Phoenix 2018 - 2019

Sunday, December 9th 2018

Langton Green Phoenix 1 - 2 Crawley Down Gatwick
(Rami)

I can only start by saying how devastated we were to learn of the incredibly sad news today that Mike Bender, Langton Green club legend and the man who welcomed us the very first day we turned up at Langton Green 8 years ago, passed away early on Sunday morning.

I'm not sure a regular match report is going to be forthcoming today, so we'll leave it to say simply that it was a good game, played in an excellent spirit and the result was a fair one. Well done Crawley Down.

Thank you Mike, for everything you did for me, for my son, for the rest of the boys on this team and for all the kids involved throughout the club. You were ahead of your time in terms of coaching kids' football - the FA are now pushing things you were talking about years ago. Quite simply, Langton Green as a football club would not have existed without you and we will miss you terribly.

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Sunday, December 2nd 2018

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 1 Cuckfield Cosmos Athletic
(Finn K, Tristan)

Into the festive season and another weekend, another game. In theory this match was very different from last week's challenge on a number of fronts. First off, the pitch was a perfect 3G surface devoid of the mud we faced last week, secondly the pitch was huge and thirdly we were facing a team we knew well, having played them twice last season and once already this season.

The danger after last week's excellent result was getting carried away, but the boys started the match in fine form, moving the ball expertly around, playing some really fantastic football and looking dangerous from the off. With Finn P still missing with an ankle injury (although he was here supporting, which was great to see), we were once again lining up with Rami at centre forward and it was his energy and work rate that won the ball from Max's excellent cross into the box, his early strike saved, with Finn K following up to bundle the ball into the back of the net and make it 1-0 after just 4 minutes of the match. Scrappy goal, but they all count and you've got to be there to score them, so well done Finn - we've been on and on at the boys to follow in every shot, so good to see some of them reacting quickly and doing so. This was an example of why.

More tidy possession, Ethan bossing this from the back, a couple of excellent switches of play from Toby and Tristan, Jack shimmying through and winning a free kick that was saved, Tristan dominant in midfield with the opposition clued into this and marking him very tightly, he still managed to work some space for a long range effort that flashed just wide. Cuckfield were sat very very deep and defending expertly, so chances were hard to come by. Rami forged an opportunity for himself, absolutely smashing a shot goalwards, but the opposition 'keeper was equal to it, pulling off a superb save to keep the score at just one.

The majority of the half was played in the Cuckfield half, Ethan almost on the half way line and doing his "Sweeper Keeper" thing brilliantly, Evan and Tom dominating the middle of the pitch, with the excellent Dylan just in front of them. This gave both our full backs license to push on and they did this well, Connor combining well with Max on the right and Jack always a threat down the left, one Maradona turn bamboozling everyone to see him get into the box where his layoff to a team mate (can't recall who) was struck well but blocked. Evan had a really good long range effort, the fact that our centre back was able to get into a position to take a shot that wasn't just speculative telling you where the game was being played and all in all the boys were playing really well.

The danger at 1-0 and dominating possession in the opposition half is always the counter attack and we were aware of the threat Cuckfield posed. They've scored against us every time we've played them so we had to assume they'd have at least one or two chances to do so today, but in the first half Evan and Tom cut out everything that came through.

Euan on for Connor and he carried on where Connor left off, solid off the ball and making some excellent forward runs. One of the few players consistently aware of the benefit an early switch of play might offer, he got into some really good positions and played from the back well. Sammy, Will and Richard entered the fray too, Will having a couple of chances to get through on goal, but finding the opposition defence solid.

And it was all getting a bit scrappy. Extra touches when they weren't needed, frustration at the wall of yellow shirts they saw in front of them and the fact that things just wouldn't fall their way saw the boys rushing things, forcing passes that weren't on and losing the ball (30 times in 18 minutes before half time according to Tim). Sammy's lofted pass to Will was an exception - clever and precise, but nobody gave Will a call to tell him he had more time than it appeared he might have and the chance went begging. Despite the scrappiness on the ball, I was pleased to see our work rate was generally excellent off it. When we did lose possession, we invariably won the ball back quickly in midfield through Richard, Finn and Tristan and when Cuckfield did look for through balls, one of our centre backs or Ethan were quick to react.

Half time and what started so well had turned frustrating. We discussed how we might break a team who were defending so deep and so well down. Long range strikes were discussed, trying to tempt the opposition out of their half by keeping the ball in our half was discussed. We knew at some point Cuckfield would have to come out and try to get a goal, so at 1-0 whilst we didn't need to push things, we did want to try and find a way to score the second that surely would win the game.

Great energy from the start and largely, more of the same in terms of possession and excellent defending from our opponents. A mishit shot nearly found Max but the ball crept just in front of him. Free kicks, corners were nearly met with heads but not quite. Finn K, Evan, Tristan and Sammy all had long range efforts either saved or blocked. We tried different options up front (Toby, Will and Rami), intricate passes, dribbling through the sea of defenders, long range efforts and none of it came off. A last ditch tackle, an interception or a mistake from us and it was back to square one. And on the sidelines as the game crept onwards we knew what was inevitablely going to happen...

With 6 minutes to go. Cuckfield had a foray into our penalty box, the ball ballooned up into the air and in the ensuing melee, the ball was bundled over the line for a goal every bit as scrappy as the one we'd scored after a few minutes of the game. Absolutely gutting, after having probably 75% of the possession, 20 strikes at goal and showing some excellent football, suddenly we were level. But that's football and credit to Cuckfield for playing a very clever game and defending so resolutely.

Thankfully for the boys, that wasn't the end of the story. More pressure won a free kick wide right. Tristan stepped up, striking it goalwards and as two Langton players lunged and missed, it really did look like one of those days. Fortunately (and similar to Sammy's goal direct from a corner last week), as we turned away in dismay, the ball nestled into the bottom corner, suprising everyone who had missed connecting with it, to make it 2-1 and lead restored with just three minutes to go.

No way we were going to throw this away now and a couple of changes to bring some more defensively minded players back into the fold saw the boys navigate the last few minutes with relative ease. I felt for Cuckfield - their game plan and the way they executed it were deserving of praise - if you enjoy defending or the tactics of defending, they showed probably the best defensive display we've seen against us all season in terms of organisation, effort and commitment. However, in terms of possession and chances created, the result was a fair one.

Thank you to the referee - he has reffed us twice now, excellently both times. And a thoroughly nice chap to boot. Well done (and commiserations) to Cuckfield - more thoroughly nice people who we've enjoyed playing very much. We wish them well for the rest of the season. Great to see Finn P there to support the boys (tough being out injured when everyone else is playing - says a lot about him that he was there to support). And of course happy birthday to one of our youngest supporters today!

Two very tough games coming up now, a rematch of Crawley Down Gatwick from last week and then Marle Place, who despite not having played many games so far due to an impressive cup run and the weather, look to be one of the teams to beat. Bring it on.

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Sunday, November 25th 2018

Crawley Down Gatwick 0 - 4 Langton Green Phoenix
(Toby, Rami, Sammy, Max)

Waking up to grey skies and drizzle had most of us expecting a cancellation message. But it didn't arrive and so we made the reasonably short trip (short by our standards in this league anyway) over to Crawley Down, just outside East Grinstead. Our opposition were the rather daunting Crawley Down Gatwick (CDG from now on!) outfit who sat top of the league table at the start of the day, having not dropped any points all season, so we knew we would be in for a stern test. They also happened to be thoroughly nice folks, their coaches welcoming and friendly, which is always a bonus.

