Giants 2017 - 2018

Sunday 24th September 2017
Reader & Phillips Challenge Cup 1st Round
Langton Giants 3 - 2 Sevenoaks Town 
James D x3
Whereas most teams in our division received a bye in the first round of what is effectively the Kent Youth League Cup competition, we weren't so lucky, being given a tough tie against the always difficult to beat Sevenoaks Town, also from the Central division.
No Simba this week, or Ollie, the latter receiving a proper knock to the bonce in a game of Rugby leaving him with a lump about the size of a size 4 football! James H was also missing with a back injury, which meant Harry played in goal, the luxury of having two stoppers becoming obvious even this early in the season. Pepps started up-front alongside James D, and proved to be an excellent foil for the in-form goal machine, holding the ball up and pressing the Sevenoaks team into a number of mistakes at the back in the opening exchanges. Luca showed quick feet before finding James D who's first time power shot was saved high by the tall Sevenoaks keeper. Sevenoak's standout player was playing up front this week and was a real handful as always, in the opening minutes managing to skip past challenges from Owen and Jack only to be denied be an excellent save from Harry at the near post. Brodie fed Elliot who in turn found Pepps to lay the ball into James D's path, this effort just off target. More problems from the Sevenoaks striker saw Harry dive bravely at his feet which resulted in him cracking his shin pad..... much better than his leg of course! Eddie was putting a real shift in on the right (after putting a real shift in during the morning in the kitchen I understand - thanks Eddie!) and found Brodie who flicked a delightful ball into the path of James D to strike with his right foot, the ball being scrambled away by the feet of the keeper. Alf then won a big tackle, the ball falling at the feet of Eddie who went on a brilliant run, beating challenge after challenge and looking like he was going to go all the way, only to be denied with a last ditch sliding tackle as he was about to strike on goal. Despite the obvious threat from the Sevenoaks striker on the counter attack, it felt like a goal was going to come from our pressure and so it proved, Tom tried an angled ball forward that nearly had Bertie in, but the defender intercepted, only for Bertie to close him down, the ball fell at Brodie's feet who delivered his second superb through ball of the match to put James D in at a narrow angle, but was able to fire into the far corner across the goalkeeper's body to open the scoring. He then nearly doubled our lead immediately, but was bravely closed down by the Sevenoaks keeper after Luca had played him in. Jack, Owen and Max continued to dominate the back line in open play, with a combination of Luca, Tom and Alf doing their usual outstanding job of providing protection in front of them, but our Achilles heal continues to be set pieces, and this reared its ugly head once again from a Sevenoaks corner, with one of their players being allowed to head home completely unmarked from 6 yards out. Very disappointing and all the hard work undone. Elliot won us a corner with a jinky run, and Pepps delivered a fantastic ball from it, Owen leaped high and met it firmly, it somehow being cleared off the line. Tom found Eddie wide right who showed great skill to beat his man, only to be hacked down in a dangerous position. Up step James D to fire a wonderful free kick firmly into the top corner with his lethal left foot. Any thoughts this would settle things down were very quickly undone, when a Sevenoaks player hit a free kick from within the centre circle high and dipping just inches under the cross bar, giving Harry absolutely no chance, and suddenly it was 2-2. That was just one of those freaky goals, nobody to blame, but still another set piece conceded, which is getting irritating! There was still time for one more James D effort, thanks to some clever play by Elliot, but it was well saved and the half time whistle blew.
Whereas in the first half Langton had been mostly on top and playing the football, the start of the second half was far more disjointed, neither team really managing to get hold of the game. Brodie was felled, this time James D's free kick went over before Max, who has been pushed forward into midfield, went on a great run, showing pace and footwork, before shooting wide. Owen made a brilliant clearance off the line, not for the first time this season, and went on a couple of excellent forward bursts himself. Up until this point, Sevenoaks had matched us formation wise, and this was resulting in the game becoming a bit stifled and a change was needed, so we reverted to last seasons formation to try something different. Bertie was now back at left back and found an angled pass into Max's feet, he opened his body up and swung a superb cross field ball for James D to chase and absolutely larrup* back across the face of goal and into the back of the net to reinstate our narrow lead, great pass, great finish, great hatrick. Again though this was nearly undone immediately, this time we were grateful to Bertie for a fantastically timed tackle in the penalty box to avert the danger. Naturally Sevenoaks powered forward, desperate to get back into the match and the boys had to fight to keep them at bay. Luca was pressing hard from the midfield, trying  to stop the service into the box which in the main was being dealt with by Jack, Owen and Bertie. Just once the back line was broken, albeit as a result of what appeared to be a clear shove in the back of Jack, but Harry pulled off a magnificent save to keep our noses in front and avoid the need for extra time.
Well done to the boys, another hard fought victory against a very accomplished side who never give up (remind you of anyone?) and the reward is a trip to the South Division leaders Hastings United in the next round. Special mention has to be given to James D for getting his first hatrick in competetive football for us, something tells me it wont be his last. Back to league action next week, more of the same please lads!

