A 3G Astro pitch welcomed the team, which was quite a bit smaller than the pitches we have been playing on, so space would be at a premium.
After the pre-match talk, the boys set up for the KO, starting the game with Sam S between the sticks.
From the kick off, the boys were fantastic. Pass and move was certainly the order of the day, with all the team playing their part with excellent passing, movement off the ball and supporting their team mates.
The only thing that was missing was a goal, with maybe the boys over passing at times. On a couple of occasions they had worked the ball well to make a shot on goal possible but had not taken opportunity. Regardless, it was a joy to watch, and soon the instruction from the opposition manager to his team was to ‘stop them passing’ - a sign of how well the boys were moving the ball around the pitch.
The opposition strategy did not have quite the same finesse, often kicking long from the keeper. Unfortunately, this worked in their favour on such a small pitch and showed up an area where we do need to improve which is defending when the ball is in and around our box.
The boys have a tendency to not pressure the ball and watch the play rather than affecting it, making it easier for the opposition to win the ball and create chances. With the long balls sent up the pitch, this is exactly what happened on two occasions in the first 7 minutes, allowing Hedingham to take an early 2-0 lead.
This did not dampen the Stingrays spirit though who continued to play their brand of football, often leaving the opposition chasing shadows. Within two minutes, the Stingrays had pulled one back. After some smart passing football, the Stingrays won a throw in deep into the opposition half. With an accurate throw, Ollie W sent the ball into the feet of Ryan E on the edge of the box, who turned and placed an excellent left footed shot into the far corner.
Unfortunately, the Stingrays allowed Hedingham to add a third almost immediately, again allowing too much time and space in and around our box.
But again, the Stingrays came straight back, with some fine interchange passing between Ollie W and Ryan E, leading to the ball being played into Jasiu C on the edge of the box who calmly slotted an unstoppable shot into the left hand corner.
Within a couple of minutes though, Hedingham extended their lead, and that is how it would stay until half time - 4-2 to Hedingham.
With the half time talk, though the positives of the fantastic passing football the boys was playing was conveyed to the team by the management, it was also asked of the team to be stronger in the tackle and to work harder when not in possession. George W took up his position between the sticks.
With the 2nd half commencing, the boys continued to play great football, but followed instruction and added a little bit of steel to their play, preventing Hedingham from getting any real chances of note.
Two great example of this was the determination of George D in defence and Spencer S in midfield, both battling for every ball, and when not winning it first time round, not giving up and going for it a 2nd time - great work from both these boys.
For the Stingrays, when in possession with space being so tight, it was difficult to create any clear-cut chances even though there were a few times when we outnumbered them on the break after passing through their midfield. On a ‘full size’ pitch, I am sure the boys would have created more clear-cut chances with the way they were playing.
It took until the 14th minute of the 2nd half for a goal to be added, and unfortunately it was for the opposition. Again, it was a little too easy, but again the Stingrays bounced straight back and within a minute added a third to their score, and it was the pick of the bunch.
From George W in goal, the ball was played out to Oliver R. who carried the ball up field and passing to Christian J. Christian J continued to carry the ball and then passed it on to Sam S. Sam S, carrying the ball into the opposition half then played the ball into Ryan E who then does what he does best and finished with a smart right footed shot leaving the keeper no chance. A great team goal.
The Stingrays continued to push, and Christian J thought he had added a fourth with a fantastic half volley from the edge of the box into the top left hand corner, only for it to be ruled out for a foul throw. Regardless, Christian’s technique was fantastic, such a shame it did not count.
The game finished 5-3 to Hedingham. It was a great game to watch, and the football played by the Stingrays was excellent throughout - the boys responding fantastically to the instructions from Steve and I. The greatest compliment was paid to the boys after the game, with the Hedingham manager coming over and saying to all that we are the best football team they have played - the passing is fantastic and whatever we are working on in training is definitely working.
MotM today was Jasiu C - working hard throughout, being a key player in the team playing great passing football, with a few Cruyff turns thrown in, plus a fantastic goal. Well place Jasiu - well deserved.
Again not the result we wanted, but the way we played certainly was. We just need to work on the defensive side of the game - defending from the front, putting pressure on the ball, closing down the space and being the first to react when the ball is in and around our box.
It was a great performance today. At this stage, the results are not important - the way the boys play as a team and develop as individuals is - and I am very proud of the way they played.