Hosting a tournament brings lots of distractions from the hockey but with frost free pitches, no rain forecast and cars being neatly slotted into place by our volunteer attendants, it was time to focus on the task ahead...
First up was the Plate competition in which we had two teams...
Poppy M (GK) / Lauren C / Millie J / Anastasia L / Emma M / Martha R / Ottalie T / Georgia W
With 3 players missing through sickness (so disappointing for Isla A, Freya M and Tabitha S) the team had to raid the 'C' team and pinched Martha R and Ottalie T, both having played with the 'B' in the past so fully up to speed with our short corner calls (Ok, only 3 calls but this is U10) and our tactics.
Only the top placed team in each of the 5 plate groups was sure of a place in the quarter finals so we had to be clinical.
The girls agreed that some pre-match mind games was a good idea so they made sure they started each match with a very loud "1 - 2 - 3 - Guildford" war cry, followed by efficiently taking their positions without so much as a peep from their coach.
I think it is fair to say that the girls didn't start as strongly as we expected and made a bit of a meal of Wayfarers 'C'. The enforced position changes meant a lack of shape but they battled through some worrying moments and were looking better by the whistle, winning 1:0.
Next was Spencer 'C', again should have been easier having played and beaten their 'B' team the previous week. We had all the possession as shape improved but failed to convert chances leaving us just 1:0 winners again.
Last pool match was against Woking 'B'. They were quick, well organised and used space much better than the other teams and it was a more even match. Probably fairly, it ended 0:0 but Woking went through automatically with a better goal difference.
After a slightly confident wait (ok, some nerves) soothed by hot chocolate, we went through as best runners-up to play Dragons 'B'. Another desperate fight with chances at both ends but ended 1:1. After brief confusion, we were told that the winner would be decided on penalty flicks. Oh the drama. We had practised and we knew who was going to take the flicks. Best of 3 - our first flick went just wide and they converted their first 2, as did Millie and Georgia, so it all came down to the last flick by their best player - who succumbed to the pressure and put it wide.
Sudden death - Emma slotted one away, so did they. Millie volunteered to go again but the goalie got a foot to it but it still deflected in. Their player stepped up, shot and Poppy saved. Cue whooping and screams from the girls but also as good sports, they quickly commiserated with the Dragons - it's no fun going out like that.
Against Wimbledon B, who had held our A team to a draw the previous week. Disappointingly, Wimbledon weren't put off by our war cry, cheekily copying it themselves. So mind games 1:1 and it was clear we had a fight on our hands.
They were a strong side and admittedly had more of the possession and pressure. Stout defending by our younger players - Martha/Emma and Ottalie led by Millie, still left several shots on goal but an excellent performance from Poppy (noted on by Wimbledon coaches afterwards) almost kept us in it except for one cracking shot from a short corner that fizzed into the net.
At the other end we did have chances including a beautifully worked short corner by Anastasia and Georgia but it just wouldn't go in. Georgia, as CF, was always a threat on the break resulting in a worried Wimbledon coach screaming at his defender to make Georgia 'your best friend for the next 2 minutes - don't leave her side!'
So 0:1 at the whistle. The girls were dejected but immediately perked up when they realised they could still play for 3rd place against Wayfarers 'B'.
By now the girls were working well and looked a different team to the one that had struggled against Wayfarers C. Even going down 0:1 to an early goal did not phase them and they fought hard for everything, including Lauren and Anastasia, our wings, who had covered many more metres than the others and were looking tired but still never stopped getting back behind the ball. They got a goal back and then eventually scored the winner to squeals of delight and screams (from coach and parents). The girls thoroughly deserved their third place and well deserved bronze medals.
Only 1 loss out of 6 games and only conceded 3 goals in 72 mins of play, another testament to Poppy's goalkeeping and the determination and fitness of the older girls who played every minute (that wasn't the plan but I had been hoping for more comfortable score-lines!).
The plate was won by Tulse Hill (a surprising performance and certainly not influenced by the withdrawal of their A team from the Cup) who beat Wimbledon 1:0 I believe.
Robert M - for my part, I thoroughly enjoyed the day, the girls were a delight to coach, the parents really supportive and after the bad luck of sickness, we benefited from the odd lucky break that makes such a difference in these tight tournaments.
Jocelyn R (GK), Juliet F, Eve M, Lucy T, Freya W, Mimi S, Tessa H, Eleanor F
A great afternoon was had by the U10s in the very cold weather. We played 3 matches: drew one, lost one and won our last match against Wimbledon who are a strong side.
Throughout all the matches the girls proved that when they got the ball to the wings it worked extremely well. Eve, with her brilliant speed, charged down the right wing, rolling the ball a few times to her advantage and pushing off to our mids.
Freya was great mid field intercepting many balls and even playing back a few times when in trouble which opened up the game.
Juliet proved herself when receiving the ball, taking it down the left wing swiftly and passing into the D, whilst being mobbed by defence players! After a big run into the D on our last match she managed to successfully push the ball passed their determined goalie in the last 2 minutes, it was very exciting!
Mimi made a few excellent and needed tackles as half and back, supporting our players when needed and clearing the ball from the D. Lucy, played out of her comfort zone of forward to be mid a couple of times, and managed to rain down tackles, never giving up until she had to, clearing the ball out to our wings a couple of times.
Eleanor, an impressive defence in all games, she was steadfast in her skills and clearing the ball out to her own players then recovering and being ready to start all over again. The player who showed great improvement was Tessa, she proved that when you hound the forwards with tackles, never stopping, you force them to make mistakes, well done Tessa!!
Jocelyn was impressive in all 3 games, kicking the balls out as they were shot at her repeatedly, on three or four occasions she came out of the goal taking on lone shooters in a strong position, keeping Wimbledon frustrated.
Sophie S - Really pleased with the girls determination and team work, I think they all enjoyed it.
Things to work on are: not passing the ball across the goal, creating spaces at free hits, and taking free hits quickly.