U15 Wildcats

Match Report - Sunday October 6th, KGLFL Cup, Round 1, Venue HSBC Beckenham

Ex-Blues 1 - 3 Langton Green (Gale, Hagger 2)

Wild weather overnight gave way to clear skies by mid-morning so the girls travelled to Beckenham grateful to be playing at all. A first cup tie of the season gave the chance to put league disappointments to one side, and find a new focus. With a few absentees there was a debut for Abi F on the wing, and for Georgie on the bench.

Things started well and Jessie had the ball in the net early, put through by Maisie - but the linesman's flag cancelled the goal out. It felt like it would be a question of time before the girls went ahead, but then the Ex-Blues started finding gaps and opportunities when they broke quickly, and then after some indecisive Langton clearances the Ex-Blues went ahead with a fine shot from the edge of the box. It wasn't their only chance of the half as they attacked confidently. Meantime the Langton girls were anything but confident, as a cloud of 'here we go again' descended on them. That feeling was added to when Jessie rounded the keeper only to side-foot wide, then Macie and Mollie also missed the target with decent chances. Even more frustrations were piled on when an excellent corner from Maise was headed strongly against the underside of the bar by Amelia, and then Hannah poked the rebound into the grateful arms of the goalkeeper. 

For a team that has had chances to win its previous 3 games, but won none, it was easy to be in a bad place by half time. The players wanted to be told they were doing well, the coaches wanted a reality check. Mia and Amelia B had played well, but most of the team knew there were things that could be done better. It was time to step up. The pattern of play in the second half had recurring themes. The girls tackled harder, defended more fiercely, and started to make inroads when they released Abi F down the right wing. Her pace was a constant threat, and Phoebe kept her supplied with good passes to run onto.

Then Hannah stepped into to intercept a through ball and cleared long down the middle. Jessie avoided the offside flag by starting 3 yards behind the centre back, but won the race, dribbled into the box and nudged the ball gently past the helpless keeper. 1-1. Finally something had gone right and the clouds of doubt seemed to lift. With 15 minutes to go Maisie chased a back pass and pressured the keeper into trying to dribble her way out of trouble. No chance. Maisie block-tackled the clearance into the empty net, 2-1.

The opposition had a great chance to equalise immediately but the shot went just wide. After that the defence dealt well with the pressure. Hannah, Nellie, Phoebe and Macie all made big tackles, and Mia and Amelia fought over inch of territory. With 5 minutes left Amelia won another thumping header, and Mia escaped down the left wing. She cut into the box, looked up and found Maisie who coolly rounded the keeper and rolled the ball into the empty net; a nice goal with plenty of good elements to it.

For the final few minutes it was possible to actually enjoy the end of a game ! The girls had earned the praise they got at the final whistle, and reminded themselves how to win. Next up is the County Cup...

Match Report - Sunday Sept 29th, KGLFL Div 1, Venue Bennett 3g

Langton Green 1 - 3 West Kent (Tickner)

Two weeks ago it was so hot there was a drinks break after 20 minutes. Today it was wet windy and miserable. West Kent were the visitors, and they played with the wind at their backs in the first half. The Langton girls were better organised than in previous weeks, and defended valiantly. Abi N in goal had a couple of mad moments coming off her line but also showed she was determined to work on that part of her game. Another plus was that several of the girls were showing a willingness to head the ball more. What wasnt quite so good was the accuracy of passing once the ball had been won, so some good openings went to waste.

But, 0-0 at half time with the wind at their backs for the next 40 minutes was a good place to be. Hopes were high. The game was even for the next 10-15 minutes but then, like last week, a girl got a ball in the face, and, like last week, everyone switched off for a few minutes while West Kent broke away to score twice. For all their possession it was crazy to be 2-0 down, and West Kent were fighting like mad to hold their lead. 

