Phoenix 2017 - 2018

Sunday, November 19th

Langton Green Phoenix 4 - 1 Marle Place
(Sammy 2, Evan, Finn P)

A beautiful morning, a home game (finally!) and a goalscoring debut for Finn P, who joined us just last week.

It has been a challenging few weeks for the boys, with a few things not having gone their way. For a team who are used to winning games, the question was how they would handle and respond to the more challenging league they now find themselves in and the reality of a couple of less positive results. Today, against a team who comfortably beat us just 2 weeks ago, the boys gave an emphatic answer to that question. Was it the perfect performance? No, of course not, but it was a display full of character, effort, skill and without a doubt the best team performance of the season. As something to build on, it was an excellent step in the right direction.

The game started at a brisk pace, Langton Green keeping possession well, nearly finding a way through in the first minute with an early pass over the top to Max, who was well tackled after cutting round the outside and looking to cross. A lovely bit of interplay between Tristan and Finn P created another opening, but our opposition's strong central midfielder snuffed out the chance. A foul on Evan in the middle of the pitch gave us a shooting chance and up stepped Sammy to dispatch a wonderful free kick right into the roof of the net. 1-0. Of course we went 1-0 up two weeks ago against this team and we all knew what happened then, so with just a few minutes gone we weren't taking anything for granted!

The next 10 minutes were very pleasing. On the ball we looked quick and smart in possession and off the ball we were compact and hard to break down. Marle Place threatened with several high balls, but our back 4 of Tom, Richard, Jack and Connor were equal to everything that was thrown at them and Ethan's communication, catching and distribution were of a really high standard in goal. A good bit of interplay at left back between Jack and Richard fed Finn K, who received the ball on the turn, looked up and curled a beautiful pass into the path of Sammy, who had made a perfectly timed run in behind the opposition full back. A long way to goal and still with bags to do, Sammy's first touch took the ball out of his feet, his second set himself and his third was a lovely, curled finish into the bottom corner. What a good goal - from back to front in 5 or 6 touches. Superb.

Suddenly it was 2-1. I didn't see what happened because I was talking to one of our substitutes about coming on, but the finish was well taken by Marle Place and the game was now poised on a knife-edge. How would the boys respond? Marle Place were now buzzing, we looked a bit panicky and the game swung back and forth. A couple of scrappy clearances and we were giving possession back and finding ourselves under pressure. An excellent early ball forward from Tom found Evan, who combined well with Tristan to send Finn P on his way. His well-taken first touch lobbed the defender, but the shot squirmed just wide. No matter - a minute later and he was dropping deep, setting Tristan, whose through ball found Max burning through on the right, just getting to the ball ahead of the goalie, but his dinked finished was well saved and the subsequent corner scrambled away.

Cue some changes, Toby on the right and Will on the left both having some lovely combinations with Evan, Tristan and Finn K in midfield, whilst Joel came on at right back and Sid in the middle and kept things ticking over nicely. A wonderful run from Jack from left back nearly ended in a goalscoring chance, but Will's pass back to Jack was just cut out by a good bit of defending from MP. The final 5 minutes of the half were our weakest spell of the game, scrappy and losing possession too easily, but we saw it out to the break with minimum fuss.

Half time and we talked about whether to change anything and what was going well. The boys had worked hard, but knew there was lots more hard work to come. Good to hear some intelligent suggestions coming back from them when we asked the questions. Second half I was hugely impressed with how they responded to the game situation. Tom and Richard were back to their absolute best at centre back, clearing everything, communicating well and passing out (as in passing the ball, not "passing out" ;-)) with intelligence. Finn P continued to make some excellent runs, combining well with Sammy on a number of occasions, one particularly nice one-two sending Sammy free in the penalty box, a suggestion of a foul that could have led to a penalty, but Sammy stayed on his feet and cut the ball back nicely for Will, whose movement had given him a chance but the shot was well blocked.

A cracking bit of skill from Toby saw him get a lovely shot away after he turned his defender inside out and some of the football from Tristan, Jack, Finn K and Evan in midfield was sublime at times. One of the best passes I saw all morning from Tristan sent Finn P through, he beat his defender brilliantly and absolutely smashed a shot towards the top corner, only for it to bend away in the final seconds and go agonizingly wide. Moments later and he shimmied through 2 players before seeing his shot go just past the far post. Every time Marle Place had the ball at the back, our forwards were making it hard to play out, Sammy showing bundles of energy off the ball and Will, both Finns, Tristan and Max backing him up. At the other end, Ethan continued to dominate high balls and distribute intelligently and Richard and Tom were staying compact and solid in front of him.

A goal was coming, we sensed. And so it proved. With 5 minutes to go and Marle Place having just had their best chance of the second half (hugely impressed with the numbers back to deny their excellent striker), Sammy drifted in a corner that Evan headed home with aplomb, having outjumped his marker who was taller than him. A great header and thoroughly deserved by a player who gave absolutely everything today.

Bridget brought me a cup of coffee (thank you), Marle place went forward again, Connor defending wonderfully with a superb tackle at right back and a really good piece of forward play, passing and moving to bomb forward and play Toby in, who so nearly got a shot away but for a really solid last-ditch tackle from a MP defender.

Joel stepped out to right wing, somehow ended up in the number 10 position, dribbled through two defenders and was fouled right on the edge of the box. It was an excellent run from Joel, who is used to playing further back and showed how skilful he can be with the ball at his feet. With our usual free kick taker, Sammy, off the pitch, we looked to Finn P to step up and step up he did, curling an absolute peach of a free kick into the top corner to cap off a fine debut display with the goal he deserved for all his hard work. Really pleased for him. Well done.