The game got off to a cracking start, the energy from Friday's extra training session evident in this match, where the boys worked incredibly hard all over the pitch, led from the front by Rami. We were winning most of the 50/50s and although CDG were clearly dangerous in attack, especially down the right in the early stages, our defenders matched them all the way and Ethan was relatively untroubled for the first 15 minutes, a couple of decisive clearances aside. A corner delivered right onto Finn K's head was cleared and some great pressing from our forwards meant we were winning the ball high up the pitch. Quick thinking in midfield from the excellent Dylan won the ball back on one occasion, his intelligent pass found Max, who shimmied left, then right, then cut back and delivered a low cross that Finn K flicked into the path of the onrushing Toby, who made no mistake with a powerful finish into the roof of the net. 1-0.

Feeling confident, the boys started to play some very decent football, no easy task in the boggy conditions, but achieved nevertheless. Evan and Tom were immense defensively today, but also very good with the ball at their feet, passing forwards with intelligence and accuracy. In front of them Dylan had his best game in a Langton shirt and is improving all the time in that central midfield pivot role, ably supported by the work rate and skill of Tristan and Finn K. Tristan's volleyed pass into Max's path was sublime and very nearly led to the second goal. Some lovely combination play between Jack (another superb performance from him at left back today) and Dylan played Finn K into some space. He surged forwards, Max and Toby either side of him, but instead opted to play straight through the middle to Rami, whose excellent run had taken him beyond the last defender, just staying onside. Rami's first touch was outstanding, across the goalkeeper and his finish was perfect, back across the goalie and into the far corner, remeniscent of Michael Owen against Argentina back in 1998. Still my favourite England goal. 2-0.

CDG came back, as we knew they would and we had probably our scrappiest spell of the match. A few poor clearances and we were indebted first to Euan (whose defending 1v1 was a masterclass in how force your opponent away from goal whilst you wait for your team mates to get back and cover) and secondly to Ethan, who made a brilliant 1v1 save when a backpass got stuck in the mud (it happens). Some appeals for handball were waved away by the referee, but CDG were starting to look dangerous just as we were looking a bit leggy. Cue some fresh legs, Sammy and Will coming on in the wide positions to give the hard working Toby and Max a break and Connor giving Euan a breather at right back. Connor was immediately involved, playing some lovely one-twos with Tristan and Finn K to work his way up the line and support the attack. More reshuffling saw Richard come on alonside Dylan in central midfield in an attempt to make us harder to break down in the run up to half time. He did well, focusing on his positioning off the ball in an unfamiliar role. We knew the next goal was key and conceding it just before half time wouldn't have been ideal.

Will moved to centre forward and broke through twice, as well as holding the ball up brilliantly to very nearly set up the third goal after Max came back on,  Will's pass putting him through, but a very good covering tackle denied him. The whistle blew for half time and we felt we were good value for our 2-0 lead but that CDG would no doubt come out keen to get back in the game. We realised we'd been at our best when pressing high with energy and when we had dangerous pace in wide areas, so the talk was of how we could get back to that after a disappointing last 10 minutes of the half where we had been penned in our own half a bit.

Back to the same line up that started, with Rami's energy up front, the boys started the second half really well. Rami won the ball off the CDG defenders through sheer force of will on several occasions, with our supporting players cutting off the passing angles and forcing our opposition to go long. Dylan was still winning the 50/50s in midfield and Jack, Tom, Evan and Euan weren't letting anything through. A couple of long range efforts saw Ethan called into action, dominant with his catching and communication. 3 or 4 corners in a row saw the pressure build, but further dominant defending and goalkeeping saw us clear our lines eventually. Straight from this period of pressure we won a free kick on the right, through Rami's excellent run. Tristan's delivery was excellent, very nearly flicked in by Finn K at the front post. The ensuing corner was taken by Sammy, what looked initially like a poor delivery hitting the side netting turning out to actually be a perfectly curled delivery that went straight into the goal without anyone touching it. Last time I saw him do that was U10s I think. Did he mean it? Not sure, but no matter... 3-0.

That was the key goal we'd been looking for, but there was still 25 minutes left and plenty of time to throw things away against a quality opponent if we got complacent. Tom pulled off tackle of the season with a superbly timed effort when the CDG striker looked certain to score. Ethan also had to make another really good save to remind us we weren't home and dry, whilst at the other end Rami's energy was infectious, everyone doing their bit in a high energy approach that won us the ball again and again in dangerous areas. Will very nearly scored from a cleared corner, his long range strike just going wide. Jack drove forward, quick feet and clever movement making space for himself, laying the ball off to Tristan, who found Max with a through ball that split the defence. Max unselfishly tried to pass to Rami when being selfish may have paid more dividends. 2 minutes later, Max got his goal, Rami turning provider with some brilliant hold up play and a wonderful lay off to Max, who strode through on goal and casually flicked the ball over the diving goalkeeper and into the far corner. 4-0.

Still 15 minutes to navigate, which the boys did well. One or two needed a rest by this point, Jack coming off after an outstanding stint and Tristan taking a breather after a real captain's performance. Will and Richard dovetailed in central midfield, Richard also filling in well at left back, where he made one particularly outstanding tackle to deny a certain chance. Connor was solid as a rock at right back, on one occasion seeming to tackle 3 players at once and then play a pinpoint pass into midfield. Euan came back on to give Max a break wide left and very nearly scored after his own hard work won the ball on the edge of the box, he exchanged passes with Sammy and hit a long range effort goalwards. Sammy had a final opportunity to set Finn or Toby up but opted for ther shot, which was well saved. To be fair I'd have shot there too. The final whistle went and you could see what it meant to the boys, winning against a team whose prior results had been so impressive, scoring 4 goals, keeping a clean sheet for the second week running and defending so well throughout the team.

Crawley Down Gatwick were gracious in defeat, with some very positive comments for our boys. They are clearly an excellent side and we play them again in 2 weeks where I'm sure they will arrive full of determination. We look forward to it very much and hopefully we can put in a similar performance to today's. If we do then it will be another good game whatever the score.

Well done all - brilliant all round and an absolute joy to watch today. Notable performances from Rami (his best game so far), Dylan (likewise) and Tom at the back (immense) but in reality all 15 players involved today contributed. Most pleasing was the work rate and effort levels throughout the team. Keep that up and this side will do very well. Thanks to the parents supporting the boys, to our opposition for hosting us and of course to the excellent referee.

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Sunday, November 18th 2018

Hassocks 0 - 2 Langton Green Phoenix
(Will, Sammy (pen))

After last Sunday's cancellation it was good for the boys to get back on the pitch, with a midday kick off and a scenic drive down to Hassocks to the pitch we lost a cup game on last season with the last kick of the game. It's a big pitch, probably the widest we've played on, so we knew the discipline and energy of the team to be compact when we didn't have the ball and to use that width when we did have the ball would be crucial.

An even start saw both teams trade chances, Finn P getting through showing great strength only to be denied by a superb tackle, with Ethan saving expertly at the other end. Tristan and then Finn K both found Max in space with raking crossfield passes, but Max was denied first by a good bit of defending and then by an offside decision. Our defence was communicative and solid, Euan, Tom, Jack and Evan brilliant on and off the ball, with Dylan playing the holding role with aplomb just in front of them. It was Dylan who created the best chance, striking from range to see the keeper just parry his high shot, Finn K following up but seeing his cross scrambled away.

