U11: Chipping Norton Swifts vs Charlbury Town Youth
By Luke Newman
Swifts couldn't capitalize on their big win on the opening day; as they were made to rue both missed chances and a criminally slow start in their first ever home 9v9 game.
Swifts were without two names for the game; with both Ben Seward and Toby Norman absent for the local 'derby'. Swifts opted to set up in their unorthodox 1-2-4-1 formation, which served them well at Witney Vikings. Oliver Hayes was in goal, with Beau Lawrence acting as the lone defender. In front of him, Joe Walsh and Oliver Edwards made a holding midfield partnership, to allow a flat four of Henry Clements, Alex Goode, Jacob Kedward and Theo Petrosanu to support a lone striker, who from the start, was Daniel McAndrew.
As is historically the case when it comes to not just this team, but the entirety of the club - the weekend of the Chippy Mop Fair is somewhat of a curse. Whether this was the reason or not, Swifts just were not awake in the first half. They weren't at the races, and their usual committed, high-pressing style was non-existent. The Formation with just one man at the back was fully exploited in the first half - as Swifts failed to press high up the pitch, where the vast majority of bodies were positioned. Charlbury took the lead no more than 3 minutes into the game - the lively number 5 was allowed to waltz into the box unopposed, and finish strongly into the far corner.
Jacob Kedward was then needed to sweep the ball off of the goal-line from a Charlbury corner, before Alex Goode had two decent half-chances for Swifts, which both went begging. Soon after Charlbury had scored again; the ball sailed past the entire midfield with no touch, and Charlbury's number 5 got to the forward pass first, just nicking it away from Beau Lawrence, who was the final defender. All that was left was a comfortable side foot into the corner, which rolled into the net.
But neither of the early Charlbury goals woke Swifts up. They were not their usual selves at all as a goal kick bounced over the heads of FIVE swifts players, straight into the path of the same man, who secured his hat-trick with yet another easy finish when one-on-one. It was going from bad to worse, Swifts looked bereft of confidence, work-rate, and now belief - as the Charlbury number 5 made it FOUR for both himself and his team before the half-time break, stealing the ball from Joe Walsh on the left touchline before skipping past three non-tackles from Swifts men as he wandered into the box. Take nothing away from the finish though - a lovely lifted effort into the top corner.
After a strikingly honest and stern half time team-talk - in which a lot of the boys themselves identified not only problems with their performance, but also solutions on how to improve and try and get back into the game - Swifts came out for the second half not completely back to their best, but at least starting to look much more like the Swifts team we have all become accustomed to seeing over the last few seasons. They began to press the Charlbury defence and midfield, won the ball back in more advanced areas of the pitch, and also got shots away.
Not too long in the second half had gone and Swifts had pulled one back. Oliver Edwards, who was a driving force for the team in the second half, played a ball through the centre into Alex Goode. His first touch may have been a little heavier than he hoped, but on the turn, it allowed him to extend the ball ahead of the Charlbury central defender, so he could run clear of the back line and through on goal. This time Goode had the time and space to shift the ball over onto his right foot, and finish low into the left corner.
They could have had another just minutes later - Joe Walsh chased down a long ball into the corner, and did well to hold off two men before setting the ball back for Oliver Edwards - he crossed with his second touch into the penalty area, where it was met by a clever flick by Theo Petrosanu, which looped over the goalkeeper, before striking the crossbar, and being cleared.
Such was Swifts improved second half performance, that despite still being nowhere near their best, they were dominant, and Charlbury offered precious little in an attacking sense - another huge chance went begging for Chippy when a corner from Oliver Edwards dropped to Henry Clements no more than 3 yards from goal. He couldn't make a telling contact on the ball and Charlbury cleared on the goal-line not once but twice, to keep the hosts at bay.
But Charlbury still had one, not-so-secret weapon. Their number 5 went on a quite ridiculous run from defence - skipping past 3 players to receive a throw-in, before cutting inside to beat the last defender, and finish well once again. Swifts could have given in completely after this sucker-punch of a goal, but to their credit, they did keep going and grabbed another consolation goal before the final whistle; Oliver Edwards once again won the ball in midfield for Swifts before rolling the ball into the path of Joe Walsh. He still had plenty to do but turned his man, cut inside, and floated a wonderful effort into the top corner.
Lessons learned for Swifts, but despite the admittedly poor first half display, there are positives they can take from the game. They will look to take certain things from the second half showing and take them into both training and their next game, which sees them travel to face Charlton and District (September 22nd).