*Larrup is a technical term for a well struck shot :-)

Sunday 17th September 2017
Langton Giants 5 - 1 Bearsted
James D x2, Pepps, Simba, Bertie
With the excitement and thrill of last weeks late winner still firmly in our minds, the boys were right up for this match from the off. Our opponents this week were another new team to the league, Bearsted who had started their debut season well with an impressive 1 nil win over the always strong Kings Hill. James H was back in goal and was calm throughout, reminding us how good he is with his feet on numerous occasions and again showed excellent handling and positioning throughout, we are blessed to have two great goalkeepers to see us through this long challenging season. The Giants were on top in the opening exchanges, with a number of nearly moments and they quickly turned this early dominance into a goal. Owen won a big tackle and found Alf who quickly and smartly flicked it on to Luca with his first touch, Luca then delivered a fantastic through ball which split the Bearsted defence, allowing the pace and movement of James D to surge through and finish expertly into the bottom corner. James D then saw a shot blocked after a good run from Elliot, the ball then coming back to Elliot who's right foot effort went wide. Alf then hit a great cross field ball, Elliot's turn to have a shot blocked. Bearsted sported a very physical and aggressive centre forward who tried his best to unsettle Jack P. Jack laughed, gave him a stare and that was the end of that. With defensive stalwarts Bertie and Owen either side of him, they were again looking completely in command. Brodie was pulling the strings behind the front two, with Eddie his usual effervescent self on the right, nearly getting through for a shot but selflessly pulling the ball back which was scrambled clear. Brodie won us the ball back, turned it round the corner to Luca who pulled out another delicious pass to leave the Bearsted defence helpless, this one with a touch of back spin on which dropped it perfectly for Simba to take in his stride and fire home with an excellent finish to double the advantage. At this point we looked completely untroubled. Tom, Max and Pepps had all entered the game and only added to the performance, each of them bringing new energy and quality. Brodie was pole-axed in the middle of the pitch with a very late and high tackle, causing him to leave the game, but no whistle was forthcoming on this occasion but was a split second later when we were adjudged to have fouled. Frustrating but we were still in a good position to defend the free kick which was just inside our half, so it was disappointing when the ball was floated in and headed home to cut our lead in half. That's the third goal we've conceded this season, all of them to set pieces, neither goalkeeper has yet to have a save to make from open play, so we know we are doing lots of things right, just need to tighten up on defending set pieces. This gave the game a different feel to it for the second half as this was far from done, we'd seen enough from Bearsted to know they remained a threat.
For the second week in a row though the boys came out for the second half looking like they'd found another gear. Simba did a great job of closing down the Bearsted goalkeeper and won us the ball, found Brodie who slotted the ball to Alf to shoot, the goalie had recovered though and made a good high save, Simba then saw a well struck left foot effort saved down low as we tried to reinstate our 2 goal cushion. Yet another wonderful Luca through ball found James D, but under enormous pressure from two Bearsted defenders his effort was saved. Luca then delivered a superb floating free kick which both Simba and Eddie were inches away from getting the telling touch at the back post. Through all this, Owen was calmness personified, breaking up Bearsted attacks down their left side and then using the ball intelligently, including a couple of outstanding cross field switches to add to our attacking pressure. On the other side of the three, Max was winning everything and was proving to be a real threat with his accurate passing from deep. Jack P was.... well, Jack P.....imperious as always. We needed that cushion though and got it, and what a goal it was. Max played it back to James H in goal who calmly helped it to Owen, he knocked it into the middle to Alf to send the ball back to Max who first time swept a wonderful up the line for James D to chase, his frightening pace getting him to the ball to sweep in a perfect cross to Pepps at the back post. A great first touch gave him the time to smash home our 3rd goal and give us some breathing space, and a confidence boost. Brodie was felled and took the resulting free kick, saved, the keeper half spilt it and Simba was on it in a flash but the keeper recovered. Luca delivered a corner and James D leapt high to win a firm header, just wide. Max hit another great cross field pass which put Simba in to fire a rocket shot against the cross bar, but James showed great striker instincts for the second week in a row by following up and grabbing his second goal of the game. In the closing minutes Pepps delivered a good corner which Bertie showed great desire in getting to first and fired home to complete the scoring, just rewards for his high level of play at the start of this season.
So another top performance, 3 more points and smiles all round. There will be less enjoyable days so important to enjoy the good ones, but if the boys continue with their great attitudes, work rate and team work there will be more enjoyable days than not! Well done boys. Bearsted deserve credit too, a good side an very pleasant coaching staff which is obviously rubbing off on their lads, with one of them advising the ref we had won a corner after he'd awarded a goal kick, 10/10 for sportsmanship.