Sadly we then experienced a major blow, as Finn P turned his ankle in the long grass. These things happen, but a huge blow for him and us and as I write this he's still sat in A&E awaiting a verdict. Hopefully he'll be back soon and of course we all wish him a quick recovery. He's a tough lad and I'm sure he'll be back with us soon.

Will came on up front and scored with nearly his first touch, scrambling home a close range effort after Jack had played a brilliant ball to Max from the back, who beat his marker and crossed, Will following up well. 1-0 in a tight game and a crucial goal from Will, who was calm and assured in his finish. A switch round saw him move to defensive midfield, where Dylan had done a fine job up until that point, Rami coming on up front, Connor at right back and Toby on the left.

The rest of the half was tight, Toby getting through but lacking support from team mates, some excellent switches of play seeing Max played in, bursting through only to see his crosses blocked well and a couple of corners nearly being met by headers. Hassocks were defending well.

Second half and we started a bit sloppily, reliant on the brilliant Tom and Evan at centre back to clear their lines again and again. Tough with the sun in their eyes, equally so for Ethan behind them, who was decisive in coming for crosses and clearances, whilst showing great skill with the ball to distribute well on the bobbly pitch.

It was a very tight match all the way, but our intentions and attacking play were better in the second half, a series of offside decisions denying us on 5 or 6 occasions as Rami, Toby, Max, Jack and Tristan all fell foul of the dreaded flag. Will was decisive in his holding midfield role and won a number of 50/50 balls to cut out opposition attacks and start our own. We had moved Sammy to a number 10 role to try and get him more central to use his long range shooting ability and he immediately showed his eye for goal, getting 2 or 3 early shots off. And it was him who won the penalty that turned out to be the goal that gave us breathing space, showing good skill to weave through two defenders before being brought down just inside the area. I've seen them not given, but this one was and he stepped up to take the spot kick himself, overcoming what was apparently a rather low lying penalty spot, slamming the ball into the roof of the net emphatically. He doesn't miss those.

Cue a scoreline that's always dangerous - 2-0 and the next goal is key. We very nearly scored it when Rami's cross / shot nearly found Jack at the far post and then Jack was denied by a truly brilliant save from the opposition goalkeeper, who was excellent throughout.

Hassocks very nearly got right back in it but Ethan was quick off his line to make a brilliant save.

An Evan header nearly went in but another god save. Rami showed great skill to get through but his shot skewed wide. Dylan and Tristan combined to send Toby down the right - more good skill from him to play Rami through again, but the flag went up. A sublime move from Connor, Tristan, Max and Finn K involving one touch passing to send Max through was moment of the game, Max winning a free kick wide right than Tristan delivered into the danger area for Evan to head goalwards. Great stuff.

At the other end, Tom and Evan continued to defend well into the sun, a bunch of long throws challenging them, ably supported by Euan, who had a great game today on and off the ball and Connor, who was calmness personified in possession and solid in the tackle.

Last 5 minutes got a bit sloppy, we gave the ball away a bit too much for my liking, but we held in there and when the final whistle went we were pleased with a clean sheet and a win, but sad to have lost Finn P to injury.

Man of the match was given to Jack, whose play with the ball was outstanding today - he caused all manner of problems for the opposition and defended resolutely as well. Several other notable performances, particularly Ethan in goal and the two centre backs, Tom and Evan, who were immense. Well done boys - some great stuff and that's three wins on the bounce now, but importantly some really solid and creative performances for the most part. Thank you to Hassocks for hosting us - a truly decent bunch of people with some really strong players (their number 10 and goalkeeper played particularly well today) and we wish them luck for the rest of the season. Good preparation for us for what will surely be a real challenge next week away to league leaders Crawley Down Gatwick, who look to be a quality outfit.

And despite the SatNav taking us back via what seemed like a very circuitous route, we were back in time to watch the second half of the England game and see us snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and make next summer slightly more entertaining with a Nations League semi final... I might have to check flight prices to Portugal...

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Sunday, November 4th 2018

The first thing to mention before we get into any kind of report on today's game was the reason for the minute's silence we observed prior to kick off. The league asked every team playing today to do this so as to allow people to pay their respects to the victims of the tragic accident that occurred at Leicester City last weekend in which 5 people lost their lives. It's easy for all of us to take for granted the fact that every week we can turn up and play and watch football, enjoying the highs and lows of each match and getting caught up in the minutae of every game and what seems so important at the time. Something like this puts all that in perspective and is a reminder of how lucky we are to be in a position to do that. The thoughts of everyone today were with the families of those who so sadly lost their lives last week.

Langton Green Phoenix 6 - 3 Uckfield Grasshoppers Rockets
(Finn P x 2, Rami x 2, Toby, Evan)

Up against a very strong Uckfield side who we had two excellent games against last season, the boys in theory were well up for showing that the two defeats they suffered last year in those games weren't a pattern that would be repeating. Unfortunately, the first 10 minutes of this morning's match were all over the place and we looked like we had a cunning plan to make it three in a row for Uckfield. We struggled to get the ball passed accurately across 10 feet and when Uckfield went direct with high balls, we looked like rabbits in the proverbial headlights, two players going for the same ball, very little communication and one player or another always seeming 10 yards behind the others, playing Uckfield's striker onside. Predictably, Uckfield scored after a few minutes, a well taken goal and we were grateful to James H (kindly stepping in for us this week from Giants duty in Ethan's absence) who pulled off a worldy of a save to keep the score at just one nil.

Sometimes you need a moment like that to turn a game and so it was, the subsequent counter attack seeing Max break down the right and combine well with Tristan in the middle to get a cross into the danger zone. The subsequent shot was spilled and Toby did what any good forward player does and followed in for the rebound, which he scrambled home. 1-1 and we were enormously lucky to be on level terms against a team who had been much better than us for the first 15 minutes.

A few moments later it was very nearly 2-1, but Finn P put his shot just over the bar after Max's excellent run and cutback from Connor's clever forward pass. A quick reschuffle saw Dylan on in midfield and he played an excellent first half, winning the 50/50 balls and combining well with the lively Finn K and Tristan in front of him. The three of them were starting to dominate the midfield, supported by the vocal Tom and decisive Evan behind them (how many high balls those two headed clear I don't know, but they were absolutely "on it" for the majority of the match), Jack and Euan filling the full back roles with aplomb, Jack cutting inside and creating overloads that added more dynamism and passing opportunties to the midfield and Euan getting forward well down the right to support Max in front of him. The switch of play was a real feature of the game, Finn P, Toby, Max and Tristan all playing superb crossfield passes that opened up space for their recipients in a way we've not done so well of late. Combined with some sublime through balls from Finn K, Tristan, Jack and Dylan, we were looking much more threatening.

Finn P clearly wanted to get on the scoresheet and his movement up front was excellent. He peeled out to the right, picked up a through ball from Jack and smashed a shot the goalkeeper did well to parry, Finn following up the rebound to hammer home and make it 2-1.

