Phoenix 2019 - 2020

Sunday 8th December

Langton Green Phoenix 1 - 6 Mile Oak Wanderers
(Sammy)

I've come to the conclusion that for most teams, if they are in the right division for them, around 80% of matches fall into the "we did okay but there are things we could improve on" category, 10% fall into the "wow, we were outstanding today" category and 10% fall into the "did we leave our usual players at home and turn up with a group of complete strangers?" category.

This was the latter. And that's fine, because it happens to everyone every now and again. It was just a shame that after a number of battling, very solid performances where the boys didn't get the result they deserved (penalty defeats, last minute winners etc.) and we felt we were making real progress, we put in such a lacklustre performance devoid of almost any of the things we've worked on and done so well with in recent weeks.

Aside from a really well taken goal by Sammy, right in the corner from range, a very good start to the second half where we did ourselves justice and some decent link up play in midfield, we fell into the trap of getting frustrated, players trying to take too many opponents on and losing the ball, heads down, charging around like a group of individuals rather than a team. It was the "I need to make something happen right now" approach rather than the calm, patient, let's keep the ball, do the basics well approach that is required when you concede a couple of early goals.

Mile Oak thoroughly deserved their win, scoring some excellent goals (and some that we offered to them gift-wrapped, but well taken nonetheless) and we went home slightly bemused thinking "did that really just happen?". After all, earlier in the season we drew 2-2 and felt hugely unfortunate not to win a game where we dominated for long spells. Well done to them and our best wishes to the lad who got the cut lip in the first half - hope he's feeling better soon.

The team will hopefully have learned something from this game, specifically around how to cope with adversity. With some really tough games still to come in what is a much harder division than we've ever faced before, we will all need to learn quickly.

It's all part of the journey.

 

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Sunday 1st December

Langton Green Phoenix 0 - 2 Patcham United Dons

We've spent a lot of time working on the boys' defensive shape this season and in this game, against a side who beat us 6-1 earlier in the season, that aspect of the game was a lot better. The game was 0-0 until 75 minutes, when we finally conceded a well-taken goal, with the second goal coming with the last kick of the game as we pushed forward looking for an equaliser.

It was a tough match, on a very sticky, slopey pitch that saw us on top in the first half when shooting downhill, but just unable to convert a couple of good chances and then struggle uphill in the second half when our opposition were comfortably on top and we just couldn't quite keep the ball well enough.

Well done for battling away boys. It was a really tough day and your effort levels deserved more than a defeat, but on balance, for the possession and chances our opposition had in the second half, the result was probably a fair one.

Well done all - onwards!

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Sunday, 24th November

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 2 Haywards Heath Town Colts (AET - Pens 3-4)
(OG, Warwick)

After another week of rain, we were pleased to once again be playing at Groombridge, which drains better than almost any grass pitch we've played on over the years. Lines marked, fox poo cleared up, sand sprinkled in one of the goalmouths and coffees and teas brewing, we were ready to welcome our opponents, from the division above us, for a cup quarter final in a game we knew the boys would have to be at their absolute best to get anything out of.

The game started well, everyone giving all they had and creating some dangerous moments going forward whilst looking much more solid than we have in recent weeks in defence. Ben H was superb in goal, communicating well and rushing off his line to clear a couple of through balls. At the other end, Ben G was holding the ball up well as the middle player in a front three, linking up well with Rami and Warwick, Sammy just behind him in a number 10 position having an early shot flash wide and a free kick tipped over the bar from long range.

The game ebbed and flowed. Will and Finn were solid as the two central midfielders, a couple of lovely bits of link up play between them with Jack involved too in first setting Rami and then Warwick through on goal only for the goalkeeper and defensive blocks to thwart them, before Rami's cross found Warwick in the 6 yard box only for the ball to hit a bobble and deceive his swinging leg at the crucial moment. But we were creating chances and looking very much in the game. Will then had to come off injured, Dylan coming on in his place and picking up where Will had left off, with tenacity and energy in the engine room to win the ball and distribute it intelligently.

We defended corners much better than we have done previously and looked dangerous when attacking them too, just not quite connecting with Sammy's far post delivery on two occasions before the pressure told, Haywards Heath scoring an own goal from one such corner. 1-0 and probably deserved at this stage on the balance of the game.

