hit the post, Jack and Simba both had 1on1's saved and DJ narrowly missed from close range. The only fear was that the failure to get the second goal would prove costly. Not to worry though, Brodie soon put pay to any concerns by scoring twice, once with magnificent strike into the roof of the net, once with a tap in at the back post, both from DJ passes. James, Henry, Jack and Tom were in complete command at the back as the Giants secured their place in the final.

Final
Langton Giants 2 - 0 Broad Oak & Horam
DJ x 2

With the rain finally clearing, the Giants took to the pitch to face a strong Broad Oak team who had come out of a challenging group and were certain to be the most difficult opponent the Giants had faced today. The Giants were in no mood to let this one slip away though and dominated throughout. DJ opened the scoring following a lovely 1-2 with Brodie, before then being denied by a good save when clean through, Simba fired over the bar, Brodie saw a brilliant strike superbly tipped onto the bar by the Broad Oak goalkeeper, before Simba struck the inside of the post but some how the ball bounced across the goal and away to safety. Brodie saw two more shots saved, as did DJ, and Simba, as the Giants were attacking at will. DJ wrapped the win up though with a tidy left foot finish.

Another trophy, their 4th of the summer, for these magnificent Giants. Perhaps most pleasing was demonstrating their ability to still win despite missing such influential players such as Bertie, Alf and Eddie. Scoring 26 goals along the way, with every outfield player scoring, showing what a team effort it was, well done to each and every one of them. One more to go.... they couldn't, could they?


The U11 Giants with their winners' awards and trophy

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Saturday 20th June 2015 - Ridgewaye Tournament

The summer slog of fiestas continued, this one with a nice short journey up the road to Ridgewaye, missing an injured Alf but welcoming Sid for his first fiesta for us this summer. With over half the team having returned from a weeks residential trip just the previous evening, there was some question as to whether the energy levels might be at their usual level, and we were also facing our toughest group of the summer so far, could we extend our amazing run of winning groups? The format pretty much meant we had to.

Langton Giants 2 - 0 Hastings Rangers
Simba x2

A new opponent to start the day, all we knew about them was that they'd won their league this season so we assumed they'd be strong and confident, so this was no time for our usual slow start. Fortunately the boys got the message and went out and won their opening game pretty comfortably. Simba grabbed both goals in the first half, the first from a perfectly delivered Bertie corner, the second by beating his man and finishing smartly into the bottom corner. More chances were created, Brodie going closest to adding to the scoreline with a header from another expertly delivered Bertie corner, but no more goals scored. Jack and Tom ensured that James was completely untroubled and Sid reminded us what a good mover without the ball he is and put himself about, giving the Hastings defenders no rest.

Langton Giants 2 - 1 Tonbridge Junior Piranhas
Simba, DJ

A tough opponent who we'd enjoyed some cracking encounters with over the years. Not much to report from the first half other than a great low save from James from the talented Piranhas striker. Bertie turned defensive rock next, producing a magnificent defensive header after tracking back to snuff out a dangerous attack. Brodie skipped by a challenge and played the ball into the feet of Simba who took one touch to beat his defender, and a second to rifle the ball hard into the top corner to open the scoring. The second was a brilliant team effort, Brodie finding DJ who in turn found Bertie for a one two, rounded the goalie and rolled the ball into the unguarded net. In the last minute we conceded a well taken goal on the counter attack, but no harm done.

Langton Giants 0 - 0 Foresters Spartak

There's always one of these games in fiestas, and it was always likely to be against the team we'd narrowly beaten in the final of our own fiesta a couple of weeks back. Not a lot to report other than the sheer brilliance of Tom and Jack at the back meaning that we at least secured a draw. In the closing minutes we went very close to winning the game, first DJ was just unable to poke home at the back post from Simba's cross before Simba himself crashed a powerful shot against the cross bar. A draw was a fair result.

Langton Giants 4 - 0 Wadhurst United
DJ x 2, Brodie, Tom

The tightness of the group meant that draw left us needing to win our last two matches. Any nerves were soon settled though when Bertie found Brodie to shoot home accurately and give us an early advantage. Then it was the DJ show as he grabbed two goals, the first created by his own neat footwork, the second starting with James in goal who after intercepting a cross, quickly rolled the ball out to Simba's feet allowing him to power forward and find DJ who finished with great aplomb. DJ then turned provider, zig-zagging himself into the penalty box before releasing Tom to hit the corner and complete the scoring.

Langton Green 2 - 0 Crowborough Atheletic
Sid, Bertie

So we'd put ourselves in a great position, with us guaranteed to progress if we could win our final fixture. The game was comfortable enough, but once again were grateful to James for a fine early save before Simba went on a mazy run, found Sid who smashed the ball home after the goalie had made a brilliant initial save. Tom delivered the pass of the day, if not season, with a wonderful cross field ball practically the length of the pitch to the feet of DJ who cut inside and shot well, denied by a decent save. Bertie then doubled the lead thanks to a good pass from Sid.

So with that we'd secured our ELEVENTH group win in a row at Fiestas, which is an incredible achievement given the lottery that is fiesta football.

1/4 Final
Langton Giants 1 - 1 Rusthall Lions (Rusthall win on pens)
Bertie

So for the second year in a row we found ourselves up against a strong Rusthall team in the quarter finals. The start was disastrous and freaky, the Rusthall goalkeeper absolutely leathering a goal kick which flew the length of the pitch, took an awkward bounce and lifted over the head of James to give them the lead. It was a one in a million incident, which rattled the boys for the next few minutes as Rusthall pushed forward looking to wrap things up. Tom and Jack were again immense, keeping them at bay and driving the team forward. We weren't playing well and it looked for all the world like our unbeaten run was going to come to an end, but these boys have an amazing ability to find a way, their determination was immense as they desperately tried to find an equaliser. DJ nearly got it, but instead he got the ball smashed into his face by the Rusthall goalie from point blank range, but then Bertie came good, receiving a lovely pass from Simba and forcing the ball past the strong goalkeeper with a powerful strike to give us a life line. There was no time to find a winner so it was back to pens again. Sadly lightening didn't strike two weeks in a row, so for the second year running we lost out at this stage, to this team, in the same manner

So penalty frustrations again, but the boys can be very proud of themselves, keeping this unbelievable unbeaten run in fiestas going, which now stands at 37 matches, which is almost unbelievable given the format. It wasn't meant to be today, but two more chances still to add more silverware.

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Saturday 13th June 2015 - Ringmer Fiesta

The Giants WIN the Ringmer Fiesta!!!

After enjoying a weekend off, the Giants returned to summer fiesta football, this time quite a long trip to Ringmer at a very unsociable hour!

Langton Giants 0 - 0 Saltdean United
A typical first game of the fiesta, the Giants actually played quite well, but couldn't find the back of the net, Brodie going close with a left foot effort which whistled wide and Tom seeing a close range effort blocked, a number of other half chances were created and with Jack at the back being his usual impenetrable self, ensuring a draw was secured.

Langton Giants 6 - 0 Lewes Bridge View Orange
Simba x 3, Brodie, Tom, Alf

After the frustrations of the first game, the goals suddenly came flooding in during a quite mesmerising performance from the Giants. To put this result in perspective, this Lewes Bridge team had won their opening match 5 nil and went on to win every other game in the group. The Giants though were in no mood to suffer another blank and wave after wave of attacks brought its rewards, and how. Tom nearly got us off to the perfect start, firing over from close range after a good cross from Simba, but when Tom saw a firm shot saved, Simba was on hand to smash home the rebound. Brodie then doubled the lead with a superb individual effort, first he beat two defenders, feigned to shoot with his right but pulled off an audacious drag back on to his left before curling home into the far top corner from just inside the box. Alf went on a great run down the left, skipping past a couple of tackles before cutting into the box and pulling the ball back to give Tom the simplest of finishes to make it 3. Bertie went on a fine run of his own but was tripped inside the box and up stepped Alf to fire home with an excellently taken penalty. Simba finished off the scoring with two more as the Giants were running riot against a very strong opponent, one thanks to a good cross from Tom and one from a strong run of his own. A stunning scoreline, a superb performance.

Langton Giants 2 - 1 Challey & Newick Colts
Brodie, Simba

Perhaps a bit of a comedown after the previous performance was inevitable, but suddenly the Giants looked flat. That said, the Challey goalkeeper made two outstanding saves in the opening moments which may have made life a little easier but as we pushed forward we were caught out with a classic counter attack, conceding a well taken goal which gave James no chance. No issues with conceding a goal like that, when you attack as much as the Giants do you have to accept you're open to a counter attack on occasion, the only surprise is that it doesn't happen more often, that being only the second goal we'd conceded in 4 fiestas, and the first on the counter attack! With the group looking competitive though we knew we couldn't afford another draw, let alone a loss, so it was vital we struck back quickly, and we did, scoring twice in the opening minute of the second half. The first goal was despatched accurately into the bottom corner by Brodie from the edge of the box before Simba fired home the winner at the second attempt from Brodie's cross. Challey showed really character and attacking threat throughout, so it was important that Jack, Tom and Alf fulfilled their defensive duties as well as they always do, meaning James wasn't troubled again.

Langton Giants 3 - 0 Royal United
Alf, Simba, Brodie

Another new opponent and the scare of the last game seemed to wake the boys back up again, Tom being denied by an unbelievable save from his powerful volley in the opening moments, then shooting just wide from the resulting corner. When their goalkeeper made another top save from Brodie it was beginning to look like it might be another frustrating game, until up stepped Alf to side foot an excellently controlled finish into the bottom corner from Brodie's corner, which was more of a pass than a cross after he spotted Alf's intelligent run. Simba then poked home a second before Brodie smashed home a third with his left foot into the roof of the net after being found by Bertie, with a sensational back heel!! The Giants saw the match out with one of the best examples of ball retention you could imagine from an u11 team, as they stroked the ball round between them, using the full length of the pitch, from James to Simba, they must have kept possession for a full 3 minutes with countless passes. Wonderful to see.

Langton Giants 2 - 0 Ringmer Rovers
Simba, Tom

The draw in the first match and the format of the tournament, meant that despite winning every game since that opener, the Giants knew they had to win their last match to progress. This match was against the host team who also had a chance to qualify, so it was all to play for. The Ringmer team were extremely hard working and didn't allow the Giants any time on the ball which meant our passing had to be at its best. We won a throw in far up the pitch and with it Tom found an open Simba who smashed the ball home to settled the nerves. Moments later we looked nailed on to double the lead. Some wonderful interplay between Bertie and Simba ended with Simba firing in what looked like his second goal only to be denied by an unbelievable diving, lunging block by a Ringmer defender, you could only applaud such determination. The nerves were finally settled though when Tom fired home with a very fine finish with the inside of his foot from a tight angle into the far corner.

Job done, group won, for the 10th Fiesta in a row.

1/4 Final
Langton Giants 1 - 0 Tonbridge Angles
o.g

In the quarter final we found ourselves up against our friends from Tonbridge Angels so we knew we were in for a tough match, and so it proved. Jack and Tom were immense at the back as the Angels put us under pressure for the first time all day but we responded well, Simba breaking free to test the goalkeeper but a defender was able to get back just enough to put him off as he shot. Then James came to the fore, and how, pulling off three brilliant saves, one of which was truly superb. Perhaps inspired by this , Tom then pulled of a superb save of his own, fortunately with his feet, with a goal line clearance. It was clear we weren't competing as the Angels were on top. In the second half though we fought back and started to compete better. We won a corner which Brodie fired in hard and took an unfortunate deflection off of an Angels player and flew into the back of the net. It was harsh on the Angels who had played very well and they can consider themselves extremely unlucky to go out to such a cruel blow, which is what happened when the final whistle blew.

1/2 Final
Langton Giants 0 - 0 Patcham United
Whether it was fatigue or nerves I can't be sure, but suffice to say the Giants never got going in this one against an opponent they really should have been able to see off without much fuss. Simba did go close and Alf saw a header go over from a Bertie corner, but in reality we didn't do anything like enough to win the game, so it was on to the dreaded penalties. Step forward James.... our super goalkeeper has had to spend a lot of the summer watching without a lot to do, but has always been ready to save us when called up, like our previous game for example, but this was his moment. An early Giants miss meant a Patcham player had a penalty to win it, but James had other ideas, pulling off a brilliant diving save to keep us alive, then the shootout was turned on its head when he repeated the feat with the next kick. Up stepped Simba to fire home the winner and a miracle had happened...... THE GIANTS HAD WON A PENALTY SHOOTOUT!!!!

Final
Langton Giants 1 - 0 Lewes Bridge View Black
Brodie

So another final, this one against the other half of the Lewis Bridge team. Thankfully though the Giants remembered how to play just in time and put in a really good performance, which was just as well as they were facing a very accomplished opponent. The Lewis Bridge keeper came out of his box and Simba nicked the ball from him and just as he was about the pass the ball into the back of the empty net, the goalie felled him from behind, denying us a certain goal. As it was outside the box though the only punishment was a free kick, which Simba himself then agonisingly smacked against the cross bar. Simba then saw a good shot well saved as the Giants grew in confidence and control. The control of course came from the brilliance of Jack, Tom and Alf keeping things tight, and Bertie was putting in a hell of a shift in both directions to help keep the pacey Lewes Bridge winger at bay. Brodie sprayed the ball out to Simba on the left of the box then carried on running forward, Simba found him with the perfect return pass and Brodie darted in to fire underneath the goalkeeper to give us a lead with just minutes to go. Naturally Lewes Bridge came streaming forward but found themselves up against a defensive wall that few have penetrated. Even their goalkeeper came up for a late corner and when the ball was cleared Alf sent a magnificent shot 3/4 the length of the pitch which was inches from crossing the line before the goalkeeper launched himself to grab the ball at the last possible second, denying Alf the most incredible of goals. Not to worry though, seconds later the ref blew the final whistle and this magnificent set of boys had done it again.

To describe just how superb these lads have been this summer, they have now played in 4 fiestas, won 3 of them, not lost a single match, scoring 68 goals and conceding only 2 along the way. All the boys who have played in any of the fiestas can be incredibly proud of their efforts to-date. Today though belonged to James, without him it simply wouldn't have happened, well done James.

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Saturday 30th May 2015 - Langton Green Fiesta

The Langton Giants WIN the Langton Green fiesta!!!!

Our home tournament, one of the biggest in the South East with over 200 teams, of which 35 were in the u11 age group, and the one we wanted to win the most and we were boosted with both Henry and Brodie appearing in their in their first appearances of the summer season.

Langton Giants 1 - 0 Wadhurst United
Eddie

A hard earned victory in which we never really got out of first gear as we struggled to get a grip on the match, but still had it not been for an outstanding goalkeeping display by the Wadhurst goalie it would have been a Cricket score as he pulled off a string of stunning saves that it looked like were going to frustrate us until Eddie did a brilliant job of following up a firm Simba shot to earn us an opening win.

Langton Giants 0 - 0 Ridgewaye Galaxy

Our poorest performance for some time from an attacking perspective as we failed really to create any chances of note. Thankfully our miserly defence ensured we picked up a point, but we knew a huge improvement was needed if the day was to be a successful one.

Langton Giants 3 - 0 Rotherfield
Bertie x 2, Tom

Finally we started to look a bit more 'Giant like' as we started to pass the ball and move better. Bertie opened to scoring with a brilliant header from outside the penalty box as he connected perfectly with a Rotherfield goal kick to send the ball back into the far corner. Then a goal which definitely suggested things were improving, Tom scored it well, but the passing move from Bertie, Brodie and Alf was great to see to set it up. Bertie then won a tackle, skipped by a defender and whistled the ball into the bottom corner to wrap up the scoring.

Langton Giants 5 - 0 Foresters Gala
Simba x 2, Bertie x 2, Brodie

Things were starting to flow now, with the outstanding Henry, Jack and Tom taking it turns to protect the superb James at the back, the rest of the boys were able to push forward and attack with confidence, Alf was pulling the strings on the middle of the park and the attacks were almost constant. Simba got the first two goals in the first minute, both set up by the brilliant Bertie, who then was on the receiving end from Simba to make the score 3 nil with a tidy finish. Brodie then skipped through and scored with ease when 1 on 1 before Bertie finished the scoring with a screaming shot right into the top corner.

