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17 March 2010

U14 Match Reports: Pure Vs GreenHouse Bethwin B and Pure Vs Sporting Duet

Well,well,well……what a change we have seen in our recent performances.  Last week we played a strong Bethwin B.  They are currently second in the league and have been playing together for several years.  It was our first double banker so we knew it was going to be tough.  The first half of the first game was probably the best football we have played so far this season.  We were every bit as good as the opposition. We have clearly learned a lot of lessons.  We were getting to the ball before it bounced, marking well and using our wingers as they are supposed to be used.  Having our new signing Tish on the wing gave us a new edge with his lightening speed and up front we had a new big man Reece.  These new players immediately linked up well to create a real threat up front that had been lacking earlier in the season.  Bethwin however were not to be intimidated and they kept the pressure on.  A few minutes before half time Usamah made one of the best defensive blocks of the season with a last second lunge to keep what looked like a certain goal out of the net.  However, the pressure from this experienced side soon paid off and with two quick goals we were very suddenly 2-0 down.  We conceded very early in the second half and from there on it was an uphill battle.  But we did not crumble and we always looked like a threat going forwards but the final score was 3-0 to Bethwin.


So, how would we cope in the second leg.  I knew we had the ability but we had to keep our focus.   A problem that we have suffered this season is losing our concentration at key moments.  Four or five times this year we have struggled and struggled to score a goal and have then conceded a goal only seconds later.  I have also noticed that often after conceding a goal we then tend to concede another straight away.  This is all about not concentrating on our roles on the pitch so I was curios to see how we would respond to a 3-0 loss.  


Well, respond we did.  Although we went 3-1 behind the team dug deep and finally all our Thursday fitness training started to pay off.  With 10 minutes to go we got one back to make it 3-2 with a strong run and pounce from Kacim who yet again played like a hero and was worth 3 of Bethwin anyday.  It was clear to me that our opposition were starting to struggle in their fitness but Pure kept on going.  The team concentrated and defended several more attacks from Bethwin with a great save from Uwais and a solid performance at the back.  With 5 minutes to go Uwais kicked the ball out and our opposition made a deadly mistake.   They let it bounce.  And bounce it did, straight over their heads on to the sprinting feet of Mr Shah.  Could he hold his nerve?  I have waited all season for him to find the back of the net and I could only pray that having already scored a simple goal earlier in the same game his confidence would be high.  Yusuf took his time did what he is paid to do (yes, 2 meals at Chicken Cottage I believe!!), and slotted the ball so sweetly passed the keeper.  The celebrations started and the rest of my hair fell out and then….no…it couldn’t be. No way!  The flag was up for off-side. The ref looked around and paused.  And then he saw a sight which will make him shudder for years to come and may just have helped him to make his decision….the sight of Coach Abdullah, face as red as a beetroot, eyes bulging like a mad man’s, arms gesticulating like a windmill, charging on to the pitch to confront the ref.  Perhaps during this terrifying image the ref saw his life flash before his eyes and perhaps he had already made his decision but he did the best thing I have seen this season.  He pointed to the centre spot and it was 3-3.  We had done what we have never done before.  Called on our fitness, training, concentration and skill to fight our way back from what looked like a lost game. When the final whistle blew it may have been a draw on paper but it was a victory in our hearts and as I watched the boys, nay, the men, walk off the pitch, I knew we had crossed a vital bridge in the development of our team.