And that was that. The full time whistle went seconds later. A tight game, with some really excellent football, but what pleased me most were the effort levels. Outstanding work rate and movement from our forward players - Sammy had his best game for the team in my opinion, particularly off the ball where he worked really hard. Finn P was excellent on his debut, Tristan gave an absolute captain's performance and every single one of the boys who played today can be really proud of themselves. But man of the match went to Evan, selected from two or three candidates by his captain. We asked Evan to play a deeper role, protecting the back 4 and plugging the gap that can sometimes open up between defenders and midfield and he did it superbly. Well done Evan. He picked his gran as supporter of the match and whilst she very kindly tried to suggest one of the boys should have the Mint Aero she was awarded, I think she earned it! Thanks to Justin for running the line, to all the parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters for their support and to our referee, who was one of the best we've had.

Back on the road next week with an away trip to Montpelier Villa, a side we have never faced before and who we look forward to playing hugely. Well done all - really proud of you today. See you Tuesday for training.

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Sunday, November 12th

Newhaven 5 - 2 Langton Green Phoenix
(Toby, Tristan)

Langton leave their show of character and skill too late...

The big question before this match was how the team would react after their thrashing last week at Marle Place. The answer during the first half of this match against the division’s second-placed team was, unfortunately, not particularly well. This did not look like the all-conquering team of last season, as they struggled for possession, ideas and, for long spells, to even get out of their own half. At half-time they were lucky to be only 0-3 down – it could have been much worse if it weren’t for some great saves by Ethan. But everyone involved with this team knows it has great depth of character, and they showed huge resolve to pull themselves together in the second half and start to play like we all know they can.

So Ethan was deservedly Man of the Match on this freezing cold morning by the seaside, and he was kept busy during the first half in an effective damage limitation exercise. Make no mistake, Newhaven are a good team, Langton were making them look even better. There were some good dead-ball kicks from Sammy and Max, and flashes of nice passing between Jack, Toby, Tristan and Finn, but generally this was a lacklustre half of football for Langton to forget. Newhaven scored three goals in quick succession to give themselves a comfortable lead at half time, but they could reasonably have had many more.

The coaches had a few words at half time and the boys looked much more for up for a game of football at the start of the second half. But there was nothing they could do about the fourth goal - a superb strike from considerable distance by Newhaven. They came close again moments later, but made no mistake with their next opportunity soon after. At 5-0 only ten minutes into the second half, Newhaven must have thought their work was done. But then, after a slight tactical rearrangement and a supreme effort from the whole team, Langton Green slowly but surely started to remember how well they can play football when things are going right. For the last 20 minutes or so they played really well, and if the game had gone on for another 20 minutes they may even have given Newhaven something to think about.

There were some nice clever one touch moves down the left from Tristan, Jack and Evan, with Evan one of the first to have a punt at goal. Max was breaking forward with dangerous intent down the right, with Matt starting off one or two attacks from right back. It was a nice ball over the top from Evan that found Toby one on one with a defender. Toby held him off well and slotted a nice finish into the corner to rescue some pride for the Phoenix. The play was now all in Newhaven’s half and Langton had most of the possession for the first time in the match. What a transformation – Langton were moving the ball quickly, cleverly and with real intent. A forward ball to Tristan still left him with lots to do, but now the confidence was flowing through the team and he scored their second with a well taken strike. Langton were playing excellent football when the final whistle went, but unfortunately they had left it far too late to turn on the style.

Next week, the Phoenix have to face Marle Place again. Let’s hope the whole team can play the whole of that match in the same way that they finished this one.

Manager's note: every team who is prepared to try and progress and look for challenges will face tough spells. It's inevitable in any sport. We wanted more of a challenge than the Crowborough League was giving us last season and we're definitely getting that. The boys will get through this spell and be all the stronger for it. Well done to Newhaven - they are a fine team - and we look forward to playing them again later in the season. Highlight of the game for me - our captain showing what being a captain is all about, leading by example and making sure his team mates were okay when one or two of them were struggling for confidence.

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Sunday, November 5th

Marle Place 7 - 2 Langton Green Phoenix
(Max, Will)

Langton Green Phoenix’s winning streak comes to dramatic end at Marle Place

Today’s match was played at The End of the World Recreation Ground, and while this result wasn’t quite the end of the world for the Langton Green Phoenix it did the mark the end of a very successful unbeaten run in league matches that had lasted for over a season. This was a wake-up call for the Phoenix, who may have begun to think that they were invincible. They came up against a very strong and well organised Marle Place team today that brought this hitherto very successful Langton team back to earth with a bump.

Marle Place were up for this match from the very first whistle, immediately putting Langton under pressure. The whites were struggling to get hold of the ball for the first 10 minutes. Jack looked one of the most lively Langton players during this early spell, posing one of the few goal threats to Marle Place, high up on the left. Connor was keeping possession well at right back and playing the ball forward nicely, but Langton were generally second best in this early period. It was one of their hardest workers, Tristan, who won a free kick in a central area. He played it long to Max, high up on the right wing, who out-paced his marker and converted his chance with style to give his team the lead, albeit somewhat against the run of play. But in less than a minute, Marle Place had equalised and the advantage was lost. Langton created a few good moments of build-up play, via Finn, Tristan and Will, and Tristan once found himself in a great goalscoring position but was narrowly off-side.