Langton Giants 4 - 0 Sevenoaks Tempest
Simba x 3, Bertie 2

The boys were flying now as the Giants ripped into the Sevenoaks team from the off. Simba scored a superb goal with the outside of his foot following good work from Brodie and Jack, and then helped himself to a couple more to get yet another hatrick before Bertie followed up a great strike from Alf from a tight angle.

Langton Giants 2 - 0 Langton Eagles
Simba x 2

Against our great friends the Eagles, featuring several Giants of their own, we knew the high scoring of the last few matches wasn't likely to happen as they'd been in fine form themselves this afternoon, playing some fantastic passing football and scoring lots of goals to boot. In a tight game, Simba made the difference twice, once with an individual effort and once thanks to a great pass from Eddie. Jack also played abig part, denying the Eagles a clear shot on goal with an excellent last ditch tackle. Thankfully, the Eagles made it through to the plate competition despite this reverse, in fact the TWO Eagles teams managed it, which is a great achievement, this version unluckily losing a semi final they dominated.... the pains of fiesta football.

1/4 Final
Langton Giants 1 - 0 Thamesmead Town
Bertie

So another group won, our 9th in a row, and all we'd heard all morning was how amazing the Thamesmead Town team were, as they'd rattled up high scoring victories in all their group games, so we knew this would be a stiffer challenge. These boys love a good challenge though, so simply stepped up their game. In a tight first half, the big Thamesmead side went close, but were denied by an outstanding save from James at point black range before Simba was desperately unlucky to see his powerful strike come back off the cross bar. The second half saw the Giants take the initiative and became the more dominant attacking team. Simba was denied when 1 on 1, before their goalie then scrambled a loose ball off the line. Bertie broke free from Brodie's ball, his first attempt was saved, but he fought to win the rebound and fire home. We then stood firm in the face of a barrage of long throws, Henry, Jack and Simba winning a succession of defensive headers and the final whistle blew. We knew this was a great, hard earned and and deserved win, we also knew it gave us a great opportunity to go all the way.

1/2 Final
Langton Giants 3 - 0 Ashurst Wood
Bertie, Brodie, Tom

After losing a semi final the week before on penalties to a team we knew we should beat, the boys were determined lightening wouldn't strike twice, so set out and played some great football, this one was never in doubt. Bertie opened the scoring with a brilliant strike into the top corner, and early in the second half Brodie ran half the pitch before firing home with unerring accuracy across the goalkeeper into the bottom far corner. Simba then sent a wonderful lobbed pass over the top to the on-rushing Tom to slot home first time on the volley to secure our place in the final.

Final
Langton Giants 1 - 0 Foresters Spartak
Simba

So for the second year running, the Giants would face a Forresters side in the final of our home fiesta. A nervy opening was understandable, but despite this the Giants were able to get on top early on. Bertie skipped down the left and slotted into Simba, surrounded by players it looked like he had nowhere to go, but some quick feet and a shift of direction gave him just enough space to slot home under the goalkeeper, a brilliant goal. The match ebbed and flowed, Foresters working hard to get back on level terms, but Tom and Jack were in no mood for being beaten at the back. Simba decided to keep things interesting by having a penalty saved after Brodie was felled in the penalty box, so the nerves stayed firmly on edge until the wonderful moment when the final whistle blew..... they'd done it, this amazing set of boys had won their home fiesta.... and boy did they deserve it.... and enjoy it!

Another fiesta the Giants have gone through without conceding a single goal..... that's 1 goal conceded in 23 fiesta matches so far this summer. That is just insane.

Well done to all of them, every boy played a huge part in this success and should wallow in the glory for a day or two at least.

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Saturday 23rd May 2015 - Rusthall Fiesta

Round two of summer fiestas saw us make the short journey to Rusthall FC, still without Brodie and now without Captain Tom and the Homewood House boys, leaving us with just the 6 boys available.

Langton Giants 0 - 0 Tonbridge Angels

A typical first game of the fiesta affair, neither team played anywhere near the level they are capable as both struggled to find their rhythm. The Giants had a couple of early chances, Simba twice shooting narrowly wide, but if anything Angels had the better of the match, with us being very grateful to James for making two excellent saves to secure us a point from the first game at least.

Langton Giants 3 - 0 Ridgewaye Jupiter
Simba x 2, Bertie

With the toughest opposition out of the way in the first match, we were now able to start expressing ourselves a bit more, albeit having to do so on a beach of a pitch which had more sand on it than grass. Bertie showed quick feet to skip past a defender and fire a great shot into the top corner to open the scoring as we dominated possession from the first whistle. Jack and Alf were in total command at the back, allowing Bertie, DJ and Simba to attack at will. Bertie crossed to Simba to make it two nil, before he wrapped up the scoring by going round the 'keeper following good work from DJ and Bertie.

Langton Giants 3 - 0 Raw Skills Sharks
DJ x 3

The boys were in full flow now and set about dominating another match from start to finish. Jack put in a crunching tackle and strode forward before slotting a wonderful pass into the feet of DJ who scored at the second attempt. Simba then caught Bertie's well delivered corner full on the volley but it just went over the bar before DJ, Bertie and Alf all had efforts narrowly off target. Bertie then delivered a brilliant ball to put DJ in again, who did his usual trick of putting the goalie on his bum before stroking the ball into the empty net. Alf was having a brilliant day and was unlucky not to score when lifting a sweet shot over the bar before then setting DJ up for his hatrick with a superb disguised pass.

Langton Giants 4 - 0 TW Foresters Gala
Simba x 2, Alf, Bertie

The goals were flowing now along with the passing. Early frustration as both DJ and Simba saw efforts cleared off the line and then DJ shot just wide of the post. Bertie started the scoring off though, poking home a DJ cross before Alf got a deserved goal of his own by following up a strong and direct Simba charge. Simba himself then fired home from Bertie's latest brilliant corner before we then scored the goal of the day, Jack and Alf exchanged passes, the latter sending a great ball down the right to Simba who burst into the box to fire into the far corner. 4 one touch passes, 50 yards travelled, 1 great finish. Brilliant stuff.

Langton Giants 2 - 0 Rusthall Pumas
DJ x 2

The last group game saw us up against one of the host teams who were very well organised and possessed some very talented players. Simba saw an early shot saved but DJ was on hand to knock in the rebound and DJ was on hand again to score the second goal from another great ball from the outstanding Jack.

1/4 Final
Langton Giants 4 - 0 Raw Skills Bears
DJ x 3, Simba

With the group won, we faced another Raw Skills team in the quarter final and after Simba was denied by some brave goalkeeping early on, he then fired home from another Bertie corner, before DJ repeated his 'sit down goalie' trick to double the lead. DJ then went close with a header before grabbing another goal with tricky feet before Alf went on a superb run along the by-line, beating 3 defenders before rolling the ball back for DJ to tap in his 3rd, his second hatrick of the day.

1/2 Final
Langton Giants 1 - 1 Raw Skills Sharks (Raw Skills win 2-1 on pens)
DJ

So for the semi-final we would face the Raw Skills Sharks team which we had dealt with comfortably enough in the group stage, but well aware in the short match format anything could happen, and so it proved. We started off on top as we saw two shots beat the goalie in the opening minutes only for both of them to be cleared off the line with desperate lunges and Bertie fired wide. As we pushed forward we lost possession and Raw Skills counter attacked, denied only by a brilliant save from James. From the resulting corner though we switched off and a miskicked corner kick some how found its way to an unmarked Raw Skills player two feet from goal, he couldn't miss, and he didn't. It was so un-Giants like, this being the first goal they'd conceded in 15 fiesta matches this summer, still plenty of time left and the boys set about attacking their opponents incessantly for the remainder of the match. Simba saw a great free kick tipped over the bar, which was just the start of the frustration as the Giants fired in a barrage of shots on the Raw Skills goal but were denied time and time again by great saves, lunging blocks and the post, twice. It was beginning to look like we were going to run out of time, but Alf found some space and played the perfect ball into DJ to smash the equaliser home from near the penalty spot. With little over a minute left we pushed forward looking for a winner, and twice we went agonisingly close, Simba heading over and the goalkeeper making a save with his outstretched foot from a sweetly struck Bertie shot.

So in a game we'd utterly dominated, against a team we'd beaten comfortably earlier in the day, one bad bit of defending meant we were headed for the dreaded penalties. Unfortunately the Giants ability to lose penalty kicks is legendary, and it proved to be our Achilles heel again as we lost out 2-1.

Still, these boys deserve an enormous amount of credit for their performance today, With no subs they fought valiantly and played some truly mesmerising football at times on some awful pitches, and to have only conceded a single goal in two fiestas is an incredible performance for such an attacking side. Unfortunately that single goal proved to be our downfall, such is the cruel nature of fiesta football sometimes. On to the next one!

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Sunday 17th May 2015 - Pembury Tournament

The Langton Green Giants WIN the Pembury tournament !!!

After injuring his toe the day before, for only the second time in their 5 year history, the Giants were to take to the pitch without the inspirational Brodie, but were joined by the talented and hard working Mattie who was making his Giants debut.

Langton Giants 4 - 0 Chatham Corinthians
Simba 2, Eddie, Bertie

Our opening match saw us take on the unknown quantity of Chatham Corinthians. The perfect pitch suited the Giants down to the ground as they were able to stroke the ball around with ease and dominate posession from the start. Eddie opened the scoring, tapping home after a good run and pass from Simba. Had it not been for some heroics from the Chatham goalkeeper the score could have been a lot worse as we created chance after chance. Eventually the pressure told as Simba helped himself to two goals and Bertie one to secure a comfortable opening win.

Pembury Athletic 0 - 0 Langton Giants
A typical fiesta match, over in the blinnk of the eye, and whilst we definitely should have won the game based on chances created, we were unable to find the back of the net. Mattie going closest with a well struck shot which whistled just over the bar. James was a complete bystander for the second match in a row, thanks to the dominance in possession and Tom & Alf in their defensive roles.

Langton Giants 2 - 0 Paddock Wood
Tom, Simba

Another game in which we dominated possession and missed a tonne of chances, but managed to put two away to secure the points. Mattie went close with a header, Simba hit the cross bar twice and post once and Eddie went close with a fearce strike just wide. Bertie skipped down the left and pulled the perfect ball back for Tom to run in and open the scoring before Simba secured the win after picking up the ball from the half way line, powering past several challenges and finishing smartly into the bottom corner. A great goal.

Langton Giants 3 - 0 Sevenoaks Town United
Bertie 2, Simba

Needing to win their final game to secure top spot in the group and qualification for the cup competition, the Giants went out and put on another excellent display of quality passing football. Still waiting to see his first meaningful shot stopping action, James was however joining in the possession football with ease, looking like an extra outfield player at times with his calm distribution. This allowed the team to spread the play and create more space to attack. Mattie found Simba with a great pass down the right wing and the powerful striker made no mistake with an enerring strike into the far corner for our opening goal, before turning provider to Bertie to double the lead. Bertie then scored the goal of the day, and absolutely stunning strike from miles out into the opposite top corner.

1/4 Final
Langton Giants 5 - 0 Sevenoals Town United
Simba 3, Alf 2

All day long Alf was responsible for much of the fine play, excelling in the deep lying sweeper role, starting off many of our attacks, secure in the safety the imperious Tom was providing behind him. In this game though, Alf did more than set the plays up, he was driving forward and getting on the end of them. Simba started us off though, Bertie finding him with a fine cross to score before Simba himself found the charging Alf who sprinted half the length of the pitch to fire home from close range, before grabbing himself a second by slamming the ball home from near the penalty spot following a goal mouth sramble. Matty continued to impress, battling hard and passing the ball intelligently to his new team mates, and Eddie was his usual high quality self all over the park. Simba then helped himself to a well deserved hatrick by banging home two more goals in the closing minutes.

1/2 Final
Maidstone United 0 - 1 Langton Giants
Simba

We knew that this game was going to be a step up in terms of opposition against a very big and talented Maidstone side who had walked through their group winning every game by at least 5 goals. But we were confident and knew we would be a step up for them too, and so it proved as our passing and movement saw us on top in the opening stages despite playing up the slope in the first half. We created the best chance of the first half too, Simba playing in Mattie 1 on 1 who took a great first touch and looked odds on to score only to be denied by a brave bit of goalkeeping at his feet. Just before half time, we won a free kick and it was Bertie's turn to be denied by some excellent goalkeeping as his sweetly struck free kick was tipped over as it looked to be arrowing into the top corner. Still, with the second half to come down the slope we were looking good. Eddie broke free at the start of the second half but the recovering defender just managed to get a toe in at the last minute, before Simba broke free thanks to an excellent pass from the outstanding Tom to charge in on goal, holding off a physical centre half before bending a sumptuous finish passed the diving keeper to give us a well deserved lead. Inevitably the talented Maidstone team came forward looking for an equaliser, but the boys at the back stood firm and no clear cut chances were created as we saw the game out to reach the final.

Final
Langton Giants 1 - 0 Chipstead
Simba

So the first fiesta of the summer and we are in a final! Up until this point, James hadn't had a save to make all day, despite being involved in much of the passing game, he had barely touched the balls with his hands at any point. This was about to change and James was not found wanting. The first half was quite a nervy affair, neither team really able to grab control of the game but Chipstead did create the only chance of note, and what a chance it was. It looked certain they would score but James had other ideas, leaping across his goal to make a stunning save, drawing gasps from all those watching. Immediately after half time he was called into action again, diving low to his right to make another brilliant save straight from the kick off as for the only time all day, the defenders switched off and Chipstead were able to drive straight through the middle of our defence. This seemed to act as a wake up call as from that moment onwards, it was all Giants. Bertie saw a shot blocked, Eddie headed a corner over, Alf fired wide from the edge of the box and then saw another shot saved, Simba putting the rebound into the side netting from a tight angle, Then it happened, Bertie refused to give up on a ball on the edge of the box despite the presence of three defenders and was able to poke the ball through to Simba who calmly slotted home past the goalkeeper. There was still time for Simba to unluckily hit the post, but no matter, the final whistle soon blew and they'd done it...... champions!

What a cracking afternoon, all of the boys were magnificent. Special mention for James for being brilliant enough to pull off two incredible saves having not had a thing to do all day before, to the whole team for not conceding a goal all day and of course to Simba for his incredible goalscoring feats, nabbing 9 goals in 7 games. Finally, well done to Matty, what a start to your Giants career!

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Sunday 10th May

Glebe Lions 4 - 1 Langton Giants
DJ

So after a long hard season, the Giants took to the pitch for the 21st and final time this league campaign, with 3rd place already secured before kick off, more on that later. The final game was to take place on the pitch we'd played more on this season than any other, (including our home ground!) Glebe FC, against their Lions team who had secured 4th position in the league and a place in the cup final next week. Things started well enough, Tom going close to opening the scoring after forcing his way into the penalty box only to be denied by some brave goalkeeping at his feet. Playing up the steep hill came with its usual challenges, but we were coping well enough. Then a free kick was awarded in a dangerous position and somehow a Glebe player was able to jog in unmarked and head home from 2 yards out, giving James no chance. Not to worry though because our response was instant, Brodie finding Tom on the right wing who beat his full back and crossed to the back post where DJ came sliding in to knock home the equaliser within a minute of conceding. The rest of the half was very comfortable, with James only being called upon once to make a comfortable save down to his left. With Bertie, Jack and Alf mainly responsible for the defence, Eddie, Gonzalo, Brodie, Simba and Tom rotated in midfield with DJ doing most of the work up front and by the end of the half we were looking the better team and felt confident that with the slope to our favour in the second half we could secure our second away win v Glebe Lions in a matter of weeks.

With it being our last half of football of the season and 3rd place secured, we decided to go for it down the hill in the second half, reverting to an attacking 3-3-2 formation. It started well, with us putting the Glebe defence under real pressure from the off, Alf saw a well struck shot from distance saved and a DJ effort deflected to the safety of the goalkeepers gloves before Simba was denied by a last ditch tackle, Then a set back, first of all a Glebe counter attack was broken up by a great tackle from Bertie, but from the resulting corner we conceded a second headed goal, albeit this one a very well taken effort under challenge. At this stage though we still felt confident we would get back into things as we continued causing them problems. Simba burst down the right wing and pulled the ball back to Tom who got a foot to the ball but was stretching and as a result unable to convert, then Simba himself broke through but sent his left foot effort wide before a good run by Tom left the goal gaping as the goalie was out of position but somehow nobody managed to poke the ball into empty net. We continued to press, Simba intelligently laying the ball back to Alf but that shot rose high over the bar before Simba was denied by a very good save from the goalkeeper. Inevitably all this attacking without finding the net was likely to come back and bite us, and it did, twice, as we conceded two more goals on the counter attack to give the score line a somewhat unflattering outcome. That said, had it not been for two great saves from James (one of which defied belief!) it could have looked even worse. So a disappointing final result but some valuable lessons learned.

