Giants 2017 - 2018

Sunday 14th January 2018
Langton Giants 9 - 0 Greenway Aces
James D x5, Simba x2, Pepps, Eddie
Wow, what a performance!
Our second home game in a row saw us up against Greenway Aces who we had won a thrilling match against at the start of the season 3-2, thanks to a stunning winning goal from Simba with the last kick of the game. Last weeks superb win though had been followed by an excellent training session and the boys were looking confident from the off. Max had become the latest injury victim since last week with a fractured ankle, a big blow to the team given his recent performances and we wish him a speedy recovery, and this meant another rejig with the ever adaptable Bertie moving back into the back three to join Jack and Owen, the latter himself shaking off a knock to the head the previous day to make the game. To say these three were dominant throughout is an understatement. The tall, fast and physical strike force of Greenway were not given a chance as our three defensive titans completely took them out of the game. Behind them James H was in superb form, demonstrating a consistently high starting position to cut out a number of through balls before any danger came our way. All this gave our attacking players the platform to go out and express themselves, and boy did they. Some of the football on display was the best the Giants have ever produced as wave after wave of attacks rained down on the Greenway goal. The early signs were good, Alf going on a mazy run into the box and Luca firing narrowly over from distance. Brodie won the ball just over half way, fed Simba who held off a couple of defenders, the ball broke to Elliot who fed James D with a great cross that he fired home to give us the lead. Shots were raining in, Eddie was finding great space down the right hand side and was giving the Greenway left back nightmares, with the midfield three of Luca, Alf and Brodie in complete command over their counterparts. James D, Simba, Elliot and Luca all saw shots saved and Simba saw another effort go narrowly past the post. Ollie entered the game and it was immediately obvious that another week back under his belt had sharpened his game, putting in one of his finest ever performances for the Giants, he was sensational from the moment he came on the pitch, moving the ball, winning tackles and appearing to be all over the place. He picked up the ball from deep and started running, he beat one man, beat a second, a third and even a fourth before feeding a brilliant ball in behind the defence for James D to hit first time just wide across the goalkeeper. Never mind, moments later Ollie repeated the pass and this time James D hit the bottom corner perfectly and our lead was doubled. Given his knock yesterday we were looking at ways to stop Owen from having to head the ball, not easy to do given his physical attributes and desire to win the ball, so his coach was wincing when he stepped forward from defence to power two fantastic headers back down the pitch! No harm done though and clearly the knock hadn't done anything to hinder his outstanding performances, another faultless display from him, alongside the equally superb Jack and Bertie. Pepps went on a mazy run of his own, beating three tackles and earning the right to shoot from the edge of the box, well saved. More chances came and went but no addition to the score line before half time.
Although a great performance up until now, 2-0 is always a dangerous score line so it was important we carried on at the same level and that was the message at half time. The boys decided to completely ignore this message and not carry on at the same level but to up it significantly. Some of the football in the second half was mesmerising, one/two touch, fantastic movement, great communication and intelligence. I could write all day about it, and to describe all the chances created would break the internet but there were three moments that didn't end in goals that deserve a mention. A feint/dummy from Luca which left the poor Greenway left winger searching for the ball for several moments as our mercurial left footer danced away from him, and outrageous piece of skill from Alf that included a spin straight out of dancing on ice and a pass from Brodie that was a full 50 yards into the path of Simba that nobody else saw was on. Not happy with the aforementioned dummy, Luca also treated us to a moment of utter brilliance that did result in a goal. The ball came out to him some thirty yards out and we all expected him to strike it, he faked to do so, the defender bought it and jumped, Luca took it round him and glided round a second tackle before threading the perfect pass into James D to fire home with an excellent finish to get his, and our third goal, his second hatrick of the season and he wasn't done yet. Eddie won a throw in, Owen launched it in to the box for Alf to flick on with an intelligent guided header into the path of James D who performed an incredibly powerful header of his own into the roof of the net to secure his 4th. I'm not sure the Giants have ever scored a headed goal from a headed assist before, but I liked it! Luca then turned provider again, this time from a corner met again by the head of James D into the roof of the net and he unbelievably had all 5 of our goals. Alongside him, Simba had been working his socks off all game, making intelligent runs and holding the ball up superbly so it was only just that he got the next two. The first a brilliant burst of power and poise saw him charge through the middle of the Greenway defence and finish smartly, the second when he won the ball himself from a goal kick and slotted it under the outrushing goalkeeper. Brodie found Simba with another delicious pass, his shot beat the keeper and in charged Pepps to make sure at the far post, before Eddie fired home from close range after Elliot's corner had caused havoc. Greenway very nearly got a consolation, a powerful effort crashing back off the cross bar, with James H pulling off a stunning save from the rebounded effort. A great example of how switched on he'd been all game despite not having a huge amount to do.
A faultless display from the whole squad. Not only were they the better side but they worked significantly harder, were more focused and played like a team. Obviously a fantastic display of finishing from our front two and some eye catching brilliance from the midfielders, but never forget it was the goalkeeper and defenders who allowed this to happen, they were ridiculously good today and great credit to them. Well done all.
Sunday 7th January 2018
Langton Giants 3 - 1 Tonbridge Angels
Simba, James D, Jack Ponsford
Happy New Year!
After a difficult run of results in the previous few games, the Xmas break came at a good time for us it would appear, it gave us the chance to re-stock, a few players to return from injury and all of us to recharge our batteries somewhat. All of this undoubtedly contributed towards the best performance of the season by a distance, against our good friends and extremely talented Tonbridge Angels who sat 2nd in the table. We'd had two very difficult games against them last season and we knew we would have to put in a very good performance just to keep the game close.
Although still missing captain Tom through injury and in-form Elliot we were boosted by the return from injury of Brodie & Ollie, and we also welcomed Noah to join us again, who put in another excellent performance for us. We started well, very well in fact as we won a corner in the very first minute of the match. It was good to see us on the front foot, especially given as we were playing into the howling wind which would prove problematic for both teams throughout. We'd reverted to our powerful back three of Owen, Jack and Max who were magnificent, totally dominating the dangerous Angels front line. Eddie and Bertie were charging up and down the wings, with Luca, Alf and Brodie controlling the midfield and finding the front two of Simba and James D several times in the opening exchanges. Harry was in goal for this one, and was looking confident, showing good awareness to through balls and taking some very effective goal kicks despite the challenges the wind was causing. Both teams were playing some very good football, the intensity was high but at this stage both defences were mostly on top. Noah entered the fray and was quick to pounce on an errant pass, fend off a tackle and deliver a smart pass into Simba's feet. Simba very quickly turned the ball round the corner to strike-partner James D who beat a man then pulled the ball back to Simba. One touch to control with his right foot, then a sweet strike with his left to beat the despairing dive of the Angels keeper to give us a precious and deserved lead. It was so good to see Ollie join the action having missed the last 3 months with a broken jaw, and he was soon reminding us what a clever player he is. Managing to find space in behind the strikers on several occasions, from one of them he beat the Angels back line with an audacious chipped pass into the path of James D, the keeper came dashing out, James D lofted the ball up over his head but the goalie just managed to get his finger tips to it to stop us doubling our lead. Great pass, great effort, great save. Pepps was providing real energy when he'd entered and was soon winning the ball for us high up the pitch, something he is one of the best players in the league at, and after doing so then delivered a great through ball to send Simba away 1v1 but under great pressure from three defenders. He did superbly to hold them off and get a shot away but the sprawling keeper saved. More pressure from Peps saw him pounce on a loose ball and then great dragged down, penalty. He took it himself, hit the target but the keeper pulled off a great save, tipping the ball up onto the cross bar and away from danger. 
So we'd had three great chances to double our lead, which was a little frustrating but we also knew that Harry had been called upon very rarely and we were more than matching our high flying opponents, so no need to worry when half time came. The Angels are too good a team not to respond so it came as no great surprise when they came out looking more focused in the second half, and we were grateful to our defensive stalwarts for not bending under pressure. Time and time again one of them got a last ditch tackle in, blocked a shot or cleared dangerous balls. Harry was required to make a couple of saves from distance and his handling was faultless throughout, but generally he remained relatively untroubled. Bertie and Eddie were overlapping one minute, tracking back the next, so it was great to be able to rotate them with Noah, Pepps and Ollie at times to give them a well deserved breather. Not content with just defending superbly, Jack P decided to go on one of his barnstorming runs, beating a number of tackles, going from our penalty box to the edge of theirs, he looked up and realised his best bet was to shoot and he let fly with an excellent effort that was well saved by the Angels keeper. As it turned out this was just a teaser of more to come. Brodie was now pulling the strings in the middle, passing and probing and looking to create, safely underpinned by Luca and Alf who were both having outstanding games in the CDM roles, utterly dominating that area of the pitch. Alf strode forward into space and delivered the pass of the day inside the right full back and suddenly James D was in, albeit at a bit of an angle but a fantastic strike was more than good enough to send the ball rasping into the back of the net and we were 2 up. Still there could be no relaxing though, Angels kept coming and the next goal was theirs, and what a goal it was. Their main striker stepping inside and sending a brilliant shot from the edge of the box in off the underside of the cross bar. Nothing anyone could have done about it but it halved our lead and still a good 15 minutes to go. There was no hanging on, no parking of the bus or anything like that, the boys carried on playing their football and fought for everything, winning most tackles and charging forward whenever we could. Then we were treated to a real Jack special. Winning a tackle on the edge or our box he started to move through the gears as player after player bounced off him, this took him all the way into their box and he managed to get enough on the shot for the ball to go under the dive of the keeper and lodge into the back of the net. A brilliant individual goal and our precious 2 goal cushion was reinstated. The last 5 mins were seen out without too many dramas, Max and Owen saw to that with more outstanding defending and Noah won countless tackles just in front of them and showed great discipline along side Alf in the closing minutes.
A great way to start the new year, a belated Xmas present and three points all wrapped up in one. Well done boys, lets build on this.