Marle Place were often too strong for Langton, who were making a few too many errors at crucial moments and were soon 2-1 up. Marle Place weren’t giving Langton any chances, but Will managed to find a yard of space, took a lovely side step and launched a cracking shot, but just wide. It was a long ball over the top from Marle Place that created their third goal. Their three big attacking players were simply too much of a handful for Langton. There were some good points, however, with Joel getting forward from left back to launch a long-range shot. Tristan was working his socks off for the whole match, winning the ball, defending, and looking to create passing moves. Tom was at full stretch to block a couple of goal-scoring chances from the opposition. And Max sent one or two lovely crosses over, but no Langton player could quite get on the end of them. It was a simple turn of speed from a Marle Place attacker that created their fourth goal. Ethan made a good diving save to prevent further damage and Langton were trying to play forward via Sid, Jack and Max, but the team were on the ropes by the end of the first half, which ended 1-4.

Marle Place did not let up during the second half, and had a decent scoring chance within the first 30 seconds. Moments later, another well-worked goal and the score was 1-5. Perhaps the defensive tackling and marking wasn’t all it should have been, but cracks were appearing across most of the Langton team by this stage. The Phoenix did well to win a corner, and it was beautifully taken by Sammy, but nobody was there to meet it. And then again, moments later, Marle Place scored again to make it six. Within minutes, they hit the post, then Ethan had to come rushing out to bravely block an attacker and prevent the seventh goal after a poor back pass. There were glimpses of the Langton Green that we saw last week when they were so very good. For example, Sid won the ball in the centre via some hard work and nice skill, sent a lovely ball forward to Will, who still had lots to do but finished with style to give his team a second goal. Finn, Tristan and Jack, in particular, were battling constantly to win and retain the ball in a meaningful way. But this Marle Place team were excellent today, and they had the wind in their sales by this point. Langton perked up for a 10-minute spell and started to string a few passes together – they even looked briefly like they might mount a serious fightback. A lightning quick turn from Max in front of goal enabled him to shoot, but the keeper was equally quick. But then Marle Place turned the screws again and scored a seventh goal. This was a chastening experience for Langton Green and it will be a test of their collective character to see whether they can bounce back next week against more tough opposition.

Manager's note: games like this happen occasionally in football, to every team at every level. What is important is how the individuals involved bounce back. The disappointing thing for me today was a distinct lack of effort from a number of the boys. I don't want to tar them all with that brush, man of the match Finn a great example to some of the others in terms of what you want to see, battling right to the end despite the lost cause.

Absolute credit to Marle Place, who were comfortably the best side we've played in a very long time and thoroughly deserved a win where they worked harder, ran faster, talked more, were more skilful, tenacious and powerful than our boys. They also did all of that with a great attitude, which was a pleasure to see - well done to all involved there. We play them again in 2 weeks time and let's hoep there's a response we can all be proud of.

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Sunday, October 29th - Mid-Sussex Cup

Hassocks Juniors 3 - 2 Langton Green Phoenix
(Matt, Jack)

Match report by Steve B

Langton knocked out of the cup with a last-ditch goal, despite a great second-half comeback...

This was Langton’s toughest test yet in the Mid-Sussex league, playing a cup match against an excellent team from the division above. Langton played brilliantly, displaying some lovely footballing skills and thinking, but were ultimately undone by Hassock’s strength, direct approach, and last-minute winning goal. Langton Green excelled themselves in terms of effort and character, coming back from 0-2 down at half time to look the more likely winners with minutes to spare, only for Hassocks to score the winning goal with literally the last kick of the ball.

This was a large pitch that was difficult to cover for this age group, but the resulting gaps made this match extra challenging. Langton tried to pass the ball around from the first whistle, and Tristan got a good cross in from the right, but it was just too far ahead of the onrushing Sammy. Meanwhile, Toby was working his socks off up and down the right wing, winning the ball, dashing forward, and always tracking back too. Hassocks were strong in midfield and looked fast and dangerous in attack, although Langton were defending well. Good build-up play from Toby and Tristan gave Finn a chance to turn and shoot, but narrowly wide of the post. Max was ploughing a high-speed furrow on the right wing, up and down, working incredibly hard, but Hassocks were giving nothing away. This was a good even match with Richard and Tom looking assured in central defence, despite the pressure from the big, fast and clever Hassocks forwards. Sammy got himself into a good position to pull the ball back to Finn, who was able to fire a long-range effort goalwards, but again narrowly wide.

Langton Green were looking confident, had more possession and more ideas. Sammy made a peach of a turn on the right wing and got a good shot away, but just into the side netting. At the other end, Ethan was looking masterful between the posts, marshalling his defenders well, collecting and passing the ball out with style. Evan made a strong run to the touchline and pulled it back nicely for Toby, whose shot bounced off the underside of the cross bar only to land just the wrong side of the touch line. Langton seemed the more likely to score at the this point and could consider themselves slightly unlucky not to be one or two up. Finn worked himself another long-range shooting opportunity, but again narrowly wide. But then a momentary lapse of concentration somewhere and, out of nowhere, a Hassocks’ attacker’s lightning pace created a chance that they put away convincingly to give the home team the lead. This gave them a confidence boost and they started to keep more possession. It was a wonderful turn from the Hassocks forward in front of goal, followed by a blistering shot into the top corner that doubled their lead only minutes later and put a different complexion on the match. Langton kept at it, however. A nice cross from Will found Matt at the far post, but the defenders were too strong for him. Langton were passing the ball around nicely, but simply couldn’t find a way through the sea of red players ahead of them. Sid was looking lively through the centre, and Euan and Jack were surging forward whenever possible. Hassocks always looked dangerous on the counter attack though, and saw another good shot sail narrowly wide. At 0-2 down at half time, Langton had an awful lot to do in the second half.