The sub par second half today though can't in anyway detract from a brilliant first season in the Tandridge A division for the Giants. A year ago we were in two minds as to whether the boys were ready for the significant step up or not, and they've proven beyond doubt that they were. Finishing 3rd and beating every team in the division except for one, shows they belong. They end the season with the second best defensive record in the league despite James missing from goal for two months due to injury, and by earning 22pts from their last 10 matches, compared to 13pts from their first 10 the improvement is clear for all to see, and that was the main reason for the move, for the boys to develop. It has been a hard slog at times, with lots of long journeys, more injuries than we've ever faced and on occasion, some quite physical opponents, but the boys came through it all and had a lot of fun along the way. Next up the fiestas..... and before you know it, the slog will start again in September. Can't wait!

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Sunday May 3rd 2015

Tonbridge Angels 1 - 1 Langton Giants
Brodie

We had been scheduled to make the long trek to Southwark All Stars away this morning, but with them forfeiting the match, we were extremely grateful to our good friends at Tonbridge Angels for hosting a friendly fixture at short notice. The Angels are a very fine side, having won the Tandridge B division in very impressive style, remaining unbeaten in the process, so we knew we were in for a good workout ahead of our final league game next week.

With no Eddie or DJ available we were delighted to welcome back Sid after finally recovering from his injury problems, which had restricted him to just a couple of cameo appearances in goal so far this season. Given such a lengthy absence, he put in a really great performance, showing good pace, great link up play and never letting the Angels defence relax on the ball for a minute. The Giants started the game on top, passing the ball well on the slick surface and on the front foot, attacking in the Angels half. This early advantage was soon turned into a lead, Brodie showing quick feet to find enough space to fire in an accurate shot into the far corner to open the scoring. This gave the boys a boost of confidence and they were soon in their rhythm, passing the ball confidently, with Gonzalo, Bertie, Simba and Brodie winning the early midfield battle, secure in the knowledge that the back three of Tom, Jack and Alf always prove to be a tough nut to crack for any team. James was looking confident in goal, especially when receiving passes to his feet, comfortably retaining possession and calmly dealing with any closing down. With Sid working his socks off up front the team were looking good. As the half wore on though the Angels quality started to show, as they grew more and more into the contest, but our defence stood firm. At the other end, Simba fired a firm shot goalward which was blocked by a flying tackle before Gonzalo played Sid in with a wonderful pass, freeing the speedy striker from his marker to bear down on goal. Proving he's not lost any of his accuracy, Sid ley fly with a great effort which was destined to nestle in the far corner, only to be denied by a brilliant finger tipped save from the Angels No.1 which meant the score remained at 1 nil as the half time whistle blew.

Henry has been struggling with an injury and as such didn't appear in the first half, but decided to give it a go in the second period and, despite clearly hindered with the problem, worked his socks off against the outstanding Angels left winger. Now playing up the slope, the Giants started to struggle to push forward as much as they had done in the first half, and it was Angels turn to be on top. The boys at the back continued to frustrate the Angels attackers though with their organisation and determination, meaning most of the shots James had to face were from distance, and we knew it was going to take something special to beat him from there, as he comfortably dealt with a few well struck pot shots. We did look dangerous on the counter attack though Bertie going on several marauding runs, Alf slipping at an unfortunate time when almost through on goal and Simba very nearly doubling our lead but the ball ended up in the side netting. Naturally, given the score in the game, the last 10 minutes really required the boys to roll up their sleeves and dig in as their talented opponents really put us under pressure. It looked like we might hold on, but in the closing minutes their best player on the day deservedly fired home a stunning strike from outside the box which gave James no chance at all to level the scores. To be honest, on the balance of play, the Angels thoroughly deserved to equalise and when the final whistle blew a few moments later everyone in attendance agreed it was the right result.

A fantastic game of football between two extremely well matched sides who both like to play the game the right way. Well done to both teams. Most pleasing aspect had to be the performance of Sid, just seeing him running about was a boost, but to see him playing so well was even more heartening.

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Sunday 26th April 2015

Langton Giants 0 - 1 Tooting & Mitcham

Our final home game of the season saw us play against the very strong Tooting & Mitcham team we'd enjoyed two highly competitive games against already this season. The game got off to a bit of a disjointed start as both sides struggled to get meaningful possession for any amount of time with both defences firmly on top. Tom, Jack and Henry marshalled the back for us superbly, snuffing out any danger before it got anywhere near James in goal, but despite the hard working midfield of Bertie, Brodie, Alf and Eddie we were unable to create any clear chances of our own either. If anything at this stage, Tooting were on top, certainly territorially, and it was they who created the first chance of the match. Fortunately James is in fantastic form at the moment and reminded everyone of this with a brilliant save at his near post to stop a well hit shot. Simba entered the fray and added further strength and pace to the centre of midfield and as a result the Giants started to come more into the game. Some slick passing very nearly played striker DJ in, but the excellent Tooting defenders just managed to keep him at bay. Birthday boy Bertie was putting in a real shift on the left wing, in both directions and Alf was now doing a similar job on the opposite wing. Brodie was pulling the strings as usual and came very close to releasing Alf who made a lung bursting run only to be denied by a sliding tackle, which resulted in a corner. Bertie swung it in beautifully causing havoc in the Tooting defence who were unable to clear the ball allowing Simba to fire a powerful volley which very unluckily smacked the face of the cross bar, so close. Sam came on up front and did a great job, winning the ball high up the pitch, playing in team mates and not giving the Tooting defenders any time on the ball, his work rate gave the team a real boost as we ended the first half on top.

The second half saw a slight change in personnel, with Joel starting on the right wing and Tom switching to right back and Alf to left back. Joel was quickly into the action, buzzing away down the wing and making a nuisance of himself whilst also helping covering Tom at right back against the very talented Tooting left winger. Although not creating too many clear chances, Tooting were winning several corners which were causing us some problems, so it was no great surprise that when they did score, it started at a dangerous corner. The ball was whipped in at pace and James did brilliantly to come out and punch, but we failed to follow it up or close down the Tooting player who was loitering just outside the box and fired in a superbly struck shot which James very nearly kept out, but the ball was just hit too well. It was a great strike, excellent technique but we knew we should have closed it down quicker. No matter, there was still plenty of time to go and everything to play for. DJ found himself some space after a strong run from Simba but the keeper smothered his shot before a delicious Bertie cross field pass from left back went agonisingly close to playing Tom in who had now pushed forward to right wing. Brodie showed great footwork to find some space and cross for DJ who managed to direct his header wide of the goalie, only for it to be desperately cleared off the line and then the follow up was very well saved by the Tooting No.1. We were now on top but of course Tooting remained a major threat on the counter attack, but Jack, Henry and Bertie fought admirably to fend them off. Left back Bertie pushed forward and chipped a delightful ball into the box which Tom got to first and attempted an audacious overhead kick which he came very close to pulling off. Brodie then thread a ball through the eye of the needle to put Eddie in one-on-one but slipped at the worst possible moment and saw his shot saved by the feet of the outrushing keeper. Talking of outrushing keepers, James had another brilliant sweeper-keeper moment when he sprinted from his box and TACKLED the very tall and talented Tooting striker before clearing the ball to safety, fantastic goalkeeping. There was traditional expert goalkeeping required a minute or so later when Tooting caught us on the counter attack and James was called upon to make a stunning point blank save, which he somehow kept hold of too, denying any follow up. In the closing minutes we managed to create two more chances, firstly Simba spun on the penalty spot and made a good connection, but unfortunately it was right down the keepers throat and then Brodie beat two defenders and hit a hard accurate strike right into the corner which the Tooting goalkeeper did brilliantly to scramble round the post. As it turned out that was the last chance as the whistle went just a few moments later.

A great game of football between two very well matched teams, played in a great spirit and won by a very well taken goal. The Giants didn't deserve to lose but sometimes football can be like that, in reality it could have gone either way. Still, that means we've take a win, a draw and a narrow loss in three games against last years runners up, who are going to finish in that position again this season, which is a great achievement in itself. Well done to all the boys, another very credible performance, with a special mention for Jack who was just outstanding all game long.

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Sunday, 19th April 2015

Glebe Lions 0 - 2 Langton Giants
DJ x 2

For the fourth (and not yet final!) time this season the Giants travelled to Glebe FC today, this time to play their very strong Lions team who we'd battled out a terrific 3-3 draw with earlier in the season. After a months break from matches over the Easter period and with key midfielders Alf and Gonzalo missing, it was anybody's guess as to how this one was going to go. Finn joined us to add a much needed extra midfielder which went a long way to redress the balance, not least because he put in an excellent performance throughout. He wasn't alone as every single boy carried out their roles to perfection to put in perhaps the performance of the season. Things started well, we were playing up the slope so were careful to retain possession and keep our shape, only allowing Glebe to have shots from distance, one of which was brilliantly struck and gave James no chance, but thankfully bounced away to safety off thee outside of the post. That was the only real scare we had all morning, as the defence put on a master class of defending, Tom, Henry and Jack individually superb and even greater working as a unit. With Bertie and Finn both looking lively down the wings, Brodie and Eddie controlled things in the middle of the park allowing Simba to put himself about up front. Since returning from injury, James has improved week-on-week and was in total command of his box today, including one 'Manuel Neuer - sweeper keeper' moment when he sprinted from his goal to clear the danger from a through ball which nearly caught our defence out. A real sign of a growth in confidence. DJ entered the fray, assuming his natural striker duties which allowed Simba to drop back into centre mid, his strength instantly having an impact as we started to push forward more up the slope. DJ found some space on the left, ducked inside and let fly with a powerful shot which hit the side netting, before then playing Bertie in who was unlucky to see his good effort blocked right at the last second. From the resulting corner, Tom poked the ball goalwards past the goalie, only for it to be cleared off the line as the Giants turned the screw. In the closing minutes of the half, Finn created two chances for his team mates but both Simba and DJ, saw well struck shots saved but we felt confident playing down the slope in the second half we could continue to force the issue.

Taking advantage of the slope, Bertie reverted to left back which allowed Tom to be released from his usual defensive duties to take up a more attacking role on the right wing. It has an immediate effect as both boys excelled in their new roles. Tom was running at the Glebe left back and causing him all sorts of problems, and Bertie was defensively sound but was also able to deliver some magnificent cross field balls and crosses with his brilliant left foot. On more than one occasion Jack burst from defence to charge forward and Henry was strong and continued to show his vastly improved passing range, with some excellent forward passes. Eddie was now on the left wing and as always, was putting in an imperious performance, passing with such intelligence and tracking back to help his defensive colleagues out when necessary. Brodie and Simba in the middle were now running the show, Simba providing the strength and running ability which perfectly complimented Brodie's guile and saucery as we started to pick holes in the Glebe defence. A strong run from Tom won a corner which Brodie swung in and Simba met full on the volley but was unable to keep it below the bar. Simba and DJ were starting to link up very well so it was no great surprise when the opening goal came from a great bit of play between the two. Simba won the ball on the right wing and crossed instantly and accurately to DJ who skipped round the goalie on the edge of the box and then calmly passed the ball into the back of the net past the outstretched legs of two lunging defenders. It was one of those finishes than DJ made a look simpler than it actually was, most in that position would have blasted a shot, but the side footer was absolutely the right way to go and earned us a much deserved lead. A minute or so later the score was doubled, and again it was thanks to the developing understanding between DJ and Simba, with the former making and excellent run across the defence and found with the pass of the day from Simba, perfectly weighted for DJ to nip in a split second before the goalie and dink it over him to make it 2-0. Naturally Glebe pushed forward, even going with 2 up front but the defence stood firm, with Brodie now deployed in a midfield holding role. It was far from backs to the wall stuff though, as thanks to the some excellent passing we were able to retain possession and convert defence into attack on numerous occasions. James dealt brilliantly with two crosses, one high and one across the ground and a few pot shots from distance, but apart from that wasn't troubled at all. In the closing minutes DJ had two chances to wrap up his hatrick, one from some excellent work from Finn, but was denied on both occasions by good saves.

The final whistle went and it was a hard earned but thoroughly deserved 3 points against a very good side. All of them were excellent but Finn has to get a special mention for his superb performance, his best yet for the Giants. Well done boys. three left.

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Sunday 22nd March 2015

Glebe Tigers 1 - 1 Langton Giants
DJ

After the disappointment of missing out on our scheduled fixture last Sunday due to the no-show of our opponents, the Giants were relieved to have a game of football this morning, especially as by a twist of fate with the fixture list, and an Easter Break, they don't have any more matches for the best part of a month. Today's opponents were the vastly improved Glebe Tigers. Since we'd beaten them by our biggest winning margin in years earlier this season, they've acquired some new players and clearly worked on their team work as in recent weeks they'd put together a very impressive sequence of results, including highly credible draws with the top two teams in the league, so we knew that we were in for a tough match despite that previous result. The best word that can describe the first half from a Giants perspective is 'flat'. With several of the boys involved in a highly emotional cup final the previous evening, perhaps it was to be expected, as we looked lifeless and nervous in the first period. We were also missing the massively influential Jack for the first time in living memory, and his absence was always going to be felt. The passing just wasn't happening and movement was lacking as we were pinned back in our own half by a confident and motivated opponent. Fortunately we have an exceedingly talented goalkeeper who put in a fine display, saving several shots and dealing with several more challenging crosses and through balls. Tom, Henry and Alf dug in at the back, whilst Brodie, Gonzalo, Bertie and Eddie tried their best to get a grip on the game but it was long coming. As the half wore on we did start to slowly push forward up the steep slope and managed to muster a chance for Simba who hit a firm shot just wide. DJ entered the game and added some much needed energy, working tirelessly and not letting the Glebe defenders settle on the ball. This seemed to inspire his team mates as we saw a marked improvement in the closing stages of the half, which included a finely struck free kick from Simba which was well saved. In an attempt to shake things up further, a bit of positional rotation saw Alf push forward into midfield and Bertie slot into left back. The signs were good as the half closed as both of them settled into their new roles.

The half time team talk was simple, we should be grateful to still be in the game. Mainly grateful to James who was superb, including one outstanding save from a well struck free kick that looked like a certain goal, and to the boys at the back who fought valiantly to keep Glebe at bay. We knew we needed to play better, we also knew we were very capable of doing so, and with the slope now in our favour we felt confident of doing just that.

The second half, whilst still someway from our best, was a stark contrast to he first, as we dominated in terms of possession, territory and chances made. The midfield came alive and the defence remained strong, with Bertie starting to look especially impressive at left back. Not only was he defending like he'd played there all his life, he was still able to influence the attack with a series of brilliantly delivered cross field passes and through balls which were causing havoc with the Glebe defence who now looked rattled. Brodie fought his way through two tackles and hit a good low shot which was well saved, before DJ hit one just wide following a strong run and clever pass from the hard working Simba. Eddie was his usual high energy self, displaying his quality with both feet as he was stationed out on the left wing, teaming up well with Bertie. Gonzalo was tackling well and Alf was putting in a real shift on the right wing. Throughout all this Henry was going about putting in his umpteenth faultless display of the season, using his strength and positional sense to quell any attacks down our right hand side. Tom was winning everything in the middle, including several towering headers, and passing the ball beautifully to set attacks on their way as we pressed for the opening goal. Simba found himself some space with some tricky footwork but the shot was wide, before we won a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the box. Up stepped Brodie who fired in a wonderful effort through the Glebe wall, it smacked against the inside of the post with the keeper well beaten but some how bounced away to safety past the other post! We weren't to be denied long though, another Bertie through ball started the panic in the Glebe defence, Alf put it back in and when it was only half cleared DJ bravely got his head to the bouncing ball a split second before the goalkeepers punch and lifted the ball into the back of the net to put us in front. Now we looked in control, the passing was slicker and we seemed to have an injection of new energy. At this point James was a mere bystander, with nothing to do except for dealing with one giant lump forward which went so high I was expecting it to come down with snow on it, but our No.1 dealt with it with the minimum of fuss. We twice went agonisingly close to scoring a second goal which would have secured the points. First of all Simba went on a brilliant solo run and hit a cracking shot which came back off the post, so unlucky, and then DJ hit an excellent swerving shot with whistled an inch past the post with the keeper well beaten. As the game entered the final minute, Glebe earned a rare corner, and we failed to react quickly enough to it being taken quickly and short to their biggest player who unleashed an unstoppable pile driver into the top corner which gave even James no chance to bring Glebe level. Gutting. The boys pushed forward desperate to find an even later winner, and went incredibly close, a goal mouth scramble looked like we had found it but somehow the ball wasn't forced over the line from 2 feet out, and a draw it was. To be honest, based on the whole game and given our tepid first half performance it was probably a fair outcome, but having led entering the final minute and hit the post twice it felt like 2 points lost rather than 1 gained.