Rami and Sammy joined the fray, both adding energy and fresh legs, with Rami scoring almost immediately for his second goal in two games, showing great energy to win the ball back on the edge of the box, cut inside and power a shot past the goalie to make it 3-1. Uckfield weren't phased though and a bit of confusion with two of our defenders going for the same ball led to us being caught out of position and suddenly it was 3-2, we were under pressure and the two goal cushion was lost. Cue Rami scoring an almost identical goal to his first one, Tristan and Jack this time winning the ball back between them through hard work and tenacity, squaring for Rami to score his second and restore the two goal advantage.

Uckfield came again, but we were on a roll at this point and a Sammy corner nearly found a Langton head only to be scrambled out for another corner, which Sammy put right in the mixer for Evan to confidently head home and make it 5-2. And all this before half time!!

The second half was a much calmer affair, seeing some really good football from Langton. James H was excellent throughout, calm distribution from the back, safe hands when called upon and always an option for our defenders when they were under pressure. Finn K, Dylan, Euan and Max worked their way from one end of the pitch to the other with some lovely one and two touch football, Max delivering a brilliant cross low across the box that Jack arrived to meet, his shot tipped wide. Another run from Jack down the left after a good pass from Richard at left back, resulted in an excellent save from the goalie and we were pushing for another when Uckfield broke well and scored their third to give them some hope with 20 minutes to play. Game on again and the chance for us to step up, which we did within minutes, Finn P picking up the ball wide left, cutting inside and curling a delightful shot past the goalie from distance to make it 6-3. Tristan was showing his usual intelligence and movement, his performance deserving a goal that he nearly got with a strike that flashed just wide.

Still time for Sammy to play Finn K though, whose clever backheel found Sammy's run. If that had led to goal it would have been a wonderful finish to a brilliant move, but Sammy's unselfish crossfield pass was cut out. Max got forward down the right with great skill and determination to cross for Finn K to head millimetres over the bar, Toby and Sammy both put in lively cameos at full back as Richard switched to centre back and Dylan cemented his place as man of the match with some more excellent positional play in that "pivot" role, also showing superb passing from midfield. A virtuoso performance!

Full time and a good result against a side we knew would be tough opposition and so it proved. I'm sure we'll enjoy another close match against them when we visit them later in the season.

2 wins on the bounce and some fantastic individual performances and team play today. Well done all, thank you to the referee (who was excellent throughout), the parents who sorted out the teas and coffees, James H for stepping in (and playing so well) and Justin for running the line.

 

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Sunday, October 28th 2018

Cuckfield Cosmos 1 - 4 Langton Green Phoenix
(Jack, Tristan, Finn K, Rami)

After a few tough weeks where the boys played some excellent football without getting the results their performances had deserved, it was great to get back to winning ways on a wintery, windy morning in Cuckfield against a team we had two good games with last season.

We were thankful to Sam for stepping in to play in goal after a last minute injury to Ethan and with Sammy and Evan also missing meaning others had opportunities to shine.

A great start saw Dylan and Tristan combine with Finn P, before the ball fell to Jack in the box off the leg of a Cuckfield defender, he twisted and turned and struck an excellent shot beyond the goalkeeper to make it 1-0 after 5 minutes. A flurry of chances followed as the lads brimmed with confidence, Finn K hitting the crossbar with a really good strike, Max beating his marker and putting in 3 or 4 fizzing crosses that narrowly evaded being converted, Jack nearly scoring a second, Finn K skimming the post with a first time left footed strike and Dylan also having a good shot goalwards after decisive work to win the ball back in the middle of the pitch.

Finn P worked his socks off up front and used his strength brilliantly to create a couple of chances, unselfishly switching one excellent pass to Jack and turning superbly on another occasion only to see his powerful shot hit the bar. Jack was making some really good runs on the left and cutting inside to deliver several really good low crosses after beating his marker by the byline but we just couldn't quite connect with a solid chance to extend our lead.

At the other end, Tom and Richard were solid in the middle, with Connor and Euan playing out from the back really well with some intelligent passes and Sam making some great decisions with his clearances and distribution. Connor got forward brilliantly on the overlap a couple of times and put in a really good cross which was beaten away with Jack and Finn P lurking for the rebound. At this stage it was hard to see how we hadn't scored the second goal we were looking for and Cuckfield started to grow into the game, getting clear on a number of occasions as our decisive start turned less so and Sam was called on to make a really good save to keep the scores level.

Will, Rami and Toby entered the fray, all showing great energy from the off, Will winning a couple of excellent 50/50 balls in midfield and driving forward with purpose. Tristan continued to threaten, seemingly obstructed as he lobbed a defender and looked clean through but the referee (who was excellent all game) said play on and the ball was cleared. A bit of indecisiveness in midfield and at the back saw Cuckfield have the final chance of the half, Sam doing an excellent job to come off his line quickly and make it hard for the striker to see the target, the shot narrowly going over the bar.

Half time and we knew we needed to tighten up off the ball and in our decision making. Unfortunately, despite everyone going out onto the pitch withj determination, the next 5 minutes were our worst spell of the game as we gifted Cuckfield a couple of chances through sloppy play in front of our own box. A bizarre moment where the boys decided the best way to set up a wall to defend a free kick was to have three of the smallest boys in it, with the tallest lads all elsewhere was probably the low point!

Thankfully this spell didn't last, the second goal coming in stylish fashion as Jack won a free kick on the edge of the box, which Tristan despatched into the bottom corner with a really clever strike, everyone thinking he was going over the wall only for him to curl it low around the wall and into the back of the net. 2-0 and a bit of breathing space, which let the boys relax and start to play, which they did with style, a lovely team goal coming as Euan played an excellent pass into midfield, Dylan laying it off to Max, who ran at the opposition defence and crossing for Finn K to arrive in front of his marker and hit a sweet first time finish into the top corner. "It was a tap in" he said later, which I think is doing himself down slightly, an excellent finish to a really strong team move.

Unfortunately we'd lost Connor to injury at half time, which was a blow given how well he'd played first half, but thankfully Tom and Richard were decisive and dominant by this stage, as Euan's passing continued to be excellent, Sam finding him again and again with accurate goal kicks and Euan looking in between the central defender and full back for that killer pass. It was from another of these that we created the fourth goal, Max again getting good possession wide right and combining with Jack and Will to cross for Rami, who received the ball, ran at the defence and slotted home an excellent finish from close range for his first goal of the season. Well done Rami!

A chance for Finn K which crept just wide, a shot from Will that was well saved by the goalkeeper and a fantastic run into the box from left back by Jack all nearly saw the fifth goal go in, but Cuckfield defended well and kept their energy up.

Cue a few moments of sloppiness from us, as we seemed to lose our shape and energy for 5 minutes. A goal was conceded late on, but we still had time for the lively Toby to win a free kick on the right with clever movement that was very nearly turned in with an overhead kick attempt from Dylan.

The final whistle went, to close out a really good performance, with some excellent individual displays and once again, every goal scored by a different player. So far this season we've had 10 different goalscorers in competitive games and 13 including friendlies - an excellent achievement and proof that we don't rely on any one player. Man of the match went to Euan, for his calm play from the back and excellent communication. Sam also deserves a mention, playing his first game in 11 a side goals for over a year and doing superbly. Well done Sam (and thank you)... and Tristan put in a captain's display, encouraging his team mates and having the calmness to score what turned out to be the goal that turned the game in our favour.

Thanks to Justin for running the line and to Cuckfield for hosting us on what was a very cold (Tim still wore shorts!) but enjoyable morning of football. We look forward to the return game in a few weeks time.

