School Football Match

(Under 10s) Match Report

The (real) football season is in full swing and Daniel is once again playing for his school on Saturdays. Here is the match report from last weekend.

Reddam United vs Waverley Old Boys (and Girls!)
Date: Saturday 21st May 2022.
Venue: Waverley Park synthetic pitch

Off field gossip….

Following a curtailed fixture list last year there was much activity in the close season transfer market. Basically – not to put too fine a point on it – that saw all the best players moving to Reddam City while the (let’s say) not so good players ended up at Reddam United. This unbalanced approach will undoubtedly lead to one team (City) winning the league. But at the other end of the spectrum fans were left wondering if United would be involved in a bottom of the table dog-scrap for survival.

Recent results had seen such predictions bear fruit. City winning by double figure score lines while conceding nothing. United on the other hand had been struggling to even field a team and unable to put the ball in the ‘onion bag’. (That’s the net, or goals, for those of you unfamiliar with the football vernacular.)

First Half

This was the first game of the season that United had fielded a full-strength squad. That is to say, all members were present and correct and ready to play. There would be no borrowing of players from the opposition ranks today (LOL). The away game at Waverley was highly anticipated.

Despite all of the players showing interest as to which position they were expected to play, the game soon descended into chaos. Defence, attack and midfield became meaningless words as everyone but the goalkeepers followed the ball like a flock of sheep being herded by a well trained border collie. There was little action outside of the swarm-like huddle for several minutes but at least the United team were trying their best. The home team were being reduced to only a few attempts at goal and it looked as if the United side were determined to keep the score as low as possible this week.

About half-way through the first half the home team somehow got the ball free from ‘the swarm’ and while the United defence was in disarray the home team scored. Louis, who had been solid in goal, could do nothing to stop it. A cheer went up from the home supporters.

Straight after the goal the Waverley side did a complete change of players. All of their out-field players ran off still celebrating their goal, to be replaced by six fresh pairs of legs. It was like an American Football game where they have different teams for offence and defence (and field goal attempts etc…). Such was the size of their squad. And it seemed that the rules allowing constant limitless substitutions helped… Now that was funny!

United supporters began to think that another rout was pertaining. But capitulation was not in the United team’s vocabulary. No sir! Not this week. This full squad decided to make a battle of it. Urged on by their fans they began to believe in themselves. Sophie and Edie always looking to go on surging runs whenever they could get the ball. Daniel, Charlie and Max managing to confuse the Waverley attackers every time they tried to go forward. Sheer guts and determination were about to bring some success.

Most of the rest of the first half was spent with all of the players still crowding around the ball like a swarm of bees. Then suddenly out of nowhere, a rare attack down the right flank saw a United throw. As the ball flew in over heads it ran into the Waverley penalty area. Then completely out of the blue, United were thrown an unlikely lifeline when one of the Waverley defenders inexplicably picked up the ball. “Handball!” came the cries from the crowd. “Penalty!” shouted (at least) one hopeful parent.

The referee seemed confused. Undecided. Then eventually gave the penalty. Archie, who had been hitting the ball fairly effectively throughout, stepped up to take the spot kick. The crowd went silent in anticipation and for a brief moment time seemed to stand still. A relatively short run up, he struck the ball cleanly and low, to the goalkeeper’s left. It was a textbook penalty kick, but the keeper was equal to it. What a save! The home fans cheered. The United supporters were inconsolable. So close to levelling the score; yet so far.

In previous games this may have weakened the United team’s reserve. But not this week. If anything, it only served to galvanise their individual performances. Damage limitation was not the only option.

Lucy became the proverbial rock at the back, ensuring the United goal would not be threatened for the remainder of the half. Bravely and intelligently holding her ground and making some great tackles whenever the home team surged forward. Several times Lucy held up the Waverley attacks giving enough time for Daniel and Charlie to rush back in support. Some excellent tackles all around frustrated the Waverley team. Archie and Winston both tried to create attacking options but the swarm of players proved too much.

Half time score; Waverley Old Boys (& Girls) 1 – Reddam United 0

Second Half

The second half started off with more of the same. Chaotic swarming of the ball with the odd players trying to break away. Sophie, Louis and Edie did their best to attack while Daniel, Charlie and Archie battled away relentlessly to win the ball. Lucy and Max helped to keep Waverley away from their goals. Whenever the home team broke through Winston was proving unbeatable in goal during the second half, making several key saves. This was clearly beginning to frustrate the home team who were trying to add to their one goal advantage. As the home team looked unlikely to score another goal United found a new lease of life. The United team were suddenly in the ascendency.

At first it seemed to shock them until they realised that the game was actually within their grasp. They began to play ‘the beautiful game’ as it was meant to be. It was not exactly teamwork. That term would imply mastery of enough skill and knowledge of the game to work as a unit. Let’s not get carried away here! But this reporter definitely witnessed a resurgence in team spirit. There was a will to win. A fresh desire to fight for the ball. And it almost paid dividends.

With only minutes remaining Edie broke clear of the defenders. There was no support. Or was there? She did the right thing and charged headlong towards the Waverley goal. Just as the defenders were closing in, she shot long, hard and low. She hadn’t seen Max charging up in support to her right. Neither had the defence. The ball flew/spun/bobbled (and possibl a few other things) just to the wrong side of the left goalpost. Max, who had been bravely covering all areas of the pitch, suddenly popped up at the far post almost getting a toe to it before it rolled behind for a goal kick. It was agonisingly close.

The crowd behind the goal gasped (some groaned) in disbelief. ‘How close can you go without scoring?’ they yelled (or at least thought). And what a great goal it would have been. It was all tales of ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’. But sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Waverley Old Boys (& Girls) seemed to be doing their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But that viewpoint would be doing a disservice to the rejuvenated passion being demonstrated by United players. They could sense victory. Or at least the could sense not being thrashed this week! As the clock ticked on there was even a hint of a goal. Even a possible draw! The closing minutes were as tense as a suspension bridge cable. Minutes passed agonisingly slowly for the home team. Whereas for the United faithful it was as if the clock had grown wings. Time was running out. Then after all the excitement the game was suddenly over. And what a game! Low on goals, high on drama. Exactly the kind of all action spectacle to keep the fans coming back for more.

Full-time Score; Waverley Old Boys (& Girls) 1 – Reddam United 0.

Post game…

Not so much a moral victory for Reddam United; but almost a perfect draw.

After the final whistle you could have been forgiven for thinking that the United team had just won the Champions’ League final. Rejoicing in the fact that they had almost pulled off the impossible comeback. The losing team did not want to leave the scene of their glorious defeat and continued playing with two makeshift teams. Many players had to be (more or less) dragged off the field by parents who had other things to do for the rest of the day. Ah the enthusiasm of youth! If only it could be bottled. Priceless!

What will their reaction be if they ever manage to score? We can only begin to imagine. Dream even. (Pleeeeaase!!!! Just one goal… It’s not too much to ask, is it?)

Well, here’s hoping for better things to come. Next up, a tricky home game at Queens Park this coming weekend against the much-heralded Maccabi Dragons. Will the newly revived United team be able to douse the Dragons’ fire? We will know soon enough.

A final thought: One can’t help thinking that the transfer of just one key player from the all-conquering City side would make all the difference.

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