LIGERS GO TOP AFTER NINE GOAL THRILLER
Fine performance from 10-man Blues not quite enough to halt League leaders
U13 Ligers displayed one of their most accomplished performances to beat a very good Reeves Rangers side. There were outstanding defensive performances from the six players that Coach Wallis used across his back four, and Matt was at his most assured between the posts. His not-infrequent sorties as sweeper/keeper helped his defenders confidence in maintaining the high line.
The home side mustered just 10 players for the kick-off so they did a remarkable job to stay in touch with Ligers for 70 minutes, particularly as Ligers were able to make four changes at half-time. The first half was quite a ding-dong affair, with five goals coming in the first 25 minutes. George L opened the scoring with his usual accomplished finish but Blues hit back with goals from Thomas Lee and William Kinch. Although they had been dominant for 15 minutes, the hosts didn't hold the lead for long. George L turned provider to put Gabe in for the equalizer two minutes later and, almost from the restart, George PM slipped a stunning pass through for Gabe to get his second in as many minutes, and Ligers' third.
The half played out from end to end. Blues did get the ball in Ligers net but were comfortably offside, Joe and Toby marshalling themselves, Zak and Daniel, with some assurance. In fact it was difficult for Rangers to achieve anything on the counter because the Hearts defensive line was high and very effective. The one time Rangers did break through, Joe was quick to recover and sensibly brought the man down to give away a free-kick that sailed harmlessly wide. Rangers approached half-time looking somewhat weary, and one could foresee Ligers taking full advantage with their greater numbers in the second-half. A special mention should go to Blues' keeper, Jake Gibbings, who was outstanding.
The second half saw John, George PM and Zak and Joe taking well-earned rests, and the unusual sight of Gabriel lining up alongside Toby in central defence. It worked well in as much as Gabe's pace covered for a number of mistakes, but there must have been something in Reeves' half-time oranges because they came out with renewed vigour. Daniel and Rufus were hard-worked in the second-half, and George L and Ilyas found themselves receiving the ball on the half-way line rather than in areas that threatened the Reeves defence.
At last, Reeves managed to breach the Ligers' offside trap. A speculative ball over the top found Thomas Lee who ran some thirty yards to calmly beat Matt and level the scores.
Ilyas, Frazer and Dylan then combined well through the the Rangers midfield for Dylan to reclaim the lead. Within seconds though, the Hearts defence was again breached on the edge of the centre circle and this time Oliver Smith delivered the coup de grace to level the scores. There was still twenty minutes to go and it was difficult to see how the game would pan out. Daniel and Tommy were struggling to make progress down the Ligers' left and Hayden and Rufus were being over-worked on the right. Fortunately, Dylan and Ilyas were more than holding their own in the middle of the park, whilst George L occasionally found himself manning the barricades with Gabriel and Toby. Matt wasn't as hard-worked as he had been in the first half, but he was struggling to find his team mates with clearances upfield. So when George L managed to hold off two challengers to break through the inside left channel and calmly put away his second goal, there was still some work to be done to secure the points.
Needless to say, Ligers at last took a proper grip of the game, and maybe the Blues did finally run out of gas. A 5-4 victory was certainly hard-earned and it's not stretching the plaudits to say that Reeves Rangers were probably Ligers best opponents to date, notwithstanding the defeat at Marlow. It might have been a very different story if the hosts could have fielded eleven players, let alone fifteen!
Elsewhere, Pinewood Panthers brought to an end Marlow's 100% record with a thumping 5-1 victory. This effectively puts Ligers at the top of the table with a +4 better goal difference than Panthers. Nevertheless, Marlow still have a game in hand, and Teddington Athletic Wolves have moved into third place following a huge win over Woodley United. That December derby could just be for the Christmas top spot!