After the initial warm up, the boys - a full complement of 10 - were ready to go to defend their record of being unbeaten in 2018 and not conceding a goal in four matches. It was not going to be easy though, with our visitors coming out on top when the teams met earlier in the season, so it was going to be a tough game ahead for the Stingrays.
Captains for the day were Freddie G and Ollie W - with Freddie taking the armband in the first half and meeting the opposition captain for the pre-match coin toss.
With Freddie winning the toss, the Stingrays lined up to kick off.
The early exchanges were pretty even, with no real chances for either team, both defending well throughout the team.
Both teams were working hard from front to back, with Oliver R and George W for the Stingrays giving the opposition no clear chances and Sam S, Ollie W and Spencer S working together to support each other in the midfield battle. Ryan E was working tirelessly as usual leading the line, and after 11 minutes, it was Ryan's efforts which created the opening for the Stingrays. Carrying the ball down the left hand side, Ryan clipped in a cross to the far post where Spencer S was waiting to hit a perfect first time volley which gave the goalkeeper no chance. 1-0 Stingrays.
Two minutes later it was the same combination, except this time Spencer was the provider. With Spencer playing the ball forward, Ryan nicked the ball off and then went past the last defender, finishing by calmly placing the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net. 2-0 Stingrays.
Substitutes were made soon after with George D coming into defense, and Christian J and Jasiu C into midfield.
All seamlessly got into the game, in particular Jasiu C who showed a real determination throughout the game to work hard to track back and be tougher in the challenges, often coming out on top with the ball and playing a fine pass to a teammate to kick off another Stingrays attack.
With the Stingrays threatening to put the game out of site, the opposition got back into the game and pulled one back on 21 minutes, being a little quicker to the loose ball in the Stingrays penalty box from a corner to prod the ball home - the first goal the Stingrays have conceded in over 250 minutes of football.
Further exchanges were even between both teams, but no further goals were added and half time came. 2-1 to the Stingrays.
The half-time chat was really to carry on as we were, but with maybe being a little quicker in shutting down the opposition in and around the penalty box.
With half time refreshments finished, the boys returned to the pitch, with Ryan E putting on the goalkeeper gloves, and Freddie G leading the line.
The boys lined up and Tollesbury re-started with Ollie W taking the armband to lead the team.
It was the visitors who came out the stronger, putting pressure on the Stingrays, creating chances to get themselves back into the game.
The Stingrays then started to work their way back into the game, working hard and ensuring they kept their positions to even up the balance of play.
The visitors though drew level on 15 minutes with another penalty box scramble resulting with the opposition putting the ball into the back of the net.
Three minutes later, with the Stingrays a little shell shocked by the equalising goal, two Tollesbury forwards were left unmarked in the box and a simple through ball left them with only the goalkeeper to beat, and a neat finish followed and the visitors were in the driving seat. Tollesbury could have increased the lead soon after, with the Stingrays still reeling from going behind, with another one on one but Ryan E was more than a match this time with a smart save to keep the Stingrays in the game.
This was the signal for the Stingrays to get their act together, with the boys stepping up and getting back into the game, dominating the play in the final stages of the game. With the minutes ticking away, the Stingrays got their reward and drew level with a fine team goal. With the ball played out of defense, Jasiu C picked up the ball just over the halfway line.
With a quick turn, Jasiu played a neat pass into Freddie G who in turn played a precision pass into the stride of Christian J who went through on goal and finished with a fine right-footed pass into the corner to give the advancing goalkeeper no chance.
The Stingrays continued to push, with a couple of good chances to take the lead, but to no avail.
The final whistle came and the result of a highly entertaining game was a 3-3 draw, which was about the right result on the balance of play. Praise should go to both teams, who played a good game of football on a poor and rapidly deteriorating pitch.
Overall, a good performance by the Stingrays, with just a couple of defensive lapses letting them down, but all performed from the first to the last whistle, showing a real determination not to lose the game and not letting their heads go down when the opposition were on top.
This determination ensured the unbeaten run in 2018 continued. This excellent run of results has come from all the boys playing as a team and willing to work and play for each other, not just themselves, which is great to see.
The MotM, as voted by the parents, was the team - and as a reward for their efforts, all the boys received an early Easter Egg, which I am sure will not last until Easter!!
Thank you to Paul Welland for a great refereeing performance, and thanks to all who helped set up & put away the goals and equipment. Finally, thanks to all the continued support for the team week in week out!
Next match: Sunday 18th March 2018 - Away to Dunmow Rhodes Lions. KO 09:45.