Eagles 2013 - 2014

The 2013 / 2014 season finished in style for the Langton Green Eagles, with victory in the Sedlescombe fiesta. We’re now looking forward to a nice summer break followed by a new season playing 9 a side football for the first time.

Langton Green Eagles – 2013 / 2014 Achievements

Sedlescombe Fiesta – Winners
Ridgewaye Fiesta – Runners Up, Plate Competition
Pembury Fiesta – Semi Finalists
Broad Oak & Horam Fiesta – Semi Finalists
Post Season Langton Friendly Tournament – Winners
Crowborough League, Villa Division – 5th / 16 Teams

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Sunday July 13th 2014 – Sedlescombe Fiesta – WINNERS!!!!

Group Stage
Langton Eagles 4 – 0 Hastings Rangers Black (Goals: Sammy 2, Brodie, Finn)
Langton Eagles 4 – 1 Little Common White (Goals: Finn, Jack, Alf, Joel)
Langton Eagles 4 – 0 Westfield Green (Goals: Finn 2, Brodie, Sammy)
Langton Eagles 1 – 0 Sedlescombe Rangers Blue (Goal: Sammy)
Langton Eagles 5 – 0 Hastings United (Goals: Jack 3, Brodie, Sammy)
Langton Eagles 1 – 3 Style Soccer (Goal: Brodie)
Langton Eagles 3 – 0 Sedlescombe Orange (Goals: Jack 2, Alf)

Semi Final
Langton Eagles 1 – 0 Patcham United (Goal: Brodie)

Final
Langton Eagles 2 – 2 Style Soccer (Goals: Brodie, Joel)
(Langton Eagles win 5-4 on penalties)

Some very happy Langton boys with their winners’ medals and trophy

Wow!!!! What a morning. We had biblical rainstorms, blazing sunshine, 25 goals for the Eagles in one fiesta, 8 new teams we’d never faced before, lovely flat pitches and a first trophy for an Eagles team shorn of several of our strongest players who sadly couldn’t make it but bolstered by the excellent Alf, Brodie and Joel, who were all superb.

The boys started excellently against Hastings Rangers, passing and moving with speed and determination from a base of Jack and Alf at the back. When we won a free kick in the opposition half, Brodie stepped up to slam it home and open the scoring. Finn then added a second with cracking volley pretty much straight from the kickoff and Sammy grabbed a third just before half time with a great finish. With Joel adding some excellent running and passing in the second half, Sammy added his second of the game and the team’s fourth before the end. A great start – determined, solid at the back and dynamic in attack. 4-0 to the Eagles.

The second game was against a good Little Common team who started well. The Eagles missed a couple of early chances but scored a great opener through Jack, who was ice cold in front of goal to put his team ahead. Finn scored the second with a curling long range effort that gave the keeper no chance and Alf’s superb running from defence was rewarded with a cool strike to make it 3-0 Eagles early in the second half. Sammy had a brilliant strike well saved and Ben made an outstanding stop himself to keep us well in the lead, tipping over the bar when we felt sure the ball was headed for the roof of the net. Seconds later the opposition did score, a deflected effort that wrong footed the excellent Ben and gave him no chance. Despite a late surge from Little Common, the boys held firm and Joel scored a poacher’s late fourth with a deadly finish after great work from Jack on the left. 4-1 to the Eagles.

Third up were Westfield Green, another side we’d never faced before and the boys made a wonderful start. Brodie slammed home a powerful strike to put the Eagles 1-0 up, Joel and Alf both went close after surging runs and Ben’s cool play when receiving the ball to feet set the tone for the rest of the lads. 1-0 up at half time and Finn came on, scored with his first touch and again with his second to make it 3-0. He then turned provider, sliding a wonderful through-ball to Sammy, who coolly rounded the goalkeeper to tap home the team’s fourth. With Finn and Sammy dropping into defence, Joel and Jack caused havoc in the opposition defence with their clever pass and move football, helped by Brodie’s strength and powerful running from midfield and outstanding heading from 2 corners that so nearly flashed into the top corner. A fifth was so nearly added, but a very good save denied Joel and the referee blew his whistle to confirm a 4-0 win and 3 wins from 3 for the Eagles.

The next game was tougher, and we knew it would be, our opposition, Sedlescombe Rangers Blue also having won their opening 3 matches. In a tight affair, Sammy decided it with a brilliant finish (and his 50th goal of the season!!!) that he later admitted “I should have crossed” but I wasn’t complaining! 1-0 in the first half and despite a late scare, the boys held on, Jack and Alf particularly excellent at the back and Brodie again going close with a super header from Finn’s accurate corner. A 1-0 win and maximum points.

With the games coming thick and fast, the boys had little time to rest and our fifth match of the morning was against Hasting United, a team we knew we needed to beat to confirm our place in the semi finals. The boys dealt with the situation brilliantly, scoring early through Jack’s sublime run and finish and then consistently keeping the pressure on for the remainder of the game. Brodie scored a blinder, nearly scored again from a headed effort from a corner, Sammy grabbed a fine finish after more excellent play from Joel and Jack slotted home twice more in the closing stages to complete his excellent hat-trick and give his team a 5-0 win.

With passage to the knockouts all but assured (only a 15 goal swing in goal difference and 2 defeats would see us finish outside the top 2), we went into what we knew would be our toughest test of the group stage against the only academy team present, Style Soccer. They were a very physical team who played a very effective long ball game, which obviously yielded results, as they’d beaten every team they’d faced so far, as had we.

In what turned out to be a straight shootout for top spot in the group, the Eagles passed well in the opening exchanges, but let in a soft goal straight from a goal kick when we didn’t pick up the opposition striker and a simple ball over the top was slammed home well to make it 0-1. In a niggly game, which featured more shirt pulling than football for much of the time, we went 0-2 down early in the second half to a similar goal and 0-3 down moments later to an identical third. Clearly they’d worked out our weak spot! Despite a much improved performance after that and a brilliant consolation from Brodie which had echoes of Frank Lampard against Germany at the 2010 World Cup about it (off the bar and bouncing just over the line but thankfully this time, given), we couldn’t claw our way back and suffered a 1-3 defeat to a team we would meet again with very different results later in the morning.

Out final group game was against another Sedlescombe team, Sedlescombe Orange and the boys had to pick themselves up to get the win they needed to absolutely guarantee qualification. A dire first half saw neither team create much. Ben made one good save and the opposition goalie did the same from Joel at the other end but we just couldn’t get going. 0-0 at half time and a bit of a “chat” at half time saw the Eagles perform infinitely better after the break, scoring almost immediately through Alf’s dynamic run, one two with Finn and low finish, followed up by 2 brilliant Jack goals, ably assisted by Sammy and then Joel’s intelligent passing and finished by Jack in trademark lethal fashion. 3-0 the final score and second spot in the group, which meant a semi final against the winners of group 1.

Our semi final opponents turned out to be Patcham United, who apparently won this tournament last year. They were another side we’d never come across before and obviously a good team, bearing in mind they won their group of 8 sides to progress as winners of pool 1. It was a cagey affair initially, but the Eagles grew into the game, Alf’s excellent marshalling of the defence and tackling starting of many of our attacks and setting a tone of calmness throughout the team. Ben made a good stop to keep things level, Jack’s wonderful ball control and skill from the back helped push us forward and Finn, Sammy and Brodie were pinging the ball about in midfield.

Joel came on for Finn, hunting the ball down tirelessly and making some great runs. Finn then swapped back on for Sammy and Sammy for Jack in an attempt to keep everyone fresh. In a game that looked nailed on for extra time, we won a late corner and what we’d talked about before the tournament happened, Brodie leaping like a salmon to head powerfully in from Finn’s pinpoint corner. An outstanding header from Brodie.

The boys had about a minute to see out, and they did so really well, tracking back to close down the space and calmly passing out from the back when winning possession back. Sammy hit the bar with an excellent free kick and one late shot aside, things were fairly straightforward for the boys and the final whistle went to leave the lads ecstatic and send them into another final with a 1-0 win.

The other semi final went the distance, Style Soccer going through on penalties after it finished 0-0 and so we were up against them again with a chance for a different result this time round.

We knew Style Soccer‘s tactics and approach from the last game and talked about what we might do to counter them, the boys doing a brilliant job to start with and giving SS no time on the ball at all. From this excellent pressing, high up the pitch, Alf won the ball back, played it to Finn and he slid an inch perfect pass to Brodie, who took a touch and slammed home an unstoppable shot to put the Eagles 1-0 up and in dreamland.

Unfortunately the dream didn’t last long, with Style Soccer surging forwards from the kick off and scoring almost immediately to equalise and puncture our short-lived happiness. No matter – the boys got back to doing what they do best, passing and moving and pressing, Brodie superb in midfield, Finn and Sammy’s clever passing carving out opportunities and Alf and Jack bursting forwards in turns from the back to add to our numbers on the attack.

Joel came on and was outstanding – man of the match in the final – he was everywhere, hunting down the ball with German-like efficiency and putting Style Soccer under all kinds of pressure. Half time came and went and the game continued to ebb and flow, Ben saving brilliantly, Sammy playing Brodie in with a great pass only for the excellent Style Soccer keeper to save, Sammy nearly racing clear with a brilliant sprint past 2 defenders and Alf and Jack both having fine shots well blocked. At this stage it looked like only one team were going to win it and they were wearing yellow, but the sucker punch came with a minute to go, Style Soccer breaking after we committed too many players forward and scoring with a well taken finish. We were devastated after such a lot of hard work and I was waiting for the ref to blow up for full time when we won a free kick for a handball out by the left touchline. Alf stepped up, curled a beauty of a cross into the box and Joel, who had manoeuvred himself into exactly the right place scored a brilliantly taken goal with his hip. We didn’t care how it went in though – cue elation and lots of reminders to focus focus focus as Style Soccer attempted a direct shot from the kick off for the third time in the game. It didn’t work. The ref blew for full time and we had 6 minutes of extra time to navigate.

With the Eagles the fresher of the two teams we dominated extra time, but just couldn’t find a winner. A wonderful moment where Finn bamboozled 2 defenders completely with a lovely reverse pass saw Brodie sent clear but his powerful strike was well stopped and the resulting corner was smothered by the SS keeper at Sammy’s feet. Another hopeful Style Soccer punt from the kickoff came to nothing, Alf had an unstoppable run end with a cross that Jack just couldn’t connect with despite straining every muscle in his body to get there and Joel’s brilliant shot and Joel’s follow up were both stopped by brave defending. The ref blew again and it was penalties. Again!

Little did Style Soccer know that we have a 100% record from penalties and so it proved again, although not without drama. Sammy, our best penalty taker in recent shootouts (taken 3, scored 3) was off the field as sub when the final whistle went. I was then informed that meant he couldn’t take a penalty (in contrast to all the other fiestas we’d played where this wasn’t the case). In actual fact, the rules were fair and I should have known better, but the confusion of rules changing from tournament to tournament doesn’t help. This was obviously a big blow…

Finn won the coin toss. He chose to go first based on a conversation where we’d discussed that 10 of the last 11 World Cup penalty shootouts were won by the team who went first. It turned out to be a wise choice. Excellent penalties from Finn and Brodie were followed by the most bizarre penalty I’ve every seen, Alf’s initial shot being saved, only for the spin on the ball to take it back over the line whilst the opposition goalkeeper was celebrating. Goal!!! Style Soccer then scored, then Ben smashed his penalty home and Style Soccer missed. We then had a penalty well saved and Style Soccer scored to send it to sudden death. Up stepped Joel, hero of the last minute equaliser, to smash his penalty in off the bar and put the pressure back on Style Soccer. Their final player stepped up and unfortunately for him, sent his shot over the bar to hand the Eagles the trophy.

What pleased me more than anything else though was how our lads behaved in victory. Unlike (some, not all) other teams we’ve seen, they turned straight to their opponents, shook their hands, commiserated with them and then went and did their celebrating. Brilliant to see – well done boys. You should be proud of how you played and proud of how you behaved all day. A wonderful advert for Langton Green FC.

So – a first trophy for many of these boys and well deserved – they were brilliant all day, took their goals well and played some lovely football. Hearing opposition parents and coaches talking pitch side about what nice football our lads played made my morning.

Player of the day is virtually impossible to pick – everyone was superb but I have to give it to Jack for his tireless running and work rate from the back as well as his amazing record of goalscoring from defence.

Well done!!!!!!

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Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 51, Finn 41, Jack 33, Max 22, Laurie 9, Luke 9, Ali 8, Joel 6, Brodie 6, Alf 3, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 2)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 90. Won 44. Drawn 18. Lost 28 / Goals for: 194 / Goals against: 123)
(Fiesta results: Played 37. Won 19. Drawn 7. Lost 12 / Goals for: 55 / Goals against 25 / GD: + 30)

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Sunday June 22nd 2014 – Ridgewaye Fiesta – RUNNERS UP!!!!

Group Stage
Langton Eagles 1 – 0 Ridgewaye Jupiter (Goal: Finn)
Langton Eagles 0 – 1 Foresters Spartak
Langton Eagles 0 – 2 Broad Oak Spitfires
Langton Eagles 3 – 0 Westerham Panthers (Goals: Sammy 2, Max)
Langton Eagles 5 – 1 Rusthall Lions (Goals: Sammy, Max, Jack, Alf, Finn)

Quarter Final
Langton Eagles 0 – 0 Langton Devils (Eagles win 1-0 on penalties)

Semi Final
Langton Eagles 0 – 0 Sevenoaks (Eagles win 1-0 on penalties)

Final
Langton Eagles 0 – 1 Tonbridge Angels

Some happy Eagles at the end (missing 2 who had to go before the presentation!)

Ah! What a morning. Playing as the Falcons (who pulled out but rather than confuse the organisers we took their place), the Eagles had an up and down rollercoaster of a morning, reaching the final of the Plate and narrowly missing out on the trophy after 2 nail biting penalty shootout wins. With runners-up medals in hand, the boys went home tired but happy, having played some really good football, passing and moving superbly at times and scoring some excellent goals on the way. I’m going to attempt to keep this short!!

First up were Ridgewaye Jupiter, a side we know well. We dominated the game, Finn scoring a well taken first half goal, slipping the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs to make it 1-0. Alf and Vincent were superb at the back, Jack mad a great chance for Sammy, who was unlucky not to score. Sammy then returned the favour, with only a goal line clearance stopping it being two for the Eagles. Max went on a couple of brilliant runs and Sam saved us at the death with a superb save to get us the 3 points. 1-0 to the Eagles.

Next match was against Foresters Spartak – a team we seem to play at virtually every fiesta. A close game saw the Eagles lose 0-1 to a well-taken goal that left Sam with no chance as it was right in the corner. A spirited fightback saw Sammy nearly score from Alf’s wonderful ball.

Broad Oak (the eventual winners of the Cup competition) then beat us 0-2 in a game we managed to defend brilliantly in until half time when a couple of defensive lapses left us conceding 2 goals in quick succession and hanging on the brink of staying in the tournament with 2 games to go.

The lads needed to respond, and respond they did superbly in their 4th game, against Westerham Panthers, a team we’ve never faced before. Sammy and Max were on fire, scoring 3 excellent goals between them – Max’s the pick of the day with a wonderful strike, smashed home from distance and Sammy getting his first 2 of the morning with trademark clinical finishes after good work from Alf and Jack to set him up. 3-0 to the Eagles and qualification very much back on. Sam made a couple of fine stops when called upon to keep the boys in the game when it was 0-0 and with him in goal I always felt confident.

The final group match against Rusthall Lions was the best the boys played so far, knocking the ball around superbly from a base of Alf and Vincent at the back, Finn setting Sammy up for the opener, Max adding a second shortly afterwards, before Jack scored a brilliant solo goal, Alf then scored an equally brilliant solo goal and Finn finished it off with an excellent long range shot to make it 5-1, a well taken goal from Rusthall sandwiched in between when we were 4-0 ahead. 9 points and 3rd in the group sent us through to the Plate knockout competition, where we’d face our friends the Devils.

After refuelling on ice creams and some drinks that looked borderline radioactive (whilst watching the U13 Rovers win their quarter final in a wonderfully enjoyable game against Foresters), the knockouts finally got underway…

In a game we were slightly disappointed at having to play (you never want to have to play teams from your own club in these things and there was the feeling from both sides that we could have just played each other in training), the Eagles put in their strongest performance of the morning against a very good Langton Devils team, doing everything except finding the back of the net. Alf and Vincent were rock solid at the back, Alf bursting forward and dictating play from deep. Finn, Sammy, Max and Jack all played their part in creating chance after chance, Sammy hitting the post with a great shot from an angle and Max seeing a strong strike flash just wide. With Sammy clean through on goal, the ref blew the full time whistle and it was the lottery of penalties.

Rather than going into the penalties that were missed, I’ll just say that Sammy, as expected, converted his penalty and then after both teams missed their next 2, Sam was the hero, saving the decisive penalty from the Devils to see the Eagles through to the semi finals for the 3rd time this summer.

Our semi final opponents were Sevenoaks, who had also won their previous game on penalties and it was a tight affair, the Eagles dictating at the start, Max and Finn dynamic in midfield, Alf and Vincent again strong at the back and Jack everywhere as usual, unlucky not to score with a good shot. Sammy once again fell foul of the referee’s whistle blowing when he was in a good position and Alf’s second half header went agonisingly close. The Eagles played really well, despite looking pretty tired by this point and once again, penalties loomed.

In an exact repeat of the previous game, Sammy converted the opening kick, both teams missed their next two and Sam then dove full stretch to his right to keep out the final penalty from Sevenoaks, sending the boys into their first final!!!

With Tonbridge Angels our opponents, the lads gave it absolutely everything, but it was clear by now, after a hot, long morning, they were shattered. Alf did his best to get things going forwards, Sammy and Finn played some lovely one-twos and Max went close with a powerful run and shot. Jack was everywhere as usual and 0-0 was a fair half time score.

Vincent defended with vigour and tenacity in the second half, limiting our strong opponents to shots from wide, but even with him and Alf playing really well at the back, we couldn’t hold out, Angels scoring a goal after a bit of pinball in the box. The lads fought to try and get the equaliser, bombing forward through Alf and Jack, now playing as midfielders rather than defenders in what finished as a 0-3-2 formation. Sammy went closest to getting the goal we so craved, an audacious long shot well saved by the Tonbridge goalie but we could have no complaints when the whistle went to leave the Angels as winners. The boys gave it absolutely everything and thoroughly deserved their runners-up medals after a superb morning that left me really proud of them.

Well done to all of you – thank you to Alf and Sam (and thank you to the Giants for loaning Sam to us for the morning despite being part of this fiesta themselves) for helping us out today – both of you were outstanding and played your part in getting the Eagles as far as we did today. So hard to pick a player of the day – everyone was brilliant but I’m going to give it to Sam, who despite having not much to do in many of the games, did what he had to superbly, saved us in the opening game and was once again the hero in 2 penalty shootouts. I’m going to speak to the FA about taking Sam along to the next major tournament as England goalkeeper as he is virtually unbeatable from the spot!!! Brilliant!

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Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 46, Finn 37, Jack 27, Max 22, Laurie 9, Luke 9, Ali 8, Joel 4, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alf 1, Alexander 1, OG 2)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 81. Won 37. Drawn 17. Lost 27 / Goals for: 169 / Goals against: 117)

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Saturday June 14th 2014 – Broad Oak & Horam Fiesta

Group Stage
Langton Eagles 1 – 1 Broad Oak Red (Goal: Joel)
Langton Eagles 4 – 0 Uckfield Colts (Goals: Sammy 2, Finn, Joel)
Langton Eagles 1 – 1 Hailsham Junior (Goal: Sammy)
Langton Eagles 2 – 0 Broad Oak Blue (Goals: Sammy 2)
Langton Eagles 0 – 1 Foresters Spartak
Langton Eagles 3 – 0 Hailsham Colts (Goals: Joel 2, Sammy)
Langton Eagles 0 – 2 South Down

Semi Final
Langton Eagles 0 – 1 South Down

Another semi final appearance for the Eagles (their second in three fiestas this summer), some excellent performances all round in a really good tournament that we entered last year (but on that occasion failed to make it past the group stage). This year we had Joel playing his first games for the Eagles, ahead of joining us next season and it has to be said that he was fantastic throughout.

First up were Broad Oak Red, a strong team from the Crowborough A league and a game I have no idea how we didn’t win. All the possession, a hatful of chances, a super early goal through Joel’s strong running down the left and brilliant finish, lashed into the top corner with real venom and a goal against in the last 5 seconds of the game. It happens in fiesta football and was harsh on the boys, all of whom played brilliantly and would have won comfortably but for some great saves by the opposition goalkeeper. 1-1 not a bad opening result but less than the Eagles deserved.

A quick break and then the boys were back on to face Uckfield Colts, a new team this year who have progressed enormously over the course of the season from when I saw them play against one of our other Langton teams last winter. They gave us a really tough first half, Ben, Laurie and Jack superb at the back to keep their strong striker out and Finn and Sammy causing problems in attack, Sammy scoring the opener with a deft finish after a clever pass from Jack.

Finn was immediately onto the opposition at the kick off, pressuring them into losing the ball and dribbling past 3 defenders before lashing a shot against the post and doing brilliantly to volley home the rebound when he was off balance. 2-0. With Max coming on at half time, his mazy dribbling helped set up Sammy for his second (another good strike after clever work from Joel) and Sammy repaid the favour with a strong run down the right and a cut back to Joel, lurking on edge of the box. Final score 4-0.

One of our toughest games of the day came in the next match, against a physical but skilful team in the form of Hailsham Juniors, a side who had twice beaten us in the Crowborough League this season. When they went 1-0 up after some excellent attacking play, I feared the worst, but the boys held strong until half time, Joel and Laurie imperious at the back and Ben making 4 excellent saves in a row to keep us in the match, before Sammy made all the difference, coming on at half time to pressing and harrying Hailsham like a boy possessed. He then scored the equaliser with a great run to latch onto Laurie’s superb pass. Final score 1-1 and Sammy’s best performance for the Eagles in my opinion.

Our fourth game was against Broad Oak Blue and was possibly the best the boys played all day, bossing the match from start to finish, Ben making one amazing save in the early stages before spending the rest of the game relatively untroubled due to the outstanding defending from Jack and Laurie in front of him. Jack was particularly brilliant in this game, putting himself all over the pitch, pressuring the opposition and setting up Sammy for the opening goal.

Our midfield then combined well after some good hold up play from Finn to play in Max, who found Joel, who squared for Sammy to score the second. Final result was 2-0 to the Eagles and they were in a very strong position in the group with 3 games to go.