Sunday 3rd December 2017
Larkfield 3 - 2 Langton Giants
Elliot, Noah
The latest journey for the Giants saw us travel to Larkfield (any chance we can have a home game soon please - that's 7 of the last 8 being away!) who are in a confident mood following a very fine run of results recently. Our injury list continued to grow, Pepps rolling his ankle midweek to rule him out and Brodie's knee getting worse in the warm up which meant there would be no cameo role from him this week either. With Alf missing too, we were relieved that Noah was able to join us which at least meant we were able to field 11, albeit with no subs on a big pitch. Despite these less than perfect preparations, the boys put on superb display of football and left the boys scratching their heads as to how they came away with nothing. We started on top, Noah won a big tackle in the middle of the pitch and found Simba who in turn immediately found James D to skip past the final defender and hit a powerful and accurate effort which was parried by the goal keeper. Larkfield fought back, put heavy pressure on Owen who dealt with it brilliantly and found keeper James H who calmly cleared his lines despite the ball bobbling nastily on the pitch and being closed down. He was then called upon to make a very good save at his near post. Max and Luca were in the middle with Noah, Elliot and Eddie on the wings, Owen joined by Jack and the returning Bertie at the back. A challenging ball was sent over by Larkfiled which caused some confusion at the back and they were awarded a corner. The ball was never properly cleared, was headed back goal wards and despite the efforts of Eddie and James H on the line the ball was poked home. A very disappointing goal to concede against the run of play but a long way to go. The boys were soon back on the front foot, Elliot lofted a high cross which Simba met with a sumptuous first time volley from the penalty spot, showing top class technique to hit the target, but unfortunately the keeper gathered, fantastic effort though. Eddie skipped past a couple of challenges and delivered an excellent cross which Simba got to but was under a lot of pressure, his first time effort being partially blocked and looping up into the hands of the grateful keeper. Just as a it felt like we were about to get back on level terms disaster struck, a through ball caught us out and suddenly we are 2 nil down. The boys reacted well, Owen winning the ball and then going on a brilliant charge forward, weaving through tackles and having the awareness to thread the perfect ball inside the full back to play James D in 1v1 at an angle, again the shot was true and on target, again though the keeper saved well. More pressure on the Larkfield goal, Elliot and Luca linking up to find James D with his back to goal, a clever spin, a clean strike..... another save! Max won a tackle and released Simba, his shot from 10 yards very well saved again by the goalkeeper. Bertie strode forward and fed James D down the left channel, his first time cross being cleared to Max who struck it first time, a deflection taking it agonisingly the wrong side of the post. That typifies how things are dropping for the Giants at the moment, on another day that nestles in the bottom corner but it's not meant to be recently. To make matters worse the ball deflected off our own player so we didn't even get a corner! We did get a corner soon after though thanks to a searching ball from Luca confusing their defenders. Elliot delivered it, it wasn't properly cleared and Owen hit a great effort with his left foot narrowly wide. 
As we traipsed off at half time, even the Larkfield coach said he couldn't believe they were 2 nil up! Things very nearly got worse early in the second half when Larkfiled were awarded a penalty. It may well have been a penalty, I couldn't see through the throng of players between the ball and me, so it was impressive how the referee was able to do so with the same view, well done to him. Matter not though, the penalty missed the target and no harm was done. Noah and Luca continued to work their socks off in the middle of the pitch, both putting in excellent performances which allowed us to push forward, something we did consistently. A change in formation saw us have more presence up the pitch and we were playing most of the game in the Larkfield half but were struggling to get close to the goal. That nearly became not an issue when James D struck an outrageous volleyed first time effort from distance that the keeper did very well to dive and save, the same result moments later when Max struck a powerful effort on target from a direct free kick. Jack went on one of his surging runs forward, opposition players being left in his wake, and let fly with an excellent low shot right towards the far corner, only to be denied by the outstretched hand of the diving goal keeper. As we pushed forward, inevitably there was the occasional scare at the back, James H making a very good save at his near post, but had no chance when a bobbling shot from inside the box found the bottom corner  and we somehow found ourselves 3 nil down. Most teams at this point would have given up, felt it just wasn't their day and waited for the final whistle, particularly given the fact they were knackered and haven't had a lot of luck in recent weeks. What happened in the last 10 minutes of the game though should give the boys an enormous boost as rather than reacting like that, they simply worked even harder. They were charging round the pitch, pressuring the ball, feeling hard done by but channelling that into attacking football. We won a succession of corners, one from Max was cleared, Luca firing it back in with a clean strike, again saved. Then finally the break we needed, Max and James D creating the chance for Elliot to burst into the penalty box and slot his second goal in a week in past the keeper with his right foot (again!). We grabbed the ball, sprinted back for the kick-and were ready to go-forward again. Bertie was overlapping superbly from left back the whole second half and somehow was still finding the energy to do so this late on. Elliot found him, he pulled it back to James D who knocked it into the path of Noah, charging into the box from defensive midfield to fire home with a powerful finish. 3-2 down, with only injury time remaining, again we sprinted back to kick off, with Larkfield visibly rattled. They kicked off, we won the ball, the ball went forward but as soon as it did a yellow piece of cloth was seen to be fluttering in the wind on the far side of the pitch. What was it? It can't possibly have been a linesman's flag given the 6 Larkfield players some 3 or 4 yards ahead of any Langton player who were barely even in their half yet (the Larkfield players being on the edge of their box!).... but apparently it was. As it happens, given how far behind the ball we were, we were never getting anywhere near the through ball, but it is still extremely disappointing to witness such behaviour from an adult in a kids game of football, and certainly wasn't in keeping with the general level of respect shown between the two teams and coaches whenever we play Larkfield, they're good people and the bottom line is we lost this game due to our first half errors, not because of officials.
Still, the boys can be feeling good about the way they finished this game and generally played throughout, it was our best performance for a number of weeks and we thoroughly deserved something from the game, but football does this to you, especially at the moment. One more game next week before a much needed fesitive break, lets hope lady luck is shining down on us this time and lots of home games to look forward too !

