Phoenix 2020 - 2021

Sunday, September 13th @ Ashurst Rec

Langton Green Phoenix 3 - 5 Sovereign Saints
(Max, OG, Finn)

A strange game in many ways. First half we played really good football, passing out from the back well, through Ben, going longer when needed and dominating the majority of possession, with the first goal deservedly coming after 25 minutes when Will swivelled and played Max in with an outstanding through ball, Max driving towards goal and finishing brilliantly beyond the goalkeeper to make it 1-0. It was very nearly a lead that was doubled a few minutes later, Finn's excellent pass finding Warwick, whose strike was really well saved by the opposition goalkeeper.

We then conceded a free kick, which happens - and with Ben facing a ball dipping millimetres under the bar, coming out of the sun, it was very tough for him to reach. Some more good passages of play but we then conceded again from an error that was punished by great energy from the opposition striker and we were suddenly behind in a game we felt we'd been the stronger team in, although there were worrying signs in terms of our decisiveness and communication all game.

Finn and Owen both had headers flash over the bar that would have levelled things up but second half we conceded two more silly goals, where everyone rushed to the ball and we left a player completely unmarked to score with two good finishes from close range.

At 4-1 it was game over, but credit to the boys, who worked hard until the end, forcing an own goal from Rami and Max's pressure, a flash shot from Warwick squirming over the bar, before our opponents scored another very avoidable goal after we overcommitted to a ball we were unlikely to win and left Tom with two players running at him at pace. A good finish that deserves credit made it 5-2, with Finn scoring at the death with a pinpoint header from Warwick's corner to make it 5-3.

All in all this was a very winnable game, but our opposition deserve credit for playing to their strengths, taking their chances when they got them and working hard until the end. In general, reasonably happy with our performance in terms of chances created - we just need to take a few more of them.

Next week is arguably the toughest game we're likely to have in the league, away to a Broad Oak U18 side who have won both their opening matches comfortably and have a good record in the top division in previous seasons. We'll do all we can to give a good account of ourselves and play some excellent football.

Man of the match I'm giving to Jack for his work rate, skill, never-say-die attitude and some excellent movement of skill. Finn, Warwick and Will also deserve a mention for putting in a stella shift and playing some great football.

Onwards - let's take the positives, learn from the negatives and be better for it. Well done all and well done to our opposition, who we look forward to playing again later in the season.

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Sunday, September 6th @ The Cadogan Playing Fields

Langton Green Phoenix 6 - 3 Tunbridge Wells Youth Rockets
(Max x 2, Jack x 2, Warwick, Dylan)

After a difficult week, this was just the tonic we needed. A beautiful morning for football, a really positive feel around the squad, some exceptional individual performances and the best half of football we've played in a long while.

The first half started at a frantic pace, both teams full of energy after 6 months without a competitive game and the first chance fell to Tunbridge Wells Youth after a mix up at the back saw us concede possession cheaply. Thankfully, Ben was equal to the striker's shot and made a routine save. An early warning for a few sleepy heads perhaps.

After that, the boys playing some of the best football I've ever seen from them. The opening goal was sublime - excellent combination play in the middle, Warwick, in a lone centre forward role dropping deep to receive a pass from midfield and playing a brilliant crossfield pass inside the opposition full back to Max, who had timed his run perfectly. He still had plenty of work to do, but he did it superbly, dinking his finish over the goalkeeper to make it 1-0.

The second came shortly afterwards, Warwick finishing superbly after a route 1 clearance from Ben bounced over the opposition defence for our centre forward to volley calmly over the goalkeeper's head.

At the back Tom and Owen were equal to everything and communicating well, Dylan and Euan playing the full back roles brilliantly either side of them, with Will having a superb game in front of them in the holding midfield role, ably replaced by Joe later in the half, who continued his good work. Finn and Sammy were sharp in midfield, Sammy having a couple of chances to extend the scoreline thwarted by some good goalkeeping and Finn's one and two touch passing progressing the play with pace and opening up a couple of opportunities with some incisive through balls. Jack, Max and Warwick posed a real threat up front, although Jack's influence was increased when he moved more centrally and he scored a fantastic goal from just that sort of position with a low finish across the goalkeeper to make it 3-0. The fourth came shortly afterwards, from the best piece of individual skill in the game - Max picked the ball up in his own half drove forward, dribbled past 3 defenders and replicated his earlier finish with a very similar one, calmly dinking the ball over the goalkeeer to make it 4-0 at half time.