The whites looked more than equal to the challenge in the second half though. Max was leading the charge on the right, making great runs forward, but also covering well in defence. Will created himself a half chance, but it was well saved. The Hassocks number 36 found himself unmarked in front of an open goal at one point, but luckily for Langton didn’t take his chance. The Hassocks forwards were super fast, but so was Tom, who had to race back several times to make important blocks. It was Max again who sent a lovely cross over from the right to the far post, where Matt had found himself just enough space to finish calmly and with style. At 1-2 there was suddenly everything to play for and plenty of time left to do it. The Hassocks forwards continued to find that extra foot of space and fired another shot just wide. Back at the other end, Sammy found Jack, who forced a good save from the Hassocks keeper. Then the keeper saved again, this time from Toby, who got a second chance on the rebound but couldn’t quite finish it off. The reds’ keeper had to stay focused, as Max forced him to make another good save.

It was a lovely back-heel from Will that sent Jack flying into space at the far post. His shot across goal was a beauty into the far corner – 2-2! The momentum was now with Langton, but Hassocks kept coming and the Langton fans had a heart-in-mouth moment as the reds missed a good opportunity. Connor kept the defence at full strength for Langton, and made some brave runs forward. Confidence was high now for the whites, and it was all hands on deck. This was exciting stuff towards the end, and Langton seemed to have the upper hand, but then a Hassocks’ forward simply out-paced the Langton defence and scored a fine goal out of nowhere. Then the referee blew his whistle and it was all over. A cruel end to this season’s cup run for Langton Green, but the whole team should be proud of their efforts today – everyone played brilliantly, but it simply wasn’t their day.

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Sunday, October 15th

Maidenbower United Black 3 - 3 Langton Green Phoenix
(Will 2, Tristan)

Match report by Steve B

Three lovely goals, but Langton overwhelmed at times in Crawley...

It took a few minutes after the whistle blew at the start of this game for the referee to realise that Maidenbower United had 12 outfield players on the pitch, and although this was quickly corrected it felt as though the Crawley side had an extra man for long stretches of this match, so effective was their pressing, energy and organisation. The home team were tough opposition all right, and they enjoyed much of the possession and had more chances to score. Langton Green were lucky not to be at least a couple of goals behind by half time. But Langton showed the better flashes of skill and took nearly every chance they created to give themselves the lead at half time.

It was a slightly earlier start than usual, but a few of the boys in white looked in need of a strong espresso during the first few minutes of this match, with the team looking all at sea at times. The main Phoenix attacking threat was down the right hand side, via Max and Will, who made a great attacking partnership. Max was excellent, making great use of his tremendous pace, strength and superb ball control to retain the ball, win it back, glide past players and send over some delicious crosses and through balls, that led to both of Langton’s first-half goals. Connor looked convincing, sitting in for Tom at centre half, where he put in some crunching tackles and played the ball forward with aplomb. The whole team were very grateful for James from the Giants, who put in an impressive stint between the goalposts, where he was kept busy filling in for Ethan. It was James’ athletic diving save that kept it at 0-0 about 10 minutes in. But Maidenbower were seeing too much of the ball, with Langton lacking composure and not releasing the ball quick enough. It was a beautiful through-ball from Max that found Will in a little space. He still had to muscle his way past a couple of defenders before his came finish, and it was a nice goal. It was Langton’s first shot on goal, but they made it count.

Evan was working hard as usual in the centre of the park, but he was up against some big strong lads. He fearlessly charged down a blue free kick to block another scoring chance for the home team, and his tackling was committed and brave. Langton got better as the half went on. Jack, James and Euan played a nice one-two-three across the pitch and out down the other side and their team started to move the ball around a little better. Maidenbower were giving Langton very little time on the ball, but they still showed a few flashes of skill to outwit the home side. Matt showed some good control on the left , but James was forced to make another diving save, showing his sharp reflexes. But then Maidenbower almost inevitably made a surging run through the centre and slotted the ball just inside the far post to draw level. This woke Langton up, and they moved up into at least second, or possibly third, gear. Max created a couple of chances with lovely cross-field balls from the right, first to Tristan, whose shot was just over, then to Will, who simply ran out of space. But then somehow Max chipped the ball over at least two defenders and it fell to Tristan in the middle of a crowded defence, but with just enough time to shoot. Lovely goal, the whites were back in the lead, which they took into the second half.

Langton were a little quicker and sharper in the second half, although not perhaps so lucky. They were immediately under pressure, but the defence was holding up well, with Euan and Joel gaining confidence as the game went on. Richard, in particular, seemed to grow in stature with every minute, to become an absolute rock in the centre of defence. He made some excellent headers and his timing and commitment were brilliant. Langton’s third goal was a peach. It started with Matt driving forward through the centre, some nice one-touch football between him and Jack before Jack passed it perfectly to Will. It was another well-taken finish from the team’s star striker. At 3-1 up an outsider might think Langton Green were all over this match, but Maidenbower were still the stronger, more industrious outfit and it was perhaps only a matter of time before they started converting their chances. The blues earned themselves an extra yard of space on the edge of the box, but still required a great turn to create the opportunity. It was a good goal, and at 3-2 there was everything to play for. Langton now had their best spell of the match, with captain Tristan leading by example. They upped the tempo, their commitment and their tactics across the team. Joel was working hard at right back and Finn was making the sort of tackles that left an impression. Toby was haring up and down the right flank, and it was his cheeky back-heel that played Evan in from where he chipped it over the defenders to give Tristan a half chance. Langton were moving the ball around now as we know they can, in fast-paced attractive football. But Maidenbower were relentless in their pressure and, having won a little space from a corner, they equalised. The last five minutes were rather harum-scarum and anything could have happened, but in the end a draw was perhaps a fair result. The Phoenix can learn a thing or two from this match.

