U15 Wildcats

Match Report - Sunday Sept 15th, KGLFL Div 1, Venue Benett 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  :)