We discussed keeping the intensity up and the danger our opposition would pose after half time and so it proved. We had a great chance to make it 5-0 after Toby's superb run to receive the ball from Jack's pass opened our opponent's up, but the finish was saved by the goalkeeper. Moments later we had conceded - nothing Ben could do about a very good strike from our opposition, but we were sloppy giving the ball away and slow to react. An excellent finish from the TW Youth striker, who had been dangerous all game. 4-1. Meanwhile we had Connor making some positive forward runs from full back, one of which nearly created a chance for Toby but a defender's toe just nicked the ball away in time.

It was route 1 again for the 5th goal - a long clerarance bouncing over everyone and Jack bringing the ball down before emphatically striking it into the far corner for his second of the game. But immediately we conceded again - a frustrating goal from an aerial ball. Perhaps the intensity naturally dropped with the lead we had and the warm weather, but we were making some disappointing choices and looking indecisive and mentally tired. A sixth goal quashed any chance of a comeback, Dylan finishing well from Warwick's excellent lobbed pass and it could have been a couple more but for some stray finishing and good goalkeeping. And still time for TW Youth to score another goal, that was equally as disappointing to concede as the previous one - some indecision and chaotic defending that was completely at odds with the first half performance. One more chance for us to add to our tally, but alas not and the final whistle blew to signal the end of what was a generally successful morning, despite feeling a little disappointed with the second half performance and game management.

Over the course of 90 minutes, we saw some of the best football these boys have played and we had a cracking feel around the squad today - positive, hard working, everyone giving their all and some absolutely superb team goals and individual performances all over the pitch. If it had happened in reverse and we'd come from behind to score four in the second half, the boys would have gone home buzzing, so I'll ask them to try and remember that first half, to learn from what happened next and to be proud of how they've bounced back from a tough week and a tough 6 months in general, to play such good football today.

Man of the match today goes to Warwick, who was playing a lone striking role he's not been used to fulfilling for us, but due to Louis' injury, he did it today and did it well. His movement and ability to create space for others was excellent. Max and Will also deserve special mention for giving two of their strongest performances of the last few years. Well done all though - you were very, very good today.

Credit to TW Youth, who were excellent in the second half and were thoroughly welcoming hosts. A good game, well refereed and played in exactly the sort of spirit you want to see in youth football. On to next week, where we are due to face an U18 team from Eastbourne who we've never played before. Looking forward to it and hoping it will be as enjoyable as this morning, whatever the result.

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Sunday, August 30th @ Bennett 3G

Langton Green Phoenix 5 - 0 Rotherfield
(O.G, Max, Dylan, Warwick, Toby)

Briefly... a competitive game against a side we last played out a 2-2 draw with back in January in the Mid Sussex League. Really pleased with the way the boys looked after the ball today and the majority of our play off the ball was much improved too. A couple of cracking saves from Ben H in goal gave the lads a confidence-boosting clean sheet, some superb interplay between our forwards, solid defending from Tom and Owen and some excellent performances all over the pitch, with our midfield dictating large spells with real intelligence. Some excellent finishing too. Warwick deserves a particular mention for some superb link up play and proactive movement off the ball.

Well done all - we had some players missing today and the whole squad were called on to show what they can do. A couple of injuries were the only real downside - Louis, Max and Connor all being forced off the field. Hopefully we'll see them back to full fitness for next week's opener against Tunbridge Wells Youth.

Well done lads. Onwards.

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Sunday August 23rd @ Bennett 3G

Langton Green Phoenix 3 - 2 Crawley Down Gatwick (HT 3-0)
(Louis x 2, Sam)

So, back to it, with our first full pre-season friendly post-lockdown. Sanitising subs benches and goalposts, keeping 2 metres apart and having to remind the boys they can't pick the footballs up were never things we would have expected to be doing, even 6 months ago. The world has changed - and it's not lost on any of us that we are very fortunate to be in the position of being able to play football again at all.