Straight on with no break to play Foresters Spartak, who have proved themselves to be an excellent side this season. We started on the back foot and never really got going all game in all honesty, lacking a bit of belief at times perhaps. Jack did his best to make a difference, running everywhere with a real purpose, but we couldn’t quite hold out for the draw, conceding an unlucky penalty and losing 0-1. We were the only team Foresters failed to score against in open play all day, so the boys clearly defended well – just a shame we couldn’t impose our usual passing game on the opposition.

That was the theme for our chat before the penultimate group game, against Hailsham Colts, a team we’d beaten twice this year in the league. The result ended the same this time, the boys putting on a superb display of passing football with every boy outstanding, Finn, Laurie and Max bossing the midfield with some great pass and move football, Finn pulling out his trademark Maradona turn to bamboozle a defender before crossing for Sammy, who was unlucky to see his first time shot flash wide.

Ben pulled off a great save, Finn hit the bar with an unbelievable long range strike, Laurie played Max in, who squared for Sammy to open the scoring with his 6th goal of the day (!!!)

Joel made it 2 shortly afterwards, striking home powerfully, when he cleverly found himself some space in the area after Laurie’s wonderfully controlled take-down and through ball. He then scored his second of the game (and fourth of the day) with a close range goal following Sammy’s strong run down the right hand side to see his team to a 3-0 victory.

That result pretty much guaranteed qualification for the knockouts but we were still looking for a strong finish to the group and to try and qualify in the highest place possible. Our opponents were a team we’d never faced before, South Down, who had shown in their earlier matches that they were a good side with some physically strong and very skilful players.

In an open game, the Eagles had chances to score, but our decision making in the final 3rd of the pitch wasn’t at it’s best, dribbling instead of passing, shooting instead of passing and we were caught out to a headed goal from a corner to leave us 0-1 down. The boys improved in the second half and could have equalised, but for some good goalkeeping. Laurie was again excellent at the back, Jack and Joel were everywhere, Finn and Sammy were combining well and Max was his usual skilful self, dribbling and passing with excellent speed and accuracy. We limited the opposition to few chances, Ben making one truly brilliant save but finally lost 0-2 after a scrappy goal from a throw in – 2 set pieces, 2 goals conceded and something for us to work on in training.

After a tense wait to see where we’d finished, we realised we’d be playing the same opposition again, our 3rd place in the group (of 8 teams) meaning we faced the side who finished 2nd (South Down).

It was a tight affair, we played some excellent stuff and defended valiantly, but backed off too much when South Down’s excellent striker ran at us and allowed him to get a daisy cutter of a shot away that went through several players, leaving the excellent Ben unsighted and nestling in the bottom corner of the net. It was early in the game and the boys responded well, trying to play their attacking football from the base of Laurie and Jack at the back. Finn did the simple things well, passing out Max and Sammy on the wings and getting himself forward and back with energy. Jack was pushing forwards as the game went on and Sammy had a couple of weaving runs into the penalty area blocked off by the strong South Down defenders. Joel came on and imposed himself on the game immediately, a couple of brilliant passes and one snap shot well blocked by a defender.

With Ben rarely called into action (making one outstanding save when he was though), the Eagles were on the front foot in the closing stages, but just couldn’t quite get that elusive equaliser, the final whistle going to leave us out of the tournament after a 0-1 defeat in a game that a draw would have been a fair result in. That’s the way it goes though and we can take plenty of positives from the day… 2 qualifications for the knockouts in our first 3 fiestas compared to 1 from 6 last year and a wonderful team performance.

Laurie just gets my player of the day award for his outstanding defending throughout – having a player at the back who can pass the ball as well as him whilst also being strong in the tackle and intelligent with his positioning is a massive help but his defensive partner Jack was equally brilliant all day, talking and communicating superbly and running over literally, every blade of grass on the pitch in his attempt to carry his team through.

I have to mention a wonderful debut from Joel, who chipped in with 4 goals, a couple of assists and some man of the match performances.

Finn and Max were creative and cunning in midfield, playing a part in so many of todays goals, Finn’s solo strike a real highlight of the afternoon. Ben was really solid in goal and made some crucial saves with nearly every part of his body and Sammy was a finishing machine, particularly in the early stages where he scored 6 goals in his first 6 matches. Outstanding.

Well done boys – I hope you enjoyed yourselves and weren’t too disappointed with the England result – another fine performance at times, despite the final score.

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Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 43, Finn 35, Jack 26, Max 20, Laurie 9, Luke 9, Ali 8, Joel 4, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 2)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 73. Won 34. Drawn 15. Lost 24 / Goals for: 160 / Goals against: 112)

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Sunday June 1st 2014 – Langton Green Fiesta

Group 3
Langton Eagles 1 – 0 Tonbridge Invicta (Goal: Finn)
Langton Eagles 0 – 1 Tonbridge Sharks
Langton Eagles 3 – 0 Ridgewaye Jupiter (Goals: Luke 2, Jack)
Langton Eagles 1 – 2 Rusthall Lions (Goal: Max)
Langton Eagles 0 – 3 Foresters Spartak

A tough morning for the boys, playing some strong teams on a slopey pitch where the team going downhill in a half dominated and the result came down to whoever took advantage of that best. With 2 teams withdrawing from our group prior to the tournament, we were given a team from another group (who were significantly stronger than either of the teams they replaced, which didn’t help our cause).

We started brilliantly, winning a tight match 1-0 against Tonbridge Invicta after a sublime finish from Finn, lofting the ball over the keeper from Max’s brilliant through-ball. Some of the football was scintillating and we felt confident after such a good opening games.

The next match was a disappointing 1-0 loss, conceding in the last 30 seconds to a very strong Tonbridge Sharks team who knocked us out in the semis of the Pembury fiesta. Ben pulled off some amazing saves but we just couldn’t hold out and ultimately deserved to lose in a game we never really got a foothold in, despite Ali playing particularly well.

Our third game was against Ridgewaye Jupiter, a match we dominated from start to finish, coming away with a 3-0 win. Jack scored a brilliant early goal after some strong interplay from him, Finn and Max. Laurie then set up Luke superbly for the second and Luke then grabbed our third and his second off the post after a great run and a good pass from Ali. Vincent played some wonderful passes after winning the ball back in defence and Finn’s Maradona turn in the middle of the pitch had the crowd applauding. A fine performance all round and a great result, putting us top of the group after 3 games.

Then the wheels came off…

We started brilliantly against Rusthall Lions in the fourth game, Max scoring an early goal after some amazing pass and move football from Laurie, Finn and Jack. Ben pulled off a great save and Finn nearly made it 2 with an outrageous lobbed attempt from the half way line after he spotted the goalie off his goal-line. We looked comfortable and nailed on to qualify, until a desperate late blow, conceding 2 goals in 3 minutes to leave us defeated and needing to win our final game.

Unfortunately, the boys seemed exhausted, the luck wasn’t with us and Foresters Spartak played a fine game to deservedly beat us 3-0, the last 2 goals coming as we chased the game. Really unfortunate, but after the boys did so well at Pembury it must have been somebody else’s turn to have a good run and so it proved, the Yodas reaching the semis of the Plate after an epic penalty shootout and the Giants so nearly winning the Cup but finishing unfortunate runners-up, despite playing the best football I saw all day.

Broad Oak & Horam next and surely the lads will have a better day in 2 weeks time. Well done to all and a massive thank you to Luke, who played his last ever games for the Eagles and showed how much we’ll miss him after finishing top scorer in the second fiesta in a row. Good luck with the new school Luke!!!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 37, Finn 34, Jack 26, Max 20, Laurie 9, Luke 9, Ali 8, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 2)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 65. Won 31. Drawn 13. Lost 21 / Goals for: 149 / Goals against: 106)

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Sunday May 18th 2014 – Pembury Fiesta… WOW!!!!!!!

Group 4:
Langton Green Eagles 1 – 0 Rusthall Lions (Goal: Finn)
Langton Green Eagles 0 – 1 Tonbridge Piranhas
Langton Green Eagles 1 – 0 Wadhurst United (Goal: Luke)
Langton Green Eagles 0 – 0 Maidstone Mavericks

Round of 16:
Langton Green Eagles 3 – 0 Sevenoaks United
(Goals: Jack, Luke, Sammy)

Quarter Final:
Langton Green Eagles 0 – 0 Maidstone Rangers
(Eagles win 3-2 on penalties)

Semi Final:
Langton Green Eagles 0 – 1 Tonbridge Sharks

What a morning. The Pembury fiesta is always a tough one (or so I was told after we entered!) and attracts some really good sides. Thankfully this year, Pembury decided to make sure everyone got through to one or other knockout competition – either the Cup (for the top three sides in each group) or the Plate (for the bottom three from each group and the competition I’d assumed we’d end up competing in, having been drawn in the “group of absolute death”). Short on numbers, with Rami sadly missing with a broken wrist (get well soon Rami) and several other star players unable to make it, we were very grateful to both Sam (who filled in between the posts in the absence of Ben) and Alf, who agreed to play for us with Max and Laurie missing.

We started off against a very strong Rusthall Lions side, who had walloped us 5-0 at the Langton fiesta last year. It’s a credit to the progression the boys have made that they played almost the entire game with the ball in the opposition half, restricting Rusthall to a solitary long-range strike that Sam dealt with comfortably. The boys started superbly, passing the ball round on the excellent quality pitch (thank you Pembury) and fashioning a couple of early half chances that the opposition goalkeeper did well to palm away. Sammy was unlucky to see his ingenious first-time shot well saved and with Alf and Vincent excellent at the back we were looking in control.

Just before half time, Jack and Alf combined brilliantly, Jack’s shot being well saved by the goalkeeper, who was unfortunate to find Finn lurking to chip the rebound calmly into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Eagles and in the driving seat.

Luke replaced Finn at the break and slotted in well, combining with Sammy and Jack with ease to create a good chance for Sammy that he slammed goalwards, only to see it come back off the crossbar.

With further strikes by Luke and Alf well blocked by last-ditch challenges, the Eagles were unlucky not to make it two, but the final whistle went in what seemed like a flash to leave the boys with a 1-0 win from their first match and a great start to the day.

Having watched the other 4 teams in our group play, we took to the pitch against Tonbridge Piranhas (who, to give you an idea of standard, had just won the 1st division of the Crowborough League along with their pair team, The Sharks (we’re in the 3rd division)). Tonbridge were unfortunate to lose their opening game 1-0 and were clearly out to make amends, starting strongly from the off. But the Eagles were more than a match for them, carving out several decent chances, Finn’s instinctive header from a Tonbridge error well saved and Alf’s long range shot just stopped by the ‘keeper.

Vincent was imperious at the back, Sam made a succession of solid catches and saves and the midfield were ticking along really well, keeping the ball on the floor and passing it round brilliantly, with Alf and Finn’s combination play at the start of so many attacks and Sammy and Jack’s on the end of so many.

It looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw, which would have been a very fair result for both teams, but in the last minute, Tonbridge’s excellent striker received the ball on the edge of the box, drove forwards and hammered a right foot shot into the bottom corner – what turned out to be the only goal we conceded in the group. Nothing the excellent Sam could do about that shot. The boys still had time to nearly snatch an equaliser but Jack’s excellent cross just evaded Luke’s lunging dive and the ref blew the whistle to leave us with a 1-0 defeat. A shame as we really deserved something from a game we’d more than been equal in.

Our next match was against Wadhurst United, a team we’d shared some close matches with at last year’s fiestas and once again the Eagles started in control, passing the ball brilliantly, going backwards when needed instead of hitting hopeful long passes and trying to open up the stubborn Wadhurst defence with some slick movement.

Alf and Vincent were once again both solid and creative in equal parts at the back and Sam was a rock behind them, doing exactly what was needed of him in a quiet first half where we had most of the ball but Wadhurst stood resolute.

The second half was an altogether more interesting affair, Sammy unlucky to see a great strike go just wide, Jack equally unlucky with a firm left foot shot and Sam making a brilliant save when the Wadhurst striker was through 1 on 1 with him. With another 0-0 draw looking to be the most likely outcome, the boys combined brilliantly with Finn, Alf and Jack passing the ball round wonderfully, to release Luke on the right. He took a touch, then another and just as we thought he’d overrun it, he dinked a fine finish beyond the goalie and into the back of the net. Another 1-0 win and top of the table!

Next up were the excellent Maidstone Mavericks, who had won their opening game 7-0! In what we thought would be the toughest game of the morning, we were superb from the off, in a very different way to how we were in the first 3 games. This was all about staying solid and not conceding and Jack particularly deserved praise for his stint in defence for being in about 7 places at once to block and tackle his team to a brilliant 0-0 draw despite a couple of nervy moments when Maidstone hit the bar and put a last second shot just wide, to see us finish in 3rd place in the group and make it into the Cup competition rather than the Plate!!! Brilliant stuff!

So – to knockout competition and the best 11 other teams in the tournament. It was going to be tough. By virtue of finishing 3rd, we faced the team who ended 2nd in group 3 and this turned out to be Sevenoaks United, a team who had thrashed us 3-0 in the Pembury fiesta last season. Not so this time. Up for it from the off, the boys were mesmeric at times, passing slickly, moving off the ball and giving Sevenoaks absolutely no chance at all. I’m not even sure Sam had to make a save in a first half that the Eagles totally dominated from start to finish, going 1-0 up through Jack’s fine left foot drive.

Downhill in the second half and we continued in the same vein, brilliant movement from Sammy and Jack creating a chance for Luke, which he slotted home expertly to get his second of the day and the Eagles’ second of the game. Sammy had time to latch onto Alf’s outrageously good through ball to make it 3-0 with a finely taken goal and with Sevenoaks threatening with a rare attack Vincent showed how hard he works with a wonderful tackle and pass out to start another attack.

The whistle went to rapturous applause from the crowd and see the boys into the last 8 with a stunning 3-0 victory! We were on cloud 9!

Our quarter final opponents were to be the dangerous Maidstone Rangers, a team who had walked through group 1 to top their section without losing a game. We were up for it. These lads were a very strong team, physically and in terms of ability with the ball and we didn’t quite get going in a first half we looked on the back foot for but never really looked like conceding in either, Vincent and Alf excellent in defence and Jack doing a stirling job of helping them out.

We dropped deeper and deeper and I was concerned a long ball into the box from Maidstone would be our undoing as we didn’t seem to be able to keep hold of the ball particularly well when we did win it back, our outlets up front drying up as we dropped back to try and help defensively. Sammy and Finn had a great bit of interplay that nearly saw Sammy break free and an Alf long shot was well saved. Jack had a half chance after doing superbly to fight his way through 2 strong challenges and Luke was making a massive effort to help out defensively.

The second half was a slightly better spectacle, but with Sam rarely troubled in goal (and dealing with anything that did come his way with consummate ease), we comfortably played out the remainder of the game to see out a 0-0 draw and take the match to the dreaded penalties!

The tension was palpable. You could hear your heart thumping in your chest, the hot sun taking no prisoners in its relentless attack… okay maybe I’m overdoing it a bit. But we were nervous. Very nervous. “Does anyone not want to take a penalty?”… no hands. Okay, good start. Sammy was an obvious choice, having scored every penalty I’ve ever seen him take. Alf was another obvious choice. He wouldn’t shy away from the challenge and I’d seen him score a lot of penalties in training. Finn was the third. He’s fairly calm under pressure. It was a tough choice. Would it be the right one…? Sam in goal could only be a hero – nobody expects a goalie to save a penalty, the pressure is all on the striker, so he could relax and do his best… we were to go first.

Eagles… Sammy… SCORES!!!! Bottom left corner, hard, powerful and accurate. You don’t save those.

Maidstone… SCORE!!! Again, hard and low and in the corner.

Eagles… Finn… SCORES!!!! Brilliant, placed penalty into the bottom right corner. Calmness personified. You don’t save those either.

Maidstone… SCORE!!! Hard, closer to the middle but so much power.

Eagles… Alf… SCORES!!!! Powerful, to the keeper’s left and into the back of the net. You definitely don’t save those!

Maidstone… SAVED!!!! A brilliant block from Sam to see his team through. YYEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this point some of the lads told me they hadn’t really wanted to take one but also hadn’t wanted to put their hands up. “If anyone else had put their hand up, I would have too”… I’m glad nobody did, or we may have ended up with me having to take the penalties. Well done for being brave lads. So unfortunate for Maidstone – they didn’t deserve to lose but nor did the Eagles and penalties (as every England fan knows) are pretty cruel… but we were into the semi finals. Of the Cup! We were on cloud 9 + 1. Or cloud 10.

Our opponents for the biggest game of the Eagles’ short career were the “other” Tonbridge team (the pair team of the Piranhas who had jointly topped the Crowborough League this year). These guys were called the Sharks and they won the Langton fiesta last year, beating us 3-0 in the group stage. We were up for it.

The boys started on the front foot, keeping the ball well in the opposition’s half and playing some nice stuff. Sammy had a half shot blocked and Jack nearly played Finn through but a defender cut the ball out. This was a good side though, probably the strongest we faced all day and they threatened themselves, pushing forwards in numbers and testing Sam with a couple of long rangers (which Sam was once again more than equal to).

In a pulsating encounter we went 1-0 down midway through the first half, Tonbridge breaking from midfield and slotting into the corner despite Sam’s superb closing of the angle in goal.

But heads didn’t go down and in fact the boys upped their game even more, Vincent super at the back, allowing Alf to go driving forwards, spraying the ball out to Jack and Sammy who were showing their pace and causing real problems for the Sharks’ defence. Half time came and I was reasonably happy – still in the game and shooting downhill – and the second half was all Eagles. Both teams looked tired in the heat, we kept possession well, but we just couldn’t quite find the finishing touch. Finn, Sammy and Alf had an outrageously good piece of interplay down the left which nearly resulted in a goal and was probably the best passage of football I saw all morning from any team. Alf had a good long range free kick well blocked, Sammy just wide with the follow up and Luke was unlucky after going on a barnstorming run to see his pass to Jack cut out.

With the clock ticking down, the lads gave it absolutely everything but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. So near to the final but a real victory in terms of performances and spirit. To finish in the top 4 teams in the whole tournament – a tournament which was seriously tough anyway – was an outstanding achievement and whilst walking past the trophies on the way home was tough for the lads, they can come away feeling incredibly proud of a wonderful display of excellent football (which again got comments from opposition parents and even the referee in our semi final) for its pass and move brilliance and aesthetic appeal. I was so proud this morning – well done boys – all of you were absolutely brilliant.

Player of the day goes to the whole team. Impossible to pick one boy – they were all outstanding.

Another massive thanks to Sam and Alf for helping us out and to all the parents for their unyielding support. I’m off for a beer. See you at Langton!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 37, Finn 33, Jack 25, Max 19, Laurie 9, Ali 8, Luke 7, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 2)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 60. Won 29. Drawn 13. Lost 18 / Goals for: 144 / Goals against: 100)

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Saturday May 10th 2014 – 9 a Side Friendlies vs Langton / Tonbridge

2-0, 1-0, 0-1
(Goals: Jack, Finn, Max)
Player of the day: Jack

No in-depth match reports on these games – we played 3 x short 9 a side matches in preparation for next season, winning two of them and losing the other. All were close matches between really even teams (2 Tonbridge Juniors and 2 Langton teams took part). I was pleasantly surprised with how well the boys made the jump to the much bigger pitches and goals, the larger number of players on the pitch and the offside rule.

Plenty to work on in training, but some excellent play. Max, Jack and Finn took their goals well, Finn scoring possibly his best goal for the Eagles so far with a lovely dribbling run and shot. Jack’s energy and pressure on the opposition was excellent throughout and he scored a really good goal after winning the ball back high up the pitch and arrowing a shot into the bottom corner. Rami, Vincent and debutant Sam stood up well in defence, Rami’s pace getting him back to make several excellent challenges, Sam always there when he needed to be and clearing well (as well as playing up front for a while and doing really well there too) and Vincent showing great composure to win the ball back and play some strong passes to team mates.

Ali and Laurie played really well in midfield (and both took turns in defence where they did brilliantly too), passing the ball round nicely, Laurie unlucky not to score with a powerful blocked shot as well as being his usual calm self in possession and Ali also calm and assured on the ball with strong positioning.

Sammy was always a threat up front, his interplay with Finn and Max was second to none and he was unlucky not to get on the score sheet with some powerful strikes. I was particularly impressed with how he understood the offside rule and was always looking along the line of the defenders to try and time his run perfectly. Finn was unlucky with a late free kick in our final game and another chance which was volleyed just wide with his left foot and Jack had a good shot from out wide well saved.

Max, as usual, played some sublime passes and had some great slaloming runs through the opposition defence. He took his goal well, striking a powerful shot from the edge of the area that the goalkeeper couldn’t keep hold of. Ben did a wonderful job in goal, making some brave saves and was incredibly unlucky to concede in the final match, making what would have been an outrageous stop if we were still playing in mini soccer goals. His positioning is getting better and better and his shot stopping was again brilliant today.

I was really pleased to see all the boys trying to pass the ball round and play out from the back still. It would be easy to resort to hoofing it on the larger pitch but they looked for the pass nearly every time and stuck to our philosophy of keeping possession, passing and moving off the ball. Well done boys. Great stuff!!!

Just a few fiestas now and then the summer break. I need it.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 36, Finn 32, Jack 24, Max 19, Laurie 9, Ali 8, Luke 5, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 2)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 53. Won 26. Drawn 11. Lost 16 / Goals for: 139 / Goals against: 98)

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Saturday May 3rd 2014 – End of Season Tournament – WINNERS!

Langton Green Eagles 2 – 0 Yalding
(Goals: Sammy, Jack)

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 2 Kingston Village
(Goal: Max)

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 1 Laddingford
(Goals: Finn, Sammy, Jack, Max)

Langton Green Eagles 6 – 0 Langton Green Falcons
(Goals: Ali 2, OG, Luke, Max, Jack)

FINAL: Langton Green Eagles 1 – 0 Kingston Village
(Goal: Finn)
Player of the tournament: Max

What a morning! The Eagles played their last ever 7 a side mini soccer games on a beautiful, sunny day in front of a capacity crowd, in to watch our end of season tournament and hopefully see the boys lift their first trophy to cap a really good season with some silverware!

First up were Yalding, our pair team from this season and the game started evenly with both teams threatening, Yalding’s number 14 particularly dangerous with his quick feet and speedy runs causing us problems from the off. Rami and Laurie were steadfast in defence though and Ben made a strong catch when first called upon. Finn, Max and Sammy were zipping the ball round in midfield, passing and moving fantastically and Jack was causing all manner of problems on the left hand side with his tricky running.