Coaches note... the last sentence above sums it up - the biys can definitely learn a thing or two from this match. Well done (and thank you) to James for being voted man of the match, along with Richard. Were it not for those two and Connor in the early stages we could have been 3-0 down in the first 10 minutes.

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Sunday, October 1st - Friendly

Langton Green Phoenix 7 - 4 Ditton Minors
(Evan 3, Will, Finn, Max, Jack)

Match report by Ian K

We welcomed new opposition in Ditton to Ashurst on a soggy October 1st for a friendly as everyone else was in action in the Sussex county cup that we couldn't enter because we aren't affiliated with the Sussex FA.

Ditton had the bare 11 players and after scoring first whilst we started poorly (that's quite generous actually, we were largely awful for the first 15 minutes), and were down to 10 when sadly their left-sided attacker had to go off injured and to A&E (we wish him well). We duly reduced our numbers to make the game even and immediately started playing better, finding our feet and our passes, Sammy hitting the post with a long range effort and Connor bossing the midfield with some crunching tackles and clever forward passes. Richard strode forward well after winning the ball and sent Evan away but his shot flashed just wide. A couple of excellent defensive headers from Tom and Richard cleared our lines as Ditton pushed forward looking for a second and we seemed to be under the cosh again, having just looked like we were settling.

All sorted after a quick forward through ball from Finn found Evan, who had plenty to do still, turning and knocking the ball into space ahead of him and sprinting through to finish with aplomb. Goal number 1 with his right foot and this time the boys really did settle into the game, Euan looking confident in possession with one particular forward pass that split the defence beautifully.

I tried to find a picture on my phone of the excellent sand castle I built on Saturday but sadly couldn't. The boys would have loved to see it, I'm sure, but it wasn't to be. Maybe another time. Connor then had to come off injured (hamstring) and as a precaution we decided no point in risking it further, especially for the sake of a friendly). He stayed to watch the rest of the game, which was a nice touch and showed great team spirit.

Shortly afterwards an excellent delivery from Max's corner saw Evan make it 2-1 - goal number two a superb header into the top corner. Will then broke through brilliantly from Evan's pass, but found the goalkeeper standing tall, Toby caused some havoc on the right and Ethan's distribution and speed off his line were superb, but we still looked a bit shabby out of possession, losing our shape in central areas on a number of occasions and being pulled out of position too often, leaving large gaps where there should have been bodies.

Half time and James very kindly got me a cup of tea. The team discussed what we could do more effectively to take advantage of the space on the pitch when we had the ball and negate those same issues from the opposition when we didn't, in the new 10v10 situation we found ourselves in. A new formation, with 3 at the back and an extra midfielder was decided upon and it seemed to do the trick, Will finishing off an excellent team move with a really good finish where 5 or 6 players had touched the ball in quick succession, Sid instrumental in the build up in particular.

Euan, Richard, Tom and Joel took turns in keeping possession well, using Ethan as an option when nothing presented itself forwards. Nice to see. Jack went on a supern run down the left and so nearly scored a super solo goal, before doing it again and then passing to Toby, whose shot flashed just wide. A wonderful solo goal was then scored, this one from Max, where he ran through several challenges before calmly slotting the ball home made it 4-1, Finn then adding the fifth with an accurate, stooping header from Sammy's pinpoint corner.

Ditton then pulled back a well taken finish after Ethan had saved the initial shot well, the looping ball finding its way to a blue shirt in the box, to make it 5-2. Evan then completed his hat trick with a calm left footed finish (the perfect hat trick - right foot, left foot, headed) to increase the lead after good work from Sid (again) in midfield. 6-2.

6-3 after a well struck shot from Ditton, followed by Jack (on up front) staying onside brilliantly and finishing well under the keeper from Will's perfectly weighted pass. Joel went on a super run from right back, skipping past a couple of challenges to then pass to Max, who burst clear and saw his cross just evade Sammy's outstretched foot. Toby trickery down the right, backed up by excellent defensive play to win the ball back, quick feet from Sammy to create a chance he struck cleverly with the outside of his boot but the keeper held on to (just), Max then hitting a long range effort just wide, before Ditton scored again with the last kick of the game to make it 7-4.

A very entertaining game, sadly marred by injuries that everyone would prefer to have avoided, especially in a friendly. We wish the lad who went to A&E well and of course hope we have Connor back and fit ASAP. Thank you to Justin for refereeing, Martin for running the line and to the parents (Debbie and Jenny I believe this week) who helped with the teas and coffees. Well done to Toby, who was awarded MOTM this week for his energetic and skilful display on the right and to Martin for being voted "Supporter of the Week".

A 3G tournament next week over in Haywards Heath. 6 a side, so something a bit different, before we return to league action the following week. Looking forward to it! Hopefully the weather will be kinder than it was to me when marking the lines this morning.

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Sunday, September 24th - League Cup First Round

Langton Green Phoenix 6 - 0 Ifield Galaxy Lightning
(Tristan 3, Will, Toby, Sammy)

Match report by Ian K

Another new experience for the boys in their first cup game in the Sussex League saw us travel to Crawley, where I grew up, to face an Ifield team who had started impressively in the division below us, scoring 16 goals in their first two league games and boasting a lightning quick striker to go with their team name.