Credit to all the boys for fighting hard on a off day, with special mention for such a superb performance from Bertie, he was outstanding.

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Sunday 8th March 2015

Langton Giants 3 - 2 Bromley FC Juniors
Simba x 3

Today's opponents were one of the teams we are fighting most closely with in terms of league position, with Bromley FC Juniors just 2 points and one position behind at the start of play, so we knew this was a pivotal match for the team. Playing at yet another home venue (Ashurst, our 4th "home" venue of the season) on a lovely sunny afternoon in good conditions, the boys were quick to stamp their authority on the match, pushing forward and putting the Bromley defence under pressure. Simba played a lovely one two with Alf who's return pass was perfectly weighted and directed but a last ditch tackle blocked Simba's shot before it could trouble the Bromley goalkeeper. The resulting corner was cleared as far as Eddie, who immediately found Tom to shoot, the keeper fumbling the ball round the post at the last second. Bertie and Brodie were both delivering dangerous set pieces as we won a succession of corners. The pressure finally told when Simba showed great reactions, pace and strength to pinch the ball direct from a goal kick and fire an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner to open the scoring. Bromley are a dangerous side, who are very combative and it took every ounce of energy from our magnificent back three of Tom, Jack and Henry to keep their pacey strikers at bay, but as always, they were proving well capable of the task. Jack burst forward from defence and found the hard working Bertie who was tripped just inside the Bromley half. Brodie swung a dangerous free kick into the penalty box which Simba did brilliantly to control into the back of the net with his first touch, a brilliant finish, 2 nil. We were now firmly on top, Joel entered the game and did excellently on the left wing, going on a couple of strong runs and working hard to cover back when called upon to do so. DJ was also on now and was proving a handful with his tricky footwork and intelligent runs. Bromley did very nearly break through with their lightening fast forward but Jack produced an outstanding block to avert the danger once more. Two more chances were soon created, Brodie stabbing the ball to Bertie who crossed for Simba but this time his shot went wide, before DJ hit a great shot that the goalie did very well to gather at the bottom corner. It looked like the third goal was coming, Brodie skipped past a tackle and tried to lob the keeper with an audacious left foot effort which the goalie did well to collect at the second attempt. Bromley remained a threat though, something we learned to our detriment a minute later as their excellent right winger produced a superb cross which was headed home expertly at the back post, giving James no chance to halve our lead. Soon after, all our hard work was undone as we conceded a very, very soft goal that we had several chances to clear and it was all square. Sam was on to add extra strength to the defence as we had surrendered momentum and it was important to get through to half time without further damage being done to the score line. This was achieved, just, James showing great alertness to clear a through ball and then safe hands to clutch a firm shot into his midriff.

The message at half time was more stern than usual as the boys needed to get back to where they had been in the first 20 minutes, and quickly, before the game got away from them. These boys though, they love a battle and went out and put on a brilliant second half display. With Tom suffering with injury, a reshuffle was required, with the wonderfully adaptable and dependable Eddie slotting into the back line, where he put in a faultless display. Henry and Jack were simply outstanding, standing firm in a very physical second half, keeping their cool under challenging circumstances at times. Alf, Brodie, Bertie and DJ were battling like mad, tackling, closing down, pressurising and then passing beautifully when we were on the ball, which we were more often than not as we returned to being the dominant team. Bertie was skipping past defenders again, and delivering some great corners of which one found Simba who hit a firm shot which went agonisingly past the far post, and another which Alf met with a great header which flew over the bar. Brodie was a driving force in midfield, forcing Bromley to retreat and found Simba with an incisive pass, the only way Bromley could stop him was to trip him as he burst into the box. It looked like a pen but the decision was the foul was just outside the box, so a free kick was given all of two inches outside, which Brodie struck firmly but couldn't find its way past the well organised wall. Tom was able to return to the fold, but with the back three of Jack, Henry and Eddie performing so superbly it allowed Tom to take on a more attacking role on the right wing, which he took on with his usual high level of determination. He immediately had a positive effect, adding a fresh pair of legs which he used to run at the Bromley back four, causing them major problems. None more so than when he took on the left back, beat him, only to be dragged to the ground with arms and feet to win a nailed on penalty (despite the ludicrous and disappointing reaction of some of the opposition). With regular penalty taker DJ off the pitch, up stepped Simba to fire home the penalty with the minimum of fuss to complete a brilliant hatrick and give us a much deserved 3-2 lead. There was still 5 minutes to go though and we knew Bromley would come back at us strongly, which they did, pushing us back in desperation for an equaliser. The boys stood firm though, refusing to wilt, even in the face of some very er.... robust... challenges, one of which on Brodie has no place on a football field at any age group. In the last minute Bromley were awarded a contentious free kick just outside the box, with their best player lined up to take it. Up he stepped and struck a brilliant dipping, swerving shot flying into the top corner.... or so we thought, suddenly a pair of yellow leather gloves appeared as somehow James brilliantly leapt and kept it out before reacting quickly to smother the follow up. It was a stunning piece of goalkeeping which secured an incredibly hard earned but thoroughly deserved three points.

What an important win, every single boy contributed, and it was fitting that the winning penalty was earned by our captain playing through the pain barrier for the team, it summed his and the teams never say die attitude up perfectly. On to the next one.... relentless, but fun.

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Sunday 22nd February 2015

Junior Elite 1 - 0 Langton Giants

For the third, and final, time this season the Giants took to the field against the runaway league leaders Junior Elite, who haven't lost a match in three years and generally win every match they play by a big score line, including handing out the Giants their heaviest ever defeat earlier in the season. A new tactic was deployed, which included a change of formation to counter the pace and ball movement of the talented Junior Elite boys, and it worked, almost perfectly. With skipper Tom returning, but only fit enough to start at sub, it was Henry and Jack who took the roles of centre backs, with Eddie and Bertie being asked to fulfil new roles as left back and right back respectively. As it turned out, both of them looked like they'd played there their entire lives! Alf was asked to play as a disciplined defensive midfielder, a role he typically excelled at, allowing Brodie and Simba to push forward in support of the hard working DJ up front. With Gonzalo away on international duty (i,e back home in Spain for half term) a back up centre midfielder was needed, so up stepped Finn from our good friends the Eagles to add much needed energy and determination. The first task was to get through the first 10 minutes unscathed, having been 2 nil down by that stage in both previous corresponding fixtures. Thanks to a strong start by the back 4 this was achieved, with a surprising level of comfort. It was reassuring to have the brilliant James in goal and looking as fit as ever, but to be honest, he was rarely threatened in these opening exchanges. As you'd expect against this team, they dominated possession but our boys kept their shape, and discipline to ensure they couldn't pass their way through us easily and as the half went on we started to come more into the match. Tom came on and stamped his quality on proceedings immediately, looking as strong as ever and bringing the ball out from the back with consummate ease. Finn entered the fray and was quickly involved, snapping at the heels of the opposition and working his socks off. It was from his tackle and pass that the Giants got the first shot of the match away, Simba taking the pass well but blazing wide under pressure. Still, it was enough to increase our confidence and minutes later Simba burst away from the three players desperately trying to stop him and got a good firm shot away that the Junior Elite goalkeeper did well to save down low to his right. At the other end, the defence continued to stand strong, and with Brodie & Alf tackling anything that moved we continued to remain relatively unthreatened. At half time, James confirmed that he hadn't had a save to make, such had been the quality of defending in front of him.

The only downside of a brilliant first half display was that captain Tom had to leave the field after suffering with his asthma, poor lad isn't on a great run of luck at the moment. Still though, whilst Tom would always be a huge miss for any team, the lads knew they'd done superbly well to keep a clean sheet and set about trying to match it in the second half. Bertie was proving to be inspirational at left back, he had the talented right winger in his pocket the whole match, and even when they tried to double up on him he didn't let them get past him once. At the other full back position, Eddie was demonstrating what a well developed player he is, cleverly positioning his body to force the left footed winger onto his weaker foot and effectively nullify his threat. The second half was practically a re-run of the first, only the defending and work rate was even better as our opponents became more desperate to find the break through. We were looking like a threat ourselves though on the counter attack, for one delicious moment it appeared Finn was through, but as he went to pull the trigger was closed down by three Junior Elite defenders. Thanks to the discipline shown by Alf, Brodie, Simba and Finn we continued to frustrate them. Despite having so little to do, James was marshalling his defence superbly well, being vocal and comfortably dealing with any pot shots from distance and back passes. Perhaps the moment that summed up the determination and quality of the defending best of all came when Brodie produced a brilliant sliding tackle just as the striker was about to pounce, and with the ball falling at the feet of another attacker, Jack launched himself to block the follow up shot. We knew though that Junior Elite would likely take any chances they were able to create, and so it proved. For the first, and as it turned out, only time in the match they found their way through, a clever little flick playing their striker in who finished smartly into the bottom corner, giving James no chance. It was a subtle but excellent bit of play that we knew they were capable of. Still, there were 10 minutes left and having worked so hard, we weren't about to go down without a fight. A change in formation saw us send two up front, sacrificing a defender to do so, but at this stage of the match it was worth risking conceding more whilst going for it. Tom felt well enough to re-enter the fray on the left wing as we tried to forge out some chances, and we did. Alf was now on the right wing and won a free kick after being shoved to the ground. Brodie swung it in and after the initial panic was cleared, Simba fired back in a shot which whistled wide. In the closing minutes we went agonisingly close twice, first Brodie played Alf in on the right hand side of the penalty box who unselfishly crossed to the back post where DJ was charging in but he was just unable to quite turn the ball back inside the post, and then Tom hit a brilliant shot that was bound for the top corner before being plucked from the sky by their goalkeeper.

When the final whistle went though, Junior Elite knew they'd been in a battle and the Giants boys rightfully held their heads high. Despite the limited possession, they'd actually created the better and more chances over the match. Containing this team to one clear cut chance on goal in a whole match was an immense achievement in itself and shows just how far these boys have come. We deserved a draw, and very, very nearly pulled it off. Its not often the Giants will play in that manner, but its great to know they can when needed. Well done boys, really well done.

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Sunday 8th February 2015

Southwark All Stars 0 - 2 Langton Giants
Brodie, o.g

On a surprisingly pleasant morning, the Giants took to the road for the longest away trip of the season to face the All Stars of Southwark, on a steeply sloped mud packed pitch. After being treated to a perfectly flat and perfect 3G pitch in our last two outings this was about as different as it gets, it was practically a different sport as the slick passing and moving was replaced with battling and scrapping against a team who had beaten us earlier in the season. With Tom still absent through injury, Jack took over the captains armband and won his first battle, that being the toss, which allowed us the opportunity to play up the slope in the first half. As it turned out, Jack won every battle he faced all game so we needn't have worried, he had it covered. The opening minutes were hectic, tackles flying in and everything happening at a hundred miles an hour as both teams fought for possession. The Giants created the first opening, Brodie chipping the ball through to Simba who raced away up the hill trying to shake off his marker, getting off a good strike under pressure which was saved by the goalkeeper high above his head, moments later the same two players combined again, this time the pass on the floor and it looked like Simba had beaten the excellent shot stopper this time only to be denied by a last ditch right foot which diverted the ball away from danger. Throughout all the high paced opening minutes, Jack, Henry and Alf stood strong, fighting impressively to keep things tight at the back and using the ball intelligently. As things started to settle, Bertie, Brodie, Gonzalo and Eddie were able to start to get a foothold in the game in midfield and keep more possession. James was back in goal with the intention for him to try and play a whole match in goal for the first time in several months, and he started well, looking sprightly and being vocal enough to keep the defenders on their toes. The Giants won a free kick some 30 yards from goal up the slope, and as everyone prepared for the ball to be swung into the back post, taker Brodie had other ideas, firing an unstoppable dipping strike right into the top corner to the surprise of every one, most notably the Southwark 'keeper who never stood a chance. It was a brilliant strike, reminiscent of Simba's similar effort early in the season v Tooting & Mitcham. This gave the boys a real boost, as did the entrance of Joel moments later who added to the effort and battling qualities. Bertie was having another excellent game, skipping down the left wing and refusing to be stopped as he somehow battled his way up the slope, past two defenders and into the penalty box, but with the angle too tight to shoot pulled the ball back perfectly into the path of Eddie who struck a brilliant volley which came crashing back off the cross bar to deny him what would have been another brilliant goal to add to his growing collection of brilliants goals! Southwark were working incredibly hard and were giving us no time to settle on the ball, but thanks to the amazing work rate of the back three they were unable to pass their way into our danger areas. They did however posses some very quick players with nifty footwork and one of them went on a brilliant run, beating several tackles before firing in a firm strike which James parried brilliantly to safety. In the closing seconds of the half we had a great chance to double our lead when Brodie delivered another great ball which put Eddie in only for him to see his shot saved, with Simba then seeing his follow up somehow saved on the line from point blank range, so unlucky. Still, being 1 nil up at half time having played up hill was a great position to be in.

The second half started similarly to the first, naturally Southwark came out determined to find a way back into the game, but again the Giants matched them every step of the way. Simba was putting in an immense amount of work up front which meant they were never given any peace at the back and he remained a constant threat throughout. He showed what a good all round player he's becoming my delivering a superb little pass into Gonzalo to give him a great sight of goal, only to be the latest denied by some fine goalkeeping. Not sure how many times Gonzalo has played on pitches like this one in the sunshine of his native Madrid but he showed he can battle as much as any of the boys today, putting in a real shift in midfield. Henry was tackling superbly and again showing and admirable passing range and calmness on the ball and with Alf putting in yet another faultless display at left back, our wings were being well protected and with Jack in one of his "though shall not pass" moods, we were looking secure. Eddie went on a strong run down the right wing and crossed the ball in just behind Bertie, who again refused to give up on the ball and swung it back into the danger zone where both Simba and Brodie fought for the ball. In desperation to clear the ball and under immense pressure, one of the Southwark defenders unluckily got the last touch as the ball found the bottom of the net to double our lead. Joel came back on and put in a really disciplined performance on the wing, covering his full back and denying the Southwark wingers any time or space on the ball. Southwark continued to battle, and were trying to unsettle our defence with some long balls but the defence stood up to it and James was showing great positioning by coming off his line to clear the ball or collect it in his hands. He was also called upon to make several smart saves, one with his feet when the striker only had him to beat and another with a diving save to his right. In the last 10 minutes or so we were treated to two outstanding Jack moments. Firstly came a clearance off the line from a Southwark free kick, the second was the pass of the match after he came charging out of defence, splitting open the Southwark defence with a sumptuous ball delivered with the outside of his right foot perfectly into the path of the excellent Eddie on the wing. Eddie charged into the box and tried to pull it back to Simba only to see the path blocked by a sliding tackle. The last chance of the game fell to Brodie, who tried to repeat his first half effort but this time from open play following a brilliant run and pass from Alf to play him in, this time though the goalie had it covered.

The effort level from all of the boys today was immense, perhaps best demonstrated by Simba in the last minute of the match, when despite having run his socks off for the whole match, sprinted a full 40 yards back up the slope to close down a threatening shot, it summed up the commitment shown by all the boys the whole day. Jack has to get a special mention for his immense performance in the middle of the defence, he was outstanding, but definitely the highlight of the day had to be the re-emergence of James as our Number 1, comfortably finishing the match whilst looking every inch the brilliant goalkeeper he always was and doing so with a huge smile on his face. We've got our keeper back.

