Moving the ball this well meant the Stingrays were chasing shadows for long periods of the first half. However, the Stingrays kept their concentration and were solid at the back without allowing too many chances that the Hawks’ possession warranted.
In goal, Freddie G made some terrific saves and his distribution was fantastic. Throughout the first half, George D., George W., Ollie R. and Spencer S. all managed to get vital blocks or tackles in at the right times. To expand on that, the Stingrays may have given away a large number of corners, but the boys reverted back to what they had learnt in training to mark up early at corners. I could really see the players working as a team and taking responsibility in defence.
The latter part of the first half would see a flurry of corners, with a strike from Rayne going narrowly wide, another skimming the bar and some more fine saves from Freddie G. The first half came to an end with the Stingrays having worked hard to keep a clean sheet.
Fuelled by Waitrose Jaffa Cakes, the energy levels and urgency was palpable and, almost immediately, Xian K., Ryan E. and George W. (today’s Man of the Match) were chasing down Rayne Youth, which lead to a mistake.
Rayne lost possession and with a superb counter attack, some neat interplay from Ryan, George W. and Xian, the home goalkeeper was forced into a save.
As the 2nd half progressed, the possession ratio did not change too much but it seemed the Stingrays were able to comfortably deal with any attack and would occasionally break on the attack. What did change in the second half was an increased level of effort to close down and not allow the opposition time on the ball. The team did this to great effect and it was midway through the second half that the game changed in favour of the Stingrays.
One of the best attacks from the Hawks culminated in a glorious, diving finger-tip save (one that Joe Hart would have been proud of), from Sam S to tip a ferocious shot around the post and to retain the clean sheet.
The Rayne Youth team management then commented on what a great game it had been between the two sides, but stated, “we are worried about you on the counter attack.”
With that a breakaway run from Ryan, Jasiu and Xian saw some hard work pay off with a right-footed strike from Ryan finding the back of the net. The pattern of the game remained unchanged for the latter parts with some solid defensive work from the whole team, (we saw Xian as a Defender at one point), more great interchanges lead to more attacks on the break.
Closing into the final 5 minutes, a few of the Stingrays’ shots on goal were repeatedly blocked until the ball ricocheted to the left-hand side of the box, where Xian calmly and coolly slotted home.
A deserved 2-0 win due to the effort raised against a truly sporting and friendly team in Rayne Youth. We wish them all the best for the remainder of the season!