After the pre-game warms up, the captain for the day Ollie W met the referee and the opposition captain at the centre circle for pre-game formalities, with the Stingrays winning the toss and kicking off.
Early exchanges were even, with both teams proving to be solid in midfield and defence, with the small size of the Laundry Lane pitch leaving little space for the teams to exploit. Very few chances were being created by either team, with any effort on goal coming from long-range efforts – a compliment to the Stingrays defensive three of George D, Spencer S and George W, with Oliver R proving to be just as effective when he entered the field as a substitute.
Any efforts that were on target were easily dealt with by Shaun G who was looking solid in goal. It took until the 16th minute for the deadlock to be broken, with the visitors taking the lead with a goal that could easily have be averted by the Stingrays.
From a Stingrays goal kick, possession was lost on the edge of the penalty box. The Maldon striker hit an opportune strike that rolled into the far corner. It demonstrated the need to do more work as a team on the distribution from the goal kicks with the new non-retreat rule in place – all part of the learning curve for the boys.
The Stingrays reacted to the goal by pushing forward on the Maldon goal. The midfield were working so hard for the team, with Jack W and Harvey C getting up and down the wings and Christian J and Freddie G patrolling the centre of the field, with Sam S and Ollie W adding their tenacity to the midfield battle when entering the field. Sam S was as determined as ever to do good work for his teammates, going tow to tow with opposition midfield to win the ball for his team, playing good passes when in possession.
With the team pushing for the equaliser, Ryan E was extremely unlucky with an effort from the edge of the box, hitting the bar and bouncing down and out – a goal not given but maybe goal line technology would have shown otherwise.
It was then Freddie G’s turn to hit the woodwork, with a cross shot from the right hand side hitting the top of the bar, followed by a Ollie W corner that zoomed straight across the face of the goal with only a touch required to put it into the net. Alas, despite the pressure and the chances, the Stingrays could not convert.
With no further goals added, the first half finished 1-0 to the visitors, but the game was a very even affair.
With the half time refreshments consumed and the half time talk complete, the Stingrays re-entered the field, determined to take the game to the visitors.
The half started in a similar manner to the first, very tight and very cagey with few chances created, but with 8 minutes gone, the visitors extended their lead with a fortunate goal. With Shaun G’s unheeded call for a player on the front post, a Maldon corner came straight in at the unoccupied front post, catching Shaun unawares and deflecting into the goal. A lesson learnt to the boys is to listen to their keeper when setting up for corners and free kicks.
The Stingrays continued to push to get back into the game. Jasiu C was getting plenty of joy down the right hand side, beating the left back on a number of occasions and putting the ball into the box, but unfortunately, none was converted. It took until the final minute of normal time until the Stingrays pulled one back, but what a goal it was. With a Stingrays corner, George D pushed up into the box with the hope to use his heading prowess to convert.
The visitors managed to defend the corner, but moments later was the highlight of the game. With the ball falling to George D who had retreated to the edge of the centre circle, he pushed the ball out with one touch and unleashed an unstoppable shot with his next straight into the top right hand corner – a wonderful strike from a good 25 yards leaving the keeper no chance.
With time running out, the Stingrays pushed for the equaliser but it never came, with the final whistle signalling the end of the game and a narrow 2-1 defeat. At the end of the game, both the opposition manager and referee commented they believed a draw would have been a fair result, with both in awe of George D’s stunning strike.
For the second week in a row, the Stingrays were on the wrong end of the result, but again deserved more from the game. With both the opposition goals preventable, it gives the team something to work on in training to make sure they learn and stop conceding these soft goals happening in future.
MotM was Freddie G, who worked his socks off for the team in both midfield and leading the line, battling the opposition on many occasions to win the ball when he had no right to, plus unlucky not to get on the score sheet. Well played Freddie!
Well done to all the boys. Again unlucky – I am sure the results will come. They all worked hard from start to finish, playing as a team and supporting each other throughout.
Thank you to Kevin E for running the line and thanks to all who helped set up the pitch – we were not quite on the ball on setting up our first 9-a-side pitch but we got there before kick off!!