ETHAN DOUBLE GIVES U12 PUMAS WINNING START TO 2018
By Neil SINCLAIR
Pumas pace and finishing secures derby day points
A somewhat dour derby on a bitterly cold January morning saw the Pumas start 2018 with a hard-earned but deserved 3 points against fellow Teddlothians - Tigers.
Two second half goals from Ethan separated the two sides as Tigers struggled to turn possession into goals.
The match started disastrously for the visitors as, straight from the kick-off, Pumas found themselves winning a corner. Matt, in goal for Tigers, managed to parry the first attempt but as it span towards Frazer defending the left-hand post, his attempted clearance skewed back over his own keeper and trickled into the net. It was an unfortunate start and it failed to galvanise either side. Pumas were playing the more effective football in midfield, particularly through the excellent David, whose influence grew throughout the sixty minutes. Tigers' defence dealt competently with Pumas' front two, Henry, Joe and Toby tackling well and working hard to catch the Pumas breakaways, notably Charlie and Ethan. When the Tigers midfield did manage a breakthrough, Gabriel was a real handful out on the left, battling well above his weight to out-muscle and out-sprint the big Pumas back-line. However, with Eli and Hayden both missing, Tigers were lacking in anyone else with real pace to keep up with the little No7 and much of his hard work came to nothing. At the other end, Pumas attacked in far greater numbers and were often only held up by Tigers high line. On 12 minutes it looked as though Charlie had extended the lead but Joe and Toby crucially stepped-up to leave the Puma half a yard offside as the pass through was played. Tigers went straight up the other end and following some slick play between Henry and Frazer, John wove his way into the Puma area, to be brought down by a heavy challenge from Caiden. John stepped up to take his own spot-kick but hit it rather tamely down the middle for George to make an easy save.
Unlike the Merseyside derby, this penalty did little to raise the game's tempo. Indeed, a couple of forward surges by Pumas barely troubled the Tigers goal and only a long-range effort from Henry brought further action for George.
The second half barely raised the temperature. Indeed, with Gabe and Frazer off the field for Tigers, and Charlie taking a rest for Pumas, the game lost much of its "zip". Toby was clearly suffering and was soon removed and despatched for a warm bath and a couple of spoonsful of Calpol. As the game lumbered towards the last quarter, John managed to find himself a bit of space to get into the Pumas box and nestled a right-foot shot beyond George and into the net to level the scores.
Down the other end, Matt was the next one to succumb to ill-health and Gabe was forced back on as goalkeeper cover. And he was quickly in action as David out-manoeuvred Tommy in midfield and released Ethan with a free run on Tigers' goal; Gabe came out and narrowed the angles and bravely smothered and cleared the danger. The next time he was not so fortunate and on 47 minutes Ethan managed to beat the keeper to re-establish Pumas' lead. The game swung back and forth: John was becoming more influential for Tigers and, ably supported by Rufus and Ilyas, was testing the Pumas defence. With Frazer and Joe holding the Tigers back line, Pumas pace was beginning to trouble the makeshift defence, made even worse when Henry picked up a knock that left him hobbling for much of the last quarter. And eventually, Pumas put the game to bed. A long clearance by George found Ethan who managed to turn his marker and set off towards the Tigers goal. Gabriel again came out to narrow the angle but Ethan had all the composure to turn his shot beyond Gabe's left hand and into the net for his second and Pumas third.
It never looked as though a tiring Tigers would recover but equally they remained more than equal to Pumas final sallies. In the end it was a convincing scoreline in Pumas' favour and very much secured their position in the top half of the table. Tigers did not look a great deal worse than their fellow Big Cats, but maybe showed less composure under pressure at both ends and ultimately paid a heavy price for not having the pace of the Pumas. David deservedly won the man of the match award for his non-stop command of midfield. Pumas travel to Marlow next week, confident that they can continue on their winning start to 2018.