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Sunday 25th January 2015

Langton Giants 8 - 1 Glebe Tigers
Simba x 4, Brodie, Bertie, Eddie, Gonzalo

Wow, what a day, the day when it all came together at once as the Giants certainly put on their finest performance of the season, probably ever. Returning to the 3G pitch again certainly helps, with the perfect surface continuing to play to the Giants strengths. A pre-match blow was losing our inspirational captain Tom to injury, but with the always outstanding Jack taking both his role on the pitch and the skippers armband, we were still confident we could secure a positive result against a team we beat narrowly a couple of weeks before Christmas.

James started in goal this week, with the intention for him to play the first half, and he looked confident and happy from the opening minute which gave the team a lift, and seemed to inspire the team to a very positive start. Simba immediately showed he was up for this one, powering past the Glebe defenders and pulling the ball across for Bertie, but unfortunately the cross was slightly behind the left wing wizard so he was unable to make a clean contact, not to worry though because a few moments later Brodie sprayed a great ball out to Eddie on the right wing who, although in a shooting position himself, unselfishly passed the ball into Simba at the back post to tap home the opening goal. If that was all about team play, the next goal was all about individual brilliance, as Simba powered through three tackles before firing an unstoppable drive into the top corner, a simply stunning goal that brought gasps of approval all round. The boys were buzzing, attacking at will, with Gonzalo displaying his great passing range, Brodie providing the energy and drive with Eddie and Bertie flying down the wings. As always though, and despite Tom's absence, it was the defence who provided the foundation of the performance, with Jack, Henry and Alf all superb, Alf especially eye catching as he totally snuffed out the pacey Glebe winger. More chances were created, Simba within inches of completing his hatrick when firing narrowly wide before Brodie headed against the cross bar from a Bertie corner. The one time Glebe did manage to cause us problems came in the form of a very dangerous high ball which James did brilliantly to punch away under great pressure. DJ and Joel entered the game and added to the attacking impetus, DJ with his tricky footwork and Joel through his non stop running and tackling. With Bertie having a breather, Brodie delivered the next corner from the right side and it caused chaos, as Glebe struggled to clear the ball, Joel knocked the ball back into the danger zone, by which time Brodie had got himself into the box and after winning the ball back, fired home to add to the lead. It was soon 4 nil, Bertie delivering another excellent cross as soon as he returned to the action to Simba who this time did complete his hatrick with another unstoppable finish. Just before half time Simba returned the favour, crossing for Bertie to score a much deserved goal, suitable reward for his hard work on the left wing in both directions. 5 nil at half time, fantastic stuff.

Perhaps even more pleasing than the scoreline was that for the first time since his injury, James came through a half of football unscathed, and he had been faultless, dealing calmly with through balls and crosses and being nice and vocal. Great to see. Sam took over in goal for the second half, fresh from his brilliant performance last week and kept up the same level of fine form with another great display. Keen to keep up the momentum the message was simple, pretend it is 0-0 and go and win the second half too. The message got through as immediately we scored another, Gonzalo spinning on the half way line and pinging the perfect through ball for the charging Simba to latch onto and fire past the biggest 10yr old goalkeeper you will ever see. As if seeing the size of the goalie as some kind of challenge, Eddie then scored an outrageous goal as he nonchalantly lobbed the enormous shot stopper with a sumptuous volley from outside the penalty box. A definite contender for goal of the season, right up there with his over head kick at the start of the season. With the score at 7 nil, it was all change, with Simba, Brodie and Bertie all having stints in defence, and Jack making an extremely rare appearance up front. Naturally this allowed Glebe to get into the match a bit more, but we remained on top. They did get through a couple of times only to be denied by Sam, first with a good save with his feet and then by a brilliant diving save low to his left. Jack charged forward as you'd expect, but he also showed a deft touch to play Gonzalo in to score his first ever goal for the Giants, swivelling and firing home with a very smart finish to wrap up the scoring for the home team. Through all this Henry remained his calm, dependable self, he's in a real purple patch of form at the moment and rarely puts a foot wrong.

Right at the end, Glebe got a consolation with a stunning Beckham like free kick which was bent right into the top corner and didn't give Sam a hope in hell, a superb goal which was roundly applauded by all. Fabulous technique.

Just an outstanding performance from all the boys today. Quite rightfully Simba gets the plaudits because of his goal haul and general all round excellent level of play, but this was very much a team performance, every single one of them were brilliant and should be very proud of themselves.

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Sunday 18th January

Moonshot FC 3 - 5 Langton Giants
Simba x 2, DJ (pen), Alf, Tom

Although technically an away game, this fixture actually took place on the 3G pitches we train at on a Tuesday night, so no concerns over the state of the pitch for once! Our opponents today were the very hardworking Moonshot FC team from Catford.

We started well, taking advantage of the perfect surface to ping the ball about as best we could and push forward when the opportunity arose. The first opening falling to DJ from Alf's pass which was well saved, before Brodie nearly played Bertie in only for a well timed tackle to intervene. Sam played the first half in goal and didn't put a foot (or hand) wrong all half, showing safe hands and solid footwork. He knocked a goal kick down the left to Bertie who exchanged passes with Brodie who showed a clean pair of heels to two defenders, skipping towards goal along the goal line before pulling the perfect ball back to Alf to tap home and opening the scoring, a great run with the ball form Brodie, a great run without the ball from Alf. Good goal. DJ then went close again, denied once more by a save after a good ball from Simba, the ball going out for a corner. From the corner kick the newly adopted corner kick routine worked to perfection. Brodie swinging in the ideal ball for Tom to power home a firm header into the top corner, 2 nil. Eddie was enjoying a new attacking full back role, utilising his pace and never ending energy to bomb up and down the right wing to support the attack and defence, a role he adapted to perfectly. It was from one of his strong runs forward that the ball ended up bouncing in front of Alf who hit a sweet volley which the goalie did well to parry. Jack and Tom were their usual brilliant self, commanding the back line and pushing the team forward. Gonzalo and Joel entered the game and both were quickly contributing to the team effort. Moonshot work very hard and don't give you anytime on the ball so you can never relax, this became more apparent when a through ball caught us out and a fine finish gave the excellent Sam no chance as the ball flew into the bottom corner to halve our lead. This gave Moonshot a lift and we were second best for the next 5 minutes, Tom, Jack and Eddie suddenly were the busiest players on the pitch, and they stood firm. Joel was working his socks off on the left side of midfield, showing quick feet and his usual high level of determination. He harried the Moonshot defender into a mistake which saw Simba win the ball and hit a sweet strike across the keeper into the corner, Alf warranting an assist though as his challenge to the keeper ensured the ball crossed the line to reinstate our two goal lead. Moonshot came forward again and hit a firm strike which was brilliantly saved by a diving Sam, clearing the danger with a firm left hand. Gonzalo has an excellent eye for a pass and he played Joel in at the other end who caught the shot well enough and on target, but again the impressive Moonshot goalie made the stop, as he did again a minute later from a DJ left footed effort. Alf won a corner and this time it was Bertie's turn to deliver the perfect ball which Brodie headed goal-ward. It appeared to have clearly crossed the line before the Moonshot defender leaped up to punch it away, but the goal wasn't given, but a penalty was. DJ stepped up and stroked the ball home with the minimum of fuss to extend the lead to 4-1 at the half.

Moonshot had shown enough in the first half though to suggest this one was far from over, and so it proved as they showed tremendous character to fight back. James was back in goal for the second half as his rehabilitation continues. Initially there was no sign of the comeback which was to surface later in the half as we started firmly on top and looked nailed on to extend the lead further. A fabulous strike from Bertie took a top class save to keep out, DJ was firstly denied with a high shot and then a low effort from a great Alf pass. A break in our attacking intent required a good two handed save from James at the near post, before we were back on the attack again, a quite brilliant 1-2 between Bertie and DJ seeing the former denied again by yet another top save. Then we self destructed for 2 minutes, conceding two soft goals as suddenly we looked rattled and naturally Moonshot grew in confidence. Sadly, James has to depart the action, his leg problems continuing to haunt the super-stopper, which required Sam to re-enter the action with the match on the line. Fortunately, he was immediately up to speed, plucking a dangerous cross out of the sky before sending an inch perfect goal kick forward which played DJ in one-on-one against the Moonshot goalie on to be denied by the inspired Moonshot No.1. Tom and Jack were throwing themselves in front of everything Moonshot threw at them, with Tom throwing himself so hard into one challenge he fell badly and had to come off with a nasty whack to the elbow. Its 4-3, 5 minutes left with our skipper and usual goalkeeper off the pitch with us facing a barrage of attacks. Jack became the leader at the back, with Brodie tackling anything that moved in front of him (which he's been doing all game), with Eddie, Alf, Gonzalo, Simba and Bertie running themselves into the ground as we fought to hold onto the lead we had played so well to build. Fortunately, we found one more bit of quality attacking play, Bertie driving us forward down the left before slipping the ball into Gonzalo who produced a great little pass round the corner to the on rushing Simba to fire home match securing 5th goal. Big sigh of relief all round.

10 minutes aside the boys were brilliant, and the way they dug in at the end spoke volumes. Special mention to Brodie for an insane number of tackles, Eddie for his amazing levels of energy, Alf for his intelligent runs and most of all to Sam for a faultless performance under very challenging circumstances. Well done boys, a great win.

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Sunday 11th January

Glebe Lions 3 - 3 Langton Giants
DJ x2, Simba

We were very grateful to our opponents for agreeing to host this fixture with us struggling to find a playable pitch, so we returned to the excellent pitches and facilities of Glebe FC, this time to play their highly rated Lions team. The most pleasing sight of the day came to see James return between the sticks after a lengthy absence due to injury. The game started at a high pace, both teams looking to get on the front foot, and after a good run from Brodie, Simba found himself enough room to get a left foot shot away which was smartly saved. DJ was producing some intelligent runs up front and Bertie was clearly up for it from the first minute, flying into tackles and pushing forward up and down the left wing, with Alf his usual brilliant self on the opposite side. The three rocks at the back, Tom, Jack and Henry started the game well too, making James' return to match action initially quite quiet. As we pushed forward though we lost possession and suddenly we were in danger from a counter attack, a good burst of pace and then unstoppable strike meant we were a goal down in the blink of an eye. No need to panic though, we already knew we were capable of playing with this team, we'd shown it in the opening exchanges, and we proved the point a few minutes later when Simba found Alf who tricked his way into the penalty box only to be shoved to the ground, penalty. Up stepped ever reliable DJ to stroke the ball into the bottom corner and we were level again. A few minutes later Simba found Alf again who this time got his shot away but was denied by a good save from close range. Gonazalo and Eddie entered the fray and were soon both up to the speed of the match, using the ball cleverly and working hard for the team. Tom intercepted the ball in defence, showing a great reading of the game by doing so, and found Brodie who went on a brilliant long mazy run, beating numerous defenders as he strode forward with determination and then played in Bertie who fired in a cracking effort that was superbly saved by the Lions 'keeper. Bertie was having a great game, winning the ball again high up the pitch and feeding DJ, who was half closed down but the ball broke to Simba who was charging in down the right and smacked the ball first time from the edge of the box across the goalie and into the far corner, it was a fantastic strike that required top quality technique to pull off. Glebe were a constant threat though, Eddie breaking up a dangerous attack with a brilliantly timed sliding tackle and Jack clearing a dangerous corner with a superb defensive header. Jack then followed this up with a strong tackle, found Gonzalo who turned quickly and fed DJ with a sublime pass who ran at the retreating Glebe right back, initially he tried to find Alf at the back post but the ball rebounded back into his path and he was able to slam the ball into the back of the net before the defender could react, a great reward for not giving up. Suddenly we were 3-1 up, a minute before half time. Unfortunately we were unable to keep that cushion until the break as we conceded an unlucky goal with the final kick of the half when a ricochet landed at the feet of their striker. Our luck got worse still when poor James limped off with a re-occurrence of his calf problems, heart break for the superstar goalie.

The second half was always going to be a struggle, playing up hill into the wind and sun light and now without our No.1 in goal it was time to roll up our sleeves and fight and that it exactly what they did. Eddie took over in goal for the second time this season and just like last time, did brilliantly. He'd already played three positions in the first half, such a talented and level headed lad. The defence stood firm, Jack crunching into tackles, Henry and Tom as calm in possession as always and Eddie quick off his line when needed. The midfield were immense, rotating between Brodie, Bertie, Gonzalo, Alf and Simba, every single one of them putting in an incredible shift, working so hard and displaying a high standard of skill, determination and energy to keep our heads above water. DJ continued to concern the Glebe defence, and when SImba fired in a free kick from distance he was close to knocking home the rebound only to be denied by a brilliant last ditch tackle. Brodie went on another excellent run, this time down the right wing and cleverly tried to dink the ball across to Bertie at the back post but the Glebe goalkeeper was able to intercept the cross and chances became harder to find. With about 5 minutes left we had a chance to clear the ball but in an attempt to play the ball out from the back, something we actively encourage, a Glebe player won the ball and some how managed to lob Eddie with an absolute "worldy" to tie the scores at 3-3. It was a stunning goal that you just had to applaud, certainly Eddie had no chance at all, probably the best goal we've conceded all season. Eddie then pulled off two great saves in the closing minutes, one above his head and one brilliant stop at his near post to ensure we didn't lose a match we really didn't deserve to. Although letting a two goal lead slip is always a little disappointing, it was probably a fair result and still a magnificent effort against a very good side.

Special mention to Eddie for being mr versatile again, but in reality they all deserve a special mention for their quality, hard work and first class attitude. They really are a total joy to coach.

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Monday 22nd December
Tonbridge Angels Christmas Cup 2014

Full of Christmas spirit the Giants took to the pitch one last time in 2014 to take part in a festive 6-a-side tournament on the smallest pitches we've ever played on.

Paddock Wood 1 - 5 Langton Giants
Simba x 3, Brodie, Bertie

In an attempt to adjust to the tiny pitch as best we could, we decided to try out an untested formation, 2-1-2, in an attempt to spread out as widely as was possible. This led to an open game as we left our midfield more exposed that normal, but after a bit of a shaky start it started to work, Simba heading wide early on before smashing home Bertie's pass to open the scoring. The extra man in midfield created a chance for Paddock Wood which they took very well to equalise almost immediately as the game started at a manic pace Tom, Alf and Jack took it in turns to cover the two defensive roles, with Bertie, Simba, Brodie & DJ rotating in the 3 more attacking positions. Sam was in goal and had a very strong day. DJ found space on the edge of the box and slipped the ball to Bertie to stab home from close range to reinstate our lead and Brodie then switched to his left foot to fire home to extend our advantage. SImba the helped himself to two more goals in the closing minutes, the second from a great run and pass from Alf to secure a 5-1 win for the Giants and a brilliant hatrick for himself.

Tonbridge Angels 1 - 1 Langton Giant
DJ

It was a very windy day today, and the wind was at its strongest during this match as it howled across the pitch making things very difficult for both teams. Early on we created chances for DJ & Bertie, both of which were well saved by the impressive Angels goalkeeper before DJ showed great footwork to create himself enough space to smack home the opener. Our opponents were looking to take advantage of the small pitch and high winds by firing long and high balls into our box, unfortunately this took us out of our usual game plan and we resorted to the same thing, which didn't make for the finest example of the beautiful game but certainly made it entertaining! Step forward Sam to put in a brilliant display, punching the ball out of the sky on numerous occasions, most memorably one with a single fist that Muhammed Ali would have been proud of as the ball sailed halfway back up the pitch. He also made one excellent save from a free kick, but even he wasn't able to deny the Angels a well taken equaliser.

Langton Giants 2 - 0 Pro-Soccer Academy
Simba, Bertie

Needing to win our final match to secure top spot in the group we put on our best performance of the day against a talented academy side who played some fine football themselves. Tom set the tone with an early tackle and run from defence which required a foul to stop him, Tom himself taking the free kick which was blocked. Alf was passing the ball from the back with pace and accuracy which was putting us on the front foot, with Brodie spraying the ball about in his lone midfield role. The movement of Bertie, Simba and DJ made the formation work, better than it did at any other point in the day as created a raft of chances and dominated possession. Jack won the ball back and whipped the ball forward to DJ who tricked by a defender before putting the ball on a plate for Simba to shoot home to open the scoring, before DJ himself was so unlucky to hot the post with a well struck effort. Bertie then doubled our lead from yet another DJ pass who was having himself an excellent match. A lot more chances came and went, but no more goals, but it didn't matter, the match and the group was won.

