STORMING SECOND HALF BLOWS AWAY HURRICANES
By Neil SINCLAIR
U13 Ligers overcome stubborn hosts to record first win of the year
Ligers secured the anticipated victory at Henley but, my goodness, Hurricanes made it tough. Nevertheless, it’s a victory that has taken Ligers up the table and the second-half display certainly had some resemblance to the free-flowing football we saw in the Autumn.
The first-half started with a slightly strange-looking Hearts line-up as three players arrived as the teams were preparing to kick-off. So Ilyas and Tommy started up front while Kevin found himself alongside Joe in the centre of defence. Hurricanes started with some purpose, and their tall central defenders looked particularly assured, easily thwarting any attempts by Hearts to attack the last third. Indeed, it was Hurricanes who had the first attempt on goal, although it barely troubled Matthew Barrett. The game had little pattern to it, and Ligers descended into chasing the ball and taking far too many touches before generally losing the ball or under-hitting the eventual pass. They were to suffer a set-back on 20 minutes as Daniel Kubinskyy left the field with a knee injury. Although it didn’t look too serious at the time, Daniel later left hospital on crutches and is out for at least two weeks.
Zak Endemano slotted in at left back but it heralded three more changes for Hearts as George Perez-Medina, George and Toby came off the bench too. Almost immediately, Ligers mounted their first concerted siege on the home team’s goal. Several corners were forced as Gabe and Sam attacked the bye-line although without Daniel, Ligers corners were somewhat ineffectual. But practice does make perfect and after several duffed attempts, John Humphrey eventually put one on the money for George Lee to lash home the opening goal.
Before the Hurricanes’ net had stopped rippling, calamity struck for Ligers. A speculative ball into the Hearts half was completely missed by Joe; as the surprised Hurricanes took advantage of a free run on goal, Toby tried to recover and Matt raced off his line. Matt got there first some 5 yards outside his penalty area, but his clearance kick smashed into Ewan Pratt who was faster than Toby to the ricochet and calmly steered the ball home to level the scores as half-time approached.
Coach Sinclair, who had maintained a silence from the technical area for 35 minutes, now had to galvanise the boys. In truth, they knew that that they had to start finding each other with their passes, communicate better, and be much stronger on the ball to stop the big Henley defenders out-muscling them. And that’s pretty much what Ligers did.
Within two minutes of the restart, George L curled a shot wide of the post. Less than 30 seconds later, Dylan made a powerful run into the box and found George Lee with his pass who made it 2-1 to the Middlesex side. As in the first half, Hurricanes went straight back up the other end, but this time Hearts had numbers behind the ball. Even so, Zak, Joe and Gabe all decided to play pat-a-cake with the ball and Hurricanes managed get a shot on target. This time Matt was more than equal to it. Now the tables turned very much in Hearts’ favour. They began to string passes together and run into space for each over. Hearts were winning every tackle and retaining every second ball. A brilliantly worked short corner by John and Gabe forced the Hurricanes defence to turn the ball into their own net. 3-1.
Hearts pressure was relentless. Frazer and John were slicing open the home midfield and defence with some stunning passes. Toby and Kevin were getting to everything first and Dylan was making yards with the ball at his feet. Ligers’ fourth goal was a thing of beauty: Matt found Tommy whose first time pass down the line found John in space and his diagonal ball took out all the defence for George Lee to turn home his hat-trick goal. Within 90 seconds, it was Frazer Pickrell’s turn to slice open the defence and Dylan Tomlinson was on hand to make it 5-1. Dylan then went on a powerful run down the inside left channel. The defender seemed to pull Dylan back as he headed into the box, and after a moment’s consideration, the referee pointed to the spot. Hurricanes were variously apoplectic and devastated, and it did look as though Dylan was some way outside the penalty area. Nevertheless, the decision was made and Toby Chilvers stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way and record his first goal of the season.
With 15 minutes remaining and Hurricanes hearts and minds having taken a hammering, it looked like a massacre may be on the cards. But a bizarre passage of play gave the hosts a moment of hope. As Hurricanes sprung the offside trap Gabriel galloped back to whip the ball away from the striker’s foot. But in a moment that encapsulated what was probably his poorest performance of the season, Gabriel smashed the ball towards Matt’s goal. Allegedly, Gabe was trying to put the ball over the bar and out of play but Matt managed to get both hands to it but only succeeded in pushing it into his own net.
Hurricanes hopes were revived but it was just a temporary glimmer and Hearts did reassert their dominance. Gabe went a little way to redeeming himself as Dylan again surged into the home box with the ball at his feet and crossed into the box. Gabe executed a perfect step-over letting the ball run to Frazer Pickrell who drilled the ball into an empty net.
Ligers were entrenched in Hurricanes’ goal mouth as the ref brought the match to an end, and a tricky opening 35 minutes had turned into a resounding victory. Ligers might have had more difficulty if Hurricanes had been slightly more confident and had handled Hearts offside line a lot better. There were some outstanding performances for Ligers, notably Sam Bates at left back and Thomas Fondie’s last 25 minutes at right back. But the real architects of victory were the midfield of John Humphrey, Frazer Pickrell and Dylan Tomlinson who all eviscerated the opposition with their clever passing and movement and, of course, the devastating finishing of George Lee.