Well done boys. Roll on next week, where we face Uckfield, who narrowly beat us twice last season. We look forward to what will hopefully be another close match.

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Sunday, October 14th 2018

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 3 (AET) Seagulls FC
(Finn P, Evan)

Our first "proper" game of football at Langton Green Recreation Ground in over 3 seasons saw us welcome Seagulls FC, a team from the division above us, in the league cup. It was a game we knew would be challenge and so it proved.

A poor start saw us go 1-0 down after 5 minutes, our opposition giving us a lesson in the communication we've been sorely lacking on occasion recently. Thankfully the boys seemed to take this as motivation to up their game hugely, Tom and Ethan talking, organising and dominating from the back brilliantly. What followed was the best 35 minutes of football this season, Langton superb on the ball going forward, with Tristan in particular putting in an unbelievable stint in midfield, ably supported by Evan and Finn K behind him and the outstanding Finn P in front. Twice Finn P went close with free kicks from range, the first one in particular painfully close to going in. The equaliser was thoroughly deserved when it came, Tristan playing pass of the season in behind the Seagulls defence for Finn P to run onto and strike the ball confidently beyond the goalkeeper's dive to make it 1-1. The rest of the half saw more of the same, Max using great pace and skill to get through on goal only to see his unselfish pass nicked away and Finn P having several long range efforts beaten away by the goalkeeper. Sammy and Jack combined well down the left, Jack cutting into the penalty box and finding Tristan, whose strike flashed narrowly wide. Will came on in central midfield and was solid and hard working alongside Evan, Toby also joining the fray and showing great energy down the right hand side.

At the other end we still had plenty to contend with, Richard and Tom dealing with everything that was thrown their way, Tom having his best half of the season with a string of decisive clearances, intelligent passes from the back and continued communication and Richard similarly dominant alongside him. Ethan was called on to save a long range effort and smother a close range shot. Connor and Jack were outstanding a full back, Jack getting forward time and time again on the overlap whilst defending with tenacity and intelligence and Connor always seeming to be in the right place at the right time to make decisive challenges and clever forward passes. Euan came on and continued Connor's good work at right back, also contributing going forward with a couple of intelligent passes and good communication, showing nice skill on the ball to dribble past one player and hit a 25 yard ball down the line to Toby, whose pace sent him clear, only to see his cross evade everyone.

Half time and the boys were determined to continue their good work from the first half and to start with they certainly did, shooting down the slope and causing the opposition some problems through Sammy's pinpoint delivery from the right, Finn K very close to hitting the target with a flicked header and Max almost connecting with another cross from Sammy. A lovely passage of play where Finn K, Jack, Tristan and Finn P played their way half way down the pitch with one touch passing and scintillating movement off the ball ended with a switch of play to Toby that saw him strike a thunderous shot over the bar. We went ahead ten minutes into the half after we won a free kick on the right hand side and Tristan sent in a brilliant cross, which Evan leapt like a salmon to head home and make it 2-1.

There was enough time left for us not to try and see the half out, attack feeling like the best form of defence at this stage and the boys kept working hard to put pressure on the opposition, but inevitably with a lead to defend and the opposition desperate to get back into the game we started sitting deeper and struggling to clear our lines. Tom continued to be immense at centre back, Will was solid in front of him alongside Evan, but the real star of the last 20 minutes of the game was Ethan, who pulled off 3 or 4 absolutely world-class saves, tipping the ball round the post, over the bar and smothering a close range effort when Seagulls seemed certain to score. With 10 minutes left, the killer blow came in the form of the referee's whistle. A shoulder to shoulder between Tom and the opposition's striker saw both of them fall to the floor in the box and the ref pointed to the spot, the penalty taker making no mistake. We had just been about to make a change to add Euan back into the mix in place of a forward player to try and see the game out, but this changed things, Euan instead coming on higher up the pitch to pressure our opponents from the front and win the ball back high up the pitch, something he did with energy and tenacity.

Back and forth, half chances but nothing clear for either team and we heard the whistle go to signal extra time. 10 minutes each way and the threat of penalties, with very tired legs on both teams saw some tentative play and mistakes from both teams, but in the end it came down to four chances, two for each side. Ethan saved brilliantly once again, Max was played through superbly by Tristan but saw his powerful shot charged down, our opposition then took advantage of some rare confusion in our box to smash the ball home and make it 3-2 before the opposition goalkeeper pulled off an outstanding save from Finn P after outstanding work from Max had sent him through on goal. Still time for Finn K and Sammy to combine to cross for Will, who was flagged offside when a lot of folks thought otherwise, before the referee's whistle went for the final time to signal the end of the game and a really disappointing end to what had been a truly brilliant performance for much of the game from the boys.

Well done all for your efforts. Tom and Ethan shared the man of the match award, but there were brilliant performances from so many today. Don't be too disappointed. Back to league games after a quick sojourn for a friendly next week against our friends from Tunbridge Wells Youth and if the boys play like they did today for the rest of the season, they will see results that match what they deserve. Today wasn't their day, but not for lack of effort. They put us through the mixer of emotions today on the sidelines - tension, excitement, joy and at times frustration, but the overriding feeling was one of pride. Well done lads - it's a pleasure to coach you.

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Sunday, October 7th 2018

Langton Green Phoenix 3 - 4 Tunbridge Wells Foresters
(Toby, Sammy (p), Evan)

Another beautiful morning, this time on the Bennett school 3G against a strong Foresters team who we only played in the league a couple of weeks ago, sharing a 2-2 draw on a Wednesday evening. Today saw another close match that unfortunately for our boys saw them come out narrowly on the wrong end of a scoreline that was probably just about a fair reflection of a game that was close in every respect except we simply made more mistakes than our opponents.

Gifting Foresters a 2-0 lead early on wasn't in the gameplan, with no Finn P up front (Duke of Edinburgh award) we started in a 4-4-2 formation with the aim being that a solid defensive line would allow a tenacious midfield to look for the pace of Max, Sammy and / or Toby up front but alas some indecision at the back saw 2 very soft goals conceded, albeit taken well by Foresters. Sammy then hit the crossbar with a brilliant long range effort and Finn K played Max in, but his run and cross was well cleared. It felt like both teams had created chances but Foresters had dealt with ours better.

Prior to half time we found more and more frequently that we got the ball on the floor and played some decent football, Toby finishing off a scumptuous move involving Jack and Tristan in the build up and an excellent finish round the goalkeeper to keep us in it at 2-1 at half time.

Second half was far better from our boys, reverting to first a more familiar formation and then a 3-5-2 to try and get back in the game. Ethan was communicating well and did a great job with his decision making to clear several through balls, but we gave away an unfortunate penalty after we lost the ball playing out from the back to further pile pressure on and it was 3-1 and a tall order to come back from that. We won a penalty of our own through Evan's superb run, which Sammy despatched brilliantly to give us a lifeline. Unfortunately it was a lifeline we didn't take, putting two pretty good chances to equalise into a sea of bodies after excellent build up play from first Jack and then Tristan before Foresters scored a very good fourth goal from long range to make it 4-2 with 10 minutes to go.

The boys didn't give up, Finn K, Dylan and Evan everywhere in midfield to win the 50/50 balls, Tom, Rami, Richard and Connor showing great energy and clearing several Foresters passes intelligently and Evan then pounced on the rebound from Max's powerful shot to make it 4-3 but Foresters managed the final few minutes well to see the match out despite our best efforts.