Tonbridge Angels 1 - 0 Langton Giants

So the semi-final saw us take on the other half of the host club in what was a very competitive match played in a great spirit and at a high standard. Given that the boys in both teams know each other so well (they play on the District team together) it was no surprise that for most of the match the two teams cancelled each other out. The decisive moment came from a superbly delivered corner which was slammed home from close range. Try as we might no equaliser was coming, there were several nearly moments but the Angels defence stood strong and denied us any clear cut opportunities to get back into the match, and as we pushed forward in numbers inevitably this risked us being hit on the counter attack but thankfully Sam made an amazing save to tip a rasping shot over the bar. One last half chance saw Bertie nearly break free in the last few seconds but his shot was charged down before it could cause any problems to the Angels goalkeeper. The final whistle went and the day was over.

A great day though, we played some super football at times and the boys enjoyed themselves which is always the main thing, especially 3 days before Xmas. Special mention to Sam for his outstanding performance today. Merry Christmas one and all.

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Sunday 14th December

Langton Giants 1-1 Tooting & Mitcham Youth
DJ (pen)

In our final league match of 2014 we were delighted that the pitch at Langton rec thawed quickly enough to host the high flying Tooting & Mitcham team who we'd had our best day yet against at the start of the season. Since that fantastic win though, Tooting had reminded every one what a great team they are by going on a long winning run which had seem them return to 2nd in the league, a position they had finished in last season, so we knew we were in for a tough encounter.

Missing a few regulars such as Alf, Gonzalo, James, Joel and Sam we were delighted to welcome Jack H back for his first appearance in a few weeks to help us out again. We started well, combative in midfield and keeping things tight at the back, but after an initial period where neither team could make any clear headway into the oppositions half, Tooting did manage to fashion a chance which goalkeeper Sid was more than equal to it, saving low to his right. The game started to open up a bit more, with Brodie and Eddie moving the ball quickly in midfield and Simba & Bertie charging forward down the wings to support the busy DJ upfront. A good run from Bertie resulted in a corner, which Brodie swung in and DJ helped on to Simba who struck a powerful shot that looked goal bound until a fine save from the goalkeeper parried it over the bar. Simba had another shot from the edge of the box which was well hit but just off target, and Jack H showed great energy and tricky footwork as we grew more and more into the match. Tom, Henry and Jack were looking very strong at the back against the physical and talented Tooting strikers, and when Sid was required to make an excellent low save, Henry was on hand to brilliantly block the follow up when it looked certain we were going to concede.

Nil nil at half time was a fair reflection of the match but we knew playing up the hill in the second period was going to make things even tougher, but we started well, pinning our opposition back into their half, controlling possession, winning several corners and getting a number of good shots in on goal, Simba firing narrowly wide with his first effort and seeing his second well saved. Just as it felt we were getting firmly on top we were caught on the counter attack, with the pacey left winger sprinting through to score a fine individual goal to give them a 1 nil advantage. Unfortunately in a brave attempt to make a save, Sid took a whack on his already injured knee. Amazingly he carried on, showing great character in doing so, something which gave the rest of the team a boost as we set about dominating the remaining 20 minutes of the match. Simba was now playing in centre midfield next to Brodie and the two of them took over, forcing Tooting back and getting numerous efforts in on goal in the process, all of which were saved or just off target. Bertie was putting in a real shift on the left wing, delivering some good crosses and running at the full back as well as tracking back to win the ball when called upon, and with Eddie doing the same on the other wing we had a great balance to the team as we pushed forward in search of a deserved equaliser. Jack H came back on and immediately tricked his way to the edge of the box and found Simba who saw another shot well saved, before we scored what we thought was the equaliser when DJ brilliantly followed up yet another powerful effort from Simba which the keeper could only parry, but scandalously the visiting linesman disallowed the goal for off side. I mainly stay away from controversy in these reports, but this incident cannot be ignored. Having fought his way past two defenders to stab the rebound home, DJ was not even close to being offside, and the flag was only raised a good 5 seconds after the ball hit the back of the net. The good people from Tooting had the grace to acknowledge the injustice but it meant we were still a goal down, however undeservedly. To add to our woes, poor Sid could carry on no more, so it came down to Jack H to take over in goal, something he did with the minimum of fuss. Feeling aggrieved, the boys pushed forward with a new sense of urgency and started to create more chances, Brodie, DJ, Bertie and Simba all getting shots away as we started to pepper the Tooting goal. Finally a break through, DJ showing quick feet inside the box to free himself for a shot only to be clattered as he let if fly, penalty. DJ himself stepped up and finished expertly. 1-1 with 5 minutes to go, time to look for that winner. On a couple of occasions we had to deal with dangerous counter attacks, but Tom, Henry and Jack P were equal to every one of them and Jack H was calmness personified dealing with through balls and pass backs. Our final chance to snatch all three points came from the right foot of Brodie who saw his powerful drive well saved right at the death. The final act unfortunately resulted in Jack P receiving a boot to the face, leaving him covered in mud, dazed and with a belting shiner that wouldn't look out of place in a boxing ring. Jack being Jack though, he barely flinched.

So the final whistle went to end a brilliant game of football between two well matched sides, despite the controversy of the disallowed goal a draw was probably a fair result and we look forward a third match with them later in the season. Well done to all the boys, what a ride the pre-Christmas matches have been, we sit an impressive 3rd, something we dare not have dreamed of at the start of the season. Roll on 2015.

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Glebe Tigers 0 - 1 Langton Giants
Brodie

Today saw us travel back into SE London to play against one of the teams from the big and successful Glebe club, in this instance their 'Tigers' team. On a surprisingly good pitch and not a bad day once the pre-match downpour had passed, the Giants set about putting their best performance together for some weeks.

Sid was back between the sticks and was again faultless all game, showing great speed off his line, good passing and a safe pair of hands. We were on top early, passing the ball well on the slick surface, with Gonzalo and Brodie linking up very well together in the middle of the pitch, and Bertie shining both up front and on the left. We won an early succession of corners, but despite come excellent deliveries we were unable to convert any into goals. This was mainly down to a huge centre half who was very effective at clearing them with some very impressive headers. One such header fell at the feet of Bertie who fired a shot high over the bar whilst under pressure. The shot was well struck though and a sign of a new level of confidence from Bertie, as the left footed magician set about producing his finest performance on the season, causing havoc in the Glebe defence all game long and pressuring their players into mistakes whenever they had the ball near him. Tom was given the go ahead to start pushing forward a bit more when opportunity arose, and on one such occasion he got a firm strike in which was well held by the goalkeeper before Gonzalo struck wide of the post as we were starting to turn the screw. Through all this attacking play though, Glebe remained a threat, so having Jack and Henry on top form was essential, thankfully both of them were, putting in expert performances throughout. Next came the best play of the match, which ultimately ended up with us scoring. From our goal kick, Tom found Alf who pinged the ball through to Simba who was almost through only to be denied by a last ditch sliding tackle which won us a corner. The length of the pitch in two well delivered accurate passes and a strong run, this is exactly what we needed after struggling to turn defence into attack at pace in recent weeks. Brodie delivered an out swinging corner which was cleared by another defensive header from the impressive centre half, but this time it went straight back to Brodie who lifted the ball back in over everyone's heads, including the goal keepers to open the scoring, giving us a well deserved 1-0 lead at the half.

The second half saw a minor tweak to the formation, Tom stepping forward into a new sweeper role, which he performed magnificently. It also saw a very notable change in personnel for Glebe as they brought on the biggest goalkeeper I've ever seen at this age level. His was enormous, and as it turned out, very good too. Henry and Eddie were both superb down the right side of the pitch, working well together whilst Alf showed his usual exceptional range of passing and nifty footwork during a stint in centre midfield. Sid showed good handling twice in a row, one from a low shot which he did well to get down to and hold, and from another which was more firmly hit but right at him. Simba was holding the ball up superbly and fired a powerful shot that was well held by the gigantic keeper. Tom, enjoying his more attacking role the spun and hit a stunning shot which was flying into the top corner until being quite brilliantly tipped over the bar. Brodie then saw a free kick tipped round the post too.

Simba and Gonzalo were linking together very well, both setting each other up for 1 on 1's, both thwarted by more strong goalkeeping. As we entered the closing stages the missed chances to double our lead meant we were concerned we might let a thoroughly deserved victory slip away. This concern was only added to when poor Sid limped out of the action, meaning Eddie had to take on yet another role, by donning the gloves for the last 10 minutes, and again he came up trumps. Tom dropped back into the defence to help us see the result through, and with Jack and Henry both at their determined and brilliant best we saw it out without too many dramas.

So after a few weeks where things haven't gone quite to plan the boys came good again, some of their passing today was exceptional right across the pitch. They were all brilliant, with a special mention for Bertie who was back to his outstanding best and to Gonzalo for a really great performance on only his second appearance. Well done boys!

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Langton Giants 0 - 2 Bromley FC Juniors

After a welcome break in the recent wet weather we were able to get a home game on, albeit not at our usual venue but at 'The Tanyard' in Groombridge. The facilities are some what basic at the moment (soon to be rectified) but the pitch is flat and considering the time of year in good condition. Our opponents were Bromley, a team we had narrowly defeated by a single goal earlier in the season in a hard fought match and there was no reason to think this one would be any different. With James still absent for a few weeks yet, we were delighted to welcome Sid back into the fold for his first match of the season, filling in between the sticks as part of his recovery from injury. We also had Gonzalo making his debut for us after training with the team for a number of weeks. Just before kick off we suffered a major blow, our inspirational Captain Tom taken sick literally as we walked onto the pitch. A quick reshuffle was required and we were on our way. The first period was a half of very few chances as the two defences were firmly on top. Jack was the leader at the back, filling in brilliantly in the centre of defence in place of the absent Tom, flanked ably by Henry, Alf and later on by Eddie to ensure Sid had a reasonably quiet start to his first match back. Bertie was working hard up and down the left wing, with Eddie & Brodie getting a grip in the centre to try and find the powerful running of Simba up front. Clearly Bromley were wary of our excellent striker as he had 3 players marking him throughout. On the right of midfield, Gonzalo was making a very good impression on his debut, showing brilliant footwork and passing range as well as working hard to help out in defence when called upon. Sid was required to make one save down low to his left which he did smartly, and at the other end Alf hit a tough shot very well but the ball whistled past the post. Joel and Sam both entered the fray and set about the opposition, working hard and both causing problems. Nil nil at half time.

In an attempt to get more attacking support for Simba there was a shift in formation at the start of the second half. Bertie moving up alongside him meaning we were adopting a 3-3-2 line up. Unfortunately these new attacking plans took a bit of a set back when in the opening minutes. We gave the ball away in defence, then we compounded the error by giving away a free kick in a very dangerous area. The ball was expertly swung in and flew into the back of the net off the head of our own desperately unlucky defender for an own goal. Now we had to push forward in search of an equaliser. Brodie was dragging the team forward with several strong runs, lots of tackling and his usual never say die work rate. Simba was really putting himself about with Bertie working hard to join him in the attacking third. We started to gain some traction in the game, playing the majority of the rest of the match in their half, but we were struggling to make any clear cut opportunities. Simba broke clear through sheer strength and determination and struck a powerful shot over the bar, and when Brodie's corner was cleared Bertie made a good stab at firing the ball back in with a tough volley, only for that one to clear the bar too. Then came our best moment of the match, Brodie passing to Gonzalo just inside the box who showed great technique and awareness to flick the ball through the defence and into the path of Bertie who was just about to pull the trigger from 6 yards out when a desperate lunge from a Bromley defender denied him quite superbly. Simba again fashioned himself an opening, this time firing wide and when Henry smacked in a shot from fully 35 yards that was destined for the top corner, only for it to be fumbled over the bar at the last second, it was beginning to feel like one of those days. This was only added to when moments later, Brodie brilliantly bent a shot also into the top corner, only for it again to be saved at the very last moment. In our desperation to get the goal back we pushed further and further forward, changing now to an even more attacking formation that saw us leave just 2 defenders at the back. This inevitably left us open to the counter attack, especially with their very pacey striker who was proving a real handful, and so it proved. Sid however proved to be a magnificent last line of defence, pulling off 3 magnificent saves to stop them getting a second, one of which defied belief, only to finally be beaten by another incredibly unlucky own goal to make it 2 nil.

Try as we might, it just wasn't meant to be today. Sid was superb between the sticks, Gonzalo had a very strong debut, Jack was immense at the back, Brodie was a real midfield general and all the boys worked their socks off, there was certainly no lacking off effort. We are in a bit of a rut at the moment, we will come good again, these boys work too hard and are too talented not to.

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Junior Elite 7 - 0 Langton Giants

A tough day, where everything that could have gone wrong did, as we were given a thoroughly good hiding by an outstanding Junior Elite team. Having lost our super star goalkeeper for 8 weeks to injury, and tough tackling defender Henry unavailable, we knew before the game we were facing an uphill task before we even set off to face the free scoring league leaders. The first sign of it being a bad day came when we discovered the A21 was closed making the journey somewhat more rushed than we'd expected, and very painful on the way home.

In James absence, Sam bravely stepped into the fold as goalkeeper and did really well, showing great determination when coming under a lot of pressure. We started well enough, competing well in the midfield and settling into the game. Then double disaster in the blink of an eye, first Junior Elite scrambled home a grubby shot to open the lead before the referee awarded them the softest penalty you'll see all season. Sam made a magnificent attempt to save it and was unlucky to see the ball squeeze under him. Suddenly what had been a promising opening was going sour quickly. Junior Elite are a terrific side who pounce when they smell blood, and they were all over us like a rash, chasing down the ball and passing it with unerring accuracy and pace. Sam made two good saves as Tom, Jack P and Alf fought like mad to stem the flow of Junior Elite attacks. Brodie, Eddie, Bertie and Simba were working so hard in midfield, with DJ trying to get free up front that eventually we got into the game. We had a superb 5 minutes or so as we got deep into the oppositions half and stayed there, winning three corners and causing them problems. DJ got a shot away, as did Bertie both of which were closed down and Brodie went close to skipping through the defence, denied by the last man. Jack H came on and added real zest to the attack, beating defenders and closing them down with great effect, also showing a good eye for a pass. Our tails were up and we looked like we might get back into the match, unfortunately, that sense didn't last long, as Junior Elite counter attacked and scored with a powerful shot from distance to leave us feeling a bit deflated. A feeling which only increased when they scored a soft 4th after we failed to clear a straightforward cross.

The boys came off feeling a bit forlorn, as they knew they still had another half to go against this unforgiving and talented team. There was no room for feeling sorry for ourselves though, they had to go out there and fight for everything just to keep the score respectable and take the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons. They achieved both of these things with aplomb, as they battled right through to the final whistle and never gave up for a second. This was despite having zero luck, the number of times the ball just wouldn't quite bounce the right way for us was numerous, but that paled into insignificance compared to the circumstances which led to Junior Elite's 5th goal. Brodie cleared the ball firmly after Tom had made a great tackle, only for the ball to strike the referee smack in the middle of his back and rebound back over everybody's head to the feet of their striker to tap home. When your lucks out, your lucks out. Still the boys kept going, Alf driving forward from midfield, Eddie battling hard as always, Jack P flying into tackles like only he can, Tom as majestic as ever as he strode out of defence, and Jack H continuing to put in a really good display on both wings. Bertie was fighting hard down the left wing and racing back to help the defence as needed. He also produced the pass of the match. It started when he raced back to win the ball, strode forward and released Simba to cut in to take on the goalkeeper, only to be denied by a combination of the goalie and recovering defender. This gave the boys confidence as again we had a period of us being on top. Corners again were won, Simba and DJ both fired shots over, before Brodie saw a shot from distance well saved. Simba then hit a rasping shot that the keeper did very well to keep out, and from the resulting corner Alf was inches away from grabbing a consolation when a goal mouth scramble saw him spin and shoot, it was going in but was cleared off the line just in time. DJ saw another shot saved as we desperately tried to get something from the match. The effort levels were brilliant, but unfortunately they took their toll as we conceded two more goals in the closing minutes.

The good news is that we've now played Junior Elite twice, with at most one more to go, and they are head and shoulders above everyone else in this league. Some of their football is a joy to watch and they're a great bunch of lads too, no attitude or showing off, just great football.