Haywards Heath came back, their dangerous centre forward looking to turn at every opportunity and they were the stronger team for the closing part of the half, an opposition goal from a corner disallowed for a push in the box was a let off for us and Evan and Tom's defensive skills being tested to the limit, whilst Euan made some crunching tackles alongside them. Unfortunately a bit of poor game management in the last 2 minutes of the half saw us fail to clear the ball and Haywards Heath capitalised with a chipped cross headed home with aplomb by their striker. 1-1 at the break.

Second half started well, with real intensity and some decent football, especially considering the slightly sticky state of the pitch. Max was playing really well, up and down the left hand side and Sammy continued to influence things just behind the front three with some lovely skill and hard work off the ball too. Midway through the half we got the goal we'd been looking for, Rami's shot coming back to Warwick, who rounded the 'keeper and slotted home from a tight angle with his left foot. 2-1 with 20 minutes to go and it was now backs to the wall as Haywards Heath put pressure on us. They thought they'd equalised once as the ball bounced down onto the line but didn't quite cross it. After that we held out pretty well all told, Ben G back in a holding midfield role after Dylan had to come off and Joe on in place of Euan, who was feeling unwell after giving absolutely everything in his best performance of the season. Joe worked hard in midfield and then at right back, tenacious and energetic. Toby was on for Sammy and continued his good work off the ball. Unfortunately, we just couldn't quite hold on quite long enough, a corner looping beyond the far post wasn't cleared and despite Ben H pulling off an excellent initial save, a toe-poked finish from a tight angle found the back of the net and it was all level at 2-2.

Extra time loomed and both teams had chances to seal it at the end of normal time, us through Finn's attempt to place his shot into the corner with 2 players on the line and the goalkeeper diving at his feet, his first time strike cannoning off the inside of the post and agonisingly evading three players following it in and our opposition through a long range shot that grazed the top of the bar. 20 minutes of extra time, which passed in a flash saw Haywards Heath hit the bar again and Rami through on goal only to see his strike well saved. End to end, corners defended by both teams, a flurry of substitutions to get our bestpenalty takers on the pitch and the final whilst finally went, to signal the dreaded penalties.

Impossible to practice under the conditions of a knockout scenario, so recreating the pressure isn't something you can do beforehand and it's a lonely walk to the penalty spot. A poor penalty when the goalkeeper dives the wrong way looks good, whilst a strike in the corner when the keeper guesses right can be saved. The boys who stepped up to take them should be proud of themselves, score or miss. It takes a lot of courage and you've all scored penalties before and will again. As I've said many times, if you take enought penalties, you'll miss one eventually - guaranteed. But the willingness to put yourself forward says far more about you than whether you scored or not. Really good to see the support from our boys towards their team mates who missed. That's what growing as a team is about and the next shootout you find yourself in that will help a tiny bit too.

So, sadly for us, we came out on the losing side this time despite Ben acrobatically saving one of the opposition's spot kicks and of course congratulations to Haywards Heath, who were a really decent bunch of people. We wish them all the best for the semi-final and hope to play them again at some stage as it was an incredibly evenly matched game played in a good spirit and well-refereed.

Well done boys. Winning and being a winner are different things. Your approach to this game, the way you looked out for each other and had each other's backs, the energy you put into the game was the best I've seen this season by a mile - you played with a winning mentality regardless of whether you won or lost. Keep it up and you will have some very successful days. I'm proud of you - and you should be proud of yourselves.

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Sunday, 17th November

Langton Green Phoenix 3 - 1 Marle Place Youth
(Jack, Warwick, Rami)

The only game in our division to go ahead on a very playable pitch after appalling weather over the last few weeks seeing swathes of cancellations saw us take on the team we played on the opening weekend of the season, with exactly the same result and a very similar pattern to the game. A brilliant warm up, devised by Sammy and Tom, with Warwick coming up with a goalkeeping warm up for Ben, saw the boys prepare superbly and on a sunny morning they lined up with real positivity.