The Eagles went 1-0 up midway through the game after Rami’s superb tackle and run saw the boys surge forwards. Some great movement from Sammy allowed him to find some space in the area to receive a good pass from Jack, which he dinked to one side of the defender and calmly smashed home. A great finish but only made possible because of Rami’s excellent play to start the attack off.

Luke came on and had a couple of good runs down the right, with Max moving to centre midfield and it was from his superb pass that Jack scored the second, having threatened to do so on several occasions. A calm finish from close range gave his team a 2-0 lead and we saw the rest of the game out with Vincent making some excellent challenges and Ali coming on to bother the opposition defence with a couple of great shots.

With no time to catch our breath, we were straight back on to play Kingston, a very good team who we drew 1-1 with last week at the Tonbridge jamboree. A really even game saw the Eagles play some lovely, passing football, but we were a bit tentative in defence and failed to clear a routine ball, giving Kingston the chance to slam home for a 1-0 lead, despite Ben’s excellent attempt at a save.

Max was having none of it though and drew us level almost immediately, with a delightful, chipped cross / shot that sailed over the goalkeeper’s head to make it 1-1. With just a couple of minutes left the game looked destined for another draw but we switched off on a throw in and gifted Kingston a goal due to a combination of poor concentration on our part and excellent finishing on theirs. A 2-1 loss and a deserved result in a game we started well but never really kicked on in.

Languishing near the foot of the table after a quick break whilst other teams played matches, the boys knew they needed a win to get themselves back in contention for a place in the final and they started quickly against Laddingford Utd, zipping the ball round on the slick turf with one of their best displays of passing football all season and watched by a very fine Golden Retriever, who was supporting Laddingford but the boys attempted to adopt as their new team mascot.

Within 5 minutes the Eagles were 3-0 ahead, first through a perfectly placed finish from Finn after Jack’s excellent pass, then from Sammy’s close range shot after really good work by Laurie to make some space and play a dangerous ball into Sammy’s path and then through Jack who wasn’t to be denied his second goal of the morning after a good passage of play involving Luke, Vincent (who defended brilliantly in this game) and Ali, whose pass was inch-perfect.

The Eagles scored a fourth just after half time, Max dribbling past several players and then slotting home superbly and despite Laddingford pulling a really well taken lobbed finish back, the boys maintained their strong performance to see out the game and take a 4-1 victory into their last group fixture, against our good friends the Falcons.

I have to say that I was incredibly impressed with how the Falcons played, having been dreadfully unlucky to lose their previous game 2-0 to two last minute goals after a tremendous defensive display from Elliot and some great saves from Daniel in goal, with Eddie particularly impressive in attack.

The game started very evenly, both teams having some possession in midfield, but neither creating any clear cut chances and we were very fortunate to go ahead to an unlucky own goal. The boys then started to play a bit more fluidly, scoring again through Ali and Jack to make it 3-0. A second, very well-taken goal from Ali preceded a fine solo run and finish from Max before Luke scored his first of the day. The Falcons came back into it with some excellent passing and fine goalkeeping, Eddie looking particularly dangerous up front with some really good footwork and skills to create space for himself. Finn and Sammy performed admirably in defence and goal respectively and the final whistle went to signal the end of the match and the conclusion of the group stages. The scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the balance of play and I thought the Falcons deserved more than they got out of this morning’s games in general.

Results in the other games meant that we topped the group and would again face Kingston Village, our conquerers from earlier in the morning, in the final – a 15 minute game with the dreaded penalties awaiting if the match ended in a draw.

The Eagles started the faster of the two teams, Vincent and Laurie solid at the back and starting our attacks with some calm passing out of defence. Jack was dangerous on the left, running at the Reds’ defender with energy and trickery and the passing from Max, Laurie and Finn was superb, always looking for the lively Sammy up front with their final ball.

The game ebbed and flowed, Kingston coming back into it with energy and testing our defenders with some really strong passing play. Sammy had a shot go just wide on the counter attack, Jack flashed a couple of chances past the post and Finn saw a powerful shot from the right saved by the excellent Kingston goalkeeper. Just before half time, Vincent won the ball and played it forward. Jack and Laurie combined brilliantly to set Max free, whose pinpoint pass found Finn running beyond the last defender. He controlled well, bore down on the goalie and hit his shot well, but the ‘keeper was equal to it, saving well to push the ball out wide. Unfortunately for Kingston however, Jack had continued his run down the left and controlled well, knocked the ball past a defender and played the perfect cross into Finn’s path in the penalty area. Finn made no mistake with his finish, smashing the ball home from a few yards out to give the Eagles a 1-0 advantage and score his 50th goal for the team since the Eagles began.

Half time saw a few changes, Rami coming on to shore up the defence (which he did brilliantly, apart from his trademark ball-catch-handball situation occurring, thankfully not in the penalty area!) and Luke and Ali getting in on the action. Ali played a couple of great 1-2 passes with Max, Luke had a powerful run down the right before seeing a good shot go wide and Laurie continued his awesome performance at the back, calmness personified, to intercept with ease and then start Eagles attacks with some perfectly weighted passes.

The second half was end to end, scintillating football from both teams at times, with Ben making the save of the day to somehow keep hold of a powerful shot across his body and Max nearly scoring the best goal of all time, ever, after dribbling past virtually the entire Kingston team only to see his perfectly hit shot saved with a brilliant diving stop from the opposition goalkeeper.

Sammy went close late on and Laurie and Vincent had to dig deep to keep the boys ahead, Vincent continuing his superb form from last week to slot into the team brilliantly. Finn and Max played some lovely passing football with Jack to keep us pushing forwards but a couple of well-timed interceptions from our opponents meant we were suddenly outnumbered and having to track back with energy to keep our advantage. Support from the sidelines was superb, both from our subs and from the other Langton parents and players who were playing after us (thank you!)

Laurie’s late pass to Sammy nearly saw us finish the match with another goal but the Kingston goalie (who was excellent all morning) came out well to snuff out any chance and despite a 2 minute end to the match which saw a few nail-biting-ball-bobbling round in our area moments, the final whistle went to give the boys a well-earned 1-0 victory and their first trophy! Well done!!!! We’ve now had three really close games against Kingston in the last week, all very entertaining and played in a wonderful spirit. I’m looking forward to pitting our wits against them again at some point.

Player of the tournament has to go to Max, whose solo run in the final was one of the highlights of the entire season, although all the boys were magnificent and played their part in a brilliant morning.

Thanks to Martin for once again (and maybe for the last time!) refereeing superbly throughout the morning and also a massive thanks to all the parents for their unflinching support.

There was just time for us to give out our player of the season awards, with Jack winning the manager’s award, Finn winning the player’s vote and Max winning the Tuesday Trophy. There were medals and certificates for everyone to award a special moment of the season for each of them and they all deserved them.

That’s it for mini soccer! A 9 a side practice friendly next week and then a few fiestas to finish the season.

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Awards:

Player of the season (voted by the players and parents):
Finn

Manager’s player of the season:
Jack

Tuesday Trophy:
Max

Save of the season: Ben vs Foresters
Goal of the season: Sammy vs Kingston Village
Longest range goal of the season: Ali vs Langton Green Yodas
Team goal of the season: Jack vs Ashurst Wood
Tackle of the season: Rami vs Langton Green Giants
Defensive display of the season: Vincent vs Kingston Village
Skill / trick of the season: Laurie vs Borough Green
100% award for total performance: Luke vs Ridgewaye Rockets
Pass of the season: Finn vs Hailsham Colts
Man of the match performance of the season: Max vs Uckfield (surpassed today vs Kingston Village in the final)

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Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 36, Finn 31, Jack 23, Max 18, Laurie 9, Ali 8, Luke 5, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 2)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 50. Won 24. Drawn 11. Lost 15 / Goals for: 136 / Goals against: 97)

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Saturday April 26th 2014 – Tonbridge Jamboree

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 1 Kingston Village
(Goal: Sammy)
Man of the Match: Sammy

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 3 Foresters
(Goal: Finn)
Man of the Match: Vincent

Langton Green Eagles 6 – 1 Forest Row
(Goals: Jack 3, Sammy, Max, Laurie)
Man of the Match: Jack

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 0 Borough Green
(Goal: Finn)
Man of the Match: Ben

I was pleasantly surprised when the torrential rain that accompanied me on my morning dog walk cleared away nicely for the start of a brilliant morning’s football from the Eagles. We were without Rami and Luke but were joined by Vincent for his first games for the Eagles since joining the club and I have to say he did a fantastic job on his debut.

First up were Kingston Village, a team we’ve never played before and the boys looked up for it from the word go, Sammy and Jack causing all sorts of problems for the opposition with their quick movement up front and Vincent and Ali in fine form at the back, communicating well and snuffing out long balls over the top from Kingston.

Max and Laurie were bossing the midfield with some strong challenges and excellent pass and move football but we somehow found ourselves behind after a clever through ball evaded our excellent defenders and we were unfortunate to see the ball slip into the back of the net. Despite having dominated possession we were behind but the boys often respond well to this kind of situation and so it proved.

Almost straight from the kick off we were attacking again, some great passing seeing Finn play Jack in, who squared the ball to Laurie, whose excellent strike was blocked. More from Max and Finn in midfield playing some nice one-twos to set Sammy free for a great strike that the goalie saved well. Finn then had a superb shot from out wide that the goalie again did brilliantly to save, whilst Ben made a really, really good save at the other end and Vincent made a couple of brilliant tackles to intercept the ball and start the Eagles moving forwards.

The Eagles were piling forward, playing some of the best football I’ve seen them play, switching from left to right in an attempt to try and break down the solid defence of Kingston and I was starting to think it was going to be one of “those” games when Finn played in Jack, who swivelled and knocked a wonderful through ball to Sammy. His control was excellent and his vision superb to lob the onrushing keeper and put his team on level terms. The best goal Sammy’s scored for us all year (and there have been some good ones), mainly because he showed such great awareness and thought to notice the goalie off his line and adapt his shot to the situation.

The Eagles could have got themselves a winner, continuing to push forward fantastically, but the team in red defended well and had another chance of their own which Ben did superbly to block. The final whistle went to give the boys a 1-1 draw in what was a hugely entertaining game against a very good side. Man of the match goes to Sammy for a brilliantly-taken goal and some great passing. Well done Sammy.

Second up were a good Foresters side who we’ve beaten, lost to and drawn with previously in what were 3 very good games and this one proved to be no exception. They have one or two extremely strong players and are excellent going forwards, as we found out after less than a minute as they scored an outrageously quick goal to again leave the Eagles 1-0 down early in a game. The boys responded brilliantly though and were on level terms less than 30 seconds later, Jack making a great run down the left and playing a devilish ball across the edge of the area for Finn to control and slam home from a few yards out. 1-1 and less than 2 minutes gone!

The quality of the football was excellent from both teams, the Eagles having the upper hand for the next 5 minutes and nearly scoring again through Ali and Jack but then finding themselves increasingly hemmed in as Foresters pushed forwards. Ben kept us level with 2 great saves and Vincent continued his super form from the first game with some goal-saving tackles.

Jack was absolutely everywhere, tracking back, making tackles and bombing forwards. The rest of the midfielders were passing well but when we didn’t have the ball there was a slight lack of urgency in terms of helping our defenders. Laurie and Finn combined well to set Max up for a shot which he struck almost too well, seeing it flash over the bar, but ultimately we were undone by the pace and strength of Foresters excellent number 24, the same player who caused us problems in our league games against them this year. His shooting was strong, powerful and accurate and with the game looking like it would finish in another draw, we conceded 2 late goals to lose 3-1, almost solely because of his excellent play.

The boys deserved at least a draw in what was another really entertaining game, but that’s football. Man of the match goes to Vincent for the brilliant way he slotted into the team, the way he communicated with his teammates and his excellent tackling and composure to start the team going forward again.

After a very short break, the boys were back on to play Forest Row, another team we’d never faced before and unlike the first two games, were out of the blocks at top speed, scoring twice within the first 3 minutes. The first goal was a great one from Jack, latching onto Finn’s excellent pass and scoring with a great dribble past the diving goalkeeper and finishing low into the corner. Laurie then made it 2-0 with an excellent, solid strike from Sammy’s accurate corner. A goal he fully deserved.

The boys then went through a (thankfully short) phase where nearly every player was guilty of shooting when a teammate was better placed and a goal for Forest Row from a good long ball saw them set about their task of playing good, passing football again. Sammy added the third goal after some really good passing between him and Finn before Max scored one of the goals of the season with a wonderful solo run that saw him dribble past pretty much the entire opposition team and finish deftly into the corner.

Jack scored his second from a wonderful pass from Finn when I was sure he would shoot himself (really pleased with that Finn – very unselfish) and his hat trick came from another Finn pass, Jack still having plenty to do by turning brilliantly and sliding the ball under the goalie to make it 6-1 to the Eagles.

Finn was unlucky not score himself with a ferocious shot after Ali showed really good vision to play a great 1-2 with Laurie and play Finn in and Vincent got forward brilliantly to put himself in a good scoring position but was unlucky to see his shot go just wide.

Ben had time to make a really strong save before the final whistle went to give the Eagles a good victory. Man of the match in this one goes to Jack for his brilliant work ethic and great hat-trick. A mention has to go to Finn for his unselfish passing when on two occasions he played Jack in when he may well have shot himself. Jack also gets another special mention for his great sportsmanship – when I congratulated him on his hat trick he immediately said he wouldn’t have got it if it wasn’t for Finn, who had passed to him. Really good to see him paying his teammate a compliment like that when he’s just scored 3 goals – well done Jack.

Our final game saw us play 8 a side against a very competitive, direct, Borough Green team who had an excellent goalkeeper. The extra player on the pitch led to a slightly cramped conditions and saw perhaps the least fluent football of the day in what was a very physical encounter. Ali played particularly well, passing out of defence brilliantly on occasion and Jack and Sammy combined superbly to set Finn up to score the opening goal after 7 or 8 minutes – a powerful strike into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.

Vincent was playing further forward and was making his presence felt with some really good strong midfield play and Sammy’s pace and trickery so nearly led to another goal but for some fine goalkeeping. The boys looked a bit jaded though and I have to say that but for some superb shot stopping from Ben, Borough Green would have scored. He made about 3 or 4 saves in a row and had his woodwork rattled by a very good strike from long range. I was really pleased with how Ben dominated his penalty area today, coming out to narrow the angle wonderfully and making life generally difficult for the attackers.

Laurie displayed some superb skill to turn and pass to Finn, who laid the ball off to Max. Max showed his skills were up there with Laurie’s with a great turn of his own and his cross dangerously flashed across goal with no yellow shirt there to connect. A couple of corners from Borough Green were well dealt with by Ben and Ali and Laurie’s defending kept the ball out on a number of occasions.

With the numbers on the pitch and the tired legs meaning the boys were struggling slightly to play their usual fluid game, we held on a bit at times, especially when the Borough Green goalkeeper came forward for a couple of corners and we struggled to clear.

With Sammy having to leave half way through, the tired legs showed even more but Borough Green gave us one of their defenders (who made several really good clearances it has to be said, despite his team mates jokingly asking him to score an own goal!!) to keep it at 8 a side and we had several chances to make it 2-0, Finn shooting well but their goalkeeper making another really strong save and Laurie and Max both sending in teasing balls that we were unlucky to connect with. Max was showing a massive amount of effort to help out defensively and Ben again had a mad spell of shot stopping (with the Borough Green keeper again forward for a series of nerve-biting corners) that showed what good reaction he has and claims man of the match for his really good performance between the sticks – well done Ben, I was very impressed with how you played today. The final whistle went to give the boys another victory and send them home having played some really, really good football.

Well done lads – I’m really pleased with how you played today and a special mention has to go to Vincent who slotted into the team so well on his debut. Goals in every game, some great defending and more of that Eagles pass and move football that the boys have progressed so far with this year. Thanks for all the parental support, to Martin for refereeing and to James and Martin for helping with goal construction too!

More friendlies next week – looking forward to it.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 34, Finn 29, Jack 20, Max 15, Laurie 9, Ali 6, Luke 4, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 1)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 45. Won 20. Drawn 11. Lost 14 / Goals for: 122 / Goals against: 94)

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Saturday April 12th 2014

Langton Green Eagles 3 – 2 Ashurst Wood Tigers
(Goals: OG, Sammy, Jack)
Man of the Match: Finn

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 2 Ashurst Wood Panthers
(Goal: Jack)
Man of the Match: Laurie

A really enjoyable morning’s football. We saw some scintillating stuff from the Eagles in both matches, a spirited near-comeback from a very good Ashurst Wood team in the first game and a dog on the pitch, which Martin did very well to tame in addition to his excellent performance with the whistle as a referee.

The first game started like a rocket, the Eagles pressing from the kick off, full of energy and craft when on the ball, Jack in particular looking lively in the opening exchanges and Finn and Sammy playing some delightful one-twos to work their way through the middle. Laurie and Rami were solid at the back in front of Ben, who came out well to smother an Ashurst Wood attack.

Max started the game in a central midfield role and won back possession well to set Finn going down the right hand side. His cross was a wicked one, full of pace towards Sammy. The defender did well to get there but could do nothing as he tried to block the ball and inadvertently turned it into his own net. A really unfortunate own goal but a scoreline the Eagles deserved at this stage of the game.

Keen to build on that, the lads pressed again from the kick off, creating several chances that Ashurst Wood did well to defend and winning a series of corners that Sammy and Max delivered with pace into the box, only to see those defended equally well by the strong opposition defenders. Laurie was getting forward to join in the attacks when we had possession and was unfortunate to see his excellent cross just evade Sammy’s despairing dive. Max and Jack played some sumptuous one-twos to slice through the opposition defence before Finn and Sammy did the same on the other side of the pitch to set Jack up, who was unlucky his shot went just the wrong side of the post.

Rami’s tackling was out of this world at times – some great defending from him in front of Ben, who had to make two brilliant saves before his judgement was a little too perfect as he left a ball which hit the inside of the post and along the line to spin out for a throw in. He knew it wasn’t going in! Some good distribution from Ben set us going forwards and Jack’s jinking run down the left set Max up for a shot which was well saved by the goalie. Sammy was lurking however to slam home the rebound and put his team 2-0 up.

Jack then made it three with an outrageous solo goal, picking the ball up in his own half and carving his way through three defenders before curving the ball past the despairing dive of the Ashurst Wood ‘keeper and into the bottom corner. What a strike and what a run! Looking to add a fourth before half time, Finn and Sammy again combined brilliantly in midfield but Finn’s shot was well saved and after the ball bobbled round in the area Finn was unlucky again to see his shot skim the bar after superb control from Laurie to set him up.

Half time and the boys were already pretty tired after some intense play in the opening period. With no subs today and the weather on the warm side, it was always going to be a struggle to keep that level of intensity up and so it proved. The second half started well, Finn, Max and Jack playing some really good one-touch passing to set Sammy up for a chance which the defender did superbly to block and Laurie playing some tremendous through balls to start off attacks as the boys looked for the killer goal.

Unfortunately, Ashurst Wood had other ideas and after some really good play from their strikers and a bit of indecision from us they stormed away down the right to score a well taken goal of their own. 3-1 was probably a fair reflection of the game up until that point, but as nerves set in around our penalty area we conceded possession cheaply and corner after corner tested us, Ben doing really well to punch clear before a wicked deflection from a low corner took the ball past him and into the bottom corner. 3-2 and we were reeling slightly.

Earlier in the season I would have fully expected us to lose the game from this position, but it’s testament to how well the boys have progressed that despite being on the back foot for much of the second half, they continued to try to play their passing game whilst defending superbly through Laurie and Rami to see the game out. There were chances to make it 4-2, Sammy and Finn both setting each other up but being denied by good defending and Jack’s energy despite carrying a slight injury was always a threat to the opposition. Max put a lot of effort in on the right and a couple of his crosses were so nearly turned in. His ball control to help keep possession in the final few minutes was crucial to us. Ashurst Wood had a chance to equalise at the death, their excellent number 23 seeing his shot go just wide, but the lads held on to see out a really good 3-2 win against a very good team who played some super football of their own.

The boys again came in for praise from the opposition parents for the way they played, which was really nice to hear. All in all a good game between two very evenly matches teams, played in a brilliant spirit from players, coaches and spectators.

The response to the half time oranges was much better than last time, Rami still resisting any vitamin C with an iron will, but others finding themselves surprisingly delighted by the refreshing snacks. We discussed the possibility of tropical fruit in the future. I’m not ruling it out.

The second match started in the same way as the first, plenty of pressure from the off and some wonderful passing in midfield with Laurie, Finn and Max playing some excellent one-twos to set Sammy up for an early chance that the keeper did well to stop. This side were very strong in the air, with several extremely powerful players, and their long balls into the box were causing us some early problems. With Jack bombing forward from defence we were looking slightly light at the back with Rami finding himself alone against 2 or 3 attackers on several occasions and only his excellent tackling or Ben’s superb goalkeeping keeping the score level.

A tactical switch to bring Laurie back alongside Rami sured things up and Jack went into attack on the left in a Mourinho-esque masterstroke of tactical genius from the manager (hmmm – or maybe just a happy accident – I’ll let you decide) as we instantly scored after great persistence from Jack saw him win the ball from a defender in front of goal and power home the opener shortly before half time and put the Eagles in the driving seat. 1-0.

A Sammy shot nearly snuck in and a lovely passing move involving Jack, Rami (who had burst forward from defence) and Max saw Finn get a shot in from the right which was well held by the excellent Ashurst Wood ‘keeper. The opposition were powerful in attack, their long passes being held up well by their striker, but Laurie was in inspired form at the back, blocking, intercepting and passing his way out from defence with some really good passes. Finn and Max’s dribbling and passing continued to be on top form and Sammy’s incisive running was causing all sorts of problems.

The second half proved a tougher challenge, as the tiredness of having no sub started to show on some of the lads who had all worked tirelessly for the team today. Finn hit the bar with an outrageous strike from the edge of the pitch, Finn, Laurie and Jack all nearly finished a sublime move in which the one touch passing was out of this world but we just couldn’t find that second goal that would have sealed the win. As tired legs really started to show, the boys started to retreat and despite Laurie playing one of the best halves of football I’ve ever seen from any of the boys in defence and Rami making some superb tackles alongside him, we conceded a sloppy goal as we backed off and didn’t close down the shot. 1-1 and a few minutes to go. Jack had taken a knock but bravely carried on and even though Ben made a couple of brilliant saves to keep us in it, he could do nothing about Ashurst Wood’s late winner, a long ball into the area headed out well by one of our defenders but then slammed into the net with a rifle of a shot to leave us 2-1 down.