We arrived to the excitement of a very empty field full of nicely mown football pitches populated only by a man with the most impressive remote controlled helicopter I've ever seen. With 40 minutes until kick off, Heli-man was still the only person in the vicinity and we started to wonder if we were in the wrong place. His helicopter was starting to emit a strange blue smoke and opposition players would turn up, go round the side of the club house and just disappear. It was all starting to feel a bit X-Files until we realised that we were in fact in completely the wrong place and the pitch we were playing on was up an alleyway, through a BMX track and behind a hedge. Someone tried to go and get coffee. No joy. Sadly this pitch looked it hadn't seen a mower for a while and had 2 completely different sized goals. Oh well - it was the same for both teams and excuses are for Arsene Wenger, so we got down to business shooting at the larger goal.

It was an excellent opening 15 minutes of football from both teams, Ifield looking pacy and dangerous on the break and Langton probing and pressing with some nice possession football and good use of the wide areas. Both Toby and Max got clear early on from clever passes down the wings only to see their crosses well defended. A clever turn and a good pass from Sammy out to Toby saw him use quick feet to bamboozle a defender before whipping in a dangerous cross that Finn met with a left foot volley that flashed just wide. The tide was turning in our direction and a goal seemed to be coming, Max turning beautifully by stepping over the ball and driving toward goal, his early ball in tipped out for a corner by the goalkeeper.

Several corners, an excellent Evan header that went just over and then the deadlock broken when Toby won a free kick that Sammy lofted into the box for Will to get the deftests of flicked touches onto the ball with his head, sending it past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. 1-0 and deserved for 5 minutes of consistent pressure. Clever finish from Will too.

At the other end our defenders and goalie were keeping possession nicely, Euan and Jack intelligent with their decisions, Jack striding forward to join the attacks as he so often does, with Connor and Evan, our new centre back partnership in the absence of Tom and Richard, doing a marvellous job both on and off the ball. Evan's pace helped us keep the opposition's quick striker at bay and Connor's play with the ball was superb, pushing out from the back with the ball and passing cleverly and concisely. If this was FIFA 2018 then Connor would have finished the game with something like a 98% pass completion stat. Outstanding stuff.

The second goal was one of my favourites so far this season. Tristan won the ball on the right of midfield, switched play all the way out to Toby on the left, whose skill took him past 2 players (or was it the same player twice... I can't remember) before he cut an unselfish pass back to Tristan. His left foot shot was blocked, but the ball came back to him. If at first you don't succeed, try again, so he just smashed it into the back of the net with his right foot. A great finish, great build up and lovely technique. Well done.

The rest of the half passed in a flurry of offsides (hold your runs boys!!!), Toby adjudged to be beyond the last defender at the end of a flowing move where every one of our forward players touched the ball before he stroked home what we thought was the third goal. A shame as it would have been a beauty, but these things happen. Joel showed lovely skill to turn on the right and link well with Max and Sid also got involved despite carrying a bit of an injury to play some of his trademark clever passes and win the ball back well on a number of occasions.

Half time and we discussed (as well as someone getting coffee - still no joy) the dangers we faced in the second half. Ifield were not out of the game and the next goal was crucial. The boys had some ideas as to how we wanted to set up and out they went to implement them. Avoiding the enormous divet in the pitch was key.

Ifield came out strong, as we suspected they would and very nearly created a chance early on, but hadn't reckoned on Ethan's decisiveness off his line, rushing to claim a ball bravely at their pacy striker's feet. The time to mention that despite not having many "saves" to make today, Ethan's play off his line, distribution and communication were all first class - all areas of his game that he continues to improve from week to week.

The third goal came, thankfully for us in the smaller of the two goals that we were now shooting into and it was Toby who scored it (shortly after being ruled offside and having the ball in the net AGAIN and putting another chance just wide after really good play from Tristan and Jack to set him up) with a truly wonderful individual effort. A quick pass from Joel to Sid, Sid to Jack, Jack showing wonderful tenacity to get to it first when he had no right to before his strength shrugged off the defender to find Toby with a reverse pass. Still plenty to do, Toby skipped through 2 challenges and absolutely leathered the ball into the back of the net for his first goal of the season. Thoroughly deserved for all his hard work today.

From then on it was a case of whether the boys could manage the game well. No team should throw away a 3-0 lead, but last week at times it seemed like we were trying our best. None of that this week, the pressure stayed on, Evan and Connor mopping up when necessary and both striding forward at times, ably covered by either Finn or Tristan unselfishly dropping in to fill the gap. New full backs Joel and Euan continued to keep possession fantastically, Euan at one point playing a super one-two with Sid and then pinging a beauty of a pass in to Max's feet and Joel getting forward to support the attackers well. Max put on the afterburners, skipped past a couple of tackles and slid a pass to Will. He strode forward, shot well, saved well, only for Sammy to be exactly where he so often is to smash home the rebound with a looping finish. He's scored in every one of the first three games but his all round play has been excellent throughout too.

The last 10 minutes saw a great piece of defending from Euan to deny a certain chance, a cracking moment that saw Evan pick the ball up on the edge of his own box, run the length of the pitch with it before passing to Will. We were then treated to Finn pulling off an outrageous piece of skill from an aerial ball (not sure if it has a name but it was a sort of volleyed backheel-Cruyff-turn thingy), Toby nearly scoring another, Will nearly scoring another, Sammy nearly scoring another, Jack running a full 40 yards to win the ball back despite being 4-0 up (my favourite moment of the match) and throughout all that the football was intelligent, calm and full of effort. Finn got rugby tackled. Twice. Tristan was tripped up and Sammy whipped another free kick in that was scrambled away.