However, a poor first 10 minutes saw the boys struggle to get hold of the ball and keep it, a little bit rushed in possession in the opening stages. But - they settled well and the centre back pairing if Tom and Charlie did a fantastic job of mopping up the high balls that threatened our penalty box, Ben H off his line quickly to claim a couple of through balls behind them and set the tone, communicating well and Euan at right back making a couple of crunching tackles and passing the ball well from the back. This allowed those in front of them to start to express themselves a bit more. Missing Finn through illness and with Ben G starting as the central striker of a front three, we had a new look central midfield of Dylan and Will, who were solid and intelligent in their distribution of the ball. Jack at left back got forward as he tends to and it was him who opened the scoring with a low strike right into the bottom right hand corner from the edge of the box. Intelligent and well worked in the build up from Dylan, Ben G and Sammy.

Ben G at centre forward offered us a different option in attack, dropping deep to link the play and with Rami and Warwick running off him, their pace causing all sorts of problems for the opposition. A few overhit through balls from midfield were forgiveable as the boys found their range and Sammy, in the number 10 position, started to look particularly threatening on the ball, finding space and playing one sublime pass through to Warwick, whose strike was blocked. Ben G then had the ball in the back of the net but the offside flag was up.

Another through ball from Sammy (excellent in the first half) found Warwick through on goal, he rounded the 'keeper and tapped in to make it 2-0 and the boys were playing some excellent football. Max and Toby entered the fray out wide and created some dangerous situations from both flanks, whilst Evan played a couple of excellent passes from midfield that nearly led to the third goal, Ben G again unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet after a good save and a linesman's flag denied him. A disappointing bit of game management in the final few minutes of the half, chasing a third goal rather than seeing things out to half time, saw a turnover of possession that required a superb save from Ben H, getting up quickly to make himself big and force the opposition to rush the rebound over the bar. A key moment in the game, once again our goalkeeper coming to the rescue.

Second half started well and we had the third goal we wanted, Rami slotting home after great work from Max and Warwick in the build up.

Disappointingly, we then displayed some really poor game management again, once more chasing a fourth goal through unneccesary risks that saw the ball given away over and over again at the back through attempts to play "Hollywood" passes rather than just keep possession and take the simple options. All part of the learning and something that led to the opposition scoring midway through the half and giving themselves a foothold in the game.

Ben G in midfield calmed things down a bit and we managed to see out the rest of the half with only one further scare that Ben H once again dealt with well. A penalty well saved by the opposition goalkeeper in the final couple of minutes after Rami was brought down in the box, followed by a disallowed goal for Euan through a linesman's flag after excellent work from Evan to set up his team mate were the only other moments of note.

Thank you to Justin for refereeing when he wasn't even intending to be there - massively appreciated - and to Martin for running the line. Thank you also to those who did the teas and coffees. This was a game of two halves, with some lessons to learn, but overall a good morning for the boys. Well done all.

Onwards to a cup tie against a team from the division above next Sunday - a challenge to enjoy and look forward to.

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Sunday, 10th November - Friendly Match

Langton Green Phoenix 3 - 4 East Grinstead
(Warwick x 2, Rami)

Briefly... an excellent opportunity to play some football after a cancellation last week and a home walkover for us this week that saw the boys pick up 3 points without kicking a ball. We don't know East Grinstead well, although we played their other team pre-season, emerging with a 2-1 victory that day.

This was a close, well-fought game on a sticky pitch that started with an impeccably observed minute's silence for Remembrance Sunday and ended with a penalty shootout as practice for both sides, with cup ties coming up.

East Grinstead were strong, winning the physical and aerial battle and were the better side for the first 20 minutes as we struggled to get hold of the ball and keep it. They deservedly went ahead from corner, set pieces once again proving our downfall but we looked off the pace in general. We rode our luck as another identical goal was disallowed a few minutes later for a foul before Warwick scored a superbly taken goal cutting in from the left to finish emphatically into the top right hand corner before providing a second for Rami to tap in after Sammy's through ball found him again on the left. 2-1 up despite being on the back foot and suddenly we started playing some really good football.

Second half saw East Grinstead draw level with a good strike, before Finn then split the defence with an excellent pass for Warwick to smash home his second and put the boys 3-2 up. Another Finn through-ball to Warwick saw the goalkeeper make a fantastic save, James H (in for Ben who was unavailable) pulling off an equally fantastic one at the other end. Tom was mopping up at the back and we had a couple of chances to kill the game with a fourth goal but the opposition 'keeper was equal to what we threw at him.