Some excellent play from Sammy and Finn nearly gave us a very late equaliser but the ball was smuggled out for a corner and the final whistle went to leave the boys disappointed despite playing some wonderful football that they can be very proud of. Their attacking play has been fantastic at times recently and their defending as a team has been vastly improved too.

Man of the match such a tough one – the first game saw some great attacking performances from several of the lads and one of the goals of the season from Jack but Finn just sneaks it for his constant pass and move that set so many moves going. Laurie gets it for the second game for a brilliant display of defending as a ball-playing defender. In all honesty though, they were all wonderful today and any of them could have been man of the match.

Those were the final league games of the season and left the Eagles with a very creditable record of having won 13, drawn 6 and lost 9. An improvement on last year in terms of results but more importantly a real progression in terms of how they are playing. The progression of some of the individuals in terms of their ball control, thinking on the pitch and pass and move football has been outstanding. Thankfully we also have a great group of parents whose encouragement and excellent support has meant that despite times where our style of play has meant we’ve conceded goals by trying to keep possession rather than “hoof it”, we have enjoyed real encouragement from the sidelines to continue playing football the way we feel it should be played.

Well done boys. I’m really proud of all of you. 2 weeks until the Tonbridge jamboree and then a few fiestas to test ourselves against some new teams before the summer break. Have a good Easter!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 32, Finn 27, Jack 17, Max 14, Laurie 8, Ali 6, Luke 4, Ben 2, Rami 1, Alexander 1, OG 1)
(League results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 6. Lost 9 / Goals for: 77 / Goals against: 57 / Points: 45 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 41. Won 18. Drawn 10. Lost 13 / Goals for: 113 / Goals against: 89)

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Saturday April 5th 2014

Langton Green Eagles 0 – 0 Paddock Wood Predators
Man of the Match: Brodie

Langton Green Eagles 0 – 2 Paddock Wood Warriors
Man of the Match: Laurie

A very strange morning for the Eagles. The last time we played these two sides we won 4-3 and drew 2-2, so I was expecting plenty of goals and in all honesty the first game should have provided them for both sides. The Eagles started fantastically, completely dominating possession in midfield, with Brodie (who had kindly agreed to play for us for the morning in the absence of Max and whose dad, and coach, Kevin had very generously agreed to referee for us), Finn, Jack and Laurie passing the ball round like they were Xavi, Iniesta etc. Sammy was lively up front and Rami commanding at the back in front of Ben, who had very little to do for the first 10 minutes.

Sammy and Jack both had several good shots, Jack particularly lively on the left hand side and Brodie leapt like a salmon to head a corner from Finn just past the post, but as the half drew on, Paddock Wood gradually started to get a foothold in the game and had the best chance of the match after some indecision from the Eagles gave them an opportunity that they were unlucky not to score.

Half time came and I felt we had a great chance of winning the game. Luke and Ali came on in place of Brodie and Finn, and the boys continued to pressure the opposition with some really strong closing down and pressure when Paddock Wood had possession. Sammy had a good chance with their goalkeeper making an outstanding save and when Brodie came back on he was really unlucky to see another excellent header from Sammy’s corner flash just wide.

The Paddock Wood defence were holding strong, very well organised and powerful in the tackle, but they also had some good attacking players and were unlucky not to go ahead themselves on the counter attack, Ben making a really good save. Finn, Sammy and Brodie were once again involved in a sumptuous attacking move, Laurie joining in with a superb pass to Brodie, who laid the ball off to Finn, whose excellent cross just didn’t quite connect with a Langton foot. The Eagles were enjoying a good attacking spell a this stage, with some fantastic passing football on display whilst defending solidly through Rami’s commanding presence at the back and Ben’s excellent goalkeeping.

One thing we were struggling with slightly was the “hard work” aspect of the game, something the boys will be used to me nagging them about by now, several players losing possession but instead of trying their hardest to get back and help win the ball back, going for the more “stand and watch” approach as the opposition surged forwards. Something for us to look at in training. I was considering sending them on a week long fitness course with the Army in the Welsh mountains or something but I’m not sure that would go down very well.

Back to the game, and Sammy played Luke in after some good dribbling but Luke (having made a great run to get into position), was really unfortunate as his good first time shot went just wide. Ali had a couple of good long shots, but the opposition goalkeeper was a match for them and Brodie made a brilliant run from midfield before shooting just past the post. Despite some excellent late pressure from the Eagles, the game finished 0-0, the first goalless game of the season.

After a quick break, during which I totally forgot the half time oranges I’d painstakingly prepared the night before, we started what we thought would be the slightly tougher of the two games, based on the previous meetings between the sides and so it proved.

Again, the Eagles started brilliantly, dominating the opening exchanges and looking the more likely to score. Brodie and Finn exchanged a couple of excellent 1-2s in midfield but Paddock Wood’s strong defence saw any chance we created snuffed out and their powerful clearances from defence meant despite retaining possession, we had to start again over and over.

A brilliant cross field ball from Brodie found its way through to Jack, who had made a superb run into the box unmarked, but not realising how much time he had and thinking a defender was closing him down, he hit a first time shot which the goalkeeper stopped. One of those occasions where a team-mates shout to tell him he had time would have made a big difference to him – communication – something we can work on in training.

Finn then had a strong left foot shot from the edge of the box plucked out of the air by the ‘keeper and Ben made a save of his own at the other end to deny their powerful striker who lashed in a good long range effort. Ali came on and made some good runs, his sense of positioning very good and Luke joined the action with some good dribbling on the right and was unlucky not to receive a pass when he’d made good space to lose his marker. Finn skimmed the crossbar with an outrageous shot from wide right and the Eagles looked the more likely to score, Rami bursting forwards from the back on a great run and pass to a teammate in space. I was very happy at this stage.

Half time and the game was still delicately poised at 0-0 and proving to be another excellent match. At this point Kevin had to relinquish his refereeing duties, having done a superb job (thank you Kevin) as he had to go and train his own team. This meant my own refereeing skills were called into action (a rare occurrence indeed) so with a change behind the whistle we started the second half.

The boys started well, Ali and Luke brilliantly pressuring the opposition into a couple of early mistakes to win throw ins high up the pitch, but the game descended into a really unflowing (spellcheck tells me that isn’t a word), scrappy half of football (I blame the ref ;-) ) with neither team putting much together in terms of passing moves, the ball spending more time in the air than on the floor and the unprecedented award of 3 drop balls in one half after accidental injuries saw three of our players and one Paddock Wood player hurt. It wasn’t suiting our style of football at all and Paddock Wood did well to capitalise on that when a long ball into the box saw some slightly confused defending punished with a close range finish to put the Eagles 1-0 behind.

Despite trying to play our way back into the game, the half continued in the same disjointed fashion, with neither team keeping the ball for long, before Paddock Wood scored a second goal with a good header from a corner in the final couple of minutes. At this point we were struggling a bit with a couple of the boys off the field injured and one or two others really tired after putting in so much effort earlier in the day. Finn and Sammy had time to link up well through the middle and might have fashioned a chance but the final pass was slightly under hit and Paddock Wood won the ball back.

All in all some real positives from a morning where we kept a clean sheet (superb stuff defenders & Ben) and played some wonderful football at times going forwards. It’s been the story of the last few matches that our performances haven’t always equated to results but the main thing is that I’m seeing improvements every week and the boys are sticking to our plan in terms of the way they’re playing. I’m really proud of them for that and despite not scoring for the first time since the stone age, we actually created some really good chances. Credit also has to go to Paddock Wood’s defence who were one of the most organised we’ve ever played against.

Man of the match goes to Brodie (really commanding display and great generosity to play for us in the first place) in the first game and Laurie in the second, who was a calm, assured presence whether at the back or in midfield, both roles which he performed superbly.

Ashurst Wood at home next week – looking forward to it.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 31, Finn 27, Jack 15, Max 14, Laurie 8, Ali 6, Luke 4, Ben 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 26. Won 12. Drawn 6. Lost 8 / Goals for: 73 / Goals against: 53 / Points: 42 / GD: + 20)
(All results: Played 39. Won 17. Drawn 10. Lost 12 / Goals for: 109 / Goals against: 85)

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Saturday March 29th 2014

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 3 Tunbridge Wells Foresters Red
(Goal: Max)
Man of the Match: Max

Langton Green Eagles 2 – 2 Tunbridge Wells Foresters Blue
(Goals: Finn, Max)
Man of the Match: Ben

Too much of a nice day to be spending it indoors writing match reports so I shall be brief (thank goodness for that I hear you mutter).

The lads were on top form at times, playing some excellent attacking football and passing it round superbly in midfield against two very accomplished Foresters sides. Both games were played as 6 a side again and could have gone either way, the first being 1-1 for much of the match thanks to Max’s brilliant strike until Foresters scored two late goals after some hesitancy in the ranks gave the ball back to them in dangerous positions.

Rami made some excellent tackles, Jack was awesome down the left hand side and Finn, Laurie and Sammy were passing brilliantly. Man of the match goes to Max in the first game for his superb movement, dribbling and passing. His performance last time against these teams drew praise from the opposition coach and he played just as well this time. At the back Ben was in fine form when called upon to make saves, coming out and narrowing the angle on several occasions to disrupt opposition attacks and making some great stops from powerful Foresters shots. Ali was calm and made some good passes from the back, playing well alongside Rami and having a couple of good shots go just wide.

After the first match ended my attempt to instigate the Half Time Jaffa campaign to get healthy snacks into our weekly football fell somewhat flat. I shall keep trying though!

The second game started brilliantly, the boys again passing the ball round well, culminating in a really strong run down the left from Jack, who found Max with his pinpoint cross. Max’s first time finish put the lads 1-0 up and they looked like making it two on several occasions during a strong first half performance. Foresters came back into it just before half time with a good strong strike on the counter attack after Ben had saved well. Laurie nearly scored from the resulting kickoff, the ball worked to the edge of the box by him and Max before his well taken shot hit a defender and spun just wide. Max then produced an outrageous piece of skill with a kind of Maradona turn / Cruyff turn mashup that left me thinking I’d just watched a conjuring trick such was my surprise at him still having the ball at his feet when he emerged from a situation where he seemed certain to be tackled.

The second half was end to end, both teams having good spells of possession. Some of the passing between the boys was again fantastic to watch and even drew applause from the opposition parents and coach who I have to say were exactly what you want from spectators and coaches in junior football – really supportive of both teams and encourage their team to play good football rather than win at all costs.

Ben kept us in it on several occasions, firm hands palming away some really powerful shots, before he made the save of the day (even possibly save of the season), diving to his left to claw away a rifle of a shot from the powerful Foresters number 10 and draw applause from everyone on the touchline. Sammy and Ali were both looking dangerous on the attack, both having several shots go just wide of the post. A couple of corners from Max were scrambled away by Foresters when it seemed we surely must score and Rami made two brilliantly timed tackles to win the ball back and snuff out attacks at the other end. After fine work from Max to play Sammy in, his shot was saved, only to come back out to Finn, who took a touch to set the defender off balance and found the back of the net with a firm strike from inside the box to put his team 2-1 up.

Foresters hit the crossbar, Sammy had a great shot well saved by the Foresters keeper and we looked to be heading for victory until the excellent Foresters number 24 went on a wonderful mazy run that took him past several defenders before clipping the ball into the back of the net. A really brilliant individual goal that we all had to clap.

The game still had chances to go either way, their number 24 nearly repeating his dribbling trick before Jack stepped in with a tackle that saw him hurt his ankle before Sammy and Finn played their way through with some great one-two passing until Sammy’s powerful shot found the goalkeeper equal to it and the final whistle went to end another really positive morning’s football for the Eagles in terms of performance.

Man of the match for the second game has to go to Ben for his commanding performance in goal and that stunning save to finish it off. In the course of writing this I’ve decided it was definitely save of the season so far. Great stuff.

I should make brief mention of Ali’s well taken goal in our training match against First Class Football the previous weekend. We struggled a bit on a very small pitch to pass out of defence as well as we have done on other occasions but the boys plugged away admirably against a very strong team and kept trying to play their passing game (with some excellent success at times it has to be said). Ali did brilliantly to get himself into a good position to score against a really strong goalkeeper – probably the best we’ve faced all season.

Well done today boys. Really good stuff!

Having just reread that I realise I wasn’t as brief as I intended to be but after such excellent football from the lads at time today I couldn’t help myself. Roll on next week!!!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 31, Finn 27, Jack 15, Max 14, Laurie 8, Ali 6, Luke 4, Ben 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 24. Won 12. Drawn 5. Lost 7 / Goals for: 73 / Goals against: 51 / Points: 41 / GD: + 22)
(All results: Played 37. Won 17. Drawn 9. Lost 11 / Goals for: 109 / Goals against: 83)

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Saturday March 15th 2014

Langton Green Eagles 2 – 1 Ridgewaye Jupiter
(Goals: Sammy, Jack)
Man of the Match: Rami

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 5 Ridgewaye Galaxy
(Goal: Finn)
Man of the Match: Laurie

Another glorious morning. I even wore shorts, which was scary for some of the spectators but I’ve never been a tracksuit bottoms fan so I left for the Ridgewaye feeling very positive this morning, despite the fact that we were up against two very good sides, one of whom hasn’t dropped any points all season and the blow of being without the excellent Max due to school commitments.

Poor Laurie was feeling really unwell, but bravely turned out for his team despite suffering from a horrible cold, and playing 6 a side (Ridgewaye had also suffered from illnesses on the morning of the game) didn’t help as the boys had so much more running to do on massive pitches. They started the first game well defensively, Rami and Ali keeping it tight at the back and Ben commanding his penalty area superbly with some great catches from a few early hopeful goal bound long rangers. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite happening for us going forwards, our usual calm passing game suffering by playing too many aerial balls which were difficult to control.

As the first half went on, we started to calm down a bit, Sammy having a half chance which flashed just wide and Ali playing a great through ball for Jack to run onto in space, only to find himself tackled by Ridgewaye’s strong defender. Laurie was playing like he wasn’t suffering with illness at all, his assured passing playing Jack out wide and when Jack found Sammy with a lovely through ball, he was unlucky to find that same Ridgewaye defender there to pinch the ball off his toes.

Luke and Finn came on midway through the half and straight away they both got involved, Luke having a couple of really strong runs down the middle and Finn playing a series of excellent cross-field passes that found team mates in good attacking positions.

It was one of those games that could have gone either way and swung from defence to attack time and time again. Rami was immense at the back, making a number of brilliantly timed tackles to pinch the ball off the toes of Ridgewaye attackers and Ben was continuing his solid goalkeeping display. Half time came with the score 0-0 and the boys in positive spirits and feeling like the game was there to be won.

More half time changes saw Laurie and Ali come back on to provide some fresh legs and despite starting the half very positively, we found ourselves behind after we simply didn’t clear our lines when we had the chance and Ridgewaye took advantage with a well taken finish. It was harsh on our defenders and Ben, who had played excellently.

The boys have come behind from many times this season though, and with 7 or 8 minutes left I felt they had it in them to do it again. They kept themselves calm, passing the ball around well but Ridgewaye were holding firm at the back and it looked like it might just not be our day, several promising situations being snuffed out to the frustration of the watching fans! Sammy wasn’t happy with the situation though and had scorelines other than an Eagles defeat in mind, receiving the ball on the edge of the area, juggling it once, juggling it again and the volleying an outrageous overhead kick into the bottom corner to draw his team level at 1-1. Great goal.

The lads were buoyed by this, surging forwards with purpose and speed. Sammy to Laurie, Laurie to Jack, Jack to Finn who turned his defender brilliantly and bore down on goal. His strike from range was well saved by the Ridgewaye goalkeeper, but Jack had gambled on the rebound and was there to slot home from close range for his 15th goal of the season. 2-1 to the Eagles with just a couple of minutes left.

The boys still had to withstand another Ridgewaye attack which Rami did superbly to snuff out and kept possession well in the final seconds, Ali and Luke playing some fantastic passes to teammates to try and start another attack and keep the ball at the other end of the pitch. The final whistle went to much relief from the Eagles, who had done very well to earn a victory against a good Ridgewaye Rockets team.

After a brief break, during which Rami, Finn, Luke, Ali and Sammy all gave inspirational teams talks and I attempted an analogy involving Harry Potter (I do love a bit of HP), the boys took to the pitch to play a Ridgewaye Galaxy side who have won every league game they’ve played this season. They may have even won every league game they’ve played every season, I don’t know, it’s perfectly possible. We were again limited to 6 a side, which made things even tougher on the large pitches, but the boys were up for the challenge and despite the final result I couldn’t have been prouder of them.

The first half was tough. We were exposed as we pushed forwards and despite playing some good passing football and creating a couple of chances ourselves, we struggled to mark effectively all over the pitch and Ridgewaye’s power in the tackle and powerful shooting from distance left us 4-0 down at the break. This shouldn’t detract from Laurie’s superb performance in goal, despite feeling ill, he saved a number of really powerful shots and distributed the ball brilliantly.

When we went 5-0 behind early in the second half I feared a double figures scoreline but something seemed to happen after that goal and for the next 13 or 14 minutes the lads were absolutely unbelievable. Some of the passing in triangles from Finn, Sammy and Jack was out of this world. Ali and Rami were immense at the back, Rami making 4 or 5 unbelievable tackles to deny goalscoring chances and Ali playing a sweeper role superbly, passing out of defence with brilliant calmness. Ben was buzzing around everywhere, out on pitch for the second week running and full of energy and good passing of his own and Luke was putting in 100% (as he promised he would) and made some fine forward passes. Through all of this, Laurie continued to be unbelievable in goal, his distribution starting off several attacks and his shot stopping keeping the lads buoyed up and positive.

Midway through the half, Finn finished off a wonderful team goal, Rami miles up the pitch, pressuring his opposite number in the Ridgewaye defence and winning the ball to play Sammy in. Sammy to Jack, Jack back to Rami and Rami squared it for Finn to slam home from the middle of the box. Brilliant stuff. After that we were on fire. One move down the left hand side involving Ali, Luke and Finn was sublime, Sammy hitting the post from the resulting through ball. Finn had another chance which was well saved by the Ridgewaye keeper and then pulled out a fantastic Cryuff turn which left a couple of Ridgewaye defenders in his wake to create another really good chance for Sammy, who struck an excellent shot goalwards that was well blocked. Luke came back on to go on two jinking runs down the right only to be stopped by some good defending before Rami was injured making an unbelievable tackle and sadly had to come off.

The last 5 minutes were highly entertaining and despite being on the end of a 5-1 defeat I came away feeling so positive and proud of the boys. This was a great second half performance against the strongest team in the league by some distance and yet the Eagles matched them and for long spells were the team who looked more likely to create chances in the second period. I look forward to playing them again in the future. What really pleased me was how positive the boys stayed and how they pulled it back in the second half to earn a 1-1 draw on that half alone.

Man of the match is again a really tough one. Rami gets it for the first game although his performance in both games was superb. The second game everyone deserves it for that second half performance but I have to give it to Laurie for his brilliant job standing in in goal, despite feeling really unwell. Well done!!!

Friendlies on Friday against Skills Academy and then 3 weeks of league matches in a row from the 29th onwards. Looking forward to it!!!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 31, Finn 26, Jack 15, Max 12, Laurie 8, Ali 5, Luke 4, Ben 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 22. Won 12. Drawn 4. Lost 6 / Goals for: 70 / Goals against: 46 / Points: 40 / GD: + 24)
(All results: Played 34. Won 17. Drawn 8. Lost 9 / Goals for: 105 / Goals against: 71)

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Saturday March 8th 2014

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 4 Hailsham Colts
(Goal: Sammy)
Man of the Match: Ethan

Langton Green Eagles 5 – 3 Hailsham Juniors
(Goals: Finn 2, Sammy 2, Ali)
Man of the Match: Finn

Beautiful sunshine, grass pitches (make that mud pitches), Samba goals with more bits missing than present and a team fresh from a 2 week break from football after a rare weekend off last week. Perhaps that was why we found ourselves 3-0 behind at half time, despite a wonderful performance in goal from Ethan (who very kindly joined the Eagles for these matches) and some good early play from Laurie, whose long shot skimmed just wide after a minute or so of the game. Ethan’s enthusiasm and vocal organising unfortunately didn’t seem to be being mirrored by most of the rest of the lads, who seemed slightly confused by the ball during a first half where our superb recent pass-and-move football was barely surfacing at all, having been replaced by stand-and-watch football of the highest calibre! Martin, once again kindly refereeing, was having a good game though!

All teams can have a bad half though, and we shouldn’t take anything away from Hailsham Colts, who played some really good football in the opening 15 minutes and thoroughly deserved their lead. Half time brought a few changes and the lads immediately started the second half in much better form, passing the ball around nicely in midfield and battling much harder in defence to win it back from the onrushing Hailsham players. Jack had a good half chance which was well saved and Ben made some brilliant runs down the right hand side, putting in a really strong performance in a rare outing on pitch.

Against the run of play Hailsham scored a fourth – a well take goal right into the corner that Ethan did well to nearly tip round the post. This seemed to fill the boys with a sense of injustice that drove them on to play some much better football in the final 7 or 8 minutes, Sammy finally getting his reward for some really tenacious tackling and closing down, scoring a well taken consolation goal to give the boys something to smile about and level the second half at a goal a piece.

Rami came back on in midfield and injected some much-needed energy but even his constant running and Ali’s solid tackling and passing from the back couldn’t force another opening and the Eagles finished the match disappointed to have lost for the first time since Christmas but pleased with a second half performance that improved enormously on the first 15 minutes. Well done for bouncing back lads!

The second match couldn’t come quickly enough for the boys, who, desperate to put right their uncharacteristic display in the opening game, came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt giving Speedy Gonzalez a piggy back down a bob-sled track. Finn, Jack and Laurie were playing some great stuff in the middle, one and two touch passing that was sublime to watch at times. Ali was making some great runs up front and got the goal his performance deserved when Finn received the ball in the centre of the pitch from the excellent Jack, slid a perfectly weighted pass between two defenders and into the path of the onrushing Ali. He still had plenty to do however, but with the calmness of a zen master he took a touch to the right and dinked the ball past the goalkeeper’s stretched arm to put his side 1-0 up and in control.

The Eagles kept pounding on the door, Laurie in excellent form in the middle of the team, spraying passes out wide to Ben on one flank and Finn on the other. Jack was storming forward from the back at every opportunity and Rami was solid alongside him, organised brilliantly by Ethan, who continued his fine form from the first game with some really excellent positioning and shot stopping. He could do nothing about the unfortunate equaliser Hailsham scored, an own goal from a deflected cross that completely wrong footed him.