Sunday 26th November 2017
Sevenoaks Town 2 - 1 Langton Giants
Another Sunday, another tough game, it's what this league is all about. Today we travelled to Sevenoaks Town to play on a fantastic surface, almost certainly the best grass pitch we will play on all season. It is also fair to say that it will probably be the smallest, something which lead to a very congested contest with both teams struggling for long periods to find space. With captain Tom being the latest to join the injury list, we were grateful to see Eddie sprinting across the pitch to join us. It meant at least we had a fit 11 to start the match, with the hope Brodie could give us a cameo appearance off the bench too. The Giants started on top, moving the ball swiftly across the slick surface, the ball being set back for Elliot to shoot from distance but wide. The short pitch meant Max's goal kicks were an obvious threat and James D latched straight onto one and hit it cleanly with a first time volley, also wide, but this all helped us to a positive start. Joining Max at the back were the always superb Jack and Owen in front of the in-form James H in goal. Alf and Luca were showing excellent positional discipline just in front of them. Pepps broke down the right, hit a great cross field ball to James D, the ball squirted loose to Eddie who delivered into the box, Simba fought hard for the ball, his initial effort blocked but the ball fell near the penalty spot to Elliot in space who fired accurately into the bottom corner with his right foot to give us a deserved lead. We suffered an immediate scare though when an unfortunate slip allowed the Sevenoaks winger in who fired a powerful effort goal ward, but James H pulled off an excellent save to parry the ball around the post. The corner was defended strongly, as they were throughout (including an alert Eddie clearing a direct delivery off the line!) which was a great sign of improvement against a team who had caused us major problems from set pieces last time out, Brodie came on to give his team mates a much needed breather as the pace of the game was proving relentless. As we pushed forward looking for a second for the only time in the half we were dragged a little out of position, this was just enough to give the main Sevenoaks threat enough space to stride forward and fire a very good shot across the face of goal and in-off the post, giving James no chance, and the score was level. We were close to reclaiming the lead moments later, Brodie feeding the ball through to James D who was quickly closed down but won us a corner. Elliot swung a great ball in, Simba met it and beat the keeper but not the defender who was on the close, but not to be and 1-1 at half time it was.
We talk a lot before matches and at training about the need to be switched on for every minute in this league, there can be no loss in concentration or you get punished. Unfortunately we got a painful reminder of this lesson within seconds of the restart. Sevenoaks best player was allowed to drive deep into our penalty box without challenge and loft a dinked chip to the back post where another Sevenoaks attacker was allowed to run in unchallenged and head home from point blank range. Whereas the first goal conceded was just a really good goal, this was a very soft goal to concede and was clearly as a result of us not being mentally ready to restart after the break. It is a shame as for the other 69 minutes today we defended superbly. With Sevenoaks now having a lead to protect, in a tight space to defend, it was not a great position to find ourselves in, but there was still lots of time to get back into the match. Pepps delivered a corner that went over everyone's head except one, the lad at the back post who headed the ball off the line at the very last second. James D saw a shot well saved from an angle, Simba nearly burst through twice but denied by last ditch tackles. Sevenoaks were playing on the counter and were dangerous, twice James H being called upon to make smart saves, once down low and one that took a wicked deflection which required James to show great agility to keep out. Sevenoaks sensibly pushed their star man back into defensive duties to further lock things down. Brodie and Luca tried to thread the needle but Sevenoaks stood firm. A tactical switch saw Alf move to right back, and it was from there he went on a superb mazy run through several challenges and slipped the ball into James D's path who hit the ball cleanly but the keeper claimed. Try as we might we just couldn't find our way through to snatch an equaliser. 
An excellent game of football between two well matched teams. We pinched the cup game between us earlier in the season by a single goal, they got this one, we go again against them in January on our bigger pitch, so a chance to 'win the series' so to speak. It felt like we didn't deserve to lose today, things aren't quite dropping our way at the moment, but we will bounce back, we always do.