We then got sloppy, two individual errors and a lack of communication leading to two goals that were characteristic of our season defensively so far. Both were nonetheless well taken by East Grinstead's forwards, who were a threat all morning. A late rally, players pushing forward as Ben G had a long range shot flash wide, Sammy showed great skill and determination to work a couple of chances and Jack's dribbling skills and quick feet caused problems for our opposition right to the end but we just couldn't quite find a way through and the equaliser wouldn't come.

We finished with a penalty shootout that the boys won 4-3 - Sammy, Finn, Warwick and Jack successful from the spot and James pulling off several excellent penalty saves.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable game against a good team who we'll hopefully get the chance to face again at some stage. A pleasure to play football on such a glorious morning and a day to remember how fortunate we are to be able to do so. Thank you Justin for refereeing - another fine performance - and thank you to James H from our Giants team for stepping in between the posts and doing such a great job.

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Sunday, 27th October

Langton Green Phoenix 5 - 1 Rotherfield Juniors
(Ben G, Will, Finn, Toby, Warwick (p))

A rare half term game and an opportunity to put last week behind us on a glorious morning for football. After a week of torrential rain that saw the roads looking more akin to rivers and howling winds tearing up trees and fences, we were fortunate enough to have another game on 3G, bright sunshine and no wind at all.

Looking to take advantage of the conditions, we started brightly against a team we know well and in Mid Sussex League terms this season, our most local rivals. Warwick hit the bar with an early strike after great work from Rami and then a second time, before Ben G put the team ahead with a free kick from range. He's making a habit of scoring from outside the box and it's a good one to have got into. Max then squared for Rami, who unselfishly tried to set Warwick up but a defender cut the ball out.

Ben H at the other end was then called into action, making a superb save, Tom clearing the follow up off the line as Rotherfield looked to capitalise on a spell of the game where we looked out of sorts, tired and scrappy. Joe then went close with a brilliant run and shot that was well saved, but that was a rare bright moment in the closing stages of a half when we were well below par in and out of possession. Not the sort of performance we were aiming for  and at half time we had a conversation about sharpening up, doing the basics better and playing calm, intelligent football.

One thing that would help enormously in terms of bringing a sense of calm to the play was another goal and after some much better moments that saw Jack in particular really start to influence things down the left, we won a succession of free kicks, Will absolutely blasting one of them into the far corner with a thunderous strike. His first goal of the season and fully deserved on a day when he played a really key role in a defensive midfield position.

Some flowing football a few moments later saw us extend our lead further, Max and Jack combining brilliantly, to set Rami free, who squared for Finn to take a touch and find the corner with a really calm finish from the edge of the box. Another player who thoroughly deserved a goal for all his hard work, but a brilliant team goal as well. Rotherfield came back again, some high balls expertly dealt with by Charlie and Tom, both of whom were superb second half, especially with their headed clearances. Alongside them Euan was someone else having a much better second half, Dylan and Will solid and creative in central midfield in front of them. Ben H's distribution from goal was good, with our play from the back calm and composed for the most part. Charlie, Connor and Jack were particularly good in this respect.

Some quick one-touch interplay between Ben G, Finn and Joe (also excellent second half) saw Toby set free down the right in space and he made no mistake with a perfectly placed shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner. Connor was intrumental in the final 20 minutes, calmly filling the space in front of the back four and covering brilliantly when our full backs pushed forward. With 7 or 8 minutes to go Tom very nearly scored a superb goal with a first time strike that hit the post and bounced out.

A late penalty won by and emphatically converted by Warwick made it five and five different goalscorers before a late excellent long range shot with the final kick of the game gave Rotherfield something to cheer and frustratingly denied us a first clean sheet of the season.

All in all a much better second half, but on another day we would have been punished for our sloppiness first half. This team are capable of much, much more and I firmly believe we will see that more and more as the season progresses.

Well done all, thank you to Justin for running the line and to our referee, who was excellent. Rotherfield played some good football themselves and we look forward to playing them again later in the season.