I was pleased to see the boys not let that knock the stuffing out of them – something that could have easily happened after the disappointment of the first game. Instead, they poured forward looking for a second goal, perhaps too much, as we found ourselves 2-1 down moments later after three Hailsham players pushed out as we stepped up and found themselves through on goal. Poor Ethan had no protection at all and despite an excellent attempt at a save he was simply outnumbered due to a lack of defenders defending or midfielders helping!

It was a pulsating game by this point, end to end, with some scintillating passing football going on and with the Eagles pushing for an equaliser nobody in yellow wanted half time to arrive. Ali had a brilliant shot well saved after finding some space on the edge of the area. Sammy came on as a sub and immediately showed great pace to sprint down the right and put in a good cross which Hailsham scrambled away. Jack found Laurie with a great ball. Laurie passed to Sammy, who played Jack in and after some really good skill with the ball seemingly running away from him, Jack found Finn in the centre of the box, who shot powerfully into the back of the net for the equalising goal.

Half time brought a team talk from Rami, who inspired the lads with his words of encouragement, peppered with additions from Finn and Sammy and the boys came out for the second half with a really good attitude and immediately got themselves ahead. Some more excellent passing involving Ben, Laurie and Finn saw Sammy free on the corner of the 6 yard box. His excellent cut back found him some space and he slammed home the 100th goal the Eagles have scored this season. A fine feat and one that shows what massive strides the lads have made since last year.

Hailsham pushed to try and score an equaliser but despite a wonderful goalmouth scramble where Finn, Ethan and Rami all made goal-line blocks and several players seemed to end up face down in the mud, the ball just wouldn’t cross the line and we scrabbled it away to Sammy who launched another Eagles attack.

Jack was on fire during this spell, jinking this way and that, turning defenders seemingly inside-out. His use of the ball at times was fantastic and his performance really deserved a goal, something he was only denied by some really good goalkeeping and his own generosity when in possession, passing on several occasions when other players may well have shot. I was also really pleased to hear Jack organising the players around him and taking on a leadership role with natural authority. Great stuff! His combination play with Sammy, Ben and Finn going forward was breathtaking at times, Rami and Ali backing them up ably from defence as Laurie took a well earned break.

The only way to ensure we weren’t too concerned about conceding another goal was to score again ourselves, which we did in style midway through the second half. A great interception from Rami set Jack going forwards and his pass to Sammy found Finn instead on the edge of the area. A couple of weeks back he hit the post from a very similar position but this time he wasn’t going to let the wood work deny him, opening up his body to bend a shot through the arms of the goalie and into the back of the net to make it 4-2 to the Eagles. Game on!

Laurie came back on and immediately pushed the team forwards again, passing superbly to find Sammy who scored his second of the game with a wonderful, powerful strike, low into the corner to give his team some daylight and take his season’s tally to 30 goals! A brilliant personal achievement for him and thoroughly deserved for his excellent all round play (especially his passing). Well done Sammy.

Ben was showing some real strength at the back and went on a couple of powerful runs which threatened to open up the opposition defence. Rami continued his excellent recent form at the back, making some really strong tackles and always running with energy and purpose. Ethan was called on to make a superb save to keep the Eagles three goals ahead and then rush half way across the pitch to instinctively clear a good through ball from Hailsham, before he was again left exposed by our desire to bomb forward and despite making himself big and bravely throwing himself at the feet of the Hailsham striker, could do nothing about the strong finish that gave Hailsham a ray of hope.

With 5 minutes still to go there were a few nervous moments but the Eagles produced some more chances of their own, Finn having a powerful strike well blocked by the excellent Hailsham goalkeeper and Sammy also being denied a hat trick by some really good defending. Laurie’s midfield play nearly gave Ali another chance as he slid in after a brilliant run, to so nearly make a connection with a perfect through ball and Ben was still threatening when he got forward.

The game ended with a thrilling 5-3 scoreline. Classic Eagles – score loads of goals, let quite a lot in, bomb forward, pass and move and some brilliant goalkeeping into the bargain. Man of the match was another really tough decision. I have to give it to Ethan in the first game – he made 4 or 5 wonderful saves and was full of energy and organisation. Finn gets it in the second match for his excellent through ball for Ali’s goal and general passing play plus chipping in with a couple of goals but everyone played well in the second match.

Well done boys – really proud of you for keeping plugging away after a disappointing start and for how much you worked for each other in the second game. Thanks to Ethan for helping us out – really appreciated!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 30, Finn 25, Jack 14, Max 12, Laurie 8, Ali 5, Luke 4, Ben 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 20. Won 11. Drawn 4. Lost 5 / Goals for: 67 / Goals against: 40 / Points: 37 / GD: + 27)
(All results: Played 32. Won 16. Drawn 8. Lost 8 / Goals for: 102 / Goals against: 65)

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Saturday February 22nd 2014

Langton Green Eagles 3 – 2 Uckfield Torpedos
(Goals: Max, Finn, Sammy)
Man of the Match: Max

Langton Green Eagles 9 – 1 Uckfield Jets
(Goals: Finn 3, Sammy 2, Jack 2, Ali, Max)
Man of the Match: Ali

What a glorious morning to wake up to! Sunshine, no wind, no rain. I wondered if I’d been asleep for several months, or possibly been transported through space or time during the night to wake up in Barbados or the English summer of 1976. With a very muddy dog walk out of the way in the sunshine, it was down to the 3G pitches to set up some Samba goals (thank you Martin & Richard for your assistance and thank you to the very helpful dad from Uckfield who carried sand bags with me) and get ready for a pair of league matches against two Uckfield sides we’d had some good matches against in the past.

First up were Uckfield Torpedos, a team we drew 2-2 with late last year, and straight away the Eagles were under pressure with the opposition pushing us hard from the start and penning us back into our own half. Only some excellent defending from Jack and Rami, organised brilliantly by Ben in goal, kept out a goal that looked to be coming on several occasions, especially when we were asked to defend several corners in a row.

Having weathered the early storm, the boys started to impose themselves on the game with Max particularly dominant on the right of midfield. Some wonderful runs and quick feet gave Uckfield plenty to think about as it was the Eagles’ turn to have a dominant spell in the game. Jack was bursting forwards from defence with increasing pace and Sammy and Ali were linking up really well with Laurie in midfield. Ali went close with a really well-worked chance involving Laurie’s excellent passing and Sammy’s vision and dribbling – a cross coming in from the left which Ali was unlucky to see skim the outside of the post. Sammy had a chance of his own a moment later which flashed just wide, and Jack also had a shot well blocked.

Finn and Luke came on midway through the half for Ali and Sammy and both were quickly involved in the opening goal, Luke dribbling past a defender before Finn and Laurie linked up superbly with some lovely one-touch passing to release Max, who made no mistake from close range with a good finish past the onrushing ‘keeper.

With the wind in their sails, the boys pressed forward looking for the second and very nearly had it when Max hammered a cross/shot across the face of goal that Finn just couldn’t quite connect with. Jack and Rami both took turns pushing forwards to assist their midfielders and the extra man we had in these situations nearly paid off just before half time with the Uckfield goalie saving well to deny a second goal for Langton Green and bring up half time in what both coaches agreed had been a very entertaining game.

Having been relatively untroubled after the first 5 minutes, Ben was immediately called upon in the second half as Uckfield came out all guns blazing and determined to get back in the game. A good block from Ben led to a corner, which the Eagles failed to deal with and after a bit of goalmouth tennis when every single Langton player seemed to a.) be crammed into a 3 foot square and b.) touch the ball at least once in that 3 foot square without getting it clear, Uckfield scrambled the ball over the line to make it 1-1. On balance that was a fair scoreline at that point in the game, Uckfield’s excellent attitude after going behind paying off with a goal they deserved.

The lads weren’t to be got down and with Laurie and Max rejoining the action midway through the half, fresh legs pushed the Eagles forward, with our front players in inspired form during a 5 minute spell that changed the course of the match. Some excellent link-up play and wonderful one-touch passing from Sammy, Luke, Max and Laurie saw Finn receive the ball in a crowded penalty area. A clever turn let him lose his defender and his calm finish from a tight angle saw the ball cross the line and put the Eagles 2-1 up. A really good, patient, team goal.

The lads wanted more, Jack rejoining the action on pitch and immediately getting involved with two lovely runs up the left hand side. Luke was doing the same on the right and Ali made several excellent blocks and simple passes that set his teammates going forwards.

Another great attacking move saw the Eagles score again, Max and Laurie continuing to pass their way through the Uckfield defence to find Finn midway towards goal in the opposition half. Opening his body up, he curled a delightful shot goalwards only to see it rebound agonisingly off the post. Sammy the poacher was on hand to brilliantly turn home the rebound to make it 3-1 to the boys in yellow and give us a little bit of breathing space.

Now a lot of teams would sit back and defend a 3-1 lead with only 5 minutes to go but these lads (thankfully from the point of view of the spectators’ entertainment) only know one way of playing and they continued to pile forward looking for a fourth. They nearly had it through Sammy’s energetic play and Max’s wonderful skills on the ball but it was actually Rami and Ben who ended up with far more to do in a final few minutes when tired legs in midfield meant that despite bombing forwards they were less able to bomb back and help their defenders!

Rami made a couple of brilliant challenges to snuff out goalscoring opportunities and Ben made an excellent block to keep it at 3-1. Unfortunately a few moments later when trying to pass our way out of defence (something Rami, Laurie and Jack have done brilliantly in the last few matches), we found an Uckfield player lurking to pinch the ball and pull back a well taken goal and close the margin to 3-2. It isn’t the first time we’ve come unstuck trying to play our way out from the back and it won’t be the last but I’m really proud of the boys for sticking to this way of playing rather than relying on the more “agricultural” methods I’ve seen from some teams at all levels of football.

Uckfield still had a chance to level the game but a combination of Rami’s superb tracking back and tackling (his performance was commented on by an opposition parent as being particularly impressive – well done Rami) and Jack’s last ditch goal-line clearance as the ball looped towards the corner of the goal saw us get out of jail the final whistle went to leave the boys with a well-earned victory in an entertaining game against a really strong team who played some good football of their own.

After a quick break the lads were back on to play Uckfield’s Jets team – a good side who we had shared a few close games with previously and managed a narrow victory against earlier in the season.

The Eagles were on fire from the word go, clearly buoyed by their result in the opening game. Max was again in imperious form, this time on the left, pushing forward time and time again and creating the opening goal with a strong run and cross that Finn tucked away with his left foot with a well-placed first-time finish into the corner.

Sammy made it 2-0 moments later with a crafty drag back and finish after good play from Ali and Laurie and Max was again involved for the third which Finn put away after his first shot was blocked. Sammy made it 4-0 with his usual lethal finishing, having been put through by Max (again!) before Uckfield pulled a really good goal back with a strong run from one of their forwards that left Ben with no chance in goal.

Max added a fifth himself with a close range shot, having created some great space for himself on the right after Jack’s clever play set him free. Luke was showing some excellent strength going forwards and nearly had a goal himself before the half time whistle went and Ben asked very politely if he would be able to play on pitch in the second half.

Luke gamely volunteered to go in goal (along with Ali and Laurie – we seem to have an abundance of willing goalies!) and Ben started the half superbly, bossing the midfield and slotting straight into the Eagles’ passing game to set Laurie up with a long range chance before seeing his own excellent shot really well saved by the Uckfield ‘keeper. Jack scored the sixth a few moments later when he played a delightful one-two with Ali and slid a shot home from a tight angle and Finn had his hat-trick shortly afterwards with a long range effort that found the bottom corner.

Sammy and Finn went into defence, with Ali back up front and after Jack scored his second of the game with a really good finish from Laurie’s clever pass, Ali had a goal of his own, smashing home a pass across the box from Jack to finish the scoring just before the final whistle brought the morning’s football to an end and leave the Eagles with 6 points from 6.

So hard to choose a man of the match for the first game. All the forward players had a really strong match and Rami was in inspired form once again in defence but I have to give it to Max whose brilliant ball control and strong running made a real difference to the Eagles today. Well done Max. In the second game I’m giving Ali man of the match after his really solid all round display was capped off by a well taken goal. He played in every position on the pitch today except goalie and did brilliantly throughout with some super positional play and confident tracking back and tackling.

Thanks to those of you who helped pack away – Nicola and Richard in particular proving very helpful with sand bag shifting!

Well done lads. Still unbeaten in 8 matches in 2014. No games next week but back on March 8th vs Hailsham.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 27, Finn 23, Jack 14, Max 12, Laurie 8, Luke 4, Ali 4, Ben 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 18. Won 10. Drawn 4. Lost 4 / Goals for: 61 / Goals against: 33 / Points: 34 / GD: + 28)
(All results: Played 30. Won 15. Drawn 8. Lost 7 / Goals for: 96 / Goals against: 58)

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Saturday February 15th 2014 – Mini Friendly Tournament

Langton Green Eagles 5 – 1 Yalding
(Goals: Sammy 2, Finn, Laurie, Jack)

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 1 Langton Green Yodas
(Goal: Luke)

Langton Green Eagles 3 – 1 Ridgewaye Rockets
(Goals: Sammy, Max, Finn)

FINAL: Langton Green Eagles 5 – 3 Langton Green Yodas
(Goals: Sammy 3, Luke, Ali)

No time for the usual in-depth match analysis today. The boys won the tournament, were fantastic, playing some really excellent passing football in very difficult, windy conditions. Player of the tournament goes to Rami for his superb defending (not one slide tackle – well done, Rami) and brilliant passing out of defence when he got the ball back.

Thanks to all the boys who took a turn in goal – you all did well. Other highlights included Ali’s brilliant goal in the final, Sammy’s lethal finishing in front of goal, Luke’s superb dribbling and goalscoring (and tracking back – well done, Luke) from the right, Finn, Laurie and Max’s brilliant passing in midfield (like watching Barcelona at times) and Jack’s dribbling and tenacity to win the ball back time and time again. Superb stuff.

Thanks to all the parental support and help – dedication in such cold conditions. Roll on next week!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 24, Finn 19, Jack 12, Max 10, Laurie 8, Luke 4, Ali 3, Ben 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 16. Won 8. Drawn 4. Lost 4 / Goals for: 49 / Goals against: 32 / Points: 28 / GD: + 17)
(All results: Played 28. Won 13. Drawn 8. Lost 7 / Goals for: 84 / Goals against: 55)

Saturday February 8th 2014

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 1 Rotherfield Hurricanes
(Goal: Finn)
Man of the Match: Rami

Langton Green Eagles 9 – 0 Rotherfield Spitfires
(Goals: Sammy 4, Laurie 2, Finn, Jack, Max)
Man of the Match: Sammy

Wow! We actually got to play some matches!

With no hope of playing at Langton (or anywhere else on grass) until 2017 at the earliest, we booked the 3G pitches so the lads could actually get a chance to play some competitive football, this week against 2 Rotherfield teams we’ve always had close games with in the past.

The match started tentatively, both sides not wanting to give much away, and it was a good 5 minutes until the first real chance either team had – a high lob from Sammy that flashed over the bar. Rotherfield were defending resolutely as the Eagles passed the ball around well in midfield. Max was showing some great skills to create openings for his team mates, with Finn and Sammy combining well on the edge of the area to free Jack, whose shot was well saved by the superb Rotherfield goalkeeper.

The pressure was building though, Rami breaking up a couple of Rotherfield attacks with brilliantly timed tackles and releasing his teammates with some really good passes. We felt a goal was coming, and when Sammy found himself free on the left, he turned and very unselfishly squared the ball for Finn to tap in from close range to give the Eagles the lead.

With the confidence that a first goal gives you, the Eagles started passing the ball round nicely. Ali has slotted into the team well and he did a great job today, playing at the back in this first game and starting several Eagles attacks with perfectly weighted passes out of defence. Laurie came on for Finn in midfield and was immediately involved, playing a delightful 1-2 with Max before passing out to Jack, who was well tackled. The Eagles had several more chances to extend their lead before half time, but Rotherfield defended very well with lots of players back to make some excellent challenges. Their goalkeeper made an outrageously good save from Max’s superb, curling strike just before half time to leave the Eagles with a fragile one goal lead at the break.

Unfortunately, that one goal lead proved very fragile and early in the second half some poor marking left Rotherfield with three players bombing forward and only Rami left back. We just got away with it, Ben making an excellent save, but from the resulting corner Rotherfield worked the ball round well and struck a fine shot into the roof of the net to equalise and make the score 1-1.

Rotherfield had a really good spell after this, with only Rami’s excellent tackling and Ali’s great positioning stopping them going ahead. Ben was starting to organise his defence very well, clearly concerned that they weren’t giving him the protection they should.

Having weathered the pressure after a spell of several successive corners, the Eagles bombed forward to try and get an equaliser – Jack showed some sublime skill (admittedly in front of his own penalty area!!!) to dribble past two Rotherfield players and play a wonderful pass to Finn, who worked the ball out well to Sammy, whose shot was blocked. Jack then took a ball to the face which left him looking a little bit dazed, Laurie had a good shot go just wide and despite some excellent passing from Sammy in particular, the boys just couldn’t work their way through and the game ended in a well-fought draw.

The second game saw the lads start with a real intensity. Clearly frustrated not to have taken all three points in the opening match, they pushed hard from the start and were rewarded immediately, Sammy latching on to a great pass at the end of a fine move involving Finn, Max and Ali to slot home the opening goal within 30 seconds.

Sammy was on target a few moments later to score a brilliant second, Finn and Max again combining with Jack this time to feed Sammy out wide. The ball sat up for him and he used the outside of his foot to lob it back across the goalkeeper to put his team 2-0 ahead. Laurie then scored his first of the game with a sliced finish that completely wrong footed the goalkeeper after good work from Ali on the left and a few minutes later Sammy had his hat trick after a brilliant pass from Max found him in acres of space and he made no mistake with his trusty right foot. 4-0 to the Eagles and the boys were playing some really nice stuff. Starting from the back, Rami and Ali were starting our attacks with great vision and Ben also got involved to help out, receiving the ball to feet when our defenders found themselves under pressure.

Max was in imperious form in this game, running at defenders down the right again and again to put in some wonderfully weighted crosses and force the excellent opposition goalkeeper into a couple of really good saves. One of these runs led to the fifth goal, Sammy again getting on the scoresheet with his fourth (!!!) of the half, taking the ball round the keeper to slot home with what I think was his left foot. Moments later it was six, with the boys probably scoring the best team goal of the day, with every player involved. Ben gave it to Rami, who played a simple pass to Ali, whose vision to find Laurie was excellent. Laurie played Sammy in, who passed across field to Max, whose run into the box drew two defenders to him. He cleverly cut the ball back with a great little reverse pass that fell right into the path of Finn, who didn’t break stride and struck a powerful right footed shot into the bottom corner of the goal. Brilliant stuff from the team. Even Jack, who was subbed off at the time, was involved with his excellent encouragement of the rest of the lads. Finn then hit the post with another long range effort just afterwards that just couldn’t be turned over the line in the ensuing goalmouth melee before the half time whistle gave the boys a breather.

The break saw us make some changes, with Ali moving up front and Jack coming back on to play on the left. Max came off for a bit, and for the first 5 minutes of the half Rotherfield put us under some fairly constant pressure, Ben being called into action to mop up a couple of good through balls and Rami standing firm at the back to make some strong tackles. I was really impressed with Rami today – he stayed on his feet and after winning the ball, did a great job of starting attacks by playing simple, sensible passes to team mates. A captain’s performance!!!

Max came back on and straight away carried on where he left off, bombing forward, and got his name on the scoresheet with a wonderful individual goal that showed off all his strengths – quick feet, great vision and a knack of staying on his feet when other players would go tumbling. His shot was powerful and gave the keeper no chance.

Ali was doing a brilliant job up front, showing good movement and some excellent skills to turn and shoot on several occasions but was unfortunate to find the opposition goalie in good form. Jack scored the goal his performances deserved a few minutes later after a powerful shot from Max hit the post and bounced back out to Jack to slot home. Sammy came back on to replace Rami (who had played the entire morning up until that point) and despite being in defence, kept popping up in the opposition penalty box! There was still time for Laurie to score an excellent goal (his second of the game) with a powerful shot into the top of the goal after good passing from Ali, Finn and Jack saw him released just outside the area.

The final whistle went to signal the end of a good morning’s work from the Eagles. So difficult picking a man of the match for both games as there were so many good performances. Rami gets the nod in the first game because he showed such excellent discipline and strength to keep us in the game when things got tough and Sammy gets in the second partly for his four goals but mainly because his passing was superb and even when he could have scored more goals by holding on to the ball, he still looked for the pass.

Well done lads. Hopefully we’ll manage to get some more games on for you over the next few weeks!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 18, Finn 17, Jack 11, Max 9, Laurie 7, Ben 2, Ali 2, Luke 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 16. Won 8. Drawn 4. Lost 4 / Goals for: 49 / Goals against: 32 / Points: 28 / GD: + 17)
(All results: Played 24. Won 10. Drawn 7. Lost 7 / Goals for: 70 / Goals against: 49)

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Saturday 14th December 2013 – Ridgewaye / Langton Tournament

P4, W1, D1, L2
Goals: Max 2, Finn, Sammy (P)
Player of the day: Ben

I was awoken at 6.30 this morning by a very excited young Eagle who informed me he’d been awake since “12 o clock” (as in midnight) because he was so excited about our annual Langton / Ridgewaye tournament! Hoping it lived up to his expectations, we set of for Langton Green bright and early to put goals together and mark out lines on the pitches, full of the enthusiasm that a lovely sunny morning brings. The lads seemed in fine spirits too, so at 10 o clock we began our campaign with what I was hoping would be enough vigour to avoid conceding any early goals for once… hmmmm…

We started off against Ridgewaye Jupiter, the team we were paired with last season. Some initial confusion at the back and some fine play from Ridgewaye led to the Eagles conceding the aforementioned customary early goals, despite Ben’s best efforts to keep out the first one with a wonderful save that he was unlucky to see fall to the feet of a Ridgewaye striker. The second goal was a classic case of not enough players helping out at the back and poor Rami was left on his own to try and deal with a tidal wave of attackers. 2-0 down and not 5 minutes played. I blame the manager.

The Eagles always need to go 2 down before they start playing though, and today was no exception. With half time approaching, Ali played a good ball through to Laurie, who passed cleverly to Max, who made a great run into the penalty area before cheekily dinking the ball over the goalkeeper to give his team hope. Super goal. Ben made another awesome save a few moments later to stop the score going to 3-1 and Jack’s energy and ball control was invaluable on the left, several excellent opportunities to equalise coming from his forward running and passing.