Sunday 19th November 2017
Ebbsfleet United 7 - 0 Langton Green
Oh dear.
Ebbsfleet United are the biggest club in our league, tending to be the strongest team in most age groups too, and are certainly that in our league. They've only ever lost one league game (that was to us.... ahem) and sit top of the division this season having won it at a canter last year. When boys drop out of academies, Ebbsfleet tends to be their first port of call and it shows, they're a step above everyone else in the division.
So..... we knew we were in for the toughest of days and so it proved. We were also missing three players in Ollie, Eddie and Bertie which meant Brodie had to take his place on the bench even though he is far from match fit with an on-going knee injury, so we were once again grateful to Noah for coming to help us out. Ebbsfleet started off on top, firing over the bar from a pulled back cross and then Harry making himself big and made a smart save when facing the excellent Ebbsfleet striker 1 v1. We started to grow though, with Owen, Jack and Max winning tackles, with Noah and Elliot mopping up on the wings. Luca was able to return after missing the last three matches with a knee injury and joined Alf and Tom in the midfield. Alf won a tackle and found Luca, his raking ball playing James D in, he fired in a firm shot that was blocked, the ball falling to Simba to strike well but just wide. Within 2 minutes of this great chance to take a lead we were 2 nil down. The first goal was unstoppable as Ebbsfleet played some great build up football and then unleashed a deadly strike into the bottom corner. The second goal was poor from us, indecisiveness in our penalty box allowing them to bundle in a second. Pepps and Brodie came on, the former charging down the wing and introducing a new energy, the latter helping us retain more possession and with Max moving forward into midfield we were attacking more as the half went on. From one of Max's runs James D was given an opportunity to shoot, saved and Simba showed great footwork and vision to pick out his strike partner but denied by a good tackle. At the other end Harry was required to make two smart saves from distance to keep the deficit as 2 nil at half time.
The second half was a very difficult period for us, the big pitch was taking its toll on tired legs and the way Ebbsfleet moved the ball meant a lot of chasing shadows. Sadly Tom picked up an injury when making a goal line clearance and Brodie's knee injury flared up and had to depart proceedings. With no subs to call upon things just got harder. Jack P drove us forward on a number of occasions, with several barn storming runs from the back, one of which resulted in him hitting a great effort just inches past the post. Harry made several notable saves and all the boys ran their socks off. Noah was pressing the Ebbslfeet defenders from the middle, Pepps and Elliot doing likewise from the wings, with Alf and Luca working hard to stem the tide of Ebbsfleet attacks. The goals came though, despite the best efforts of the boys, with Owen, Jack and Max winning numerous tackles, Ebbsfleet just had too much quality for tired legs to cope with.
Naturally the boys were disappointed at the end, but in reality they knew they'd been beaten by a better side, the best side in our age group and there is no shame in that, and they weren't lacking in effort, all them looking shattered at the end. A tough day, harsh lessons were given out, hopefully they'll be learned.

Sunday 12th November 2017
Whyteleafe 0 - 2 Langton Giants
James D, Owen
A familiar opponent today as we faced Whyteleafe for the second time in 7 days and again came away with a 2 goal advantage and again safe in the knowledge that without an astonishing goal keeping display the score line would have been a lot heavier. Having lost Eddie to the ever growing injury list (joining Luca and Ollie) and Brodie suffering from a reoccurrence of a knee problem, leaving him limited to a cameo appearance as our only sub, numbers were a little thin on the ground. Jack P, Owen and Bertie resumed the defensive three duties and were in total command throughout, ensuring the only threat to James H in goal was the biting cold. That said, keeper James put in an excellent performance in terms of having a high starting position which stopped opportunities developing on several occasions, and dealing comfortably with back passes to his feet, ensuring we kept the ball. There was no immediate goal this week but there was immediate domination of possession and territory with the midfield trio of Alf, Tom and Max wining tackles, passing smartly and driving the team forward. Tom found striker James D on the edge of the box for a quick strike which went narrowly wide before a cleared ball fell at the feet of Elliot who set the ball for Alf to strike from the edge of the box, it looked like it was sneaking in the far corner but the finger tips of the goalie kept it out. Pepps won the ball, beat his defender and found Simba who set the ball back to the feet of Alf who pulled out a superb ball to split the defence and set James D in on goal, 1v1. James struck the ball well and accurately but the goalkeeper saved superbly, then scrambled back up to somehow keep out the strikers second goal bound effort. If that double save was brilliant, the next one was just unbelievable. Pepps and Simba again working well together, the ball swung in and met by an excellent firm header from James D that somehow the keeper tipped  round the post from point blank range which left everyone shaking their heads. Our attacking play at this stage was very good, Brodie had entered the game and was soon pulling the strings, moving the ball quickly and creating space which allowed Max to go on his trademark charges forward, one of these saw a partially cleared ball land at the feet of Bertie, his effort going over the bar before Max found James D, who again hit the target but was again denied by a good save. Just as the lack of a goal was starting to get irritating a breakthrough, and it came as no surprise that it came from another outstanding pass from Alf who, along with skipper Tom, was having a brilliant game in the middle of the park. This pass was perfectly weighted and angled, taking out the defensive back line and tempting the keeper off his line perfectly, James D received the ball and was able to get passed the keeper with a good first touch and then slot the ball into the unguarded net with his right foot, a high quality goal. Just before half time Max had a free kick go inches wide and then had a left footed effort saved from the edge of the box.
1 up at half time, we knew it should be more, but the performance was good. The back three remained imperious, Jack P dominating the Whyteleafe striker throughout and charging forward whenever the opportunity arose. Pepps was working his socks off on the right, charging back to clear up a possible threat, win the ball and set us away on another attack. Elliot was running at the Whyteleafe defence and linking up well with Simba and James D, some of the attacking play being a joy to behold. For all this though whilst the lead stayed at a single goal, the win remained at risk. So it was a great relief when Pepps and Owen repeated their trick from last week. The former crossing a corner perfectly for the latter to head home and double our lead. A great example of quality delivery being met by a determined attacker. This settled things down, Brodie came back on and between him , Alf and Tom we continued to play some lovely interplay and keep ball for long periods. Simba nearly scored when his spinning shot nearly caught the keeper out from distance, but he managed to tip it onto the cross bar and in the closing minutes Simba was undone by the smallest of deflections when played in by Alf, and James D lofted the ball over the keeper but wide after Pepps created the chance with a forceful run and clever pass.
So somewhat under manned and up against a very good keeper, but all in all a comfortable victory which never really looked in doubt once we'd taken the lead and some excellent football on display. Well done boys! 

Sunday 5th November 2017

Langton Giants 3 - 1 Whyteleafe
Simba, Pepps, Owen

 It’s the annual match report from 30,000 feet as the Giants manager jets off to Barcelona for a scouting mission (or is it a quite tedious IT conference, I can never remember?). After a brutal October, November couldn't come soon enough and the priority had to be three points against bottom of the table Whyteleafe. Bottom they might be, but they proved to be a solid opponent who were far better equipped than their results suggest (having been on the end of a distasteful score line last week - bitten hard by half-term absentees).

To say things started well is an understatement as we scored probably our fastest goal ever, Simba calmly poking home after about 20 seconds of play after the Whyteleafe goalkeeper had parried James D hard hit and accurate first effort. James D then had a firm shot charged down, the rebound coming back to him but over the bar it went. Brodie then fed Simba who set James D for another powerful effort over the bar as we dominated the opening exchanges in terms of possession and territory. When Whyteleafe did try and break out, in stepped one of Owen, Jack or Bertie, the back three to win the ball back, that's assuming they'd managed to find their way past the midfield trio of Tom, Max and Brodie first. In at attacking line up, Pepps and Elliot were deployed as wing backs and were constantly pushing the Whyteleafe full backs back as we pushed forward. Through all this James H was looking confident in goal with a good high starting position. Alf came on in the middle and was quickly setting the ball back for Brodie to strike on the edge of the box, but the effort was charged down. Eddie was a welcome returnee after missing the last two games and was soon on at right wing back reminding us what we'd been missing. One moment of danger when the Whyteleafe left winger sent over a dangerous cross to try and find his team mate at the back post, but James H claimed the cross calmly and then distributed quickly, setting Elliot away, the counter attack broke down initially but then Elliot was able to set it back for Tom to hit from distance, but another effort over the bar. From the goal kick though out pressure won the ball back high up the pitch, Max winning the ball and setting James D to hit, this one on target but well saved. Bertie won a free kick, Max swept it in, Simba set it for Pepps to strike which brought out an excellent stop from the Whyteleafe keeper with his outstretched right foot at the near post. Alf made a good run off the ball, Brodie found him and as he entered the box was felled by a late tackle to win a clear penalty. Up stepped a ridiculously calm and collected Pepps to pass the ball into the back of the net from the spot to double our lead.