Man of the match was Will, for a calm performance where he did the basics well - something that provides a great starting point for an all round performance.

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Sunday, 20th October

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 7 Montpelier Villa Blue
(Rami, Warwick)

A wonderful morning for football on a lovely 3G pitch down near Brighton. Unfortunately that was about as good as it got as we succumbed to some silly mistakes gifting set pieces and goals to our opposition in an even first half we someone finished 3-0 down.

Second half was much better from us and we gave Montpelier more of a game, but whilst our opposition were admittedly the better team, playing some really good quality football, we played our part. Two excellent team goals, Max the creator of one and Rami the creator of the other, were finished off by Rami and Warwick respectively, whilst Finn showed excellent footwork to fashion a chance for himself but the goalkeeper was equal to his effort.

Ben and Jack combined nicely down the left, Dylan worked hard in the middle and Ben H was his usual energetic self between the posts, making several good saves. But we were victims of our own downfall again, a couple more unforced errors and a couple of very well worked goals by Montpelier saw us off in fairly emphatic fashion, not helped by having two key players off the field with ankle injuries early in the second half.

A disappointing scoreline that wasn't entirely reflective of the way the game went but our opposition deserved their win, no complaints there and a good chance for us to see a team playing the sort of simple, effective football we're aiming for ourselves. A nice bunch of people too - we look forward to the return game and a chance to test our progress later in the season.

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Sunday, 13th October

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 2 Mile Oak Wanderers
(Ben G, Rami)

My first attempt at a match report in 3 paragraphs or less...

Big 3G pitch, change of formation to 3-5-2. Ben G scored a wonderful opener after striding out of defence. 1-0. Warwick & Rami lively up front, Toby and Jack up and down the flanks with real purpose and our midfield solid and creative in possession. Sammy free kick crept under the wall but 'keeper equal to it. Ben H good save at the other end. Looking good until we conceded possession and then a needless free kick and as per recent games, didn't defend the set piece well enough. 1-1.

Second half poor start. Switched to 4-3-3 after Tom got a knock to the head and had to come off. Went 2-1 down from another set piece after we switched off from a throw-in. Corner this time. Practising set pieces number 1 on list of things to do. But plenty of grit from these boys. Back to 3-5-2 and Jack more central. Couple of mazy runs from both Finn and Jack saw us nearly score but nobody seemed willing to shoot. Ben G great pass down the right, Rami's strength took him though and an excellent finish into the corner. 2-2. Both teams could have won it at the end. Neither did and a draw probably a fair result on balance. Warwick man of the match but several excellent performances today - Ben G and Ben H both did particularly well, as did Toby as a wing back.

Some excellent play in and out of possession but some frustrating moments too. Plenty to work on, not least set piece defending. On to next week against a team who have a goal difference of +22 after 4 games. Better be prepared to do some work defensively and to stop giving away unneccessary corners and free kicks.

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Sunday, 29th September

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 10 Eastbourne Borough Youth Orange
(Warwick, Jack)

Wow.

A cup tie against the best team we've ever faced in a "proper" game by a mile was always going to be really tough for the lads, but the boys acquitted themselves really well for 65 of the 80 minutes in horrendous weather conditions in Eastbourne's 4000 seater ground. We scored a superb second goal, put together some wonderful passing moves, but our opposition were just plain better. They moved the ball brilliantly and were calm, measured and technically very good in all positions. At 1-1 and then 5-2 and playing well we had a glimmer of hope, but 5 goals in the last 15 minutes once our boys were out on their feet put a really bad skew to a scoreline that probably didn't quite deserve to be as big as it ended up.

The commitment, effort and energy was so much better than it was last week and I left proud of the boys despite the score. We made some mistakes, absolutely, which you can't do against a team of this quality and expect to get away with them. Two of the first half goals and the first goal of the second half were completely avoidable but no blame can be apportioned to anyone and what if is a pointless game to play. It's all part of these boys' learning.

We scored a really genuinely excellent second team goal, Jack finishing Max's brilliant low cross at the far post after some lovely buildup play and there was one particular moment of sublime football that was as good as anything I've seen anywhere in youth football that I'm going to take away as my memory of this game. One touch passing the length of the pitch and a brilliant through-ball to create a goalscoring chance. If we can do that once, we can do it over and over again - as we read last week, to play fast, you have to WANT to play fast and in those moments we did just that.