The second half saw Finn and Sammy come on, and they combined brilliantly on several occasions, first to create a half opportunity for Sammy, who was desperately unlucky to see his shot saved and then combining again, Sammy almost getting on the end of Max’s cross, chasing down the loose ball and then unselfishly squaring for Finn to tap home from a yard out. 2-2 and game on!

Luke made an immediate impression when he joined the action, running past Ridgewaye players on the right before being outnumbered by black and white shirts before he could cross. It was end to end stuff and either team could have won it before a frantic final few minutes which saw two more goals. First of all the Eagles were awarded only their second ever penalty after a tugged shirt in the area gave Sammy the chance to give the lads the lead from the spot. England players take note before next summer’s World Cup – this is how to take a penalty! Low and hard, right into the bottom corner – I never felt he was going to miss.

With the win in their sails, the boys piled forward looking for another goal, Ali having a good shot blocked and Max nearly getting his second of the game before Ben got rather unfortunately caught out with the very low and bright winter sunshine shining right in his eyes as Ridgewaye launched a speculative shot forward which sailed past him into the net. Nothing he could have done about it and it was pretty much the last kick of the game so we ended 3-3 in a great match that either team could have won.

The second game was against another Ridgewaye team – the Rockets – who we played earlier in the season and shared a 1-1 draw with. It was another close fought game today, both sides creating chances and both goalkeepers making some fine saves.

The Eagles started well, Jack and Laurie combining really well as they do, and Rami solid as anything at the back – one particular challenge was brilliantly timed. His forward running was superb as well, breaking from defence to burst through the ranks of black and white shirts on several occasions. Ali and Luke combined well to create a chance for Max but his shot was blocked and then Ben kept us level with a great stop at the other end after some good play from Ridgewaye Rockets, who tried to play good football throughout.

The service in to Ali up front dried up slightly as the half went on, despite him making some good runs off the ball, but the boys kept passing well, Luke busy on the right hand side and Max dominant in central midfield with his excellent range of passing and strong dribbling skills.

Half time saw us go in at 0-0, Finn and Sammy both joining the action as we went in search of the winning goal. Both of them displayed a great range of passing going forwards. I would have liked to have seen some more passing back from all the boys when there were no obvious forward passes. Once or twice we lost possession simply by rushing. The lads were ramping up the pressure though, and when Finn received the ball in central midfield after a brilliant bit of interplay between Sammy and Laurie, he turned and played a sublime pass through the middle of two defenders into the path of the onrushing Max, who had made a superb run. Max still had plenty to do, but do it he did, finishing with aplomb into the corner with a goal he simply passed into the net – reminiscent of the kind of goal you see from Lionel Messi (or some of us dads on a Tuesday night – honest!). Another great finish from Max who is starting to get a lot of important goals for us – this one was the 60th time the Eagles have found the net this season and Max’s 6th goal in his last 3 sets of Eagles matches. Each of them has been an absolute corker.

Ridgewaye tried really hard to get back into the game, forcing Ben into a couple of outrageously good stops. One thing that really impressed me about Ben today was how quick he was to come off his line on several occasions, smothering chances that a year ago the opposition may well have got to first. Well done Ben!

Ali had time to have one of the shots of the day – blasting a fantastic strike goalwards with his right foot, but the Ridgewaye keeper was equal to it and made a good save. He had another shot from a similar position moments later with the keeper again saving well – Ali deserved a goal for his excellent running and shooting in the second half. Luke had a couple of strong runs down the right and the superb Jack did the same from defence but the Eagles just couldn’t find the second goal. Just as I thought we were going to be punished with an equaliser from Ridgewaye, the final whistle blew to leave the lads with a fantastic 1-0 victory and put them in a strong position in the group with 4 points from 2 games.

Our final group game was against our friends the Giants – a very very good side who went the whole of the first half of this season unbeaten in the league, so we knew we had our work cut out. Initial signs were really positive, the lads passing the ball round well, Luke in particular looking really strong and nearly creating a couple of chances whilst Laurie, Max and Jack looked at home on the ball and off it.

Ben was continuing in superb form, making several outstanding saves after some brilliant attacking play from the Giants, who scored shortly afterwards with a good attack. 1-0 down but I wasn’t concerned at this point as the boys had more than held their own.

Ali was busy up front again, making some good runs, but our final pass just wasn’t able to find him, a lot of the time being blocked by the excellent Giants defenders. Max played Jack in for a half chance which was snuffed out and Finn and Sammy again came on to combine to nearly send Sammy through before a defender got across to cover. Rami made some excellent challenges of his own (although we do need to work on the “standing up” tackle with a number of the boys for whom getting covered in more mud than anyone else seems to be essential for a good morning of football).

The second half saw the boys keep up their excellent work rate but with the Giants scoring again with an excellent goal from the corner and then adding a third moments later with another really good goal the boys were beaten by a very good team, despite giving it a really good go. There’s no shame in losing to the Giants – a team who play some great attractive football and who boast some really really good players.

Despite losing that game 3-0, the Eagles found themselves finishing second in the group with 4 points, which meant the met the Ridgewaye Galaxy in the semi finals, a team they had lost to earlier in the season and comfortably the best team in our league.

I was disappointed that the general consensus from the players was that we couldn’t win the match but after a quick chat, where Sammy in particular showed his enthusiasm and team-spiritedness by geeing the boys up with lots of positive chat, we took to the field hoping we could turn in a good performance and get the result we wanted.

Unfortunately it was not to be. This Ridgewaye team are tall, strong, direct and have several players who are very good on the ball. They were even better than when we played them a few months ago and despite some great goalkeeping from Ben we just couldn’t get into the game and went down 4-0 to our second heaviest defeat of the season (our first heaviest being to the same team!). I’m proud of the lads for continuing to try and play good football rather than resorting to hoofing it, they passed it out from the back, looked to keep the ball on the floor and played some good stuff at times in the second half in particular but just had one of those games.

Despite finishing the day with a defeat, we all got to enjoy the drama of a penalty shootout between the Giants and Devils in the other semi final (which the Devils won after 5 brave lads from each team took some excellent penalties and the two goalkeepers made some wonderful saves – again, England take note please, although whether England get the chance to take any penalties next summer depends on getting out of a group even tougher than the one we faced today!)

The Devils then made it a Langton one-two as they beat the Galaxy in the final 1-0 to win the Cup and the Redhawks won by the same scoreline in the Plate final. Congratulations!

Well done to everyone who took part, from all the teams, and well done to the Eagles for playing some really good stuff and trying your hardest. We’ll be back next year, as long as I’m not living in the Maldives after I make my fortune selling all the lost property I keep collecting from Langton Green Rec after the boys have played football there.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Finn 15, Sammy 14, Jack 10, Max 8, Laurie 5, Ben 2, Ali 2, Luke 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 14. Won 7. Drawn 3. Lost 4 / Goals for: 39 / Goals against: 31 / Points: 24 / GD: + 8)
(All results: Played 22. Won 9. Drawn 6. Lost 7 / Goals for: 60 / Goals against: 48)

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Saturday November 23rd 2013 – FRIENDLIES

Langton Green Eagles vs East Grinstead
Match Drawn
Man of the Match: Luke

Langton Green Eagles vs East Grinstead
Langton Green Eagles Won
Man of the Match: Ali

A beautiful morning and two very different matches against East Grinstead – an excellent team who we had shared some very close games with in the past and who are more than a match for the Eagles, as they proved in the first game, from which we were lucky to escape with a draw.

Ali was our new player this week, coming along for his first taste of football with the Eagles and he slotted in brilliantly, playing some fine passes and scoring a couple of excellent goals in the second match, which the Eagles won.

The first game was a tight affair, the Eagles continuing their recent run of needing to go 2 goals behind before they woke up and started playing the football we know they can. Laurie pulled a fantastic goal back after good work from Max but East Grinstead scored a really good breakaway goal to leave the Eagles 3-1 down.

Luke’s excellent play on the right wing led to another goal for the Eagles, striking a fine shot at goal which the opposition ‘keeper saved well but could only parry into the path of Sammy, who slotted home to pull us within touching distance of the East Grinstead team.

The second half was an altogether cagier affair, The Eagles playing some much better football than they did in the first period through Finn, Sammy and Jack’s excellent passing going forwards and Laurie and Max’s measured play in the middle. The boys pulled level after amazing work by Max on the right, skipping past 3 challenges before firing in a wicked cross that was turned into the net by an East Grinstead defender. Having scored own goals ourselves I felt sorry for East Grinstead, who played really well in this match.

Ali and Rami were strong at the back, keeping the opposition at bay, and Ben was solid in goal in a second half in which he kept a clean sheet and made several important saves and good goal kicks. Luke kept his energy up until the end brilliantly and was so unfortunate not to score after a superb bit of skill found him space on the right and his powerful strike hit the inside of the post. So close, but nobody could turn in the rebound and the final whistle went shortly afterwards to leave the game drawn – a fair result all round I think.

The second match was a more fluid performance from the Eagles, particularly in the first half when the boys played some super football going forwards. Ali swapped positions to play up front and he linked up well with Laurie and Jack in attack to create some good early chances, one of which Laurie slotted home with a powerful shot to put the Eagles ahead. Jack scored moments later after a good run and then Ali scored twice, the second of which was a really good goal, powerfully blasted into the top corner from a wide angle. Finn was solid playing out of his usual position in defence and Ben kept out a few good shots from the opposition that threatened to pull them back into the game.

The boys were playing some really good stuff and with further goals coming for Max (an excellent, solid strike) and then Luke (with a wonderful shot into the bottom corner after showing great strength to hold off two defenders), we changed things around at half time to give Ben a chance to show us what he can do up front and Rami a chance to shine alongside him. Laurie very gamely went in goal (and showed what a powerful goal kick he has by nearly kicking the ball the length of the pitch) and Sammy and Luke played out of their usual positions in defence (something they did very well, Sammy in particular showing a natural aptitude for a position I think it’s useful for him as a striker to understand more about by playing there).

Ali was darting around, clearly enjoying himself in a more advanced position, and Ben did superbly on his season debut on pitch, scoring twice either side of a goal from Rami (his first of the season) and another from the hard working Luke.

Laurie was solid in goal when needed and Finn kept his composure in midfield to play some superb passes and was really unlucky not to score a brilliant goal after jinking his way past two defenders to make space, opening up his body to shoot, but seeing his curling shot skim the post. Jack’s usual quick feet were in evidence time and time again, setting up Max for the goal of the game (although Max still had plenty to do and do it he did, skipping past two challenges on the right and blasting a shot into the goal from range that I’m not sure Gordon Banks would have saved (and I mean in his prime, not now)).

The final whistle went to leave the boys with a fine victory which they fully deserved but didn’t do justice to East Grinstead who were excellent in the first game and are a fine team that I’m sure we’ll share more close games with in the future.

Well done lads – top stuff today from everyone, especially Ali on his debut and Luke who hasn’t had that many chances this season because of his school commitments but played his heart out today and really deserved his goals and man of the match award for the first game.

One thing the boys should note – today we went past 53 goals for the season so far, which was the total we scored in the whole of last season, including all the fiestas we played in. It’s fantastic to see such improvement and I think it’s safe to say the overall standard of our opposition this year has been tougher than last season, which makes it all the more impressive how well the boys are doing. Great stuff lads!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Finn 14, Sammy 13, Jack 10, Max 6, Laurie 5, Ben 2, Ali 2, Luke 2, Rami, Alexander)
(League results: Played 14. Won 7. Drawn 3. Lost 4 / Goals for: 39 / Goals against: 31 / Points: 24 / GD: + 8)
(All results: Played 18. Won 8. Drawn 5. Lost 5 / Goals for: 56 / Goals against: 38)

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Saturday November 16th 2013

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 3 Ashurst Wood Tigers
(Goals: Finn 2, Max, Sammy)
Man of the Match: Finn

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 5 Ashurst Wood Panthers
(Goals: Max, Finn, Sammy, Jack)
Man of the Match: Max

What a morning! We saw some absolutely scintillating football at times when we had the ball, including two of the best team goals I’ve ever seen scored by any team in youth football. But we also saw some slightly less scintillating play throughout the team when we didn’t have the ball. Having said that, these were two very entertaining games played in an excellent spirit by really evenly matched sides and every player played their part in the positive aspects of what we did.

The first game started in the worst possible fashion, the Eagles 2-0 down within five minutes despite some good attacking play. Ashurst Wood took their chances well but we were the artists of our own downfall to an extent, confusion with marking leaving their players free on too many occasions – stuff that’s ultimately it’s the coaches’ job to sort out so we’ll have to get working on that in training!

Max was having none of it though, and started to get things moving with a great run down the right. His cross was well met by Jack but the ball bobbled out. Laurie laid it off to Max again, who made no mistake from in front of goal to blast his team back into the game. 1-2.

Sammy came on for Finn and added some fresh legs up front, snatching at his first shot (when a teammate telling him he had more time would have been helpful – note to self… another thing to work on in training) but connecting brilliantly with his next chance to hammer the Eagles back into the game and make it 2-2. A great poachers goal from Sammy at just the right time.

Jack was busy down the left as usual, jinking past several players on an excellent run forwards before seeing his cross field pass cut out and Rami and Daniel were strong in defence after that initial 5 minute spell, Daniel making a very good tackle to deny a good chance for the opposition and Rami everywhere as usual with his pace and strength snuffing out attack after attack.

When Ben was called on he was solid in the closing stages of the first half, making several good stops and excellent decisions in terms of when to come off his line and when to stay. His shot-stopping really is incredible at times.

The second half saw Finn come back on in central midfield, with Laurie moving back into defence alongside Rami. We started well, pushing forwards with Jack on the left nearly finding Sammy with a cross but we soon found ourselves behind again, a good goal from Ashurst Wood that we could do little about and had to admire. They were a good team with some very strong attacking players.

One of the key strengths of this Eagles team this season has been to not give up though, and so it was again, some fantastic passing around the edge of the area seeing Max unlucky to have a shot parried, Jack just as unfortunate to see his kept out but the ball bobbling its way to Finn in the middle of the box, who did what he’s been doing consistently all year and slid the ball into the back of the net from close range. The opposition goalkeeper got a hand to it but the angle of the shot saw it squeeze through and draw the boys level at 3-3.

With 5 minutes to go and all to play for, the lads pushed forwards looking for the winner. Max was immense, skilfully dodging his way through challenge after challenge to play a wonderful cross to Sammy, who was unfortunate when his first time shot was wide of the post by inches. Laurie and Rami broke up any Ashurst Wood attacks that threatened our goal, with Ben equal to a couple of long range efforts. Several corners for the Eagles led to nothing but with just a couple of minutes remaining Jack and Laurie combined brilliantly to play Max in. He took a touch, found Sammy, whose pass to Finn was excellent. Finn nudged the ball to the right and slammed it home in the same move to give the Eagles a 4-3 lead.

There was still time for a late scare when we gave possession away cheaply but thankfully for us Rami was on hand as usual to stop the attack Rami-style with a great challenge and we saw out the final few seconds to win the game. Great stuff!!!

The second game found us in confident form, but despite some really good attacking play in the first few minutes and some excellent defending from Daniel and Rami, we found ourselves 2-0 behind again after a good long range effort and a poor goal from our perspective where we gave the ball straight back to the opposition.

Ben was making some really strong saves and interceptions but he and poor Rami (who was tackling like a dervish), as well as Daniel (who was showing some solid defending alongside Rami) were often left three on two against them as we struggled to get back and make up the numbers in defence.

Somewhat shell-shocked, the team again relied on Max to set them on the right course. He picked the ball up on the right, skipped past one challenge, cut back inside, used his strength to push past another player and struck a phenomenal right foot shot into the bottom corner. The keeper stood no chance from what was a really excellent individual goal.

So the Eagles found themselves back to 2-1 and full of confidence, which unfortunately was tested again within minutes when we conceded a cheap goal after more confusion in the ranks. Undeserved on the basis of our excellent passing football going forward but totally deserved on the basis of our play when we didn’t have the ball which was looking “rusty” to say the least.

Defending starts from the front though, and Sammy really grew into this mentality throughout the game, closing down the opposition when they had the ball at the back, and encouraging his team mates with lots of positivity. “We can still win this” he said, and he was right – or at least it looked that way for a while. Finn hit the post from long range with an outrageous strike that I was sure was going in before the keeper tipped it onto the woodwork and then moments later he was at it again with an audacious lob that left the goalie back-pedalling, only to see the ball land on the roof of the net. A goal was coming though, and it was pulled back by Jack in wonderful fashion.

To be totally honest I thought it should have counted for 5 goals because I’m not sure we’ll ever score a finer team goal and this really was a team goal in every respect. It was a sumptuous passing move which would have left Messi, Xavi and Iniesta applauding. Ben out from the back to Rami. Rami to Max. Max to Jack, Jack to Finn, Finn to Sammy who slid a perfect through ball back into the path of Jack on the left who tucked the ball past the goalkeeper to make it 3-2. Sublime and almost all one-touch pass and move. I briefly thought I’d died and gone to football heaven.

As seemed to be the way in this game though, as soon as we did something brilliant, we followed it up with the polar opposite and straight after half time my spiritual experience in football heaven ended as we found ourselves 4-2 down after an almost exact replica of the previous goal we’d conceded – confusion, nobody dealing with the ball in our area, and bang, it was in the back of the net.

Again we came back though, and that wonderful goal we thought couldn’t be topped almost was topped!!! A virtual replica move saw some fabulous one-twos in the middle of the pitch – Laurie, Finn, Jack and Max combining brilliantly to set up Sammy who continued his lethal form in front of goal and slipped a composed finish past the goalkeeper to put us back in touching distance at 4-3 behind. Sammy’s all round play was again excellent today, especially his eye for a pass which set up opportunities for team mates time and time again but of course he also finished the job when required with his great goalscoring. He so nearly laid Max on for a shot but an opposition defender got a toe in and then Max nearly repaid the favour with a brilliant through-ball that just skidded away from Sammy on the slippery surface.

But once again, we conceded another goal after confusion at the back and several blocked clearances saw the ball bobble to an Ashurst Wood player who gave Ben no chance with a firm finish into the bottom corner. Rami and Laurie both made wonderful tackles to keep us from falling further behind before Jack won a corner with some decisive running down the left.

Laurie took a clever short one to Max, who returned the pass to him by the corner flag. Laurie’s excellent swerving, dipping cross eluded the defender at the near post but found the boot of Finn lurking a yard out to nick the ball over the goalkeepers despairing dive and pull the score back to 5-4. Game on!!!!

With a draw well in their sights, the lads pushed hard for the equaliser, Rami bursting through with a great run from the back to set up Jack, whose pass found Sammy in space on the left. His first touch took him towards goal but with the net already bulging in our minds, the Ashurst Wood keeper did superbly to rush out and smother the ball at Sammy’s feet. Really good goalkeeping which certainly won his team the game.

The boys tried valiantly for the final few minutes, Laurie and Max both playing wonderful passes through from midfield and Finn and Sammy both having shots blocked but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Two close games, both of which could have gone either way, but some consistently excellent passing football for three sets of matches in a row now and for that I’m very pleased indeed. Well done today boys – some excellent performances, particularly in the attacking phases of the games.

That’s the pre-Christmas league matches over now – just friendlies left. We’ve won 7 and drawn 3 of our 14 games, with just 4 defeats and three of those were very very tight games that could have gone either way so a wonderful effort all round. Well done all of you – if we continue to improve as we have over recent weeks then I expect to see some really good passing football on display in the future. Brilliant team effort!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Finn 14, Sammy 12, Jack 9, Max 4, Laurie 2, Alexander)
(League results: Played 14. Won 7. Drawn 3. Lost 4 / Goals for: 39 / Goals against: 31 / Points: 24 / GD: + 8)
(All results: Played 16. Won 7. Drawn 4. Lost 5 / Goals for: 42 / Goals against: 35)

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Saturday November 2nd 2013

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 3 Foresters Red
(Goal: Jack)
Man of the Match: Jack

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 1 Foresters Blue
(Goals: Finn 3, Sammy)
Man of the Match: Luke

For the second week in a row we were treated to some really good passing football from the Eagles in our games against Foresters, who played some very positive attacking football of their own. With other matches cancelled across the league, we were actually lucky to have any games to watch at all but with one of the school pitches in fairly decent condition we were able to push ahead.

The first game started with the boys on the back foot almost immediately, shooting uphill and slightly sleepy by the looks of things. Communication was on the low side, and the Eagles just couldn’t clear their lines initially. Thankfully, this spell didn’t lead to a goal for the opposition, Ben making a couple of good stops and Rami blocking a firm strike on goal.

The catalyst for the change in the Eagles performance was Jack, bursting forward with a great run that took him past 3 opponents before seeing his ambitious pass cut out. Max then played one or two excellent cross field passes and suddenly the boys were clicking. Max to Laurie, Laurie to Jack, Jack out wide to Luke and after a really strong run down the wing, Luke put a great ball in that Sammy was really unlucky to see just evade his lunging foot.

The rest of the first half continued with a combination of good attacking play (Max had two really good shots go just wide) tempered by some lax marking when Foresters had the ball (I recall four attackers on one of our defenders at least three times). One of these occasions very nearly led to the opening goal but Ben continued his excellent form to ensure he tipped the shot round the post. There was nothing he could do about the goal we let in just before half time however, a mix up from his defenders (and midfielders) meaning nobody cleared a bouncing ball in the box and a Foresters player pounced with the final kick of the half to score under Ben’s despairing dive.

The second half started well, Max and Jack playing some great stuff in midfield and Finn and Sammy energetic up front. Max slid a wonderful ball through to Finn, who took a good first touch but turned to find the Foresters goalkeeper had run out of his box to put in an excellent tackle.

Sammy was really unlucky after some clever movement off the ball to see his first time shot go wide and Laurie and Jack both had long range efforts blocked. Rami was immense at the back again, making several really accurate tackles to deny certain opportunities, and Luke came back on to add some real impetus down the right, running at defenders and putting in several excellent crosses.

At this stage the boys really deserved a goal for their play and it was no surprise to hear some of the opposition parents gamely offering up their opinion that Foresters’ second goal came somewhat against the run of play. It was a good goal, but the Eagles didn’t deserve to be 2 goals behind in a game they had more than held their own in.

Not to be deterred however, the Eagles must have had about 7 corners in a row in spell of prolonged pressure which saw Finn flash a header across the goalmouth and one or two bobbly-ball-in-the-box type situations end with shots just missing or being blocked. The luck didn’t seem to be with us.