The fifth goal was Toby down the right showing more superb skill, pace and trickery to put a cross in for Tristan to slam home from close range with a well-taken volley before he got his hat trick after Finn strode down the right wing in a great impression of Toby, cut inside and struck an excellent long range effort with too much power for the goalkeeper to hold, Tristan lurking to finish the move off. The whistle blew and that was that - through to round 2 where we'll face a team from the division above - should be a great test for the boys and one we look forward to.

Well done to Evan, who won the man of the match award for his faultless performance at centre back, a position he doesn't usually play in. Thank you to Martin for once again running the line. Exemplory performance with flag in hand as usual. And well done to Gracie, who was voted supporter of the week by Evan. All good stuff. A friendly next week at home (just the short trip to Ashurst)... should be fun!

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Sunday, September 17th

Langton Green Phoenix 5 - 1 Withdean Youth
(Tristan, Max, Sammy, Evan, Will)

Match report by Steve B

The Phoenix have to battle for a convincing win in Brighton

This season was supposed to be all about venturing further afield in search of tougher and more varied opposition. So today the under-14s travelled down to sunny Brighton, where they met some tricky opponents in the form of Withdean Youth on their 3-G pitch. The Brighton lads are an accomplished, tenacious and well-organised team and Langton were forced to pull out all the stops today, working hard and playing some stylish football. The teamwork was excellent, and the balance across the team is illustrated by five different names on the scoresheet for the second week running.

Withdean put Langton under pressure from the off, chasing down every ball and giving the whites no time or space on the ball. Langton were patient, playing the ball out from goal (and often back again) nicely, but rarely got out of their half during the opening spell. Withdean were closing them down quickly and Langton couldn’t string many passes together. But Connor had an excellent game at right back, playing with skill and vision. He sent a good early ball forward to Max, but even his electric pace couldn’t quite get him to the ball before the reds’ keeper, who was outstanding, making numerous important saves throughout the game. But Withdean had the upper hand very early on, and sent an absolute scorcher heading towards the top corner of Ethan’s goal, forcing him to make a terrific diving save.

Withdean had much of the early possession, but thanks to the solid defending and focus of the back four of Joel, Richard, Tom and Connor, that was about the only decent shot they had on goal in the first half. About 10 minutes in, Langton started to get into their rhythm in all departments and build some momentum. Finn sent a long range effort just skimming over the crossbar. Evan sent Max scooting down the right wing, from where he put in a lovely cross for Sammy, the keeper just parrying the ball wide, to where Tristan was lurking ready to poke the ball home and give his team the lead. Max continued to be the biggest threat to the Withdean defence, who couldn’t match his speed or strength, and his whole team started to find a little more space and time, courtesy of quick feet and equally quick thinking.

At the back, Joel was keeping close tabs on the Withdean attack, and Tom moved effortless across to both left and right as required from his central spot. Langton were now matching Withdean for physicality and determination, with Finn and Sammy in particular working doggedly to break up any opposition attacks. Relative newcomer Connor looked as confident as if he’d played in this team his whole career, making numerous good tackles and clever forward passes. Soon after coming on, Matt played a clever pass from the left to Will, from where his cross met the on-rushing Max for a classy finish – good goal. Langton were starting to impose themselves on this game now. Matt started to pull a few strings from central areas and his long-range shot forced Withdean’s keeper to make another good diving save to prevent Langton going three up. Langton’s confidence was growing by the minute, with Finn and Tristan showing nice skills in the middle as their team put together some nice passing moves.

Euan was on at left back, making his presence felt with a couple of courageous tackles and tireless defender tracking. Evan made several incisive long passes forward to Max and Sammy to chase, but more often than not it was the Withdean keeper that got in the way. Evan also had a good shot of his own saved by the ever alert keeper. With the score 2-0 at half-time Langton could be proud of their achievements and looked comfortable.

Langton started the second half with equally high commitment levels, tracking back, winning balls, denying the opposition space, and creating some fluid passing movements. Tristan launched a cracking volley at the Withdean goal, but guess-who got in the way again. The whites switched play beautifully again from left to right, this time sending Will charging down the right wing and this time it was Sammy well placed in the centre to send a scorcher that even the reds’ keeper couldn’t stop into the top corner – 3-0.

Langton took their foot off the gas a little at this point, allowing Withdean slightly more possession and time. Almost inevitably, one of their big strong forwards got the opportunity to out-muscle the Langton defence and pull one back for his team and add a different complexion to the game. Langton had to step up the pace again. Sammy and Tristan were showing the way with their excellent work rates and determination. A great long free kick from Evan found Will dashing towards the goal, and Max skipped over a couple of defenders to give Will a chance with the outside of his boot, but the Withdean keeper simply kept getting in the way!

Withdean sensed their opportunity to turn things around at this stage though, and it was only Ethan’s athleticism and fingertips that prevented a 3-2 scoreline, which may have changed the course of the rest of the match. Then a Langton attack actually had the keeper beaten, only for one of their defenders to clear off the line. Toby’s pace on the right wing had been causing problems for the Withdean defence, and it was his throw in to Evan, combined with Evan's quick footwork that won his team the fourth goal and took them to safety. Soon after, Evan won the ball in his own half and powered forward through the opposition for 20 or 30 yards before laying it off for Will. Rather than giving him another chance to make a diving save, Will dribbled around the keeper with style before netting the fifth goal for his team.

This was a great result against stiff opposition, but the boys worked incredibly hard for this result, playing some lovely football, and it was thoroughly deserved. Well done to the whole team.