Boys - take what you can from this. There are plenty of teams who would have ducked out of a game like this UTRAS or looked to play in an easier league, but you are challenging yourselves to play teams who have this sort of quality and you are getting so much more out of that. There is a bigger picture here that is more important than any one-off result. 

Well done to Eastbourne - a really decent bunch of lads who were gracious in victory and played football the right way. A pleasure to watch and I hope they have a great season. It's nice to play a team who play good football and behave the right way too.

Bring on the next game.

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Sunday, 22nd September

Langton Green Phoenix 1 - 6 Patcham United Dons
(Ben G)

Oh dear... on so many levels, oh dear.

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Sunday, 8th September 2019

Langton Green Phoenix 3 - 1 Marle Place Youth
(Rami, Evan, Finn)

Back to it for the first league game of the 2019-2020 season on a beautiful morning for football down in Sussex, at the World's End Recreation Ground in Burgess Hill to play against Marle Place Youth.

Some good moments, some not so good and plenty to work on, which is what you'd expect for a first competitive game of the season.

Three well taken goals from Rami, Evan and Finn. Jack, Ben G, Warwick and most notably Ben H in goal all played really well throughout and there were good moments from everyone today. We are encouraging the boys to be comfortable on the ball from the back and that will mean some mistakes, but the sloppiness today was disappointing because we've seen these lads play a lot better in that respect. I'm sure they'll sharpen up.

One thing they showed plenty of that was missing last season for long spells... grit. Well done boys. There was absolutely no laziness today from anyone. Not the best performance, but winning when not at our best is a good skill to have. It's a long season and this was a decent start. Well done all.

Good referee by the way.

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Tuesday, 3rd September 2019

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 5 Lewes (Evan, Warwick)

Our fourth pre-season match in 7 days saw us play a very strong Lewes team who we thought were the best team we played last season in the league. It was a good, competitive match, once again split into 4 x 20 minute sections. A well worked header by Evan from Jack's free kick opened the scoring before we gave away two disappointing goals losing the ball cheaply in our own half. A silly 5 minutes in the second half saw three quick goals conceded before Warwick won and scored a late penalty after some positive attacking play.

Our midfield looked creative and positive, our forwards lively and intelligent in their running, but man of the match was goalkeeper Ben, who had an excellent game once again and showed intelligent distribution and great shot-stopping skills on several occasions.

A useful exercise. Some positives, some things to work on and an enjoyable final pre-season game against a strong side.

Roll on Sunday...

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Sunday 1st September 2019

vs Crawley

After a challenging game the previous Thursday against our Giants Kent Youth League team, today saw some excellent positive, attacking play on the Bennett 3G pitch against our friends from Crawley. We played 4 x 20 minute matches, scoring some well taken goals and showing a lot of composure in possession. Goals of note from Ben G and Warwick scoring excellent individual efforts and Finn finishing off the team move of the morning with a fine finish after one touch approach play that was fantastic to watch. Well done lads and thanks to Crawley, who showed some good play themselves and whose goalkeeper was excellent.

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Tuesday 27th August 2019

Langton Green Phoenix 2 - 1 East Grinstead Town
(Rami, Evan)

An excellent performance this evening in our first pre-season friendly in the warm summer evening sun against a strong East Grinstead side.

The game ebbed and flowed, both teams showing energy and some good passing moves to create chances at either end. Standout performances were plentiful, but Rami was particularly excellent up front, his work rate to win the ball back extraordinary at times, with Ben G solid and calm on the ball in the CDM role, linking things up well and showing great composure and communication skills.

A well taken rebound from a saved penalty by Rami and another well-crafted short range finish from another rebound by Evan saw us go 2-0 up in quick succession before a good goal on the break from East Grinstead after we pushed forward and left too much space in behind. Game management boys.

All in all, good stuff though, an even game against a good side and we created some very pleasing chances based around some of the things we've worked on. Well done boys and thanks to Brodie and Tom V for helping us out and of course to Brian for refereeing and Kevin / James for running the line.

Onwards...

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