Maisie's inswinging corner hit the bar, and Mollie stabbed the ball home with plenty enough time left for a fightback. Soon after, Jessie went clear through but was crowded out when the equaliser beckoned. More chances came and went, and for a third time West Kent scored on a breakaway. It was almost worse except that Abi made a great penalty save, but it was too late to come back.

Three league games have come and gone. Across 6 halves the girls have won 2 and drawn 1, and been the better side for at least 4 of them. But that counts for nothing if they don't play hard for all 80 minutes. There is no lack of ability, so results will come, but a steely determination is required to play against the best sides. The next two weeks see games in the two cup competitions and that is a chance to get the momentum the team needs.

Match Report - Sunday Sept 22nd, KGLFL Div 1, Venue K Sports, Ditton

Maistone United 6 - 4 Langton Green (Gale 3, Hagger)

There are days when words will fail to do justice to the events of the day. This will be one. Langton Green travelled to league-favourites Maidstone, took a 4 goal lead, and lost. That's the blunt version.

The longer version involves a first 20 minutes where the girls destroyed the home side. Aside from scoring 4 goals they missed another 4 golden chances. Jessie G kept breaking clear down the middle and scoring, with excellent assists from Macie, AbiO and Maisie. Maisie also scored as the Maidstone keeper fell and was injured. At that point it was hard to imagine it could be a bad day. Maidstone had dragged a goal back when the girls took too long to put the ball out of danger, but the clear turning point of the game was freakish in the extreme. Sophie came off her line to kick a ball clear, but scored a direct hit of the ball onto Nellie's face. Nellie hit the ground in great pain, and it was almost a secondary thing that the ball karoomed away, fully 25 yards into the empty net. Tough on the team, tougher still on Nellie.

Reeling from the misfortune all focus seemed to be lost and Maidstone took full advantage, heading home a corner to make it 3-4 at half time. It was still a lead, but the atmosphere was one of impending doom. The girls clung on in the second half, but always struggled with long and high through balls, whereas at the other end Maidstone seemed to win all the necessary headers. A breakaway made it 4-4 and all of a sudden a draw seemed to best to wish for. Maisie almost regained the lead, twice, both times with good free kicks, but with ten minutes left aother ball wasnt cleared and it was 5-4, and soon after 6-4. Game over.

It's all but impossible to say anything to make it feel better. Credit to Maidstoone for coming back, but it was a desperately unlucky twist of fate that changed the game. The girls will have to deal with the sense of 'what might have been'. Jessie has twice scored a hat-trick in the first two games, but has not yet been on the winning side. There has been loads to be proud of, but little to show for the effort.

That is sport. The joy of winning is only really experienced in the fullest sense by those who have known the agony of defeat. The girls have just encountered the agony. The wining will come. 

Sunday Sept 15th, KGLFL Div 1, Venue Bennett 3g

Langton Green Wildcats 3 - 3 Danson Sports (Gale 3)

What a way to debut ! Just over 6 months since the idea of an u15 Langton Green side, after a lot of talking, meeting, friendlies, fiestas, it was finally time for a league game. The weather was as perfect as September can offer, and the opposition arrived with a high reputation and a 6-2 win in their first game the week before.

It was blazing hot so very much a case of needing a squad of 14 than a team of 11. The formation, tactics, and rotation were discussed beforehand (in the shade), and things started well when Abi O almost gave the girls the lead but her shot was inches over the bar. And then it all went wrong. As Mike Tyson observed 'everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face', and for the first 25 minutes that is what Danson did to the Langton Green girls. In no time at all it was 3-0 to the visitors as the Wildcats were run over, as defensive errors were punished, and as heads and work-rate dropped.

Luckily the teams had agreed to a 'water-break time-out' half way through the half which gave a chance to talk and regroup. Jessie G was sent through by a long ball, and finished calmly to make the score less one-sided, after which Danson had a goal disallowed, and missed another chance, then Hannah really did get smacked in the nose and had to come off for repairs. Half time, 1-3.