And a special well done to Kate, who was voted supporter of the match by Sammy for her continued enthusiasm and encouragement from the touch line. Congratulations to a vitally important member of the support team!

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Sunday, September 10th

Langton Green Phoenix 6 - 1 Cuckfield Cosmos Athletic
(Sammy 2, Evan, Owen, Max, Finn)

Match report by Ian K

So, here we go again, back for a new season in a new division, a new league and with new opposition. We welcomed Cuckfield Cosmos to sunny Groombridge, a thoroughly nice bunch of folks who played some good football with a great attitude. Furthermore, we welcomed Connor to the team for his first competitive game with us, whilst saying goodbye to Owen, playing his final match for the team prior to stepping up to play Kent Youth League football with our Giants team. Teas and coffees were served up by the parents (thanks Julian for buying the supplies and Anna for organising the rota) and the grass was freshly cut by yours truly (and Justin) with an old fashioned push mower, that was surprisingly meditative to use. I worked out that doing the whole pitch involved 22km of walking, so we just focused on the worst areas!!!

Onto the football...

A great start, captain Tristan energetic from the off, combining nicely with Sid before debutant Connor stepped up from right back to play a lovely forward pass into Max's path. Quick feet, a crossfield ball into space and Jack ran onto it superbly to knock the ball goalwards, the goalkeeper (who was excellent by the way) parrying only for Evan to follow up and tuck the rebound away inside the first couple of minutes.

The next 10 minutes were disappointing, Cuckfield making it hard for us to play and being unfortunate not to score an equaliser on two occasions, before we finally cleared our lines, Evan's clever pass cutting the opposition defence open for Sammy to cleverly flick the ball on to Max to stride onto and tuck an emphatic finish into the corner to make it 2-0. Great play on the counter attack, but we felt very fortunate to be two goals to the good so early on.

Richard and Tom started to distribute the ball from the back nicely, Ethan communicating brilliantly behind them, organising his defence and giving good instructions, with Euan and Richard combining well in one particularly nice spell of passing out from the back to set Jack free in his more advanced left wing role. His pass found Tristan in a great position, but the Cuckfield goalkeeper pulled off the first of a number of excellent saves he made over the course of the match. We were thankful to Tom, twice, for last ditch tackles that denied Cuckfield outright chances, but they were threatening going forward and our lead was a fragile one.

Cue some changes, Finn, Owen, Will and Toby joining the action and all immediately involved. Toby's quick run down the left and cutback pass in to Owen setting him free to smash home an absolute belter of a strike that nearly broke the net to make it 3-0. Great for him to get a goal on his final appearance for the team. The other two substitutes then combined brilliantly, Finn showing great vision to play the ball in between two defenders and set Will free through the middle. Will's thunderbolt of a shot deserved a goal for its ferocity alone, but the opposition goalkeeper was again equal to the shot, only to find Sammy following up brilliantly to put the rebound in the back of the net.

Half time and we felt we'd played well, especially as the half wore on, but were very aware of the threat Cuckfield posed and that they'd come out all guns blazing, which they did. A 15 minute spell where we struggled to get hold of the ball properly saw Cuckfield hit the bar and the post, Euan made a particularly good tackle to deny a certain shot and we were generally up against it, before we gave away a free kick in a dangerous area that Ethan did well to save before the opposition striker tucked away the follow up from close range. A reminder, specifically that when you take your foot off the gas and are second to the majority of 50/50 balls, you are liable to be punished.

Thankfully the boys improved enormously in the final 15-20 minutes of the game, Sid showing wonderful vision from midfield to set both Evan and Tristan through on goal, Tristan very unlucky not to score on two occasions when some really positive dribbling saw him weave his way into the box. Toby was lively, one particular run ending in a great bit of skill to set himself up for a strike that shaved the post. Jack was up and down the left hand side, providing a great attacking option going forward and tracking back superbly to deny Cuckfield on the break on several occasions. Solid hands from Ethan from a high shot and quick, clever distribution sent Max away down the left. His pace and strength saw him get into a wonderful position where he unselfishly squared the ball for Sammy to stroke a superb finish into the roof of the net for his second goal of the game.

One particularly pleasing aspect of the second half was Connor's accomplished performance in central midfield, a position he's not used to playing but that he filled with aplomb, breaking up play nicely and using the ball with intelligence. It was from his simple pass that Finn collected the ball on the right of midfield and seeing the 'keeper just off his line, struck and absolute worldy of a shot from fully 30 yards out that dipped under the crossbar to make the score 6-1. Pleased for Finn after his participation was in doubt with knee problems, which he overcame to play an important role today.

It just remained for the boys to see out the last 7 or 8 minutes, lit up by a wonderful run and chipped shot from Max that just snuck wide and a great effort from Tristan that was deflected into the goalkeeper's hands. Owen's final act for the Phoenix was to stride out of defence through several challenges, play a lovely one-two with Connor and get himself through to unselfishly pass to Evan, whose shot was deflected behind. Finn's header from the ensuing corner nearly crept in, before the final whistle went to signal the end of a very enjoyable game of football. Cuckfield played some excellent football and on another day, the result could have been very different had 2 or 3 early chances gone our opposition's way. We very much look forward to the return match later in the season.

A big thank you to those who provided tea and coffee, to Martin for running the line and to Justin for another fantastic refereeing performance. It was just left for Owen to say his goodbyes with a very generous gift of chocolate and beer (chocolate for the boys, the beer for the coaches of course!) and for us to award Connor the man of the match award for a fantastic performance throughout.

Well done all - a great performance and a good start to the season. Away to Withdean next week... looking forward to it!