The game kicked off at a good pace, with both teams creating early openings and keeping the ball well. CDG were comfortable on the ball and using the width of the huge 3G well and in terms of both possession and territory, were just shading the opening exchanges. Our lads showed real threat on the break though and the opening goal came from an early ball over the top, that Crawley Down cleared. The returning ball dropped to Sam though, who very intelligently lifted the ball back over the defence and goalie and into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

CDG came back strong, with more possession and a couple of long range efforts, one of which was very well taken, left footed, and despite the calm way in which Ben left it to go wide, didn't miss by much.

Our ball retention wasn't great, but we continued to defend well and play effectively on the break, with our full backs Stan and Jack getting forward well. A clever break down the left involving Warwick, Finn and Sam, saw Louis through on goal and a calm finish from him made it 2-0. With Ben G organising the midfield and Owen and Tom solid behind him, we were looking reasonably comfortable even with the lower amount of possession we had. The third came from one of the big positives of the opening 30 minutes - our pressing of the opposition defence when they had the ball was full of energy and better in terms of shape than in previous games, with Finn, Ben G and Sam backing the front three of Rami, Louis and Warwick better. We won the ball through exactly that and Louis was sent through on goal by Rami, possessing the composure to open his body up and strike a very good left footed shot past the onrushing goalkeeper and into the back of the net. 3-0. Sam nearly made it four with another attempted lob, but the goalkeeper saved well.

It was a scoreline that our finishing deserved, but our overall play didn't, with CDG keeping the ball better than we did.

In the interests of getting everyone some game time, we switched the team up with 4 simultaneous substitutions. Whether it was too many at once, whether it was some tiredness creeping in or the fact that the break came at the wrong time for a team who had just scored three goals, the first 30 minutes proved to be about as good as it got, despite Dylan and Will both putting in good performances in midfield, Evan slotting in well alongside Owen at centre back and Euan defending resolutely at right back.

A couple of silly tackles and we started giving away free kicks as well as territory, sinking deeper and deeper into our half, with the goal inevitably coming from one of those set pieces, given away on the edge of our box. 3-1 and CDG were right back in the game and most definitely on top. I was disappointed with how we handled the situation, but the whole point of these games is to learn, try things and see where we can improve, so it was an interesting situation to be in and has hopefully provided us with an opportunity to address a few things. When what we needed were calm heads and intelligent play, we went for the headless chicken approach, losing our composure and chasing the ball rather than covering the space. Because of that, gaps started opening up and our midfield couldn't get on the ball and dictate the play at all.

We also seemed to lose our ability to string more than 3 passes together and as legs got more tired, we looked decidedly second best and no longer even the same threat on the break we were earlier.

Having said all that, we still created 3 or 4 very good chances to score, but our finishing wasn't at the level it had been earlier in the game either, and as such we didn't manage to add to the early flurry of goals. The route 1 ball over the top was looking like our most likely source of a goal, which is never how we want to be playing. A switch to 3-5-2 looked shambolic, which in the boys' defence, isn't a formation they are used to, with several players not looking clear on what their roles were. Something else for us coaches to look at working on in the future.

In the midst of that, CDG scored again with 15 minutes to go and despite us being on the back foot in the final exchanges, it's credit to our boys for holding on with some brave defending and for not giving up. Ben H made several excellent saves in goal and Ben G produced a phenomenal goal line clearance to keep his team in the lead. Returning to our usual formation wth Euan coming on at right back and Stan shifting to left back, gave us a much better balance and shape, but it still looked more likely that we would concede than score, so well done for hanging in there boys.

A couple of unneccessary yellow cards and a nasty looking injury to Will gave an unfortunate end to what had been an interesting game. Hope he's okay.

Good luck to CDG on their forthcoming season, thank you to Warwick for the very tasty birthday chocolate donuts and thanks to Brian for very kindly refereeing and explaining a few decisions to the boys afterwards. Onwards.