Although a couple of goals to the good and having already missed a number of chances, we knew we weren’t playing anywhere near to our potential and 2 nil is always a dangerous score line. Thankfully with James H, Jack, Owen, Bertie and Tom all look assured at the back we hadn’t really had any heart-in-mouth moments bar from one free kick awarded in a dangerous position, which was blocked by our well organised wall. The intention for the second half was to push on, not sit back, and to put them under pressure. Whyteleafe swapped goalkeepers at half time and the lad that came on helped himself to a very impressive performance. It started when Elliot won us a free kick on the left hand side of the penalty box, Brodie swung a great ball in that Max met with a firm header, superbly saved.  Max then went on a storming run and played in James D 1v1 which brought out another excellent save from the new Number 1 who was just getting started. Owen fed James D with an excellent pass, this effort slipping wide whilst under pressure before James D turned creator, crossing for Simba who was denied at point blank range on the goal line by a desperate defender who didn’t really know much about it! James D again, this time from Elliot’s intelligent ball, this one missing the far post by inches after the goalie had closed the angle quickly. For all this attacking play, we just couldn’t find the final touch, it wasn’t for the want of trying or for the lack of clever interplay and running off the ball from the attacking players. For all the time the score remained 2 nil though there could be no relaxing. Once the Whyteleafe attackers managed to breach our defence, but were denied by a very good save from our own super talented keeper James H, who parried a powerful shot round the post. Annoyingly from the resulting corner our old achilles heel appeared again and the ball was bundled home at the back post to halve our lead. Suddenly a match that, despite not being at our best, we has completely dominated in terms of chances was suddenly very much in the balance. James D almost reinstated our lead immediately, Simba finding him and the ball being absolutely leathered goalwards, somehow the keeper got the very end of his finger tips to the ball and it was just enough to send the ball crashing against the face of the cross bar and away to safety. Elliot won us another free kick, Max hitting it brilliantly, dipping over the wall but again somehow saved right down at the near post as it was about to cross the line. James D broke into the box thanks to a good ball from Eddie after Alf had won the ball high up the pitch, his cross-shot missing the far post and Simba’s outstretched right foot by inches. Still we pushed forward, despite the concern at the narrow lead, at no point did Whyteleafe actually look like equalising, but the risk was still there. Two more times James D was through but denied by unbelievable goalkeeping, once with a very smart clipped finish that the keepers right hand flew up to block and another driven effort that took two firm hands to push round the post. From the resulting corner, Pepps swung a brilliant corner in which was met by an even more brilliant header from Owen, the ball flying back across the goal into the far corner for his first goal for the Giants, and one he’s thoroughly deserved given his consistently outstanding performances for the team since joining at the start of the season. With only a few minutes to go we could breathe a little easier, creating yet more chances but none were able to be taken.

Credit to Whyteleafe, they’ve had a difficult initiation into this league but they played some very good football today, especially in the first half, and will improve dramatically as the season goes on I’m sure. Although far from at our best, an important win for the boys and one that was totally deserved.

Sunday 29th October 2017
Ashford United 4 -1 Langton Giants
Our extremely challenging October somehow got even harder today, and in the main, brought out the best in the boys. The latest mountain to climb came in the form of an outstanding Ashford United team in the illustrious surroundings of their wonderful stadium. It's not every week you get to use changing rooms that have full physio set up in them, walk out through a players tunnel and are treated to sunken dug outs (mind your head Elliot!). With our opponents having racked up 31 goals and only conceded 1 in their last five matches we knew we had to be at our very best today to compete, and were missing the talents of Luca, Eddie and Ollie but were again bolstered by Noah's second appearance in a row. The game plan was to start solid and keep things tight, recognising our opponents would be full of attacking confidence, and that's exactly what we did. Owen, Jack P and Max were in fantastic form, with Alf and Tom in front of them proving to be a great protective barrier and Bertie and Noah providing defence on the wings. Not only though did we prove to be solid, we also showed very early on just how well we can use the ball, producing some mesmerising football to deliver perhaps the best team goal we've ever scored (given the opponents and setting). Max won a tackle on the edge of our box, and found Bertie, he found Brodie who first time sent James D sprinting away down the left wing and he delivered a peach of a cross which Simba steamed into receive and fire home past the stranded goal keeper to open the scoring after 5 minutes. Back-to-front, 5 players, 5 touches, 1 brilliant goal and a precious lead. Such a good goal, the Ashford coaching staff gave the boys a round of applause. Harry was between the sticks this weekend and was called upon to make a smart low save from a free kick that was awarded on the edge of our box. The tall, physical and fast Ashford striker was proving to be a real handful, but Jack P was doing a brilliant job of making life as difficult as possible for him, with Owen and Max both performing defensive miracles to keep their talented strike force at bay. Elliot and Pepps came on, the former going very close to releasing Simba with pretty much his first touch and the latter steaming forward to support the strikers at every opportunity. A clearance ricocheted into the path of the Ashford striker and meant we were out of shape allowing him to bear down on the goal and finish smartly into the bottom corner, giving Harry no chance and the game was level. Moments later though we came so close to reinstating our lead. Noah won the ball, fed Simba who helped it onto James D who was through 1v1 but under pressure from a recovering defender. Our talented striker did everything right, making a good connection and hitting the target but was denied by an excellent save. The ball came back to Bertie who fired it back goal wards but his effort was blocked by a defender. James D had another shot, created for him by Brodie's clever pass, this one saved from the edge of the box, which brought a breathless first half to a close with the score deservedly equal.
The conversation at halt time was how, despite the level of possession in our half Ashford had enjoyed, keeper Harry had only been called upon a couple of times and what a great job we'd done as a team to make that the case. Alf and Tom were running themselves into the ground, battling and tackling like mad as they desperately tried to keep up with their bigger, quicker opponents in the middle of the park. Ashford upped their game even further and we were soon behind, a fantastic strike from a good 35 yards ripped into the  
top corner, one of those goals you really can't do a lot about. James D had a great effort from distance of his own but it cleared the bar after Noah had found him with a very good ball. Elliot won us a corner with a good run, Bertie swung it in and Jack P met it with a firm header downwards, but straight into the body of the grateful goalkeeper. All this meant we were still firmly in the contest and remained so until 15 minutes to go, where for perhaps the only time in the game, we switched off for a second at the back post and the quality of the cross-field ball was good enough to punish us as it was met with an excellent soft volleyed lob to extend Ashford's lead. It was galling to then see yet another 35 yard screamer hit the top corner to give Ashford an extra cushion and it felt hard on the boys who'd given everything. With 10 minutes to go many teams would have given up and Ashford would probably have run up another cricket score, but not these boys, they kept going right to the final whistle and were actually unlucky not to get at least one goal back. Simba set James D who showed his developing awareness to play Elliot in at the back post with a superb ball, from a tight angle Elliot brought an excellent save out from the Ashford goalkeeper before Max strode forward, played a clever 1-2 with Brodie but his rasping drive was just inches over the bar.
No doubt about it, Ashford were one of the best sides we've ever faced and on this showing will continue to score heavily throughout the season. On another day those long distance efforts go over and this was a tighter score line, but that's the way the football gods are going for us at the moment. We knew at the start of October that this was going to be a brutally tough month, and so it has proven results wise, but the boys have competed throughout and played some superb football and most importantly of all, will have learned an immense amount that will serve them well as the season progresses.

