GHC Under 16 Boys won the South Indoor Championships just before Christmas. As South Champions, they qualified for the National Indoor Finals that took place over a weekend in Wolverhampton. Have a look at how our first ever junior indoor season ended...
Scroll down for photo gallery (Cannock and Repton matches still to be added).
Pool A Match 1: Guildford v Ashmoor 5-3 win
The match started at a furious pace and the boys were caught somewhat off guard to have been scored on in the first three minutes, 0-1. More pressure on the Guildford goal despite some good end-to-end play saw us save three or four short corners before we could create more attacking play which eventually led to Oli scoring for 1-1.
One minute later, however, we gave away a short corner and the Ashmoor drag flick was well taken for 1-2. Mark proceeded to make a few saves before the half time whistle and some much needed half time advice to come from Coach Rob.
The second half also started at quick pace but this time with our boys having more of the attack. PC's went unscored at both ends until we earned another which was put away by Freddy for 2-2. Ashmoor then had a near miss as did Oli up the other end. Another PC called against us went in for 2-3.
We kept going behind in the score but the boys always looked like they believed they would eventually gain the upper hand. They kept working and the pressure on the Ashmoor D paid off when Will intercepted one of their passes and slotted in for 3-3.
We then had another PC for us which didn't go in but Isaac scooped up the rebound for 4-3. A final PC was called for us while the clock counted down and this also went in to finish the match 5-3. All credit to Rob for giving the boys the confidence to play hard in the second half and keep executing their game plan. We got better and better as the game went on with our opponents not really able to occupy our half in the second half. And the score reflected the improvement during the match. Great start.
Pool A Match 2: Guildford v Bowdon 2-0 win
Like Ashmoor, Bowdon started strong. We faced two PCs in the first two minutes, one well tackled by Freddy and the other a great save from Mark.
We then had our own PC which, uncoverted, led to another (with Freddy having been bowled over by the keeper). A third PC was saved and despite some good battles and end-to-end passing, the scoreline stood at 0-0 going into half-time.
A beautiful interception by Oli was sent up to the corner to Freddy who slotted in for 1-0 two minutes in, just the start to the second half that we needed.
We then faced a PC with Mark making two saves.
With over five minutes to go Bowdon replaced their keeper with a kicking back. This created a lot of pressure for our players but the defence rose to the occasion and kept all threats at bay. Harry had a good attempt on goal followed by another, neither reaching the back of the net.
Back in defence, Raph spotted an opportunity to take the ball on the break and dribbled past a couple of players to get the ball just in time to an advancing Will who made it 2-0 just before the whistle.
This first day of matches finished with GHC alone on the top of the Pool with 6 points. Off to the hotel for a team meeting, some stretching and a swim in the pool followed by dinner. Not a bad day at all.
Pool A Match 3: Guildford v Old Loughtonians 4-1 win
Two more Pool matches on Sunday and we were first up against Old Loughtonians who had lost both of their matches on Saturday but who did score two goals against Ashmoor so we took nothing for granted. One more win in the Pool would assure a place in the semi-finals.
Somewhat of a slow start for us, but some very good work in process. At eight minutes Oli got hold of a ball on the inside edge of the D and directed it to the inside top of the net for 1-0. Great goal.
Four minutes later we saw one of the most impressive teamwork goals of the tournament in a Jake to Isaac to Harry to Isaac to Will passing sequence that had the ball also landing in the goal. Half-time 2-0.
OL came out fighting in the second half and two minutes in scored into the bottom corner for 2-1. A similar attempt came a minute later but this time it was a good save by Mark.
We then had a couple of PCs with Isaac's first attempt saved but his second one was in for 3-1.
Not wanting to let the scoreline get away from us, some feisty defending in front of the goal mouth ended with Raph getting the follow-through of an OL striker's shot on his chin. The game was stopped for a medical timeout and the paramedics were quickly on the case.
Four minutes to go on the re-start we had another close call on our goal before Freddy slotted in for 4-1 from open play. We then let in a goal for 4-2 and had to breath deeply through two more defensive short corners before the final whistle blew.
Raph then went off to hospital to see about getting his chin repaired while the others relaxed a bit before getting ready for our final Pool match. We were assured a place in the semis as the top finisher in Pool A.
Pool A Match 4: Guildford v Cannock 2-2 draw
Cannock had everything to play for - if they could win with a certain goal difference they could get the second semi-final slot in the pool, otherwise it was Bowdon (if they won their final match). Our boys put a spanner in the works for Cannock when, two minutes in, Oli sent the ball up to Elliot who scored for 1-0.
A defensive PC was saved by Mark and a couple of PCs for us also went without result.
Then Max scored a terrific goal from open play just before the half-time whistle for 2-0.
Cannock earned a PC and when one of our defenders broke early we had to defend with one less man - the ball got through for 2-1.
Cannock then really pressed hard and threw everything they had at the match - they replaced their keeper with a kicking back with 3 minutes to go and in that time got a second goal for a final score of 2-2.
Amazingly, Raph made it back for this match having been steri-stripped and bandaged up to get back on the court - a special shout out to the staff at the New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton. You were excellent!
Another shout out to Adidas for making such nice kit (the blood came out so easily!).
Semi-Final: Guildford v Repton 3-5 loss
Looking back at the stats for this match, if anyone would have collected them, we probably led them all, with the exception of the one that mattered: goals. The first five minutes included long corner after long corner after long corner for us (I counted at least half dozen in the first five minutes). We possessed most of the ball but with one small error, a PC was given away and scored for 0-1.
We then got back in control and got a PC. Saved on the line by a body part (not sure which one), a flick was awarded but saved. Repton got the ball up the other end and we conceded what was probably one of the softer goals of the whole tournament (it happens). Suddenly and brutally, so far we had most of the possession, all of the long corners, most of the shorts and a p-flick but we were down 0-2.
Another PC gave us a lifeline in the first half and Raph's tap in was saved by a defender's shin on the line. A p-flick was awarded and this time scored for 1-2 (Freddy).
Then Repton did what we thought they would do which was get the ball to their best player who ran up quickly, evading all in his path, and scored for 1-3.
We then had two more PCs but didn't score and the half-time whistle blew.
On the re-start we had some bad luck in that what we thought should have been a free hit for us went in for 1-4. It was a big hill to climb but still do-able and importantly we still believed. Another defensive corner and their number 8 scored again (we hadn't done enough to neutralise him during the match), but we still believed...
The boys then dug really deep and pulled out all the stops. While we were organising to replace our keeper with a kicking back, Oli went and scored for 2-5. With Raph now wearing the bib and an extra outfield player, we were able to create more presssure and Elliot scored for 3-5.
A handful more minutes and we would have had the goals to at least equalise, but today it was not to be. We ran out of time. Really good to see how the boys never gave up and kept believing in themselves and in each other. On another day...
So, that was the end of the road. There was no bronze medal match but in the other semi-final, Bowdon lost to Surbiton and so the GHC boys can claim third place.
Their first indoor defeat in the semi-final of the National Finals and it came after a winning streak of 11 matches (their first 11 matches as a team). It would of course have been nice to make the Final, but we can take away so much learning and the great experience of being South Champions and effectively third in England.
Many thanks to Coach Rob Field who made all the difference to the boys' skills, understanding and experience.
Everyone played well and did their best - some names got mentioned more than others in the above because it focuses mostly on outcomes (PCs, goals, saves): the game is too quick to absorb it all so that's what was recorded. Every boy played well, played his part and played as a team. Superb.
From back to front:
Mark, Raph, Jake, Freddy, Isaac, Oli, Harry, Max, Elliot, Will