The pre-game team talk focused on the change to the 9v9 format – the team playing for the first time with two additional players on the larger pitch – and the introduction of the new rules – primarily offside and no retreating from a goal kick.
With the pre-game warm up and team talk concluded, the team lined up ready for kick off – the team, the coaches and the fans of the DUFC Stingrays were excited and ready for the start of the new season.
Wearing the captain’s armband for the day and meeting the referee & the opposition captain at the centre circle for the pre-match formalities was Ryan E, the well-deserved winner of the player’s player award for the 2017/18 season.
The game kicked off, with Steve Rowell having the honour as the inaugural DUFC Stingrays linesman. The Stingrays started brightly, clearly intent on a good start to the season. Dominating the majority of the play, the team were looking good, keeping the ball in the opposition half.
In the early exchanges, the centre midfield of Christian J and Ollie W were working hard and being strong to dominate the centre of the field, with Sam S and Jasiu C doing a great job of marshalling the flanks as well as making great runs down the lines to give the team an outlet when in possession.
Ryan E, who was clearly aware of the offside rule, was expertly leading the line, taking up good positions and making clever runs to ensure the flag had no reason to be raised.
The back three of Oliver R, Spencer S and George W were looking solid, not allowing the opposition any chances of note and providing good distribution of the ball to their teammates when in possession. With Spencer S his usual tenacious self, George W calm and collected on the ball and Oliver R carrying on his ‘though shall not pass’ philosophy, all was looking good for the Stingrays.
With 10 minutes gone, the Stingrays took the lead. With good midfield battling from Christian J and Jasiu C to gain possession, Ollie W broke with the ball, running through and beyond the defense, carrying the ball into the box and side footing pass the oncoming goalkeeper.
Four minutes later, the lead was doubled. From a goal kick, Ollie W put pressure on the defence, winning the ball and passing the ball into the corner of the goal. A lead that was deserved on the balance of play, but this was the turning point of the game. Whether it was the players backing off, tiredness kicking in after so long out and working so hard from the kick off or simply the home team stepping up their game, the Burnham Ramblers began to dominate more of the play.
It did not take long for the home team to give their fans something to cheer about, pulling one back with an unstoppable long shot – nothing Shaun G could do to prevent the effort. Soon after, the home team equalised. Similar to the second Stingrays goal, with pressure from a goal kick, possession was turned over on the edge of the Stingrays box and the Burnham striker carried the ball into the box and finished calmly. The home team continued to push but the half finished level 2-2 – probably fair on the share of play.
With the half time drinks and Jaffa cakes consumed as the half time talk took place, the primary instructions given was about being keeping in position and working back when losing possession.
The second half kicked off, with Freddie G leading the line. The opening exchanges were fairly even, with both teams working hard to take the advantage. With ten minutes of the second half gone, it was the home team who took that advantage. This was followed by another 6 minutes later. With the team going from two goals up to 4-2 down, the boy’s heads could have dropped, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. The boys stepped up their game and dominated. With George D commanding the centre of the Stingrays defense, only one team was going to score the next goal.
With new boys Jack W and Harvey C working hard up and down the flanks, the boys were creating chance after chance, and on another day, at least four of the chances created would end up in the net, but the home team’s goal was leading a charmed life. With time almost up, one finally went in, with debutant Jack W unleashing an unstoppable drive from the edge of the box into the far corner with the goalkeeper grasping thin air. With seconds to play, the Stingrays kept going but an equaliser was not to be.
Though the final score was a narrow 4-3 defeat, the boys could be proud of how they played in this first game of the season against a good Burnham Ramblers Fire. We all know we can play better, and I am sure that will come in time once they have a few games under their belt getting use to the new formations and larger pitch. With the team’s ability to play passing football plus the pace in the team, the boys will be able to take advantage of the space of the larger pitch in the coming games.
MotM was Ollie W, with a strong performance in centre midfield plus two fine finishes - and he could and probably should have had a couple more. Well played Ollie – well deserved.
Well played to all the boys, a good start to the season. The performance was more important than the result. Though the Stingrays were not at their best – and were not expected to be after the summer out and the new format – there were signs of the passing football we know we can play which will get better over the coming weeks.
In addition, the new signings fitted in seamlessly. Shaun G made some fine saves and showed good distribution in goal and Jack W and Harvey C showed they will be great assets to the team. They both looked dangerous going forward, as well as showing good team play with their passing and working hard to get back to help their teammates when not in possession. Well played to all three in your first game as a Stingray.
Thank you to Steve Rowell for running the line – much appreciated – and thanks to all the travelling fans for your great support.
Next Match: Home v Maldon Saints Tiger. KO 11:45AM.