A disappointing result and a very disappointing first half in terms of decisiveness and players taking ownership of situations but that's all stuff we can work on in a developing team. The important thing is to learn and not keep making the same mistakes. Real character shown to come back and dominate the second half. Ultimately these sorts of games come down to tiny margins and Sammy's brilliant strike that bounced back off the crossbar was matched by a similar excellent shot from Foresters that crept just under the bar. On another day those two are reversed but today it wasn't to be. Really proud of the lads for keeping their heads, not reacting to some difficult situations and showing both excellent football at times as well as impeccable behaviour on the pitch that they can be proud off - it's a real pleasure to coach such a decent bunch of lads.

Man of the match was shared between Evan and Finn K - both were absolutely superb today in terms of their effort levels, energy and attitude. Well done both, thank you to Justin, who refereed brilliantly - great job and much appreciated and finally thank you to Martin for running the line and doing a great job.

As I keep saying to the boys, we joined this league to play close games every week and we're certainly getting that. There are no weak teams in this division so we keep going each week and look for improvement and progress. Next week a tough prospect against a division 1 team in the cup - a challenge we thoroughly look forward to and of course we'll be pleased to welcome back Finn P and Euan for that one. Bring it on!!!

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Sunday, September 30th

Crawley & Maidenbower Panthers Royals 1 - 6 Langton Green Phoenix
(Max, Finn K, Evan, Dylan, Sammy, Tristan)

After a rain-soaked cancellation last week, the boys were glad to get back on the football pitch for some cup action, but sadly without several key players - Finn P and Will both succumbing to heavy colds / flu and Toby injured on international (school) duty! With Connor sitting this one out too on rotation despite last minute attempts for a call up at 7am (sorry!!), we had just 2 subs, which meant plenty of game time for everyone, with Joe joining us for his first match of the season over in Crawley (I grew up there), the town of a million roundabouts on a very nice looking pitch and in rather lovely weather.

The preparation was a bit chaotic, bad traffic causing delays to several of the boys, my SatNav tried to take me back home at every opportunity (must have been confused by the roundabouts) and poor Justin, who was robbed of the chance to use his excellent new warm up as we'd already started by the time he got there due to the M25 being a solid traffic jam. His cones had to go back in their bag... sorry Justin.

With Tristan filling a lone striker's role in the absence of Finn P and Will, the game started well for Langton, Finn K, Evan and Dylan moving the ball nicely in midfield, with the front three of Jack, Tristan and Max causing all sorts of problems for the opposition with their clever movement and deft touches. Jack's early strike from Tristan's skilful pass tested the excellent Crawley goalkeeper, but there was nothing he could do about the opener, Max sliding the ball home from close range after Finn K had played him in with an incisive pass. It was nearly 2-0 a moment later, but Max's effort was well saved and the rebound was scrambled clear.

The theme continued much the same for the opening 20 minutes or so, Evan dominating midfield with excellent positioning and some really clever passes out wide, finding both Jack and Max with excellent through balls, before his excellent slide-rule pass sent Finn K through on goal, beating the offside trap to go one on one with the goalkeeper and making no mistake to slot the ball under his dive to make it 2-0 after 15 minutes. A really good start, with some very solid midfield performances, Jack particularly causing all manner of problems from the left wing and a solid start for our back 4 and Ethan to cope with when the ball was played forward, Crawley having some good possession in midfield as the half wore on. A succession of corners nearly led to a goal, Finn K heading goalwards only to be thwarted by the keeper, before Joe and Sammy entered the fray, both showing great composure, energy and effort levels from the off. Joe had a good shot saved and played some quick early passes that set first Jack and then Max through on goal and Sammy tested the 'keeper with a strike from range.

A ball in from Sammy saw Tristan expertly flicking just wide, Jack had a very good shout for a penalty turned away by the ref and Dylan played Jack in with a superb lofted pass that Jack struck superbly goalwards only to see the keeper pull off another excellent save. Free kicks from Jack, Sammy and Jack again tested the goalkeeper, who was equal to all and as Crawley grew into the game, Tom and Richard's excellent defending was called into action, with Euan and Rami energetic and calm alongside them, both getting forward to support the attack well too, Rami ending up in the opposition box on several occasions - overlaps that created a number of chances. Ethan's distribution, positioning and communication was, as usual, top notch and he started plenty of attacks with some really decisive forward passes to feet.

Another corner saw us extend the lead, Evan brilliantly heading into the corner from Sammy's pinpoint delivery and it was 3-0 and looking reasonably safe, especially when Joe scored the fourth from close range after Jack's strike was well saved, but it was ruled out for offside. Crawley had other ideas though and credit to them as they came out much stronger in the second half, showing energy and an impressive effort level that saw our boys second best for the first 15 minutes of the half. We still created chances, Max twice played through by first Joe and then Rami, only to see both his efforts really well saved by the opposition goalie and on the other side Jack and Sammy both getting shots away that tested the keeper but both denied, Evan then being flagged for offside after skipping through a challenge and just about to let fire when one on one with the goalkeeper. Crawley were threatening to score with a counter attack and so it proved, some sloppy defending from us and a very good finish from their number 7 pulling the score back to 3-1 and suddenly it looked a different game. The same player narrowly shot wide moments later and had that gone in it would have been game on for the last 20 minutes. As it was, a free kick in our own half moments later was taken quickly by Ethan, Dylan running on to it to volley home emphatically to make it 4-1 and progress almost certain.

With Crawley having to push forward to try and get back into the game, space opened up for us and the move of the match a few moments later led to the fifth goal, Jack brilliantly bombing forward from right back to combine with Evan and Max, getting in to the box to strike goalwards only to see another brilliant save deny him what would have been a wonderful team goal. Thankfully Sammy was lurking for the rebound and still with plenty to do slammed it home to make it 5-1, moments after he nearly scored an absolute worldy from wide left that the goalkeeper did unbelievably well to tip over the bar.

Crawley kept plugging away, Tom saving the team on several occasions with decisive clearances and excellent recovery runs, Rami doing the same alongside him and playing some excellent forward passes. Euan, having gone off injured, came back on and looked assured on the ball at right back, Richard alongside him orchestrating the defence well with Tom. Another Finn K header from a Sammy corner nearly made it six, before Tristan smashed home an effort from the edge of the box that took a slight deflection to wrongfoot the goalie and make it 6-1 and seal a victory that for long spells looked like it was coming but only really felt secure in the final 15 minutes. Crawley fought hard, very nearly got right back into it after they scored and showed great spirit second half to play so well after a tough first 40 minutes.

Well done boys. The next round in 2 weeks promises a division 1 team in Seagulls FC and with T.W Foresters next week in the league we are in for a tough few matches, which is exactly what we enjoy and why we joined this league. Well done all, but especially Rami (man of the match) and a special mention to Tom, who was superb today and also Dylan, who played up front in an unfamiliar role out of necessity and did really well, holding the ball up and scoring the vital fourth goal (assisted by Ethan, as he was keen to point out) to turn the game.

See you all for training on Tuesday. Well done all.

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Wednesday, September 19th

Tunbridge Wells Foresters 2 - 2 Langton Green Phoenix
(Finn P, Tristan)

A new experience for us in two ways... firstly a midweek evening kickoff and secondly despite being local neighbours, the first time these two sides have met in the 5 years we've played large sided football, the last meeting being back in U10 mini soccer.