Sunday 22nd October 2017
Reader & Phillips Challenge Cup 2nd Round (KYL League Cup)
Hastings United 3 - 2 Langton Green (After Extra Time - 2-2 at f/t)
Noah, og
Another cup game this week, this time an early start on the blustery south coast against KYL South Division league leaders Hastings United who have been enjoying a 100% winning record to date, so we knew for the umpteenth week in a row we were facing up against very strong and confident opposition. With it being the first Sunday of the school half-term holiday we were understandably missing a few players which was only made worse by poor Ollie having his head mistaken for a Rugby ball in the week which resulted in him needing surgery to repair two breaks. We wish him a speedy recovery! These omissions were countered though by being joined by Jack H and Noah, both of whom have helped us out in these circumstances before and both of whom put in superb performances for us once again. A colour clash saw us take the field in yellow, and for the first 15 minutes or so it felt like we hadn't realised this as we struggled to not give the ball to our white kitted opponents who dominated the early possession. For all that though, we stood firm and defended well. Max, Jack and Tom were the back three, who along with wing-backs Bertie and Noah, were doing a very good job of keeping the Hastings attack at bay. They had a very fast and tricky right winger though who did manage to get his way through on a few occasions and soon required James to dive to intercept a dangerous low cross, smart goalkeeping made even better by holding onto the ball as the striker was bearing down looking for any spillage. One major positive today was our defending of corners, usually our Achilles heal, well today we must have faced 6 or 7 and cleared them all with minimum drama. The first we faced perhaps set the tone, a high curling ball swept over everyone's head but wing-back Noah did his job properly and cleared the ball off the line. James H was then required to make a smart low save from distance as we were fighting to get a foothold in the contest. Slowly though we did, Alf and Luca were starting to get some joy in the middle of the park and a couple of times the front two were nearly played in on the counter attack. Jack P won a big tackle and fed Noah who delivered a great ball into the feet of Simba who showed great awareness to set the ball for Brodie to strike from the edge of the box, his effort just missing the target. Simba again, this time coming in from the right and playing in strike partner James D who shot wide when a little off balance. The game was back and forth, Jack H and Pepps had come on and were both performing very well in the wing back positions and James H was required to make two great saves, one from distance and one low down from point blank range to keep the score level. Bertie found Jack H down the left wing who rode a physical challenge brilliantly and delivered an excellent cross which Brodie connected with well but wide. For once though we switched off, somehow a Hastings player was allowed to receive the ball, turn, take a touch and shoot without challenge but it was still a good 35 yards out so lets take nothing away from the breath taking strike which gave James H no chance in goal. An excellent finish, but we knew we should have closed him down. We didn't have to wait long for the perfect response though, when, after a ball was cleared from the Hastings box, Noah fired back in a stunning strike of his own which matched the quality of the Hastings goal, right into the top corner from similar distance. In the closing moments of the half though we very nearly conceded another, so were grateful to Jack H for showing great awareness to dart across from his left wing back position to get a last ditch tackle in when it seemed certain Hastings would score.
1-1 at half time then with a worldy each, testament to an excellent half of football, something only bettered in the second half as the two sides put on a great advert for youth football, a proper hammer & tongs cup tie! End to end stuff throughout, you couldn't take your eyes off it for a minute as both teams looked for the win. James H was again called into action early in the second half, making himself big at the far post after the Hastings winger had gone on a fantastic run, our keeper denying him though with an outstanding save, again from point blank range. As we pushed forward in response the ball appeared to be handled by a Hasting player in the middle of the pitch, the referee put the whistle to his lips but then changed his mind and suddenly Hastings were on the counter attack. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to stop a good cross being met by a smart finish and once again we found ourselves behind. Jack P went on one of his trademark runs, beating several with his pace and leaving several more in a crumpled heap on the floor with his power, his pass finding Simba who shot quickly under pressure, well saved down low. Max saw two well struck free kicks just miss the target and James D saw a powerful effort charged down. Pepps was proving to be a real pain in Hastings side, pressuring their defenders and running at them with menace throughout, whilst also showing great discipline by tracking back when required too. Alf, Tom and Luca were all putting in great shifts in the middle of the park, throwing themselves into tackles and trying to push the team forward. There was no lack of quality on the ball either, and the best example came when Luca hit one of his special deliveries with a sumptuous ball inside the full back which gave James D the chance to sprint onto the ball and fire a fiercely dangerous shot goalwards that the Hastings keeper somehow managed to tip onto the cross bar, but the ball bounced back in off the defender as Simba was sprinting in looking for the follow up. 2-2 with less than 5 minutes to go. Bertie won a big and important tackle against the tricky right winger, played a one-two with Jack H who swept the ball across to Brodie, a neat little trick and he was in enough space to try a slide rule pass into the path of Simba who was just denied receiving the ball by the outstretched leg of the outstanding Hastings centre half.
The final whistle blew at 2-2. Most weeks we'd be walking off shaking hands with our opposition agreeing we'd both deserved something from an excellent game of football and happy with a point..... but this being a cup match meant we were awarded another 10 minutes of extra time. I think it is fair to say that we'd got stronger as the game has gone on, and this remained the case in extra time as we appeared to be the team most likely to find a winner. Alf fired a cleared ball back at goal but saved, Luca very nearly found Simba again and Max delivered another couple of dangerous free kicks which just wouldn't fall to the right coloured shirt.  There was only one moment of panic at this stage, a Hastings counter attack which required Noah to get his second goal line clearance to his name. Then came the three moments which decided the game. Firstly, Max took another free kick and again delivered it superbly, James D and Jack P both launching themselves to within inches of the ball just a couple of feet from goal. If either of them had 1 size bigger feet we win the game. Then Bertie delivered a dangerous corner which James D did brilliantly to leap and meet with a firm header on the six yard box, but his powerful header flew just past the post. From the resulting free kick the ball was sent long, took a wicked bounce which allowed the striker to get to the ball in-between defenders and goalkeeper, loop it over James H's head and run through to score a heart breaking winning goal. Galling. 
Understandably, the boys were gutted, they'd given so much to the match and it felt a harsh way to lose after such a great performance. Disappointment aside though, this was an outstanding game of football between two excellent teams that were well matched and it was played in a great spirit throughout. We wish Hastings the best of luck in the rest of the competition and for the rest of their season. We don't do man-of-the-match awards, but if we did, James H in goal would thoroughly deserve it, he was outstanding throughout. Special mention also for Noah and Jack H, both of whom proved to be great additions to the team today, well done boys.

