Phoenix 2017 - 2018

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!