After passing a late fitness test by George D and straight from the aeroplane onto the pitch from Christian, we would have one substitute this week, which would certainly help in the heat. A quick warm up and team discussion prior to kick off was held, the key messages being to jockey, scan, pass the ball with confidence, make the right decisions, track back and most of all enjoy the game.
With Ryan kicking off and Oliver R leading the pack, the boys quickly settled into the game, keen to play well for their absent friends James and Ollie. From the start you could sense this was going to be a tough encounter. Straight from the kick off Zach would try his luck riding past 2 players to be up-ended by a ferocious tackle. From the resulting free kick he would see his long range and powerful shot move in the air and prove too hot for the keeper to handle. A great start to the game with the goal timed at 2 minutes.
Then the battle commenced....... George W and Oliver R were immense at the back, thwarting the Irons on every occasion. Christian broke the game up really well in the middle and with some cool interchanges with Jasiu, Zach and Ryan moved closer to Notleys area. Ryan would continue to bite at the ankles of the defence causing problems wherever possible. Jasiu was getting stuck in really well, making timely challenges and Zach was his usual tricky self, taking on players and creating numerous chances for himself and others.
Freddie didn't have too much to do in goal during the first half, but his safe handling, catching and sound distribution kept the game flowing. The battle was really in the middle and out on the wings. Strength was key against this team, who were fair in the tackle and played the game with excellent sportsmanship. Players being knocked over, tackles flying in, shoulder to shoulder challenges, but yet no-one moaning or losing their temper, just handshakes afterwards, which was a great advertisement for U9 football.
So, whilst the Stingrays were up for this challenge, there was little they could do when conceding a goal towards the end of the first half. A loose ball fell kindly to the Irons who slotted home. The boys kicked off again with the same endeavour, George D reading the game excellently, alongside the no-nonsense defender of George W. George D would move up at any opportunity to try his luck at heading the ball from corners, but it wouldn't be his day on this occasion. The ref blew his whistle and the boys came in for a team talk and well deserved refreshments.
Second half came quickly and both teams continued where they left off. Freddie up front would power his way through, only to see a couple of shots go wide. Ryan and Jasiu continued with their tackling game whilst Christian ran through the middle effortlessly, creating numerous chances. Oliver R would clear any danger and 'scanned' the whole game brilliantly. With George W in goal a couple of saves kept us in the game and one particular 'stand-out' one handed save was straight from Jo Harts manual.
The game ended with Zach dribbling around players to create a chance and shot which was heading for the top corner, but a wonder save was pulled out of the bag from the keeper. The keeper came straight over to shake hands which was a wonderful gesture and demonstrated the spirit in which the game was played.
So, I'm hoping I haven't missed anyone off or any aspect of the game, particularly as the game was full of incidents (hope Freddies head is ok), but everyone played awesome. MOTM was Christian for his constant battling, adapting to a new position in the middle and general all round play. I'm sure everyone will be nursing a few bruises, but that's a small price to pay to witness such a great, tough, physical game against arguably one of the best teams in the division. WELL DONE STINGRAYS.
Special thanks to the Stingrays supporters, along with thanks to the manager and boys of Great Notley Irons. An extremely tough side to play against, but I think they've finally found their match.
Next match is at home against Boreham Village - KO is at 11-15am.