Sunday 15th October 2017
Phoenix Sports 2 - 1 Langton Green
Jack Ponsford
The tough games are coming thick and fast at the moment and today was never likely to be any different against the team we are most closely matched with in our league, the very accomplished Phoenix Sports. We had managed to edge the home fixture by a solitary goal after enjoying two 3-3 draws with the last season. Today we were shorn of the attacking talents of top scorer James and fellow striker Pepps which meant we had to shuffle things about a bit, but were boosted by the return of Max, albeit to the substitutes bench initially. To say we started on the back foot is an understatement as Phoenix were dominant all over the pitch, our buys not at the races for some reason. We were second best in every tackle, our passing was inaccurate and movement not effective enough. Somehow though, despite a very poor opening half a hour the score remained level, thanks in no small part to an outstanding goalkeeping display from Harry. He was required to make several big saves and deal with a number of crosses, one of which he took despite getting clattered to the ground for his efforts, but the highlight was a stunning finger tip save onto the cross bar from a ferocious shot from a cleared corner. Our other major issue was the giving away of free kicks in dangerous positions, no less than SIX in the first half, one of which brought out another superb save from Harry down low to his right. Despite our disappointing performance we did see the odd glimpse of the team we can be, twice denied by a very 'keen' linesman (his right arm will be very tired this evening) and a very good shout for a penalty when Simba was upended by the Phoenix goalkeeper. All that said though, anything we got at this stage would have been firmly against the run of play and when Phoenix opened the scoring 5 minutes before the break it was thoroughly deserved. Still disappointing though to concede from yet another corner after we'd improved in this area in the last couple of weeks. Then things got worse, in injury time another corner was given away and although we cleared the initial ball on this occasion, we failed to clear the danger completely and another cross was delivered, this one headed home at the back post, meaning we went in 2 down at the half.
All the boys knew their performance in the first half was nowhere near good enough at this level, we were very lucky to only be two goals adrift and things needed to change. The first change was to revert back to our preferred formation, despite the lack of strikers available, with Elliot moving up to give Simba some support. The second, and far more important change though came from the boys themselves. They knew that if they carried on as they were for the first half they could easily end up on the end of an embarrassing score line and this wasn't something they were prepared to do. They were like a different team from the off, crunching into tackles, passing the ball more accurately, being more vocal and smarter by not giving away free kicks in dangerous positions and it worked, we were on top. Bertie won the ball and fed Brodie who skipped inside his defender but outside the box and let fly, his effort being well saved. Then Max had two free kicks saved, both rocket shots and both too hard for the keeper to hold onto, the second one being followed in by Jack P but his effort going over the bar. Now we were creating chances and looking dangerous. Elliot and Simba were starting to link up well, with Eddie and Bertie giving us width, allowing Brodie, Luca and Tom to start moving the ball intelligently in the midfield. Now with our more accustomed back three of Owen, Jack and Max in situ we were looking more solid defensively too. Elliot was felled near the edge of the box, Brodie's free kick lofting just over the bar as we were getting on top. Of course Phoenix remained a big threat, not least with a very recognisable right winger, Alfie who was one of us last season, reminding us what a good player he is by bursting forward with skill on numerous occasions as the game became stretched. From one of his bursts we very nearly conceded a body blow, this time the ball striking the post and somehow staying out. A much needed let off. We pushed forward, Alf and Ollie having re-joined the action to add further impetus and we desperately tried to find a way back into the match. With less than 10 minutes to go, it finally happened. An initial ball into the box from Luca caused a number of ricochets, the ball deflecting high into the air, the keeper and a defender both attacked the ball, but somehow Brodie out-jumped them both to head the ball past the keeper, Elliot pouncing on it to shoot at goal, his effort spinning back into the path of Brodie who fired a shot that was going into the bottom corner, only for it to be brilliantly stopped on the line by an outstretched hand. Unfortunately for Phoenix, that hand didn't have a glove on it and the player's shirt didn't have number one on its back. Luckily for us the referee had a clear view of the incident and awarded the penalty. Technically he was also right to give him a red card, but it's still not nice to see a 13 year old lad being sent off. Their keeper then pulled off a magnificent save from Simba's well struck penalty, but that disappointment didn't last long, as Bertie swung in an excellent ball from the resulting corner and Jack P managed to get enough on it to get us back into the game. 6 minutes or so left v 10 men. Max was pushed forward to give us a front three as we looked desperately for an equalising goal. We huffed and we puffed but we couldn't find a way, credit to Phoenix for standing strong and managing the closing minutes well.
In all honesty our poor first half performance meant we didn't deserve anything from this game, you can't play for 35 minutes in this league and expect to get something, but our second half performance was excellent and every boy showed great character and fight to turn things round so impressively. Well done to Phoenix, they're a really good side and that leaves the running score with them at 8-8 over 4 matches, just to underline how well matched we are. Great to see Alfie too, although personally I thought he looked much better in white ;-)