Both sets of players were keen to get the upper hand early on, with a lot of them being friends from school, but the wind and a fairly poor surface meant we saw a scrappy opening 20 minutes where neither team really got a handle on the game, good defending from Connor and Richard at one end and the Foresters centre backs at the other being the highlights. Foresters looked assured passing out from the back, but we held firm when they got into our final third, with the only notable moments being Ethan making a good save onto the post on the one occasion Foresters got through and the opposition goalkeeper saving well from Max after he had been played in by a sublime pass from Evan. One chance each and a succession of long shots from both teams being the only other attempts at goal, Finn K playing two excellent through balls that the Foresters keeper did well to come out quickly to clear with Max and Finn P bearing down on him. Rami was full of energy at full back, playing some intelligent passes and tracking back well to make a couple of excellent challenges.

After last Sunday's disappointing defending from set pieces, it was pleasing to see first Tristan and then Ethan and Finn P dominating in the box to clear our lines decisively and with purpose. Unfortunately for us, one moment of excellent play from Foresters unlocked some space wide left and they scored a spectacular long range effort that caught the wind and gave Ethan no chance. A good strike and not a lot we could do about it in fairness. The boys stuck at their task and Max, Finn P and Toby all got through but their crosses / shots were well dealt with by the excellent Foresters defenders and goalkeeper. Dylan made a great forward run beyond Finn P and very nearly got a shot away that was well blocked, before Tristan then hit the post with a rifle of a shot from a very tight angle that agonisingly came back along the line before being scrambled clear. A great chance created out of nothing by Tristan's perseverence and quick thinking. Half time and all to play for.

The boys realised something needed tweaking - we weren't keeping the ball as well as we usually do and Finn P was isolated up front. It was their idea to change the formation, with Tristan pushed up alongside Finn P, so we agreed that we'd try that, with Jack pushed forward from full back to get him involved higher up the pitch. Immediately we looked more of a threat, particularly down the left, where Jack twice got into the penalty area with darting runs that required some excellent defending to avert the danger. Will moved to centre back and was strong in the tackle on several occasions alongside Richard, both of them being called on to make clearances from high Foresters balls forward, with Euan and Connor filling the two full back roles with aplomb, passing forward well and holding their positions when we were out of possession. A free kick from Finn P flashed narrowly over the bar and it felt like some pressure was building.

The goal came soon after, Finn P showing great strength to latch on to a forward pass, turn and get a shot away under pressure that nestled in the bottom corner. An excellent goal and his 4th in 3 league games. With the boys brimming with confidence, it didn't take long to score a second, a lovely combination from Finn K and Jack opening up Foresters in the middle, where Max drove forward, slid a pass through to Tristan, whose shot squirmed under the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. 2-1 and about 15 minutes to see out the game with the light fading.

A quick change to try and protect the lead saw Tristan drop back slightly and Dylan come into the middle to protect the defence alongside Evan. It was a frantic last 15, Foresters desperate to get back into the game, sending ball after ball back towards our box. They had a free kick go over the bar, a chance brilliantly blocked by Jack and several near misses where Ethan had to be on his toes to smother. The disappointment for us was a lack of game management at this stage. Instead of keeping possession, the boys send risky balls forward that were cut out and with a couple of minutes left the inevitable happened, a long ball over the top seeing our defenders caught flat footed and an easy finish for Foresters over Ethan that he had no chance of saving. Suddenly we'd gone from winning the game to potentially losing it as Foresters flooded forward to try and get the win themselves. We had a couple of chances through Finn P that were cut out by good defending and Max nearly got through only to be tackled. A scrappy and frantic last few minutes in the gathering darkness thankfully didn't yield a goal for either side that would have been very harsh in a game where a draw was absolutely a fair result. Rami in particular showed great energy in these last few minutes to get to every ball first. 2-2 the final score and whilst we felt slightly disappointed not to have seen the game out, if you'd offered us that at half time after our scrappy first half I'd have taken it.

Well done boys. A good, close game against a very strong team. Thanks to Foresters for hosting the game and getting it on. Tristan man of the match for a real captain's performance and thanks to Justin for running the line. Roll on Sunday, which looks very wet, where we are away in a cup tie in Crawley.

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Sunday, September 16th

Langton Green Phoenix 1 - 4 Lewes
(Finn P)

Another beautiful morning, another new opponent and riding high on confidence from last week's opening day win, the boys were raring to go.

Unfortunately for them, they came up against a very good and in-form Lewes team, who had won their opening two games, were strong all over the pitch and boasted one of the best strikers we've faced in their excellent number 9 and their man of the match midfielder number 5 who absolutely dominated long spells of the game to lead their side to a deserved victory.

We didn't help matters, starting lacklustrely (is that a word???) to gift Lewes 2 early goals, the first from a corner that nobody dealt with, everybody expecting someone else to take ownership of the situation, which of course meant Lewes said thank you very much and scored, or we scored an own goal - I'm unsure which. To compund our poor start a series of weak clearances kept sending the ball back into our own penalty box and eventually Lewes said thank you very much for a second time and smashed one of them home to make it 2-0 after 15 minutes. Very disappointing because both goals were down to a lack of decisiveness from us in terms of somebody stepping up and saying "I'll deal with this". Having said that, the pressure we were under was happening in the first place because we kept either giving the ball away when trying to pass out from the back or we lost 50/50 balls in midfield that Lewes looked hungrier for. Second best all over the pitch and looking at the possibility of a very large scoreline if things continued like this.

The flow of the game then transformed completely on a quick counter attack from us that saw Finn P unleash a smart strike from 25 yards that caught Lewes out and suddenly it was 2-1 and we clicked for the next 20 minutes, looking the more likely to score for the remainder of the half, Max and Jack getting into good positions to cross on numerous occasions and both Evan and Finn P having excellent shots flash just wide.

Second half was a tight affair for the majority of the time, a penalty appeal for Toby waved away after he jinked into the box with real skill and a free kick just on the edge of the box scrambled away by Lewes when it looked like we'd force it in. At the other end Ethan was dominant in the air for a succession of Lewes corners, following up with excellent distribution wide to Connor or Euan and our midfielders were starting to tick, Rami, Finn K, Tristan and Dylan all playing excellent passes to send Max and then Sammy through on goal. Connor had a great run forward that led to a chance for Finn P, whose swerving shot drifted agonisingly wide of the upright, Tristan playing a superb outside-of-the-boot pass to Toby, who burst past his defender and saw a clever low cross blocked with a last ditch foot. It felt like the goal was coming, but Lewes were always a threat on the break, Tom and Evan both having to put in superb challenges to deny the Lewes number 9 another goal and the more we pushed forward looking for the equaliser, the more we left ourselves open at the back, with a combination of tiredness and desperation leaving us very ragged for the last 10 minutes of the game. An unfortunate own goal then made it 3-1 before a very disappointing fourth went in from another corner we didn't deal with to leave a rather unflattering look to the scoreline in what was for long spells a tight game, albeit one we fully deserved to lose.

Disappointed with the nature of all four of the goals we conceded and plenty to work on in training to put those issues right, but very proud of the effort and desire the boys showed today - nobody gave up and everybody showed a good attitude to keep going until the end against a very good side, who ultimately looked slightly hungrier, stronger in the tackle and more organised than we did. Well done to Lewes and we look forward to playing them again later in the season.