There are times to talk tactics at half time, and to tinker with team shape and formations. This was not one of those. Half time was a hard conversation about hunger and desire. Is there a reason girls from Langton Green and Tunbridge Wells have to be too nice, too easy to roll over, to not be able to compete ? Was there a reason not to match Danson's determination in the tackle, was it possible to find the desire to be first to the ball, and to want to win badly enough to give everything? The girls said they could toughen up, try harder. The key was who scored next...

It was that girl Jessie Gale again....a quickly taken long throw enabled her to dance through, and cut inside to finish from close range, 2-3. It was the foot in the door the girls needed, and the game changed. The second half then followed a clear pattern. Wildcats bombing forward chasing the equaliser, Danson on the back foot but incredibly dangerous on the break. A great piece of individual skill saw Danson hit the bar. That might have ended the game. On another break down the left only brilliant defending from Phoebe kept the game alive. Abi N in goal overcame the ghosts of the first half erorrs to leave her line bravely and intercept through balls. (Next time she shouldnt stop to put her hat back on before diving to make the next save).

Importantly the appetite to compete was there. Girls who usually duck were putting headers in. Tackles were won. Danson midfielders were having to deal with two Langton girls at a time, instead of having space. (It's worth mentioning that Hannah and Amelia B were brave in the air from start to finish, but it was great to see others follow their example.)

And finally, with 2 minutes left, after some intense pressure, Jessie completed her hat-trick, to roar from the crowd and all those on the pitch. A hugely deserved equaliser, 3-3. There was still time for some frenzied moments but the game ended in a draw, to great applause from all who were watching. 

It was only 1 point gained, but it was a big point made by the girls to each other. They had dug deep on a very hot day, and found the inner strength to fight back. It was a great game, but will also serve as a platform for the season.

Match Report - Saturday June 22nd, Paddock Wood Fiesta

The Wildcats travelled to Paddock Wood on a hot sunny afternoon to take on the challenge of the u15 ladies fiesta. A part of the challenge would be that the squad comprised 3 x u13s, 5 x u14s, and no u15s, so certainly an age and size disadvantage, which they would have to make up for with talent and effort and determination.

The first game is often crucial in a fiesta campaign, because in a 10 minute format it's possible to dominate and not score, or, worse, make one mistake that there is no time to redeem. Paddock Wood, the hosts were the first opponents, and the first half was a classic case of domination without goals. Abi O might have grabbed the lead on three occasions, so might Maisie or Amy - defensively Sophie was untroubled, protected by Hanna, Amelia B and Jmac. But the game ticked on and the sideline anxiety grew. Macie added some good width in the second half, and finally, with a small deflection, Maisie grabbed the lead. A 1-0 lead made for the perfect start.

In game number two versus the Anchorian Angels it was Amy who delivered the opening goal and things were looking very good. Maisie hit the post with a chance that would have ended the game, but with a minute to go a long Anchorian clearance rolled up the right wing. Sophie came to clear but hesitated and in that moment a striker snuck in and squared the ball, which Hannah was unlucky to see deflect into her own net of her outstretched leg. It was too late to respond, and in a flash 6 points in the bag, and a perfect start, had turned into 4. 

This was compounded in the next match by a 0-0 draw versus Lewes. Each of Abi O, Maisie and Amy created a chance for themselves to take a first half lead, after which the Wildcats dodged a bullet when Lewes hit the post. Maisie hit the bar in the second half, and for the second game in a row it was a draw that could have been a win. Not the end of the world, but it made the upcoming mountain a lot steeper to climb.

Up next were Maidstone Utd, who had won all their games and clearly strong. This game was much like the previous two, as The Langton side spent most of the game threatening to score, but not quite succeeding. Abi came close, then Amy, and then Maisie twice, but late in the game a Maidstone free kick squirmed across the goal and their striker got to the rebound first. So, for the third game in a row it was hard to criticise the performance but easy to be disappointed with the result.