Having cleared their lines, Foresters had a chance of their own that Rami did superbly well to get back and block, and from his resulting pass, the lads pushed forward and Jack scored a corker of a goal back for his team with a wonderful strike from the edge of the box to add to his impressive tally of goals this season. Max and Laurie were instrumental in the build up to the goal, their accurate passing making all the difference, and Luke was started to really show some great energy and made some crucial tackles – a sign of things to come in the second game.

Pushing forward looking for the equaliser, the boys so nearly got it through Sammy, who found some space wonderfully in the box and was again unlucky to see his shot cleared off the line. Finn was equally unlucky moments later to see his shot cleared in similar fashion and the game then saw a very unfortunate moment when one of Foresters strongest players was quite badly hurt by the looks of things after an accidental collision with one of his own players. We wish him all the best and hope the injury doesn’t turn out to be serious.

The final few minutes saw some more excellent attacking football from the boys but it was Foresters who sealed the points with a good breakaway goal that again could have been better defended – something to work on in training next week – there were at least 4 of our players in the box and they all seemed to be looking at the ball like it was a rather strange object they’d never seen before in their lives. A minor blip however, in a very good performance from all 8 of the boys who played.

I think we all agreed that the game could have gone either way – the main thing was the performance, and going forwards that was very good. Foresters Reds were a good team, who played football the right way and they took their chances well. I’m already looking forwards to playing them again.

After a short break, the boys were back on the pitch shooting uphill again, this time against Foresters Blue – another strong side who we’d met before in the summer fiestas and shared a tight draw with.

The game started brilliantly for the boys – any cobwebs from the first match were well and truly swept away, Sammy buzzing with energy in attack and Max on fire with his passing. He really helps link things up in midfield and spreads the play out wide very well. Luke was up front and was making some great runs. He was really unfortunate that Sammy’s great through ball hit the back of his legs as he sprinted clear and was twice unlucky that superb crosses from the right just evaded his teammates in the middle.

We felt a goal was coming, but were being giving something to think about in defence too, Rami making a wonderful challenge and Ben coming out of his area decisively on at least 2 occasions to snuff out the danger. Laurie’s calmness on the ball was telling, dinking past a challenge to play Max in, who found Sammy out wide. He ran brilliantly past a challenge, played a one-two with Jack and bore down on goal only to find the Foresters goalkeeper bravely save at his feet. Another Luke cross so nearly found it’s way into the back of the net a moment later and then the Eagles won a free kick on the right of midfield.

Laurie stepped up, played a fantastic ball into the box which Luke did superbly well to turn back across goal to find Finn in his usual position to smash the ball into the roof of the net and put his side 1-0 up.

Foresters responded well, but found Ben in great form and Rami and Laurie impassable at the back, with Jack doing a solid job of helping them out, tracking back and winning the ball before surging forward. With half time on the horizon, it was one of these runs from Jack that led to the second goal, Max receiving the ball from him and playing it out wide to Luke, who put a wonderful cross in that found it’s way to Finn who slid a measured shot under the goalkeeper to get his second of the game and put the Eagles in the ascendency.

Things very nearly changed for the worse a moment or two later, one of the Foresters players striking a wonderful shot from a long way out that cannoned off the underside of the bar and into Ben’s grateful arms. Several times in the first half Ben did brilliantly to hold onto the ball in these kinds of situations and our players in general did much better at clearing the ball when under pressure in our own area – well done lads – a massive improvement from the first game.

Half time saw a few changes, with Laurie moving into midfield and Jack taking his place at the back. The team continued to tick superbly though, Max and Laurie instrumental to so much in the middle of the pitch and Luke continuing his fine form from the first half. One particular moment saw him run back to make a challenge, hold off a Foresters player, showing great strength, and then burst forward to slide a pinpoint cross into the box. He gets man of the match for this game for his brilliant all round performance, particularly how much effort he put into tracking back and helping his defenders out before then launching so many of the Eagles attacks after winning that ball back.

Sammy was again everywhere in the attacking part of the pitch, dodging challenge after challenge on a brilliant run down the left, which took him into the area only to see his shot well saved. A moment later he found himself in a very similar situation and this time he wasn’t to be denied. What really impressed me about his goal was how he kept going after seemingly being tackled at least twice, barging his way through a further challenge and a near-save from the goalkeeper to slam the ball home and put the Eagles 3-0 ahead.

By now the lads were playing some really brilliant football. Laurie and Finn showed real composure to play a double one-two in the middle of the pitch and open up space for Finn to play the ball to Max. He struck a powerful shot goalwards which the Foresters goalie saved well but Finn, who had continued his run into the box, was on hand to smash home the rebound and complete his hat trick – a fully deserved fourth goal for the Eagles after some really special build up play.

Laurie nearly added his name to the scoresheet with what would have been a well-deserved goal for his midfield performance but a good block kept his strike out and Luke was so unlucky not to score too after some great work by Jack saw him put through only to find a good bit of defending snuffed out his shot after he had controlled and turned well.

A final superb bit of passing which I think saw every player touch the ball had Finn and Laurie combining again to play Max in who struck a really good shot on the turn that went 3/4 of the way over the line but not all the way as the Foresters keeper made a good stop.

Foresters scored a very good goal in the dying seconds (and nearly had time for a second, but for a brilliant save by Ben where he almost looked to be a Subbuteo character, arms straight up in the air, plucking the ball out of the sky in a very relaxed fashion) to leave the final score as 4-1 to the Eagles. Really well deserved for their excellent display of passing which once again left me feeling incredibly proud of how well they’ve come on in recent weeks after the dark days of the Ridgewaye games!

Well done boys – each and every one of you was fantastic today. Super stuff, and thank you also to your parents, whose support (and help packing away etc.) as ever was very gratefully received, as was Martin’s excellent refereeing. Thanks also to the 2 teams from Foresters – they came across as a really decent group of boys who played some good football in an excellent spirit.

Training next week and then our final league games against Ashurst Wood where we can hopefully finish the pre-Christmas season on a high.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Finn 11, Sammy 10, Jack 8, Laurie 2, Max 2, Alexander)
(League results: Played 12. Won 6. Drawn 3. Lost 3 / Goals for: 31 / Goals against: 23 / Points: 21 / GD: + 8)
(All results: Played 14. Won 6. Drawn 4. Lost 4 / Goals for: 34 / Goals against: 27)

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Saturday October 26th 2013

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 3 Paddock Wood Predators
(Goals: Jack, Finn, Sammy 2)
Man of the Match: Rami

Langton Green Eagles 2 – 2 Paddock Wood Warriors
(Goals: Jack, Sammy)
Man of the Match: Sammy

What a transformation. From problems with not passing last week to tiki-taka Barcelona style football in the space of a week, we were treated to a wonderful morning of passing, moving and clinical finishing that made me incredibly proud.

The lads started on the front foot, attacking from the word go, with Jack especially effective on the left, surging forwards with his trusty left foot letting fly with an early shot that flashed just past the post. Finn, Laurie, Max and Alf (standing in for us today as we were short on numbers) were playing some brilliant passing football, going backwards when necessary, always keeping the ball moving and looking for the gaps. When Max found Finn with a great through ball he took a good touch before sliding his shot goalwards. The keeper made a great save but Jack was there to hammer home the ball to put the boys 1-0 up and in control.

Rami was absolutely immense at the back, snuffing out any potential danger from the opposition with some perfectly timed slide tackles, and when Ben was called upon he was sure footed and steady handed in goal.

A few minutes later Max again found Finn with a superb pass after good work from Laurie. Finn’s first touch took him into space, his second nicked it round the keeper and his third buried the ball in the back of the net. 2-0 to the Eagles and some of the best football they’ve played all year.

Sammy came on moments later for Finn and immediately slotted straight into the team with several brilliant passes to teammates. His passing was exceptional today – well done Sammy. He very nearly made it 3-0 with a wonderful effort that the opposition goalkeeper did very well to beat away and was really unlucky not to get on the scoresheet shortly afterwards with a well-timed first-time shot that flashed over the bar.

Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse after that. Paddock Wood scored a very good individual goal, their strong forward dribbling through several challenges and lashing a powerful shot into the corner. They then scored again from a corner we failed to clear to suddenly leave us going in at half time with the scores level. Slightly bemused, we told the boys they were playing some really good football and to carry on with what they’d been doing before things went awry.

This they did, starting the second half on fire. Alf had a great strike blocked after some brilliant individual play from him to create some space for himself. Laurie played Sammy in who was really unfortunate not to score with his shot whilst Jack and then Finn both had goot shots go wide.

The pressure was building, and after several good saves from the Paddock Wood goalie amidst another wonderful passing move involving virtually every player, Sammy tapped home off the post to give the Eagles the lead.

Back and forth the game went, Paddock Wood’s powerful defenders launching some good long balls up to their strikers who tested Ben with some good shots. Ben was equal to everything though, saving twice from close range and then making an unbelievably good fingertip save, diving to his right to keep us in the lead. Without a doubt the best save I’ve ever seen him make – and he’s made some really good ones previously – superb stuff.

The boys kept playing their passing game and were rewarded with another goal midway through the half, Sammy again getting on the scoresheet with a super finish for his second of the game after a brilliant bit of passing from Max, Jack and Laurie after Rami’s strong defending won the ball back for his team.

With Sammy on for a hat-trick the boys poured forward and he so nearly had his third when Laurie slid a great through ball to him but the Paddock Wood defence somehow got back and defended the chance well. From the subsequent clearance Paddock Wood scored a good third goal but the boys hung on for victory with some excellent defending and good possession football.

Really impressive performance from every single boy. Very hard to pick a man of the match but I have to go for Rami who was everywhere in defence and started off many of our attacks with simple passes to his midfielders. A captain’s performance.

Roll on the second game, against a very good Warriors team we’d lost to last summer in one of the fiestas. Determined to make the result different this time round and off the back of the best football I’ve seen the boys play, they started the game superbly, passing and moving with Max instrumental in much of what we did along with Alf, whose superb positioning gave us an extra dimension in both defence and attack.

Laurie passed to Max, Max played the ball to Finn, Finn layed it back to Alf, who slid a pass to Jack. He attacked the space in front of him superbly, saw his first shot blocked with the rebound falling to Max who cushioned the ball brilliantly and played it back to Jack to smash home and give the Eagles the lead. 1-0 and on fire again!!!

One thing that really pleased me today was how well the boys kept the ball, particularly being prepared to go backwards when there was nothing obvious on in terms of forward passes. They kept this up for much of the first half, Sammy coming on and continuing his fine passing performance from the first game with some brilliant balls out wide. Finn and Laurie were combining well in midfield and Rami was his usual self, throwing himself into every challenge 100% and almost always coming out on top.

Paddock Wood had some chances of their own and Ben was again equal to everything coming his way, making 3 or 4 excellent stops and aside from one slightly rushed clearance making sure his distribution was sensible and calm at all times, always looking to play the ball out from the back via Laurie or Alf’s measured passing.

Laurie had a wonderful shot which was blocked by a diving defender and his general play was brilliant all half, winning tackles and distributing the ball superbly.

The half ended on an unfortunate note when Ben went to catch the ball and in an attempt from an opposition player to win it was caught by a stray boot to the head (not maliciously at all I have to add – the opposition lad was going for the ball and his momentum just took him through – nothing he could do about it). Poor Ben went down in some pain and obviously dropped the ball which was then tapped in by Paddock Wood for the equaliser. The half time whistle went a moment later and we again went in level having played really well.

The second period started brilliantly, pressure from the word go by our attackers on the Paddock Wood defenders and Jack standing firm in goal in place of Ben who was in some discomfort. Max was excellent, driving forward with some brilliant skills and tricks and Laurie and Alf were solid in front of Rami. Finn picked the ball up out wide, looked up and picked out a sublime pass to Sammy whose clever movement had taken him into acres of space. He made no mistake with his first time finish – his best of the day – with a wonderful strike into the corner of the goal. 2-1 to the Eagles and fully deserved for their passing.

Ben came back on having partially recovered, Jack moved back onto the left (having kept a very short clean sheet!) and the boys continued to play some brilliant stuff. It was so nearly 3-1 and game over on several occasions, Alf having 2 wonderful long range shots blocked, Finn seeing a great strike skim the post and Jack showing great determination to dribble his way through only to be tackled at the last minute.

Rami was continuing his awesome defensive display with a one man tackling show to deny 3 or 4 certain chances and Ben made another solid save to keep his team in front. Unfortunately for the lads however, Paddock Wood equalised after we lost possession in the middle of the pitch and were punished by a quick break which Ben so nearly kept out against all the odds, with 2 strikers through on goal against him.

The whistle went shortly afterwards to leave us with a final score of 2-2 but incredibly pleased with the performance.

Well done lads – absolutely superb today. Again – so hard to pick a man of the match but I have to give it to Sammy in this game for his excellent display of passing.

Roll on next week!

Season Stats:
(Goals: Sammy 9, Finn 8, Jack 7, Laurie 2, Max 2, Alexander)
(League results: Played 10. Won 5. Drawn 3. Lost 2 / Goals for: 26 / Goals against: 19 / Points: 18 / GD: + 7)
(All results: Played 12. Won 5. Drawn 4. Lost 3 / Goals for: 29 / Goals against: 23)

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Saturday October 19th 2013

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 1 Ridgewaye Rockets
(Goal: Max)
Man of the Match: Max

Langton Green Eagles 0 – 6 Ridgewaye Galaxy
Man of the Match: Laurie

Cold, wet, rainy – and that was just the dog walk I went on before the matches kicked off. The boys arrived at Langton raring to go and didn’t let the rain dampen their spirits in a pulsating first half of football against Ridgewaye Rockets, playing some of the best stuff they’ve played all year.

Max was on fire, absolutely bossing the midfield with his strength and clever range of passing. Laurie and Rami were impassable at the back, marshalled by Ben who didn’t have a lot to do early on but what he did have to do he did very well. Luke was showing fine movement on his return to the team, attacking the space on the right and getting through on goal twice only to see his shots saved by the goalie.

5 minutes into the half, Jack played in Finn, who rushed through on goal only to see his well-struck shot saved brilliantly by the opposition goalkeeper. Max made no mistake with the follow up and slotted home calmly to put the yellows 1-0 up.

At that stage I thought we would win comfortably but Ridgewaye had other ideas and began to play some really good football themselves. Jack was standing up to them brilliantly, tracking back to win the ball and sprinting forward to launch Eagles attacks, finding himself unlucky not to score with several well struck shots. One particular goalmouth scramble saw shots from Max, Finn, Sammy and finally Jack superbly saved by the Ridgewaye keeper who was proving himself to be a very tough opponent.

1-0 at half time and the boys started the second half brilliantly, bombing forwards to try and get that second goal. Unfortunately for them, they left themselves slightly open at the back and after a mix up in defence and a good save from Ben initially, Ridgewaye snuck a goal in to equalise. The boys were disappointed but still had plenty of time to win the game and continued to attack with vigour.

Time and time again we got forward, Luke in acres of space but nobody found him with what should have been a pass and several times we had players lining up in the box for a tap-in only for the pass not to arrive again. This became a theme of the half unfortunately and we would have comfortably won the game if the boys had been more generous with their final pass – something we will definitely need to work on but understandable from 9 year old lads desperate to win the game.

So, despite lots of energy from all the boys and plenty of opportunities to clinch victory we ended with a draw that could have been a defeat if it hadn’t been for a brilliant save by Ben in the dying seconds. It was a close call between him and Max for man of the match but Max just gets it this week for his awesome first half performance.

The second match was against Ridgewaye’s excellent Galaxy team, who have won every single game so far this year, many by the same kind of margins they managed against us. I imagine they’ll be reallocated to a higher division after Christmas as they’re way too strong for the division we play in at the moment and they’ll provide a thorough test for any team they play, regardless of which league they’re in. A very good team to watch with lots of slick passing and movement and unfortunately just too strong for us today.

The boys did very well to hold out at 0-0 until just before half time when the killer blow came, quickly followed by a second goal to leave us 2-0 down at the break. With everybody cold, wet and losing their shape in the rain, the second half was a forgettable one where we conceded 4 goals and despite Laurie’s best attempts to get things going and Jack’s clever movement we looked a shadow of the side we had been in the first game.

A shame, but a good experience for the boys to know what it feels like to lose a game like this. Hopefully it will leave them stronger for next time out.

Well done to all – some tough lessons today but I was proud of some really strong performances from some of the boys in the first game in particular and a great team performance in the first half of that match. If we can recapture that then the results will start to flow again.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Finn 7, Sammy 6, Jack 5, Laurie 2, Max 2, Alexander)
(League results: Played 8. Won 4. Drawn 2. Lost 2 / Goals for: 20 / Goals against: 14 / Points: 14 / GD: + 6)
(All results: Played 8. Won 4. Drawn 3. Lost 3 / Goals for: 23 / Goals against: 18)

Saturday October 5th 2013

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 0 Uckfield Jets
(Goals: Finn, Laurie, Sammy 2)
Man of the Match: Laurie

Langton Green Eagles 2 – 2 Uckfield Torpedos
(Goals: Jack 2)
Man of the Match: Jack

In an attempt to get the boys to play with some Catalonian flair we played a wonderful compilation of flamenco music on the way down, which Rami agreed was some of the best music he’d ever heard. Martin is burning him a CD as I write this, which no doubt will be received with great enthusiasm.

Anyway – it appeared to have worked, at least initially. The Eagles started their first game with lots of passing, movement and attacking flair against a good Uckfield Jets team we had shared several close games with last year. The boys got off to the best possible start when Jack picked the ball up on the left, drove at the defence and lashed a shot towards goal with his trusty left foot. The Uckfield goalkeeper made an excellent save but could only divert the ball into Finn’s path, our goal-poaching number 10 making no mistake to power the ball into the roof of the net. 1-0 to the Eagles with less than a minute on the clock.

With their confidence up, the lads pushed forward with intent, Jack, Sammy and Finn moving the ball quickly and with accuracy before Jack was unlucky to see his shot flash just past the post. Laurie was playing his midfield role perfectly, spraying passes out wide and tackling the opposition’s creative midfield players to break up their attacks time and time again.

Daniel, playing his first game for the Eagles this season, and Rami, our captain and all round Spanish music fan were mopping up any loose balls at the back. Daniel’s calmness on the ball and passing has been enormously improved by some hard practice over the summer and he had several chances to show what he could do, intercepting some clever through balls and playing nice simple passes to his forward players to get attacks moving.

Rami was called upon to make a trademark Rami tackle to stop a certain shot and when Uckfield did get the chance to shoot, Ben was equal to the efforts in goal, commanding his penalty area and coming out quickly to snuff out any danger.

The Eagles missed several opportunities to extend their lead but it wasn’t through lack of effort, Sammy making a great run down the right and shooting just wide with Laurie playing Jack in with a perfectly weighted pass only to see his attempt at a shot blocked by some good defending. Finn turned fantastically on the right hand edge of the penalty area, a Cruyff turn bamboozling the opposition and laid the ball off to Laurie who squared it for Jack who jinked past a defender and shot just wide. It was like watching Brazil. Or our Tuesday night Dads’ game, which is essentially the same thing.

It stayed 1-0 for the majority of the half, but our pressure paid off shortly before the break, Sammy playing a clever pass in to Finn’s feet, Finn holding the ball up well and instead of turning and shooting under pressure (which he would have almost certainly tried to do this time last year), he laid the ball back into the path of Laurie who calmly placed an excellent shot just inside the post to double the Eagles’ lead and send us in 2-0 up at half time.

We drew 2-2 with the Jets last season having been 2-0 up at half time so the boys were reminded not to get complacent in the second half and that we needed the 3rd goal to take the pressure off. We started the half well but the lads were beginning to look tired, a couple of simple mistakes leading to Uckfield having chances which Ben did fantastically well to stop with some brave goalkeeping.

Sammy was making some good runs out wide, slipping past defenders for fun and you could tell he was keen to get on the score sheet which he was unlucky not to do sooner than he did – some good defending and goalkeeping denying him on several occasions. Not to be short-changed however, he picked the ball up from the ever-reliable Laurie in midfield, burst past 2 opposition players and finished with a powerful strike that gave the goalkeeper no chance. 3-0.

Finn had a shot cleared off the line, Jack had a number of brilliant efforts palmed away by the goalkeeper, Laurie had a strike well blocked and Rami burst through to try and add his name to the scoresheet only to be stopped by some wonderful defending from a Jets’ player on the edge of the area. The boys were playing some lovely passing football, keeping possession and putting into practice what we’d been doing in training. It only broke down on the occasions the lads decided passing wasn’t cool and tried to take on one too many defenders. They are starting to learn that we play better, win more and they also all score more goals if they continue to play a passing game with the odd bit of dribbling rather than a dribbling game with the odd bit of passing. But they do sometimes forget.

The half seemed to go on for a very long time (that happens in football, when you’re losing and need a goal it flies past and when you’re ahead and need the game to end it drags on). We even had time for me to shout angrily at the lads for not marking at a corner until I realised it was our corner and we were the attacking team. I apologise boys. I then did it again on a throw in. There is a quote I believe which says something like “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again”. Hmmm.

Sammy put the icing on the cake with his second goal of the day just before the end of the match, skipping past a defender to slide the ball home with his usual coolness. I was disappointed he didn’t have a Spanish flamenco guitar celebration planned out but there you go – you can’t have everything. Uckfield came back really strongly in the final few minutes, forcing corner after corner and finding themselves very unfortunate not to score a consolation goal when they had the ball agonisingly close to the line but just couldn’t squeeze it in after another fine save from Ben denied a good long shot from their best player.

A very good all round performance to start the morning and another good league result for the Eagles.

Rami had some popcorn during the break, clearly under the impression we were actually going to the cinema, and he shared it with the other boys. I don’t know if it was that or the fact they’d just won 4-0 and got a bit complacent, but the first half of the second game it was like watching a different team. No shape, no passing, no defending, no communication, definitely no Spanish style or Brazilian swagger and suddenly standing in a muddy field seemed a lot less fun than it had been a few minutes earlier (and I love mud, although the puddle jumping some of the boys partook in next to me that left me covered in gloopy brown muck wasn’t that fun).

However – it’s an old footballing cliche that it’s the sign of a good team to be able to grind out a result when they’re playing poorly and the boys have shown this year that even when things don’t click they are always in with a shout. And it was Jack who proved this theory brilliantly to put us 1-0 up midway through the first half, when we looked the second best team on the pitch by some distance. Sammy (whose intelligent movement at corners was excellent all day) picked the ball up from Laurie’s short corner kick. He squared the ball to Jack, who turned expertly and slid an inch-perfect shot inside the far post. Magical stuff – a real Harry Potter moment – I thought that would be the catalyst for the confidence to flow in and for us to start playing how I know we can again.