As we said when we joined this division, it would be a challenge that the boys were keen on and if we played well we had a great chance of winning, whereas if we played less well we were likely to lose. Last week and this week were great examples of both sides of that coin. With a tough midweek game against Foresters followed by a cup tie next Sunday, it keeps coming, so hopefully the boys will be up for it this Wednesday from the word go.

Thanks to Justin for refereeing, to James and Martin for running the line and to Bridget for so kindly organising the teas and coffees for the parents / opposition. 2 good games of league football down, 18 to go!

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Sunday, September 9th

Langton Green Phoenix 3 - 1 Hassocks Juniors
(Finn P x 2, Evan)

So, back to the real business of the league and a cracking opening fixture against a Hassocks team who narrowly beat us in the cup last season, scoring with the final action of the match. The boys were motivated and eager to get going in what looks to be a tough division.

We started well, Jack and Toby combining down the left to create a half chance for Finn P early on and the midfield keeping possession well with some delightful passing combinations. Hassocks looked dangerous on the break and had a couple of half chances of their own in what was a very even opening half. Finn K's control and passing was excellent in the opening stages, one through ball setting Max free and another finding Finn P in space, but his shot was well blocked. Connor's calm distribution from right back and then from defensive midfield set a tone for the boys playing out from the back, where Tom, Richard and Jack all combined nicely with their midfielders to play some lovely football.

Evan opened the scoring in style, Tristan and Max working to win the ball back high up the pitch and laying it into Evan's path. He jinked and turned to create some space and hit a long range strike over the goalkeeper and into the roof of the net to make it 1-0. Great goal.

The half ebbed and flowed, Tristan having a lovely run and shot just wide, Finn K volleying goalwards with what would have been an absolute wondergoal but seeing his effort well saved by the Hassocks goalie, Dylan entering the fray in central midfield and immediately getting involved with some excellent quick passing to move the team up the pitch and Sammy showing good skill to get free on the right, dummy his marker and get a fine cross in. Moments later he nearly made it 2-0 with an instinctive strike from Max's cross that was really well saved, the follow up from Finn P just flashing wide. Will had a couple of good runs and one excellent moment where he dropped deep to link play up nicely as we searched for a second goal. With Evan now alongside Tom at the back and Euan at right back making several incisive interceptions and clever passes forward, the boys saw out the half to lead 1-0 at the break. A good half of football.

Second half both teams came out fired up and Richard and Evan had to be at their best to intercept a number of through balls, Ethan mopping up any that did get through. The shout of "keepers!!!" ringing through the Groombridge air was a comforting soundtrack to the second half - excellent decision making, positioning and distribution from our goalie throughout. Dylan had a very strong start to the second half, communicating well in midfield and playing some solid forward passes to our forward players.

The boys continued to play some really nice passing football, Max a constant threat on the right, Tristan and Dylan pulling the strings in midfield, ably backed up by a very solid back four. The second goal we craved came midway through the half, Finn P finally getting what he thoroughly deserved for all his hard work, burying a really good strike from the right into the bottom corner of the goal after excellent build up play from Finn K, Tristan and Evan.

Hassocks still pushed and we knew the next goal could be crucial. An absolutely sublime pass from Tristan found Max on the right of the box, his first touch was out of this world, but his shot was brilliantly saved by the opposition keeper. Finn P then saw his strike well saved and suddenly, from nearly going three up, we were pegged back to 2-1, Hassocks scoring a well taken goal after we failed to clear our lines. 2-1 and 5 minutes to go... thankfully these boys showed superb game management to keep the ball high in the Hassocks half, to not give away possession in silly areas and when a free kick was won, up stepped the excellent Finn P to smash it into the far corner in the last couple of minutes and make the game safe. Euan's energy and intelligence on the right in front of Connor saw that Hassocks didn't get a chance of another goal in the closing seconds and the whistle went to applause from the sidelines for what was a really good game of football from both sides - exactly what we'd hoped for when we were promoted to this division and hopefully the start of a long line of even, keenly fought matches.

Just remains to say well done to the boys, especially Man of the Match Evan and thank you to the referee, who was excellent throughout. Thanks also to Martin for running the line and of course to all the parents for their encouragement and support. Hassocks were a very nice bunch of people and we look forward to playing them again in the near future in what will hopefully be another close match.

Lewes next week, who won 6-0 today, so expecting another stern test.

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Sunday, September 2nd

Langton Green Phoenix 0 - 7 Crawley United

A very good pre-season workout against a division 1 team, with a number of our quicker players unavailable nevertheless brought some real positives. Crawley are a fantastic team and a nice bunch of people and we thoroughly enjoyed the game, despite being on the wrong end of a heavy scoreline. We kept the ball well, created some opportunities, but lacked a little bit of a cutting edge and ended up conceding on the counter attack several times, which was frustrating. Split into 4 quarters, some brilliant goalkeeping from James H (filling in for Ethan) saw us draw the final quarter 0-0 and very nearly win it with the last kick of the game, which was a nice way to end the morning. We wish Crawley all the best during the season and a huge thanks to James for standing in today for us.

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Sunday, August 26th

Langton Green Phoenix 6 - 2 Tonbridge Invicta
(Finn P x 3, Tristan, Finn K, OG)

Very briefly... the start of the season saw us host our friends from Tonbridge Invicta in a pre-season game at Ashurst. Molehills removed, lines painted, nets up, rain... and here we go again.

The game started well with extensive pressure in the Invicta half leading to a series of corners that we just couldn't turn into a goal despite hitting the post and the goalie, until Finn P managed to pick up a loose ball in the box and smash home a close range effort to make it 1-0. Invicta equalised after a good spell of their own with a cracker of a strike from distance that left us no chance and we were under the cosh for a short while, Richard defending out of his skin alongside Evan at centre back, before more good approach play from Tristan and Finn K led to a second goal for Finn P. Excellent distribution from Ethan saw defensive positions turned into counter attacks and from one of these Tristan then scored an absolute blinder from range with the last kick of the half after he used great strength and awareness to create some space for himself from the left. A wonderful strike from Will that was very well saved was another highlight of an all round excellent first half in which Max was particularly outstanding on the right.

Second half started well, Ethan dominant and intelligent with his distribution from the back to Sammy and Jack in the wide positions but another goal wouldn't come, despite more pressure. A couple of headers from Evan from corners, some great passing from Sammy, Dylan and Evan from the back and Euan had a brilliant half, tenacious and hard working at left back. Jack further forward was involved in nearly everything that was positive down that flank and he nearly scored with a superb long range strike that Finn P just couldn't quite reach the rebound from. He had his hat trick a couple of minutes later though - brilliant from Max to play him through and a firm strike into the bottom corner. An own goal from Finn P's cross made it 5, before Evan smashed a long range effort goalwards, with Finn K following in on the rebound to score from close range. Still time for Invicta to get another goal after we switched off and for Jack to have another chance after great build up from Dylan, Finn K and Toby. Will back on held the ball up well, Tristan had a long range strike tipped just wide and Toby skimmed the post with a cross / shot.

Plenty to be positive about, some excellent performances and good football on show from both teams. Invicta's goalkeeper was superb today and they played some really positive stuff at times. We wish them well for the season and hopefully will get the chance to play them again at some point.

Well done lads - great start to the season.