Sunday 10th September 2017

Greenway Aces 2 - 3 Langton Giants
James D x 2, Simba
Match day 2 of the new season and a new opponent, Greenway Aces having joined the league and opened up with a narrow loss to Larkfiled in their opening fixture last week. That result meant we knew we were in for a tough match, and so it proved. We had new goalkeeper Harry making his debut, with so many matches this season ahead, a second expert stopper was needed to be added to the squad to compliment James, and Harry has fitted in well with the team from day 1, showing a great attitude and a high standard of goalkeeping. The intention was to start on the front foot, to test the Greenway defence from the off, and that is exactly what we did, dominating the first half in terms of possession and territory. Brodie found Simba near the penalty spot but his instant strike flew wide before Max won a big tackle, found Ollie who in turn found Brodie with a great ball but his left foot effort also went wide. Brodie then saw a free kick saved before Luca threaded a fantastic ball into Simba's feet who turned well but the snap shot was inches past the post. The Giants were camped in the Greenway half and putting them under enormous amounts of pressure. This continued when James D nut-megged the Greenway right sided centre back and burst in the box before letting fly with a rasping drive which flew past the far upright. Luca had a shot saved from distance and James D had an effort from similar distance which just missed the top corner, Alf, Elliot and Brodie all had efforts blocked by desperate defenders . Through all this, every time Greenway attempted to break out, they were stopped by Tom, Alf, Bertie, Max and Jack who were imperious in their defensive efforts, making Harry practically a bystander, although his verbal instructions and dealing with any through balls were faultless. For all our domination, we couldn't find the clear opening that would bring the goal, and football has a habit of making you pay. A dopey free kick was given away in a dangerous position and the inevitable happened, a sweetly struck shot hit the top corner giving Harry no chance and we were 1 down to Greenway's first shot of the match. A minute or so later though a free kick of our own, and it was James D's turn to try his luck and he couldn't have hit in any better, power, accuracy and dip left the goalkeeper without a hope, but the cross bar saved the day for our opposition. The cross bar was still shaking a few moments later when Pepps had a pop with a free kick of his own, it narrowly flying over the bar as we went in at half time confused as to how we were losing this match.
The conversation at half time was simple, carry on doing what you're doing, don't panic, stay calm in the final third and perhaps try to work our way closer to the goal on occasion. One of the many great things about coaching this group is they listen, and straight from the off they ran at the opposition rather than settling for long distance efforts. Simba burst in from the left, beating 2 or 3 on his way and squeaked the ball into Elliot who quickly pulled it across the face of the goal for the in-rushing James D to smash home from close range and we were level. James D then almost gave us the lead from a tight angle following good play from Ollie. Luca and Tom were now in control in central midfield, showing great discipline and passing range, with the back three of Max, Jack and Bertie continuing to be in firm control at the back despite the presence of a very fast, physically strong and talented striker to keep them busy. We had one scare, Bertie clearing a header off the line from a corner and then the moment that defied belief. A hopeful ball was pumped into the Giants box, the ball was cleared and off we set, until the referee decided otherwise, pointing to the penalty spot for a reason only he could answer. Not one Greenway player appealed and their coaches were as bemused as we were. After the game the referee said he'd seen a player pull somebody back, was unable to say which player from either team was involved but we thanked him for the explanation (!). The penalty was absolutely leathered into the net past Harry and we were down again with 10 minutes to go. At this stage a lot of teams would have folded, felt hard done by and had a ready made excuse for their disappointment. Not these boys though, they simply channelled their frustration into upping their game even further. It started with some superb play from Alf and Eddie down the right which nearly saw us in, but a throw in was won instead. Eddie took it quickly, Brodie feinted one way but went the other, leaving his defender for dead before delivering a delicious cross which Luca smacked cleanly with his left foot, bringing an outstanding save from the Greenway keeper as he somehow tipped in onto the cross bar, there was some debate as to whether the ball had crossed the line but this was made irrelevant by James D who showed great strikers instincts by charging in and bundling the ball over the line. 2-2 with 5 minutes left and all to play for. Max had been pushed forward into midfield and was battling hard to help us find the winner, shooting wide once and having another shot blocked, before Elliot pulled out a great pass which gave Simba a shot from an angle which went agonisingly close to winning us the game. Still they didn't stop coming forward, with Jack winning his own personal tussle with the big Greenway striker at the other end, the other defenders and defensive mids pushed forwards in numbers, but just when it looked like the pressure wasn't going to tell, step forward Simba, with an individual goal to win the game that dreams are made of. Beating not one, not two, but three Greenway defenders before unleashing a thunderous strike into the roof of the net in the 3rd minute of injury time from the edge of the box!. The boys jumped on the match winner, Greenway kicked off, the referee blew the final whistle and this remarkable group of young men had some how done it, coming from behind twice, dealing with a disheartening decision and getting the job done.
Once again all of them deserve great credit for their ability, technique and talent, but above all this their heart, work rate and commitment shines even greater. Special mention for Harry for doing so well on his debut and for the whole defence, who for the second week running did not concede a single shot on goal from open play, in this league that really is outstanding. Onwards we go, more of the same to come I'm sure!