And so……


To this week.  Another double banker against a team that had left a nasty scar on our collective team consciousness.  Sporting Duet, who we played earlier in the year and lost to in the final seconds of a hard fought game, are a well drilled, technically excellent team.  Deadly from set plays, they may not be big but in my opinion they play the nicest looking football in our league.  The team we met have been training together since 2004 so I knew it was going to be tough.  We had a good squad despite the absence of Reece but with Mustafa and newly signed Shaheim available I felt we had a good chance.  Well, it wasn’t pretty.  We struggled to find the wingers as we had done against Bethwin and I don’t think we put more than 3 passes together, but we did work hard.  We marked well and they were utterly unable to penetrate at the back.   We kept up the pressure with Yusuf A, Shaheim, Abdul Hakim and Tish working the midfield and finally we started to get the ball through to our strikers.  About half way through the first half our tactics finally paid off and with a concerted attack from Kacim and Yusuf A, Yusuf Shah was presented with a tap in which he finished in style.  Twas 1-0 to us.  At half time we knew it was going to be tough and I told the team that we had to watch out for their set plays.  Sure enough, despite defending well for most of the 2nd half,  a few minutes from full time and a long free kick found an unmarked player at the back right post.  A simple but classy header across the goal left an easy header for the Frenchies and it was 1-1 which ended up being the final score.  I know it hurt being ahead for most of the game and then ending up with a draw, but I was pleased with our overall performance.   


But another lesson learned by all I hope.  I am still waking up in a sweat and calling out for my mummy because of the goal we conceded a few weeks ago when 7 of our players were in the box and 1 of theirs yet he managed to evade marking as if he was the invisible man and scored a simple goal as if we weren’t there.  If we like pain and disappointment then we will taste plenty more of it if we don’t do the basics and that means making sure every man in the box is marked for corners and free kicks. Its quite simple.  If you are on the pitch for a corner, throw-in or free kick and you are not marking someone, then you are as useful as a chocolate fireguard.  MARK MARK MARK! Or get used to sitting on the bench (if we had one!).


So on to match 2.  I knew after last week that we were fit enough but we needed to pass the ball better than in the 1st leg and get it out to our wingers.  A few minutes into the 1st half our defence was obliterated by a great ball and a quick turn and suddenly their striker was through on goal.  Despite a desperate slashing tackle from Usamah which thankfully missed the player as it would certainly have been a red card, their striker was now one-on-one with Uwais.  But the training paid off.  The message I have been yelling at Uwais for 11 games finally seemed to take effect.  He flew off his line like a charging bull and headed fearlessly and at speed straight for their striker who, like most strikers will when faced with a nutty charging goal keeper, lost his nerve and shot directly into Uwais.  A brilliant save indeed.  However, despite Uwais’ heroics, just a few moments later an awkward bouncing ball got through our defence again and after an untidy run we conceded a goal.  1-0 to the frenchies!


But I knew after last week that unlike earlier in the season we no longer lose heart after a goal and only a few minutes later we did what we are supposed to do.  The ball came out from the back, Al-Harith played it back to the midfield who passed it to the left wing where a wirey whirlwind was waiting.  This man missile took off down the pitch with only one aim in his sights.  Nobody was going to catch him.  The only question was, where would the ball end up?  And where did it end up?  A Tish torpedo into the bottom left and we were back on equal terms.  Twas 1-1. 


Half time again and we knew the second half would be hard.  Both teams had fought like mad and it would be a hard loss for either one.  Despite a few close calls at both ends and some great defending from Muhammed, Hudhafah and Junaid,  neither team were able to score again and at the final whistle the points were shared again.  I would like to name all the players this week as I think everyone did their bit and worked hard and I was proud of you all.  A great first game from Shaheim and Yusuf A worked well in the midfield but Mustafa at right back was something extra special this week and man of the match goes to him


I am really pleased with our progress.  Let me point something out here as a way of demonstrating our progress.  In our first 6 games of the season we secured only 1 point with 5 losses and 1 draw.  That’s 1 point from 6 games.  But in our second 6 games we have won 1, drawn 3 and lost 2 earning 6 points from 6 games and we are still only at the beginning of this team’s development.  I have said all along that from what I have seen we can beat any of the teams in our league and next Saturday we will have to do our best to prove it as we meet Bec Utd who are top of the table.  It will be a hard game be sure of that, but if we do things right, if we work like mad, if we DON’T PANIC, we CAN get some points from Bec


I think that no mater what happens for the rest of this season, the future is bright for this squad and we can look forward to making a serious challenge next season for the league and perhaps, who knows, maybe even some silverware!


So in honour of our man of the match, its shish kebab-bye from me.


Coach Rahim.


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