Red Kites Soar Away From Tigers
U12 Tigers mauled by birds of prey
The Tigers suffered a mauling at the hands of old foes Berks County Red Kites. A 3-0 defeat earlier in the season did nothing to prepare the U12s for this turn of events. Previous seasons have seen Tigers regularly come out on top in this fixture but Saturday saw a very different story being written.
On a cold winter's morning. Hearts arrived in Sunninghill short of a goalie, Matt having pulled out with an ankle injury. So just one substitute on the bench provided parity with the home side and the game started off as a fairly balanced affair. Red Kites showed some clever early touches, with drag-backs particularly paying dividends. Tigers were a little more straightforward in application but their defensive line was well-drilled and Joe looked particularly sure-footed in goal and, following a couple of admonishments from the sidelines, subsequently sure-handed too. However, a swift Red Kites counter attack did open the scoring after 4 minutes but it barely ruffled the visitors who continued to press high and catch the Berks attack offside on several occasions. At the other end, Gabe was looking slightly subdued: he struggled to out-muscle or outrun the defenders and could neither find the pass to his support runners nor the opening to take a shot. In fact he probably got in more blocks and tackles in the Tigers' penalty area than he did raids into Red Hawks' box. When it eventually came, Tigers' equaliser was a somewhat scrappy affair as George bore down on the Berks County keeper, whose hurried clearance kick rebounded off George and into the net. Unfortunately, that heralded the end of Tigers' threat. With Gabe off-colour there was no one in the orange shirts who had the composure or power to get a shot on target.
The Tigers defence and midfield were doing a good job for the most part, and Joe comfortably handled anything that did break through. But three more rapid counter-attacks resulted in three more goals for Red Kites, as Tigers struggled with transition and the simple pace to get back ahead of the attackers.
Tigers finished the half with a period in the home team's box but John barely connected with a volley on the edge of the six-yard box with the goal gaping, and Toby powered the follow-up header into the field, from approximately two-yards out! Sam had an effort that flew across the face of the goal but a handful of corners failed to pressurise the home goalie.
Turning round at 1-4 down, Tigers found the second half a real struggle. Gabriel took over in goal and was to make a handful of outstanding saves. He certainly wasn't at fault for any of the 7 that were scored. In fact, Red Kites grew in composure and tactical awareness whilst Tigers seemed to regress. Joe slotted into central defence but as we've seen in the past, dropped deeper and deeper without taking his fellow defenders with him. Inevitably this meant there were no offsides at all in the second half, and Joe often found himself facing three forwards with his team mates stranded up the pitch. This is all about communication and confidence. Moving forward, Frazer, who latterly withdrew with an ankle injury, and the hard-working John struggled to find runners to pass to. Sam and Rufus often found themselves in space but didn't tell anyone; Tommy and Ilyas often started in space but would then find themselves swamped by defenders and did not move to find new space. Too often, when Tigers lost the ball, there was no one working to get back to either recover possession or bolster the defence. And, as Red Kites lead increased, the home team started to play eight across midfield but not once did Tigers launch the ball over them and try to run through a turning defence.
Regardless of the scoreline, the boys still enjoyed the contest and 60 minutes football, whatever the result, is more fun than almost anything else a twelve year-old can do and a 56 year-old - Ed. The one takeaway that might be worth considering is just how much real football do our boys bother to watch because, tactically, they seem to be falling behind their peers