Alas, it wasn’t to be though! We continued in a slightly random manner, players out of position and energy distinctly lacking. Confusion at the back led to an Uckfield corner, which was smashed hard and low across the box and bounced beyond Ben’s grasp into the goal off the legs of one of our players for an own goal that we could do nothing about. Rami (who was superb in his captaincy duties today) talked the team round with great enthusiasm and the boys started playing a little bit better.

Unfortunately they went behind in similar fashion to the first goal just before the break, a free kick finding it’s way through a see of players who could and should have cleared it to be tapped in to leave us 2-1 down and me grinding my teeth on the sidelines.

The lads have been behind many times though and come back to win games so half time saw us remind them of this and send them back out with instructions to keep the ball on the floor, pass more and hold their positions a bit better than they did in the first period.

Initially, we still struggled a bit, players tackling each other on occasion (“you’re on the same team boys!”) and some simple marking going astray (“he’s behind you!!!!” – for the second week running I felt like I was at the Christmas panto) leading to a great shot from Uckfield that hit the post. We were in danger of losing the game at this rate, but thankfully the lads started playing again with 7 or 8 minutes left and Jack pulled a goal back to make it 2-2 with a wonderful solo effort, receiving the ball from Laurie’s good pass in the middle of the pitch, drifting past 2 challenges and rifling a shot beyind the Uckfield keeper to score his second of the match. Superb. Game on!

Finn, Sammy and Laurie were suddenly passing the ball like they had in the first game, Daniel was confident in defence, making some crunching tackles to stop the opposition in their tracks. Jack was threatening to score a hat trick but was unfortunately tripped by accident when bursting through the centre. Some great defensive play from Rami was keeping things tight at the back and his continued enthusiasm rubbed off on the others but Uckfield were always dangerous on the break and Ben was called upon to make 2 more excellent stops to keep the scores level.

Finn’s clever lob sent Sammy through for what we thought would be the winner but the ball took a slightly dodgy bounce and his powerful shot skimmed just wide of the post. A couple of other chances went begging as we held onto the ball too long without passing early and their goalkeeper made a good stop from our final attack.

As per my earlier comment, this half seemed much much shorter than all the others as we searched for a winner but ultimately a draw was a fair result bearing in mind our first half display. These games are good for the boys though and they showed great character to pull themselves back into it, especially Jack who wins the man of the match award for his never-give-up attitude and Rami whose understanding of what a captain needs to do for his team shows he’s the right man for the job!

4 more points lads and well done – each and every one of you played really well. Some tough games to come without a doubt but we’ve put ourselves in a really good position.

Season Stats:
(Goals: Finn 7, Sammy 6, Jack 5, Laurie 2, Max, Alexander)
(League results: Played 6. Won 4. Drawn 1. Lost 1 / Goals for: 19 / Goals against: 7 / Points: 13 / GD: + 12)
(All results: Played 8. Won 4. Drawn 2. Lost 2 / Goals for: 22 / Goals against: 11)

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Saturday September 28th 2013 (FRIENDLIES)

Langton Green Eagles 2 – 3 Borough Green
(Goals: Max, Sammy)
Man of the Match: Ben

Langton Green Eagles 1 – 1 Borough Green
(Goal: Laurie)
Man of the Match: Ben

With some tough league games ahead over the coming weeks, we thought a little extra match practice wouldn’t go amiss and so arranged 2 friendlies against Borough Green, a side in the division above us in the Crowborough League and with a reputation as a very good team with some excellent players.

As with last week, the boys started slowly, shooting uphill on a sloping pitch and looking like some of them had forgotten they were actually out of bed and playing football. We repeatedly let Borough Green’s very good number 11 get behind our defence and it was this that undid us midway through the first half where he found himself in space to lob the ball into the roof of the net with a very good finish. 1-0 to Borough Green and we totally deserved to be behind.

I was hoping this would rouse the boys into action and certainly in one or two cases it did, Jack and Luke both going on several mazy runs at the heart of the defence and Laurie playing some good passes in midfield. Rami, who it has to be said was getting very little help from his midfielders, was his usual excellent self at the back but found himself unable to continue when he was tripped out by the touchline. Down to 6 players, up against it, behind in the game and shooting uphill, things were not looking good for the boys at this stage. Ben made 2 absolutely superb stops to keep us in touch with the game, sliding in to deflect a shot over the bar and then diving well to his left to parry a powerful shot wide for another corner.

With Borough Green looking the most likely to score, Max decided enough was enough, picking up the ball in his own half from Luke’s clever pass, driving at the defence, showing great strength to hold of not one, not two, but three challenges and rifling a bullet of a shot into the bottom corner for his debut goal for the Eagles and what a goal it was. 1-1 and right back in it.

This did perk the boys up a bit, and with Finn coming on in the second half and Max moving out to the right, the boys started the second period well, pushing forward and defending far better than they did in the first half. Sammy was busy down the left, making some excellent runs and Laurie and Max were starting to boss the midfield. Borough Green were always dangerous though, their tactic of playing high balls into the box from their strong defenders causing us all kinds of problems time and time again. After Ben made another two brilliant saves, we found ourselves behind after one of those high balls wasn’t cleared, the ball dropping to an opposition attacker in front of goal for an easy finish.

Not to be perturbed however, the boys pushed forward from the restart, the downhill slope favouring the Eagles, and equalised almost immediately after some good work in midfield by Finn (who had taken on board our conversation about passing backwards to start again if there was no option going forwards) and Jack (who was showing his usual skill on the ball) set Sammy free on the left to sweep home into the roof of the goal with a powerful first time strike. 2-2 and all to play for in the last few minutes.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, after coming back so well from such a difficult first half, we were undone by some sloppy play, giving the ball back to the opposition twice in the same move in front of our own goal and failing to tackle or clear having been given several opportunities to do so. The ball somehow found its way in at the near post to leave us 3-2 down with not very long to come back. These things happen, and we can look at this sort of situation in training as an opportunity to improve our play under pressure.

The second game followed much the same pattern, the Eagles starting very slowly indeed, looking tired and slightly shellshocked but coming back brilliantly after the break.

Ben was really unfortunate to see a routine shot hit a lump of earth and bobble cruelly over him to give Borough Green the lead. He was again superb in this game, making several top class saves and drawing a whole raft of very positive comments from the opposition coaches and parents who all praised his all round game.

Luke made a number of excellent forward runs, dribbling past 3 players on one occasion only to find himself crowded out with no support. Finn’s all round play was really good with some solid passes and good positional play taking him into acres of space on several instances only for his teammates unable to find him with that final killer pass due to some good defending from Borough Green. Jack, back in defence alongside Rami, was imperious on the left, bursting forwards to start of several attacks and tracking back brilliantly to save almost certain goals on at least two occasions. Most of the first period was spent on the defensive however, and we went in at the break lucky to be a solitary goal behind.

The Eagles rallied in the second half to produce a much better display going downhill. Max played some brilliant stuff at times going forward, Sammy was unfortunate to have a super strike well saved by the Borough Green goalkeeper, who played well. Finn so nearly snatched the equaliser with a great header from Laurie’s pinpoint corner but the ball flashed just wide.

The goal the boys so richly deserved came near the end of the game in bizarre fashion. Laurie’s corner from the right went past the goalkeeper at his near post and drifted just over the line for a goal direct from the corner. One of the opposition defenders picked the ball up to restart the game but as nobody realised the ball was already in the goal, we all thought it would be a penalty for hand ball until Martin rightly pointed out as referee that he’d given the goal. 1-1 and the lads sniffed the win.

They piled forward for the final few minutes, Finn and Laurie combining to set Sammy free, whose well struck shot was again well saved. Max had a powerful strike stopped by a defender and Jack had another of his trademark runs and crosses which Finn was unlucky not to connect with. All the while, Rami was brilliant at the back and adding some further forward impetus by driving through the Borough Green midfield to set up an opportunity for Jack near the end. The boys just couldn’t force that winning goal to level the series however and even needed another great stop from Ben at the close to avoid a painful second defeat.

All in all a good test against a side in a higher division with some very strong players. The boys played some really good stuff at times whilst not being at their best and Ben in particular was fantastic. Well done lads – back to league action next week against Uckfield who we’ve had some really good games against before.

(Season goals: Finn 6, Sammy 4, Jack 3, Max, Laurie, Alexander)

(Season results: Played 6. Won 3. Drawn 1. Lost 2 / Goals for: 16 / Goals against: 9)

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Saturday September 21st 2013

Langton Green Eagles 0 – 1 Hailsham Colts
Man of the Match: Laurie

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 2 Hailsham Juniors
(Goals: Finn 3, Sammy)
Man of the Match: Finn

2 Tough games today against some very good Hailsham sides who we’d never met before in the league or at any of the fiestas we played in over the summer. As such we had no idea what to expect, and thankfully were treated to two very evenly matched games.

The first game started slowly for the Eagles, with Hailsham unlucky not to score the opener after a fine move down the right hand side – only some excellent last ditch defending from Rami and Laurie denying the opposition in our penalty area. Ben was called upon twice to make good stops with his feet in the early stages of the game and proved once again what a good goalkeeper he’s becoming with some excellent decision making to keep the score at 0-0.

The boys slowly worked their way into the game, Max finding his feet midway through the half to start bossing the midfield with some trademark quick feet and passing. Jack was often the recipient of these passes and despite being our left winger popped up with a wonderful run down the right, only to find he was crowded out by several defenders before he was able to release the ball.

Sammy and Finn were both busy up front, Sammy having a couple of shots from tight angles that were well stopped by the opposition goalkeeper and Finn denied by a good save when he shot powerfully for the corner. Eddie came on briefly for the injured Finn and did well up front, making some great runs into the area before the whistle went for the end of the first period of play. All in all the first half was a tense affair where our final ball just wasn’t coming off – shooting when we should have been passing and passing when we should have been shooting. 0-0 at half time probably was slightly flattering on us but we certainly were happy to take it.

The boys were sent out with instruction to try and take their time a bit more when in attacking positions and rush things less, whilst providing more support for captain Rami at the back and the second half was a definite improvement. Finn was once again unfortunate not to score with a good strike that the goalkeeper saved and Laurie was unlucky to see a great long range shot blocked by a defender.

Jack continued his busy runs down the left, just unable to latch onto a great through ball from Max and inches away from reaching a similar pass from Laurie. I felt at this stage the game was headed for a draw or an Eagles win, with Hailsham seeming to have faded slightly from their excellent start but unfortunately for us it wasn’t to be. Some confusion in defence saw the ball loop to an opposition midfielder who had time to pick out his unmarked team mate on the corner of the area who took a touch before lashing home a shot that Ben got a finger to but was unable to keep out.

We still had time to claw it back but it wasn’t to be, our final pass or shot deserting us when through on goal several more times to see out a disappointing 1-0 loss. Overall I feel a draw would have been a fair result based on the balance of play but ultimately Hailsham took their chance and we didn’t.

After a quick break the lads were back on to play Hailsham’s other team, and once again we got off to a really slow start. Energy seemed to have been left on the sidelines as the opposition forced Ben into a couple of good stops early on and Rami was once again called into action to snuff out the danger when a clever pass found its way through the sea of yellow to a Hailsham attacker.

As in the first game though, the boys started to find their feet as the half wore on, Sammy having two half chances and a series of corners cranking up the pressure on the opposition goal. Finn just couldn’t hack the ball over the line when it was bobbling round in the area and Max had a several excellent runs halted by some good defending. He was improving all the time as the game went on and started to really control the midfield along with Laurie who although playing in defence was stepping up to help out our attacks when we had the ball brilliantly.

Against the run of play though, the Eagles went 1-0 down with a well taken strike from the edge of the area that Ben was unlucky not to get to. A good shot, but we were slightly aggrieved to be behind after playing the stronger football for much of the first period.

The lads didn’t let their heads drop though, and bombed forward in search of the equalising goal, Sammy again seeing a shot saved from a tight angle and Jack making some excellent forays into the Hailsham penalty area only to find the number of defenders back meant he just couldn’t get a strike on goal.

Perhaps our enthusiasm in trying to find a goal left us a bit too open at the back though, and just before half time we found ourselves two goals behind after some casual play in midfield allowed Hailsham to break and as was so often the story of the morning up until that point, just not enough players were back helping Rami in defence. 2-0 to Hailsham and after the previous week’s double win we were staring at a double defeat to bring us straight back to earth.

Half time saw some very despondent players who needed to believe they could turn this around. “If they can score 2 in the first half, you can score 2 in the second” I said. “Or three” said Martin. Which was a very good point!

Almost immediately the boys upped their game, Finn winning the ball straight from the kickoff and passing to Max who tricked his way past two players and played it back to Finn – brilliant stuff. This set the tone for what was to come – a miraculous comeback reminiscent of Liverpool’s Champions League win in Instanbul or the time my 5 a side team came back from 8-0 down to draw 8-8 – 2 of football’s great nights I’m sure you’ll agree.

Some confusion in the Hailsham back line let Finn pinch the ball from a defender and strike a quick shot into the corner to give us some hope. 2-1.

The boys visibly swelled in confidence at this and sniffing a way back into the game started playing the best football they’d played all morning by a long way. Wave upon wave of attacks won us several corners, Laurie delivering to Jack at the back post who lashed a cross in that Sammy was unlucky not to connect with. Another shot from Sammy was brilliantly saved by the keeper, Max hit two piledrivers just past the far post and Laurie had a brilliant effort blocked in the penalty area with what was a completely accidental and unavoidable arm – no penalty.

A free kick from Laurie was headed tantalisingly wide by Finn before Sammy picked up the ball on the right from a sublime pass from Max, jinked past a defender and arrowed in on goal. His shot was excellent and beat the goalkeeper, but hit the inside of the post and cannoned back out into the six yard box, straight into the path of the lurking Finn who sidefooted into the back of the net to draw us level. 2-2 and plenty of time left to win in.

There was only going to be one result now, and despite having to make several excellent saves earlier in the game, Ben was a virtual bystander as the boys continued to pour forward at every opportunity. Rami went on a mazy run which ended as he was well tackled out wide on left. Jack picked up the resulting loose ball and played a great pass to Max who picked exactly the right option to pick Laurie out in the middle. A clever pass out wide to Sammy saw him through on goal and as you would expect from Sammy in that position, he scored, a well struck shot into the corner to give the Eagles the lead. 3-2 with just a few minutes to go.

Far from finding their slender lead filled them England-style nerves where they had to hang on for victory, the Eagles seemed to use this as an excuse to pile forward in even greater numbers. I was slightly concerned we’d be hit on the break when Hailsham had 3 players in our half with only Rami back, but then Laurie intercepted a ball that was intended to be played over the top and burst forward like a Frank Lampard / Steven Gerrard combo and I could already see the net bulging. He unselfishly passed however, and the chance fizzled out but play continued along these lines with the boys brimming with self-assuredness.

Finn had time to complete a deserved hat trick with a well placed shot after good work from the midfield and Laurie was really unlucky not to get on the score sheet with a long range effort that the goalkeeper saved.

The final whistle went to give the Eagles a 3rd victory from four games and to end the morning on a high.

Well done lads – after a shaky start you were excellent once again and coming back from 2-0 down like that showed real character. Brilliant stuff!!!

Roll on next week.

(Season goals: Finn 6, Jack 3, Sammy 3, Alexander)

(Season results: Played 4. Won 3. Drawn 0. Lost 1 / Goals for: 13 / Goals against: 5)

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Saturday September 7th 2013

Langton Green Eagles 5 – 0 Rotherfield Hurricanes
(Goals: Sammy 2, Finn 2, Alexander)
Man of the Match: Max

Langton Green Eagles 4 – 2 Rotherfield Spitfires
(Goals: Jack 3, Finn)
Man of the Match: Jack

Well here we are again! A new adventure for the Eagles, shiny new kits and a couple of new faces in Sammy and Max who joined us over the summer. The boys arrived for their first league matches of the season looking full of energy and raring to go against two Rotherfield sides we played several times last year and always found to be tough opponents who gave us close fought games.

Last season we often started games quite slowly, as if sleep were still being shaken off during the opening minutes, but not today. Within 30 seconds of his Eagles league debut, Sammy had the ball in the back of the net with a cracking strike after a fine passing move involving fellow newcomer Max and last year’s star player Laurie. As expected, he had a goal celebration all planned out, which seemed to involve a lot of arm waggling. I didn’t ask.

Having got their noses ahead, the boys started to play some wonderful attacking football, Jack busy on the left with his usual attacking intent causing all manner of problems for the Rotherfield defence and Laurie’s calm assuredness on the ball breaking up Rotherfield’s attacks at will and starting our own forward moves. He played the ball to Finn, who held it up well, slid a pass to Max through a sea of defenders and Max showed real vision to tuck a wonderful through ball into the feet of Sammy who opened up his body and lashed in his second goal of the game with only 4 minutes gone. 2-0 to the Eagles and both the new lads had made a real impression.

Rotherfield gathered themselves somewhat after the second goal went in and started to play a little bit more. Our new captain, Rami was awesome in defence, twice denying the strong Rotherfield front player with last ditch challenges and Ben’s growing confidence was evident in goal with a couple of solid catches and excellent decision making when called upon to advance to close down the danger.

The boys stuck at their task however, and after some good work from Sammy down the right, the ball burst to Finn on the corner of the penalty area. Just as I was about to bellow at him to pass to the unmarked Jack, he dribbled his way past 2 defenders and buried the ball in the back of the net with a well placed finish. 3-0 and comfortable.

Finn made it 4-0 moments later with a downward header that bounced over the Rotherfield keeper and into the far corner of the goal. Alexander came on for Jack, with Max moving out to the left, and we nearly scored again through a great strike from Max before the half time whistle went to signal the end of one of the best halves of football I’ve seen the Eagles play.

We made some changes for the second half, shifting Alexander up front and getting Jack back on in defence with Rami moving into midfield. Rotherfield caused us a lot more problems after the break, attacking with intent and defending resolutely, making our task much more difficult and meaning both Rami and Ben were called on to make some goal-saving tackles and saves respectively.

As the half wore on we started to find ourselves on top again however – Jack still as energetic as ever, tearing Rotherfield to bits down the left with a mazy run out of defence that took him the length of the pitch before he released Sammy who was unlucky to see his shot go wide. Max and Laurie were both commanding the midfield still and Laurie in particular was unlucky not to score with an absolutely sublime lob that the Rotherfield goalie did very well to save.

As the end of the game loomed, we looked more and more likely to score the 5th goal, Finn forcing a good save from the opposition keeper and Alexander unfortunate to see his reflex shot go over the bar from the rebound. The goal eventually came with the last kick of the game – Sammy’s through ball squirming under the goalkeeper as he came to collect it, leaving Alexander, whose poacher’s instinct had led him to be in right place, to tap into an empty net and open his goalscoring account for the season.

All in all a very good performance all round, especially when you consider we had 2 completely new players involved. Great stuff!

After a short break the boys were back on the pitch for their second match of the morning, against the Spitfires, and it proved a real test.

The game started frantically, with the lads on the back foot from the kick off, and lucky to avoid conceding an early goal as Rami rushed back to get a toe on a through ball the Rotherfield striker was about to connect with and tip the ball over his own crossbar. Somehow a goal kick was given, and we could breathe a sigh of relief, but the pressure was straight back on and we quickly shifted Laurie back to help Rami in defence as it became clear we needed to play 2 at the back. Ben was forced into a couple of brilliant catches and a stop that showed how much his decision making has improved as he bravely stepped out to pluck the ball from the air as bodies piled towards him.

Bit by bit, the boys started to edge their way into the game, and with just a few minutes to go until half time, Finn slid a ball in to Jack, who struck an outrageous shot into the corner through the legs of a defender. 1-0 and suddenly the confidence started to flow. Max was playing some top class passes, and Laurie was starting attacks from deep with some David Beckham-esque long balls straight to his teammates’ feet. With just a few moments to go until the break, Jack scored his second to make it 2-0 and this one was even better than the first. Alexander, Finn and Max combined to send Jack free but he still had plenty to do. Expecting him to try and dribble past the next defender or perhaps look for a pass, we watched with mouths open as he swerved an unstoppable strike into the corner of the goal from outside the penalty area. Brilliant!

Half time brought more changes, with Sammy coming back on and Rami going off. Jack filled in at the back and was called on immediately to make a super tackle. Unfortunately for him the ball spun back out to a Rotherfield attacker and despite the brave efforts of Laurie to smother the chance and Ben to close down the angle, the Spitfires scored a good goal to make it 2-1.

Too many times last season, when we conceded a goal, our heads went down, but this time it seemed to galvanise the boys and they played some of their best football of the morning in the 5 minutes following Rotherfield’s goal. Alexander played some excellent, calm passes to keep the team moving forward. Rami came back on and burst forward several times, showing all the energy we so value in him to cause panic in the opposition defence. Jack was back to his mazy runs down the left and Max went to another level with his passing, picking out several ridiculously good balls to team mates to set attacks going. He deserved a goal for his performance today and was unlucky not to score with a couple of rasping shots that flashed just wide. Max then unselfishly squared to Sammy, who was unfortunate not to hit the target from a tight angle. Sammy was buzzing everywhere though, and had another opportunity he was unlucky to see saved. His attacking energy will be a real plus for us this season, I have no doubt. Finally, the goal our excellent play deserved came after a goalmouth scramble where Laurie was unfortunate not to score saw the ball fall to last season’s poacher, Finn, who volleyed home via a deflection to make it 3-1. Phew!

Once again though, Rotherfield came back into it, and it was a goal we could only stand and applaud, as their midfielder saw Ben just off his line and launched an ambitious lob from his own half which crept into the roof of the net. Nothing Ben could do and his overall performances today were outstanding, which he proved again moments later as he made a superb stop to keep us in the lead.

As the game frantically buzzed towards the finish, either team looked like they could have scored another, but it was The Eagles who sealed the points with a brilliant 3rd goal from Jack to complete his hat trick – more combination play in midfield from Max, Finn and Laurie saw Jack pick the ball up, drive at the opposition defence and lash a rocket of a shot into the far corner, giving the keeper no chance at all. Man of the match for Jack and a fair scoreline of 4-2 with another really good team performance.

All in all, each and every one of the boys played really well today and got us off to the perfect start to the new season. We must be top of the league!!!!

Well done!

(Season goals: Finn 3, Jack 3, Sammy 2, Alexander)

(Season results: Played 2. Won 2. Drawn 0. Lost 0 / Goals for: 9 / Goals against: 2)

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