For us it was a harsh but good lesson to learn. We didn't want to defend as deeply as we did, but when you're facing the pace and possession of this type of opposition it is very difficult to get out at times. The positives to take from the game were that nobodies head went down and we actually created a lot more attacking opportunities than we did the previous time we faced Junior Elite. Put this one to bed, its gone, on to the next one.

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Langton Giants 2 - 2 Balham Blazers (AET - Balham win 8-7 on penalties)
Dan, Alf

A break from league action this week as we welcomed a team from South West London we'd never faced before so as such had no idea what to expect. What we discovered was that they were very fast, talented and hard working and it was obvious we had our work cut out. After aggravating his ankle again in the week we were missing Simba and we also went into the game unsure as to whether goalie James was going to be able to last as he'd also been suffering this week with leg problems. We were slow to start as we struggled to get to grips with the pace of the Balham striker and wingers, but Henry, Jack and Tom stood tall and somehow managed to keep them at bay. Slowly we started to grow into the match as the midfield started to click, Eddie and Brodie winning possession and spreading the ball wide to the Alf and Bertie on either wing. DJ was working his socks off up front and was the first to engineer a chance, skipping past two defenders but pulling the shot wide. There was a lot of hard work going on in the middle of the park but not huge amount of goal mouth action at either end and both defences were firmly on top. Skipper Tom got flattened twice, Bertie once, both requiring breaks from the action to recover, but no problem, Joel came on and put in a very strong performance, battling hard and putting in several great runs down the wing. Sam gave DJ a break from his hard work up front and put himself about, helping us win the ball back high up the pitch. Just before half time Balham breached our defence for the first time, but James pulled out a brilliant one handed save to put the ball over the bar. As it turned out, that was his last contribution to the match as sadly he was forced to come off with the pains in his legs. He'd shown great character giving it a go though and hopefully will be fit to resume his super human duties soon!

Sam took over on goal and was magnificent in what turned out to be a brilliant half of football. Both teams pushed forward and it was end to end stuff, Bertie went close with a shot, as did DJ as Balham also created more chances. The back three of Henry, Jack and Tom were simply immense, last ditch tackles, blocks and charges forward to support their midfield who all put in an incredible shift The heavens opened, and how, the rain was thundering down, the wind was whipping up and the pitch was falling apart in front of our eyes, but still these two brilliants teams threw everything they had at one another. Balham got the break through, opening the scoring from close in and it looked like we were going to struggle to recover playing up the hill in these conditions and short of two key players. Never under estimate the character of these boys though, as they proved it once again by fighting back, Bertie charging up the left wing, with Eddie doing likewise on the right as suddenly we were getting on top and creating chances. DJ had two shots saved, Brodie saw one charged down and then was agonisingly close with a left footed effort that was inches wide. We were nearly two down, a fine shot from the dangerous Balham number 9 on the counter attack which Sam did brilliantly to parry. Then, these exhausted boys pulled something out of the fire after a shift in formation, DJ skipped past the keeper but it looked like he'd over run it, but no, he sprinted forward and launched himself at the ball, somehow knocking it in from a ridiculously tight angle to equalise, a brilliant goal. Both teams had chances to win it in the final minutes, but a 1-1 score line was a fair result at the end of the match, but this week it wasn't the end of the match, this was the cup and extra time was required.

There was no let up in the rain, mud, wind or action. We pushed forward some more and started to create some more efforts on goal, causing some havoc in the Balham defence. Brodie showed great footwork and played in Bertie who shot wide, before Eddie nearly got in on the other wing, denied by a good tackle. Then we saw the best bit of play in the whole match. Henry intercepted the ball and found Brodie who strode forward and played the ball out wide to Eddie who delivered an inch perfect cross to the charging Alf who showed outrageous skill and technique to lob the goalkeeper with his first touch to put us 2-1 into the lead. There was 10 minutes left to hang on, and they so nearly did. They fought like lions, slide tackling, blocking shots, counter attacking and giving everything they had. Twice it looked like we were going to wrap the match up with a 3rd goal, both times we were denied by some excellent goalkeeping. Firstly DJ was closed down after Bertie's pass before Alf hit a great effort from Eddie's through ball which somehow kept out by the keepers outstretched finger tips. Then heartbreak, a through ball ran away from us down the slope and the super fast Balham striker got to the ball a split second before the charging Sam and the ball trickled agonisingly over the line despite the desperate lunges from Tom and Jack. Onto the dreaded penalties. The efforts from both teams put the England team to shame, as the first 5 pens from both teams were scored perfectly. Then their keeper made a save, match point Balham. Step up Sam to pull of a brilliant save himself to keep us alive. We scored, they scored. They saved but then missed their own, before we scored again, as did they. It was 7-7. Their keeper then made a superb save and when their next taker slotted away a penalty despite a magnificent effort from Sam to keep it out, it was over, 8-7 to Balham.

Whoever lost the penalty shootout was going to feel hard done by, but that's football. In reality we should be proud of being involved in such a brilliant game of football, played between two excellent sides in a great spirit and awful conditions. A proper good old fashioned cup tie!

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Sunday, October 19th

Langton Giants 2 - 3 Southwark All Stars
Simba x 2

The Giants entered this match against Southwark All Stars from Peckham missing two key players, Captain Tom and striker DJ with significant doubt over another, Simba who was still struggling with the ankle injury he picked up in last weeks encounter at Bromley. We were delighted therefore to welcome Jack H from the Eagles into the fold to help us out again. Things started well, the Giants were on top early and putting the Southwark defence under a lot of pressure. Jack H played a brilliant through ball to put Simba in who was unlucky to see not one, not two but THREE point blank range shots saved by the All Stars fantastic goalkeeper. A minute later Eddie hit a firm volley which took a deflection and looked destined for the other corner. Somehow the athletic keeper pulled off an incredible save to tip the ball round the post. We were not to be denied for long though, Simba defying his injury problems to show great footwork skipping past 3 defenders before curling the perfect shot into the top corner to open the scoring with a brilliant individual goal.

We had a warning of what was to come later though when Southwark hit the post with their first attack of the match. Simba then sprinted through the defence to receive a pass which left him one on one with the goalkeeper and finished with great aplomb to double the lead. At this point we were looking strong, with Jack P, Henry and Alf keeping things tight at the back, Bertie marauding down the left wing, Jack H doing the same on the other and Brodie & Eddie on top in the centre of the pitch. What happened next turned the game on its head. We conceded a free kick half way in our own half to the our left hand side, not an especially dangerous position. The free kick was lofted over everybody's head, but whilst we stood and watched, the Southwark striker darted in and slotted home to halve our lead. A very, very soft goal to concede which only served to fill the opposition with confidence as we approached half time, There was a small delay when a third Jack entered the fray, this one with four legs and collar, surname Russell, before Bertie got through on the left hand side from Brodie's pass only to be denied by another great save. The half time whistle blew, and we knew we were in for a tough second half.

Southwark came out with their tails up, full of confidence and playing some great passing football, we were struggling to get our own passing going and as a result found ourselves conceding possession far too often. We are fortunate that we also have an outstanding goalkeeper of our own, James pulling off two magnificent saves of his own to keep our noses ahead. Jack H was now playing at left back as we pushed Alf further forward, both of them doing an outstanding job in their new positions. Jack P won a couple of very strong challenges, one with his head under immense pressure, and Henry continued to be a pillar of strength. The it all went wrong, twice within a few minutes we allowed a straightforward ball to travel over our heads and watched as the All Stars striker got his 2nd and 3rd goals with two very good finishes which gave James no chance. We'd gone from 2 nil up and comfortable to 2-3 down and desperate to get back into the match. The effort levels were not in doubt, everybody was working their socks off and battling hard. Joel was showing great strength and tenacity, including one brilliant bit of footwork down the left wing to set Bertie away. Brodie swung a couple of corners in as we went on the search for an equaliser, two mad goal mouth scrambles ensued, with the ball somehow not ending up in the back of the net, no idea how it didn't on either occasion. Simba was then felled and up stepped Brodie who hit a wonderful curling free kick that was flying into the top corner to earn us a point, or at least we thought so, somehow the excellent Southwark goalkeeper pulled off his best save of the day, with an extraordinary leaping diving save with his finger tips to push the ball over. One more corner, one more goal mouth scramble but it wasn't to be as the final whistle blew to condemn the Giants to only their second defeat of the season.

There has been better days and there will be again, it was a good game of football played for the most in a great spirit and more experience gained. Fantastic effort from everyone, so pleased to see that never wains even when the quality is lacking a little bit. Roll on the next one.....

Langton Green Giants and Southwark All Stars photographed together before the match as part of the FA's Respect Weekend

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Sunday, October 12th

Bromley FC Junior Ravens 0 - 1 Langton Giants
Alf

After a delayed start as a result of an injury in the game which preceded ours the boys took to the pitch to face what turned out to be our most physical challenge yet in the form of Bromley FC who possessed lots of big, fast and physical players. The match was to be played on a very short, but very wide astroturf pitch which made the midfield quite congested for the bulk of the game. It became obvious early on that this wasn't going to be a day for our usual pretty football, but that we were going to have to scrap for everything,

Simba was clattered about 25 yards out, picked himself up and fired a well struck free kick just over the bar before Jack won a crunching tackle and powered forward, forcing his way all the way to the edge of the Bromley penalty box where he found Eddie, who played a beautiful blind-side pass inside the full back to the feet of Bertie who was unlucky to fire wide from a tight angle. At the other end James was as alert as ever, plucking a powerful strike out of the sky with the minimum of fuss. Simba was clattered for a second time, this time hard enough that it resulted him coming off for the rest of the match. 5 minutes in and we are down to just the nine players with no subs available and facing a very combative opponent. DJ came on up front and showed his usual array of intelligent runs and quick feet, nearly getting onto a Tom through ball immediately, just denied by a last ditch challenge. The only thing that could deny him a minute later though was the under side of the cross bar, when Brodie played him in with a delightful perfectly weighted pass for him to lift over the out coming goalkeeper which Alf followed up and fired home to give us an early lead. That's the third game in a row Alf has found the back of the net, adding a real goal threat to his already excellent all round play. Eddie and Brodie were putting in a real shift in the centre of the pitch, where it was more a battlefield than a midfield at times as they fought like mad against their physically bigger opponents, with Bertie providing a great outlet as always down the left wing. Henry was continuing his excellent recent form, showing strength and poise in equal measure alongside the imperious pair of Jack and Tom to keep things tight at the back against the tall and pacey Bromley strikers. James was playing the ball with his feet calmly when called upon, often under significant pressure and had no chance when the ball whistled past him into the top corner, only for us to be saved by a correctly raised linesman's flag for off-side. That was the only time our defence was breached in the first half, despite playing the last 5 minutes of it with only 8 players after Alf aggravated a painful earache when he was shoved into the fence and had to come off.

At half time the boys were a bit battered and bruised, with Simba on his way to A&E and Alf in obvious pain from his ear ache, but they had a lead to hold onto. Alf showed amazing grit and toughness by insisting he could carry on and the rest of the boys seemed to get a boost from his attitude, striding onto the pitch with an even more heightened sense of determination. No player embodied this more than Eddie who ran himself into the ground, covering all four corners of the pitch and tackling boys twice his size whilst showing great quality on the ball too. With Brodie next to him working just as hard and passing the ball forward at every opportunity to the tireless DJ and Bertie we were able to maintain an attacking threat. Bromley put us under a lot of pressure at times, but the wall that is Henry, Tom and Jack just wouldn't buckle. All three of them were magnificent, throwing themselves into tackles, blocking shots and clearing the ball with headers, volleys or whatever it took, Twice Bromley got through, twice they were denied by the outstanding James, once with his feet and once with a magnificent diving save. We pushed forward too, Brodie delivering some excellent corners and Alf continuing to cause a threat down the right as Bertie was doing on the other side of the pitch. In the closing minutes it was a real backs to the wall effort, with everyone doing their bit as we held on for dear life. Somehow these magnificent boys found the energy to counter attack though and twice in the last throws of the game we had great chances to wrap up the match, with both Eddie and Bertie going close thanks to some excellent passes from DJ and Brodie. It didn't matter though, as the last of the chances from Bertie spun off wide the referee blew his final whistle and they'd done it.

These boys really are amazing, today wasn't the prettiest, it was not even close to being the best they've played either, but the courage and commitment they showed was immense, proving they have the heart and attitude to match their silky skills and can face up to a more physical opponent when called upon, which for me makes this our best win yet.

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Sunday, October 5th

Langton Giants 4 - 1 Moonshot FC
(Alf, Tom, Eddie, Brodie)

After the rain fall of yesterday the Giants boys were pleased to take to the pitch this morning in bright sunshine for a home game v Moonshot FC from Catford. The wet surface remained though which pretty much made it the perfect conditions for the Giants brand of football as the ball zipped about the pitch with great pace and accuracy. In our previous two matches we've struggled in the opening exchanges so the message was to try and get on top early this week, building on the confidence from last weeks performance. As they do more often than not, the boys listened and set about attacking the Moonshot defence at every opportunity. Eddie went close twice early on, one saved low from a Bertie cross and another flying over the bar. Bertie then swung in a dangerous free kick which caused panic in the penalty box, somehow the ball didn't go in, twice being blocked on the line. Simba showed great pace to break through only to see his shot well saved and Alf had a pop from the edge of the box, just wide. The boys at the back were immense, defending brilliantly but even more impressively, passing the ball beautifully. This included goalkeeper James, and it was him who started the next attack, finding the excellent Bertie down the left wing who switched the ball to the other wing to Eddie who played a lovely cross in for Simba to hit it first time, just missing the corner. Simba then went on a fantastic individual run, holding off three defenders to get a powerful shot away which was saved. It felt like a goal was coming, and so it proved. Jack won a crunching tackle and found Simba who spun and hit a brilliant cross field pass into the path of Alf who strode forward and hit the bottom corner of the net with an accurate strike to open the scoring. Tom, Henry and Jack were constantly stepping out of the defensive line to intercept the ball and set us back on the front foot again. Brodie showed great footwork with a skilful drag back which gave him the space to hit a curling effort from the edge of the box which was superbly saved as it headed for the top corner. With a couple of players missing, Super-Eagle Finn was helping us out and immediately started to link up with his team mates, passing the ball brilliantly and working his socks off in the middle of the park. We won a corner, which was only cleared straight back to the taker Brodie, who swung an excellent shot back in with his left foot, again denied by a great save, Alf poked it back into the danger area, Finn headed towards goal and from the desperate clearance Tom was best placed to smash the ball low into the corner to double the lead. Sam came into the fray and showed some smart touches up front, playing his team mates in and working very hard as we saw out the first half.

James confirmed at half time that he hadn't been required to make a single save in the first half, which was a testament to just how well the defence was playing. Henry showed in the first couple of minutes of the second half that this was likely to continue, putting in several crunching tackles and showing great strength under pressure. Alf went on yet another run down the right wing, passing in field to Brodie who hit a powerful shot with his left foot which was well saved, but Eddie darted in to fire home our third goal of the afternoon. Moonshot then broke through for the first time in the match, James making a top save down low, before Simba went on a fantastic run up the slope with a Moonshot defender unable to stop him, even by pulling his shirt, but the shot whistled past the post. Moonshot tried to catch us out with a big lump down the middle, but were thwarted by a big header, preceded by a loud shout of "TOM'S" by our majestic captain. Twice more though Moonshot did get through, both times again denied by the brilliant James, once with a stunning diving save and the other with a brave dive at the feet of the striker. Any concern Moonshot might find a way back into the match was extinguished a moment or two later though, with James again being the inspiration. Tom turned and fired a hard and high pass back to our expert stopper, who controlled the ball beautifully with a great first touch before slipping the ball straight back to the skipper. Tom turned and played forward into the feet of Simba who held off his marker, spun and hit a perfectly weighted ball into the path of the foraying Brodie who was clean through one-on-one against the keeper, finishing expertly with a great strike into the bottom corner. Jack was showing his strength and pace, stopping any threats and with Eddie doing his usual amazing job of being able to play in any position he is asked to with equal levels of high quality, we were looking good. More chances came and went, Finn linking up well with Bertie who was as dangerous as ever marauding down the left wing, showing great skill and tenacity. Sam caused problems for the Moonshot defence twice, once by harassing the defender into a mistake which allowed Alf to get a shot of which only just flew past the post, and once with a dangerous in-swinging corner that somehow beat everyone. A few more chances came and went, and in the closing moments a high bouncing ball caught us out as Moonshot helped themselves to a consolation goal with a very well taken finish which gave James no chance, but that wasn't enough to take any shine off a really impressive all round team performance. Special mention for all the defensive unit, Simba for his unselfish work up front and to Finn for his excellent passing and work rate.