Sunday 3rd September 2017

Langton Giants 1 - 0 Phoenix Sports

So here we go again, another relentless season ahead with an expanded division including several new teams, but for today we started the season hosting Phoenix Sports, a team we knew well and perhaps the team we were most closely matched with last season having played out two thrilling 3-3 draws with them. Today was just as competitive albeit with a lot less goals thanks in the main to both teams defending superbly throughout. We welcomed new boys James D, Owen and Max into the team for their debuts and each of them put in great performances which bode well for the rest of the season. Before they match could even start however there was a bit of confusion about the location of the match, but after a bit of football pitch hokey-kokey we were ready to go! Two of the debutants, Owen & Max joined Jack P in a back three and it was obvious from the opening exchanges that it was going to take something special to get past them and they were in complete command whenever the ball came into the danger area. Skipper Tom and birthday boy Alf provided further protection in front of them with Bertie and Eddie filling the wing back spots. Keeper James was looking confident and handled a number of through balls effortlessly before having to save low to his left from a long distance effort. Brodie was playing in an attacking midfield role just behind the front two of James D and Simba to form a creative, pacy and powerful front attacking unit. The opening 15 minutes or so were a real battle, both teams pressing the other hard and showing some great football when in possession and a willingness to attack whenever the opportunity arose. A few nearly moments for the Giants ended with good defending from the strong Phoenix centre half and it was obvious even this early that goals were going to be hard to come by. Elliot has been suffering with a broken arm and as such hadn't had much involvement in pre-season but we were delighted when he was declared available for this game and he entered the game looking ready to take that frustration out on the football pitch. Bertie found Simba near the left corner flag who turned brilliantly and drove across the by-line before pulling the ball back smartly to Elliot who managed to get to the ball a split second before the Phoenix defender and goalkeeper to sweep the ball into the far corner of the net, a great finish to an excellent set up, and the Giants had a valuable lead. Luca had also missed much of the pre-season but was soon up to speed when he came on, quickly reminding us of his excellent passing range and Olly put in an insane workload after taking on a wing back role him self, working tirelessly for the team, often off the ball but his defensive duties were exceptional. Bertie sprinted down the left wing and found James D who got a powerful shot off but the Phoenix keeper was right behind it, before Eddie fed Simba who showed outrageous ability to keepy-up the ball before striking a clean volley with the outside of his boot, only for the ball to crash back off the face of the post. Alf won the ball in the middle of the park, found Luca who produced a gorgeous pass for James D to strike, he hit it cleanly and well but had to take it quickly as he was being closed down and the effort flew over the bar. Half time came with the narrow lead in tact.

The second half saw much of the same, two well matched teams going at it but in the main both defences coming out on top. Keeper James continued to help himself to a very strong performance, intercepting a number of through balls and playing some great passes with his feet. At the other end of the pitch James D had a shot fly wide after being fed by Brodie, before Elliot provided another chance which was blocked. A cleared cross fell at the feet of Tom who fired in a good strike which whistled past the upright. As the game wore on so Phoenix came more and more forward, pressing hard for an equaliser, which is where Max, Owen and Jack P really came into their own, the three of them were immovable objects, winning countless tackles and headers to protect out small advantage. Despite the significant pressure Phoenix put us under, there were only two real moments of panic. The first came where their excellent striker latched on to a deflected pass and found himself 1v1 with James H, with the ball bouncing he cleverly went for the lob, James got finger tips to it to take the sting out of the ball and somehow Owen was able to launch himself with his (very long) outstretched leg and bicycle kick the ball off the line, incredible stuff. The second came when Phoenix did manage to get the ball into the net but thankfully the referee had spotted the quite obvious pulling back on Jack P's shirt as he went to clear the ball. There were no complaints from Phoenix as it was clear for all to see, but you always worry until the referee blows his whistle. The last 10 minutes seemed to last forever as the boys rolled up their sleeves and dug in against their talented opponents and there was a sense of relief when the final whistle blew.

A hugely competitive game against a very good team, that could have gone either way, our boys earning the points for their sheer doggedness and quality on the ball on this occasion, but we were left in no doubt that Phoenix Sports will continue to be a very strong team in this lead and we look forward to playing them again in just a few weeks. Well done to all the boys, but special mention has to be given to the three new boys, James D, Max and Owen who were all superb. 1 down, 23 to go..... and that is just league games!