Sunday 8th October 2017
Kent County Cup 1st Round
Langton Green 2 - 4 Kent Football United
Simba, James D
Another week, another completion, and another tough opponent. This time a new one too, our first ever match against Kent Football United from the KYL north division, this match being a Kent County Cup fixture. The first half performance was quite simply the best of the season bar none, the tie should have been put to bed as we totally dominated possession and outplayed our opponents. Some of the passing was majestic as the boys were running rings round their more physically imposing opposition. Alf, Luca, and Brodie were dominating midfield, with Elliot and Eddie joining in out wide, with Simba and James D proving to be as dangerous as ever up top. With James H in goal, and the back three of Owen, Jack and Bertie looking commanding throughout the first period we were looking solid too. Brodie saw a low shot go wide, then Luca delivered a free kick that Elliot got on the end of, his volleyed effort well saved at the near post. After a Brodie corner caused problems and was only partially cleared, Jack fired a volley goal ward from the edge of the box which was well saved. Alf was continuing his fine form from last week and won a crunching tackle before finding Brodie who skipped past a challenge and let fly with a powerful drive that went narrowly over. It felt like a goal was coming and it was, but painfully it came completely against the run of play and with no small amount of misfortune. From KFU's first foray forward the ball was cleared, a midfielder tried a shot on goal from the clearance but completely mishit it, the ball slicing off target but hitting the back of his own player who then swung a foot at the ball as it landed and the ball nestled in the corner so put us undeservedly behind. Not to worry, a long way to go and we knew we'd been the better side, it was important to stick to our passing game. That's exactly what they did, something only added to by the arrival of Tom and Ollie as we actually upped our dominance. Luca played a gorgeous ball into the feet of Simba who laid it off brilliantly into the path of James D who powered forward, his shot narrowly missing the far post. Tom strode forward, pulled the defence into him and then played the perfect pass out to Ollie on the right, he took one touch and fired a dangerous cross shot which the keeper paried, but Simba was on hand to force the ball over the line and restore parity. Simba then had a shot blocked which fell to Elliot, his shot brilliantly saved. Owen won a big tackle, turned the ball into Brodie who spun his defender before delivering the ball of the match though the eye of a needle to play James D in on the keeper 1v1, his unerring finish into the bottom corner giving us a thoroughly deserved lead. For most of this half, James H had been a bystander but had been showing good feet and allowing us to play out from the back as a result. In the closing minutes of the half though, he was called upon to make a low save to his right. Just before half time came the move of the match, as the Giants toyed with their opponents in the attacking half with a series of 1 touch passes which must have been close to double figures. Bertie started it after winning the ball before a collection of Ollie, Alf, Tom, Simba and finally Brodie produced a mesmerising display of intricate ball movement to play James D in, his well struck effort just missing the post.
Half time came and we were feeling confident. There was a slight sense of frustration that we didn't have the sizeable lead our first half performance had warranted but no need to worry, just more of the same required. We very nearly increased our lead early in the second half, Bertie delivery a delicious free kick which Owen met superbly with an intelligent back flicked header only for the keeper to deny him with a smart save. A free kick was then awarded against us in a dangerous position and the well struck shot levelled the game at 2-2. Things nearly got worse a moment or two later, but Alf raced back to clear when it looked certain KFU would take the lead. Bertie then fired in a powerful effort from a long way out, catching it perfectly but frustratingly the ball went inches over the bar. Luca swept one of his wonder passes out to Elliot who beat a man before sending James D though with a slide rule pass but the angle was tight and the keeper was able to smuggle the ball round the post. Another free kick awarded against us, another high delivery and another goal. Somehow we were now behind in a game we'd been in firm control of, now we had to chase the match and of course our opponents grew in confidence. Suddenly their size seemed to grow further, they appeared faster and more powerful than in the first half, confidence does that to a team. The boys pushed forward though in a match which was now lacking the beautiful football of the first half and had become more a game of attrition. Luca saw a well struck shot saved low down before we were hit on the counter attack by a long clearance as we'd pushed forward looking for an equaliser, James H came out and made himself big but a clever lofted chip was too good and suddenly we're two goals adrift.  Still the boys kept battling. James D struck a great free kick right in the top corner but was denied by an excellent save, before Brodie hit another free kick over the bar. Twice we had goal mouth scrambles, with one of them there was some doubt as to whether the ball had crossed the line or not but the referee was well positioned to make a quick decision. Once again we were caught on the counter attack, James H making a great save and Jack blocking the follow up to stop things getting any worse.
So no county cup run this year, a shame but the boys can be so proud of that first half performance, it really was something to behold, even the referee was kind enough to comment on how superb we'd played that opening period. Unlucky boys.

Sunday 1st October 2017
Langton Giants 0 - 4 Danson Sports
After finishing September with a perfect record, one of only two teams to do so in the league, we knew that today was going to be the biggest test to-date as Danson were reportedly very big and fast and were sporting an array of new players. It turned out all of those reports were correct, they were second only to the much fabled Erith & Belvedere in terms of size, right across the pitch. With two key players in Jack P & Ollie unavailable (coincidently the two goal scorers in our 2-0 win here last season) we were facing a tough task, on a brand new 4G pitch which had been drowned in those annoying little black bits that you continue to find in your shoes several days later, which made the pitch very heavy and passing challenging.
All that said though, we started well, it became obvious that beating the back line was going to be a challenge but most of the game was being played out in the Danson half as Luca, Alf and Brodie worked the ball smartly round the midfield, with Eddie and Bertie proving to be good outlets on the wings. A new look back three of Owen, Max and Tom were looking assured with Harry nice and vocal behind them. Simba and James D working tirelessly with the thankless task of trying to get away from their gigantic markers. The good start was undone though by a bit of sloppy defending. There didn't seem to be any danger as the ball was pinned in the far corner but the Danson winger was allowed to turn and cross a ball across the six yard box that was tapped home as a breakdown in communication saw the ball travel past everyone to a grateful striker at the back post who had the easiest of tasks to knock the ball into an unguarded net. A very disappointing goal to concede and it changed the course of the match, as goals tend to do. Harry saved well down low from a speculative long distance effort and dealt with a number of through balls well, including one brave challenge at the feet of the striker. Elliot and Pepps joined the fray and both added an extra level of energy as we slowly started to regain a foothold on the match. Elliot slipping the ball into Simba who set Luca to play James D through, he burst into the penalty box and just as he was about to pull the trigger was denied by a last ditch lunging tackle from the outstretched and extremely long leg of a Danson centre back. It was a fair tackle but saw James land hard on his back and understandably knocked the stuffing out of him a little bit. As always though, he brushed himself down (those pesky black bits were all over him) and continued to work his socks off. Moments later was the closest we came to getting back in the game, Brodie lobbing the goalkeeper from the corner of the box, looking certain to bring us level, but the ball lobbed the cross bar too by the narrowest of margins. In the closing minutes of the half, Alf won his umpteenth tackle of the game and played in Elliot who found James D with a great through ball on the counter attack, he shot early and firmly but wide and we came in 1 down at half time.
We were frustrated to be down, we'd more than matched them up to this point but suffered from a mistake. We'd struggled to break down their back line though, so a tactical adjustment was intended to try and get a bit more possession in the attacking midfield area away from the 'trees'. It worked, our best period of the match was the next 15 minutes as we looked the most dangerous we had all game. Max pushed forward to midfield to try and combat the size and strength of the two midfielders, with Brodie, Elliot and Simba looking to provide the bullets for James to fire up front. Owen and Tom took care of centre back duties with Bertie and Alf reverting to full back roles. There were several nearly moments as we pushed the Danson back line back and had a lot of possession. Perhaps the best moment came when Max won the ball, carried it forward and slipped it to Elliot who set the ball back for Luca to strike, his well struck effort going just over the bar. The young referee generally did well today, but was a bit guilty of falling into that trap of assuming if the physically smaller team win a tackle it must be a foul, whereas the other way round the smaller boy is only on the floor because the bigger lad was stronger! This unfair assumption saw Danson awarded a very soft free kick in the middle of the pitch which was swung dangerously in, partly cleared but the resulting ping-pong ball action resulted with the ball being despatched into the far corner to double the deficit. As if to make the point, just seconds later our skipper Tom was absolutely clattered as he cleared a ball but nothing given. Frustrating, but nothing like as frustrating as when James D was played through thanks to a great ball from Elliot to bear down on the goalkeeper 1v1 only to be incorrectly flagged for offside. After working so hard to finally find a way though, it was galling to see the boys denied by such a poor decision from the Danson lino and possibly our final chance to get back into a match we've contributed  a lot to. Simba did well to create himself a chance, just wide, and Elliot linked up superbly with him for a 1-2 which very nearly paid off but was denied by the quick reactions of the Danson keeper who was fast off his line. Two goals in the last 10 minutes, one from a corner which was headed home by one of the trees, and another absolute worldy into the top corner from distance gave Harry no chance and the score-line an unflattering appearance.
Credit to the boys though, they didn't give up for a second and it was fantastic to see them flying into tackles and running themselves into the ground in the closing stages, Alf leading the way as he darted about the pitch tackling anyone he could get near to, brilliant to see. Our first 'bad day' of the season, there will be plenty more, such is the standard of this league, but the effort and commitment were never in doubt.

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!