So that's two wins from our opening three matches in a new league, a better start than we could ever had hoped for and all down to the work rate, attitude and skill of a very special group of young men. Well done boys, you deserve it. Roll on next week for another tough test!

Sunday, September 28th

Tooting & Mitcham Youth Terrors 3 - 6 Langton Giants
(DJ x 2, Alf, Bertie, Simba, Eddie)

So chapter two of the Giants new adventures took us on a long Sunday morning drive to face Tooting & Mitcham Youth Terrors, last seasons league runners up, on a surprisingly hot and sunny morning. Our hosts were welcoming, but so were we in the opening seconds as the pacey T&M winger danced into our box and hit the post with barely 10 seconds gone, and minutes later we were down 1 nil from conceding a very soft goal from a basic lump down the middle which caught us out and allowed the striker to advance unabated to slot the ball past James.

When they had the ball in the net again a few minutes later, thankfully this one rightfully disallowed for a shove on Alf, we were beginning to look like we were in trouble. For the second week in a row we'd got off to a horrible start and needed to fight back, and for the second week in a row that is exactly what we did. Bertie stole the ball from a defender and shot wide, DJ went on a great run and found Simba who saw his shot blocked, Simba them showed great pace and strength to burst through and hit a powerful drive just over the bar. We were now an attacking threat and when DJ jinked his way into the box the only way they could stop him was to tug him to the ground earning a clear penalty. DJ stepped up himself and stroked the ball expertly into the corner, 1-1, game on.

Simba found Bertie who shot over, then Bertie stole a goal kick and tried to lob the keeper immediately, but unfortunately lobbed the cross bar too. We were now on top, and with Jack P, Alf and Tom dominating at the back we were looking secure. Brodie and Eddie were working so hard in centre midfield with Jack H providing high levels of skill and energy on the wings.

Against the run of play we conceded a freak goal, as their winger tried to cross the ball he fell over, shinning the ball high up into the air which miraculously sailed over everybody's heads and James outstretched hand to fall into the back of the net. A complete fluke that we didn't deserve. Heads could have gone down at this point, but they didn't, if anything it galvanised the boys even more as they set about ripping through the Tooting & Mitcham midfield and defence. Despite the long grass the passing at times was exceptional, as we diluted the superior pace of our opponents by making the ball do the work, to great effect. Eddie won a tackle and set Jack H away, who showed great strength to hold of a tackle and feed the excellent Alf, who turned his defender and struck a firm shot into the bottom corner, 2-2.

DJ then went on another great run, exchanged passes with Brodie before finding Alf who whipped in a beautiful ball to Bertie at the back post who slammed the ball into the back of the net to give us our first lead of the match. Just before half time Simba was bundled over some 35 yards from goal. He then stepped forward and smashed the ball into the roof of the net with the resulting free kick, an absolutely stunning strike from such an incredible distance. This meant the boys came off at half time 4-2 up with a spring in their step.

The half time message was simple, this was far from over and that if we started this half as we'd started the first half we could be level again within a few minutes. I needn't have worried, the boys went out and played the best half of football they've ever produced. It was near faultless. Tom, Jack, Alf and Eddie were all magnificent at the back, winning every 50/50 challenge and passing the ball out from the back effortlessly. James was his usual dependable self, continuing to show his exceptional footwork and willingness to receive the ball to his feet when under pressure to help out his defensive colleagues.

Brodie set DJ away with a sumptuous pass, DJ's shot being well saved low down, before the tricky striker created his own chance with a good run which was also saved. Brodie swung in a brilliant corner which Simba went close to heading home as we were now firmly on top. Alf was tripped in the middle of the pitch, leaving Simba with another free kick to strike from a very similar distance to his amazing first half strike. He couldn't do it again, surely? Well he came very, very close, slamming another thunderous strike this time against the underside of the cross bar and then just kicked off the line, but as it looked like the ball was going the be cleared, Eddie appeared from nowhere and produced an audacious overhead kick with his left foot to smash the ball into the corner of the net. It was a breath taking piece of skill which you won't see very often in u11 football. Simply stunning, and clearly an early contender for goal of the season! It wasn't all one way though, T&M continued to be a threat and whilst Tom, Jack P and co continued their brilliance at the back, James was called into action, bravely diving at the feet of the striker to deny a certain goal.

DJ played on the shoulder of the last defender superbly, breaking clear to sprint away and slot home clinically to stretch the lead to 6-2. Jack H, Eddie and Alf were setting the tone in terms of closing down the T&M defenders who didn't like the pressure and this resulted in us winning the ball high up the pitch, with Bertie going close a couple of times to extending the lead further. We conceded a corner which we failed to clear and they smashed home to cut the deficit to 3, before James made a brilliant low save to make sure it didn't get any closer. We saw out the final minutes with good ball retention and fantastic effort from all.

So after all the concern of facing up to the top two teams in this league in our first two fixtures we've shown we belong. There will be bad days, we know that, but now we also know we can compete with anyone on our day. Every single boy was magnificent, there wasn't one who had an 'off day' and the work rate was inspiring, as was the football. Well done boys, really, really well done.

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Sunday, September 21st

Langton Giants 0 - 2 Junior Elite

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Captain Tom led the Giants on to the pitch to play in their first ever Tandridge Youth League match. Having been placed in the notoriously tough A Division, our opening encounter couldn't have been any more challenging as we were pitched against last seasons unbeaten champions, Junior Elite. Well aware that this opponent were perfectly capable of giving even strong teams a good hiding, the boys took to the field full of determination, mixed in with a little trepidation!

The Giants, understandably, looked nervous in the opening exchanges, and were a bit guilty of standing off and admiring their opponents fast passing and movement. We were chasing shadows and not getting close, a brilliant cross was whipped in which dropped perfectly at the feet of the left sided attacker to guide home with unerring accuracy to give James no chance in goal. A few minutes later, we failed to clear another cross, and despite a great save from James the ball was smashed home from close range and we were 2 nil down with barely anytime gone. At this point, we feared the worst, had we bitten off more than we could chew? Were we about to be ripped apart? The boys dug in, Alf, Brodie, Eddie and Bertie started getting closer to the talented Junior Elite midfield, with Tom, Jack and Henry coming to terms with the multiple runners who were coming at them from all angles. Simba was working tirelessly, running himself into the ground to try and give us an outlet.

DJ came on and added tricky footwork and intelligent movement as we started to get a foothold in the match. Attacking was difficult, we were having to work so hard to win possession that retaining it and moving forward up the slope was proving to be almost impossible, particularly when facing the constant closing down from our opponents. There were some very good moments, some lovely passing from defence into midfield, but some more difficult moments too, James coming to the rescue with a stunning double save. Alf went on a mazy run, forcing himself into the oppositions box and hitting the target with his weaker foot that the goalkeeper saved down low. At half time, some very tired boys needed a rest and a drink.

If the opening 10 minutes of the first half had been a bit of a baptism of fire, the closing 10 minutes had given the boys some confidence that they could survive with their illustrious opponents, and they went on to put in a brilliant second half performance, finding new energy levels from somewhere, harrying the Junior Elite players, winning the ball, playing our football and generally holding our own. Eddie, Alf and DJ each had to cover various positions at times, and each performed them admirably. Simba continued to push hard, and linked up well with his midfield, Bertie working so much to try and join him in attack whilst also making sure he was getting back to help out his defence. Brodie was snapping at the heels of the Junior Elite midfield, with the boys at the back standing strong.

Despite all this wonderful effort, of course Junior Elite created some chances but when they did came up against a brickwall called James. On three occasions he was exposed one against one, on each occasion he came out on top to save the day. The best attacking moment of the match for the Giants came when Brodie won a crunching tackle in midfield and found Alf who put Simba through but heavily pressured and still a long way from goal, he powered forward showing great strength and pace before hitting a clean strike which whizzed past the far post, a fantastic effort that could have set up a grandstand finish. Joel came on and chased everything, and Sam came on towards the end and worked hard up front. It was easy to admire the passing and movement of the Junior Elite boys, but it was just as impressive for the Giants to go the final 50 minutes without conceding any goals, of course much of the credit goes to James, Henry, Jack, Tom, Eddie and Alf all of whom were magnificent at the back at various times, but this was about defending from the front, a real team effort.

Losing 2 nil to this team is nothing to be ashamed of, and the effort and quality we demonstrated throughout was immense, well done to all of the boys. Our opponents were very complimentary about the Giants, generously applauding our attempts to play football the right way. Junior Elite play some fantastic football with a great attitude and a smile on their face, resulting in a most enjoyable morning for us all, and something to build on. Roll on the next one!

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Sunday, September 14th

Langton Giants 7 - 1 Sevenoaks Town
Simba x3, Alf, Bertie, Brodie, Finn

With just a week to go until the league season begins, we welcomed our friends from Sevenoaks Town for a pre-season friendly to help both teams prepare for the real thing. Like our opponents last week, Sevenoaks are joining the Tandridge B Division so another good workout was expected. We were a little slow getting into the game again, with our opponents breaching our defence to give their striker an early sight of goal, 1 on 1 against James, who made himself big enough to force the shot wide. This seemed to be the wake up call we needed, and we started to grow into the game. Simba pushed forward, played a good ball into the feet of Alf on the right wing who skipped past the last defender before whipping a delightful cross back to Simba to smash home a controlled volley to open the scoring.

As we were missing a few regulars today, we were grateful to be able to borrow two players from our sister side, The Eagles, to help us out. Jack H and Finn entered the game and were soon up to the speed of the contest, both contributing immediately. Finn adding a calm assurance and quality passing to the centre of the park, and Jack H charging up both wings at various times, with equally good effect (the sign of a very two footed player). Tom, Jack P, Joel and then Sam were their usual calm, reliable selves at the back with James showing a great starting position and speed to clear a couple of through balls before they became an problem. Eddie pushed us forward, sprinting towards the box and slipped in Jack H who was unlucky to see his low shot well saved, before Finn dribbled into space and found Simba who fired over the bar from the edge of the box. Brodie was running midfield now, finding himself lots of space and using the ball intelligently, his through ball caused panic in the Sevenoaks defence, Jack H going close again, this time denied by the post only for Bertie to stab home the rebound to double the lead. Bertie fired in a cracking corner which Eddie hit hard and true, but unfortunately also high, his shot just going over the bar and that was the final action of the first half.

The second half saw us playing down the slope and we looked to take advantage as best we could, and we did, winning an early corner after a good pass from Joel almost saw Bertie through, but he was denied by a last ditch tackle which gave us a corner. The pre-game instruction was for in-swinging corners close to the goalkeeper, and Brodie managed to achieve this to perfection, it wasn't just near to the goalkeeper, it was past him, as he somehow bent the corner kick right into the far corner to make the score 3 nil. Just as looked like we were getting firmly on top, the Giants lost focus for 10 minutes or so, and Sevenoaks were a good enough team to take advantage, as they started to pin us back, before scoring a very well taken goal of their own to cut the deficit to 3-1. Suddenly we were on the back foot, and when Eddie handled the ball on the goal line Sevenoaks had a penalty to cut the lead even further. They had to beat our brilliant goalkeeper first though, and this proved impossible, not once but twice! Firstly he dived to his left to get two firm hands on the ball, before flinging himself again to his left to save the follow up too.... amazing, it was incredible goalkeeping and once we'd cleared the ball Simba picked the ball up turned and run at the defence before playing in Alf who finished superbly to make the score 4-1, but we all knew that had it not been for James' heroics it would have been 3-2.

Simba then took over, turning his man at the half way line before powering through two tackles and showing great pace before hitting a firm strike, which the keeper did brilliantly to save, only for it to come back to Simba who simply slammed home a fantastic strike for a wonderful solo effort. Simba wasn't only scoring goals, he was linking the play with his midfield very effectively too, especially with Alf down the right, playing him in again, this time the goalkeeper saving well. Finn, Brodie and Eddie were all moving the ball quickly in midfield. Also especially pleasing was how well the defence and goalkeeper were passing the ball too, allowing us to keep possession and build from the back. Tom was leading the way, calmly leading the back 3, with Jack P showing his strength as always.

During the second half they were joined at points by Joel, Sam and Eddie, each of whom slotted in and did a great job for the team. Jack H showed great energy levels, pressing high up the pitch still late on in the second half and was a real handful for the Sevenoaks full backs all game. Simba again showed his power and strength, holding off a defender before smashing home our 6th goal to secure his first ever hatrick for the Giants before being replaced up front by Sam, who was unlucky to see two shots cleared off the line in quick succession, but also showed some lovely touches in this more advanced role.

With time running out we won another corner, Brodie again the provider which was only partly cleared to Jack H, who played an intelligent ball into the feet of Sam who spun and shot, which was again blocked, but this time fell at the feet of Finn who calmly slotted home a well deserved goal to complete the scoring.

All in all a very productive morning and a great work out against a team who passed the ball very well and made us work hard for our victory, in reality the score line flattered us a bit, as Sevenoaks caused us several problems of our own and had the game gone to 3-2 the outcome could have looked very different. We wish them well for their upcoming season.

Well done to all the boys, and a big thank you to Finn and Jack H for helping us out, they were both magnificent. Roll on next week.....

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Sunday, September 7th

Langton Giants 1 - 0 Coney Hall Youth Hawks
Simba

This season sees us enter a brave new world, the Tandridge Youth League, in the toughest division of them all, the A division. The only thing we know to expect is some very, very strong opposition, stronger than we've ever faced before.

In preparation for the season, the Giants played their first ever formal 9-a-side match against Coney Hall Hawks. We had visited our opponents back in May for a 7-a-side friendly in which we came out narrowly on top. Coney Hall are a well established Tandridge Youth League team, finishing in the top half of the B division, so were always likely to be tough opponents again, and so it proved.

Our visitors started off on the front foot, getting into the game quicker than we did and coming to terms with the bigger pitch better, which was perhaps expected as they had played a friendly match the previous week. We dug in though, with the boys at the back keeping them at bay. Henry has now returned full time since we've moved to a Sunday and he quickly reminded us what we'd been missing with some well timed interceptions, with Sam, Tom, Jack and briefly Joel alongside him we coped with the early pressure admirably.

I say briefly Joel, because he spent most of the match on the wings, were he excelled, putting in an impressive performance on both sides of the pitch. Slowly we came into the match more, with Eddie and Brodie getting a grip in midfield, as Alf and Bertie started to attack alongside Simba. The game was played at a high pace, with fair tackles flying in and the Giants were now passing the ball beautifully, with special mention for the defenders and James in goal, all of whom passed the ball out from the back with great authority. To be fair, thanks to two very strong defences, chances were few and far between, the best chance created by a great pass from Simba into the path of Alf who penetrated the defence only to see his well struck effort whistle inches past the far post. At half time the score was 0-0.

The second half saw much of the same, both teams playing some fine football, and defending strongly. Twice we were grateful to Henry for last ditch clearances, Sam put in a mega tackle when trouble loomed and Jack and Tom continued to show off their athleticism with numerous interceptions and blocks. Eddie and Brodie both had excellent second halves, combining brilliantly in the middle of the park. We then broke down through and whizzed in a powerful cross that was too strong for the Coney Hall keeper to hold onto and in stepped Simba to smash the ball into the back of the net, 1 nil.

Bertie was running himself into the ground, and went on a brilliant run down the left, beating several players only for his shot from a tight angle to nestle in the side netting. James, although with next to nothing to do in terms of saves, showed a great range of passing, nifty footwork and was quick off his line to snuff out any dangerous through balls on several occasions. Joel continued to impress, demonstrating a vastly improved first touch to match his always excellent work rate.

The last few minutes were seen out without any dramas and we'd secured a hard fought victory against a strong, well organised and physically fit team. In many ways it was the perfect pre-season warm up, so we were grateful to the good people from Coney Hall for making the long journey to fulfil the fixture.

Well done boys, another pre-season friendly next week, a week after that it is the real thing!