Sometimes that is how it goes in fiestas. You go home wondering how it didnt quite work out. Paddock Wood could eliminate the Wildcats if they won their final game, but instead lost heavily. This kept the door open. The last game was a 'must-win' against Ifield. And....not for the first time the girls battered their opponents' goal but could not score. Some great goalkeeping added to the sense that it was not meant to be. Abi O was injured after going bravely after a goalscoring chance, and time ticked away. Finally Maisie was rewarded for all her efforts and scored. Crucially she iced the cake with a second goal soon after. The Wildcats had 8 points, and a positive goal difference. Anchorians would need to beat the hitherto unbeaten Maidstone by 2 goals to force a penalty-shoot-out playoff. They battled hard but drew 0-0 and the Wildcats, had, despite all the fustrations, found their way to the semi-finals. 

The other half of Maidstone had won their group, which set up a high class contest. As in the group stages on the balance of play the Langton girls were looking most likely to score, but the attacking threat from Maidstone was apparent. Once Sophie had to deal with it, and once Hannah made a crucial tackle. In this game the Cats were set up more defensively with Amelia B joining Hannah, and their heading ability dealt with most of the threat. Sophie's contribution in this game grew and grew. Her distribution to Maisie kept setting up good attacks, and after a deflected shot she made an awesome save to keep the scores level. At full time it was 0-0. Next up was a period of 'golden goal' but still no-one could put the game to bed and so it was on to penalties.

A large part of penalty shoot outs is attitude and belief. The girls were asked to be brave, be focused, and to trust in their skills. Maisie, who had led from the front was asked to set the tone, which she did (despite taking her penalty for a yard too far back). Sophie very nearly saved the first Maidstone penalty, before Amy scored hers, and the next Maidstone kick went high over the bar. This gave Sophie the chance to step up and win the shoot-out but her kick was saved, and the next Maidstone girl levelled the scores, 2-2. Sudden death.....Hannah scored, they equalised to stay alive, Amelia scored, they equalised. Then Macie saw her kick saved and it was match point to Maidstone, but the turn of their goalkeeper to take a kick. Sophie saved it to keep the Cats alive (though it wasnt clear how many of their 9 lives they had used up!). 4-4 and back to the top of the order.....Maisie scored again, Amy scored again, but so did Maidstone. Sophie's turn now, with all the nerves that come with having missed the first time around. She delivered. Maidstone equalised, Hannah made it 8-7, Maidstone scored, 8-8. Amelia made it 9-8 and finally Maidstone cracked and shot wide. Incredible. It's hard to think of a penalty shoot out that goes 8 kicks deep into sudden death, and to score 9/11 under such pressure was awesome.

Having climbed that mountain the final beckoned, against Lewes Black, who had defeated the other Maidstone side in their semi final. When you have survived an epic shoot-out you start to feel indestructible, and the confidence was flowing. Amy skimmed a brilliant shot millimetres over the bar, and Maisie was tormenting Lewes defenders with fast feet and aggressive running. Jmac was working her socks off as she had all day, whilst Amelia and Hannah locked down the defence. And then....the moment: Maisie spun her defender and broke down the left, cut inside and passed the ball in off the far post. An utterly brilliant goal, when it was most needed, in the final. 

The lead taken it was time to fight to keep it. Abi O came on, despite still hurting and made a crucial last ditch block, whilst Hannah and Amelia stood strong. The final whistle came, and the girls were cup-final winners. All the hurdles had been cleared. When it really mattered they had delivered. Lewes were very sporting in defeat - their coach shook hands and asked for a pre-season friendly...

Winning isn't everything, but it is a good habit to get into. The girls will gain in terms of confidence, team-bonding and the lessons that come with doing things the hard way but persevering. Macie collected the trophy, with big smiles all round. Langton Green is on the map  :)