Four GHC Under 12 Boys teams completed in the Surrey Cup and Plate Competitions that took place on Sunday 26 February. The As and Bs were in the Cup and the Cs and Ds competed in the Plate. Here's how the A team fared...
v Old Cranleighans 3-0 win
The boys had gathered early, absorbing the spectacle of the festival and hearing of the great exploits of the Cs and Ds: excitement and a little bit of nerves were rising! We did our usual pre-Barcelona style warm up routine, albeit without a patch of Astro to play on the intensity of the possession game was a little lower. But we were ready for the first game against Old Cranleighans and started strongly, pressing them hard from the front and with good interplay passing we were stretching them. Jack got put through 1on1 onto the goalie and rounded him, almost too far, but managed to pull it back and slide the ball into the goal. Nerves were eased across the team, the passing speed improved and Josh scored 2 more great goals to make it a nice 3-0 start to the Cup tournament.
v Surbiton B 0-1 loss
We knew Surbiton Bs were going to be a tougher proposition next and so they proved, our marking struggling with their good movement off the ball and quick passing. They also pressed us in possession as we liked to do to other teams, which lead us to slow our passing speed too much. Unsurprisingly, poor marking enabled Surbiton to score but this served to wake the boys up, who played with more vigour and spirit. Scott, James and Sammy threaded through some good long balls up front, which on a different day would have resulted in goals, and the Surbiton keeper stayed strong and upright as good dribbling in the D didn't quite breach their defences. So we'd lost and knew we couldn't lose again and continue in the competition, and had to Improve our width and ball speed.
v Old Georgians Dragons 1-1 draw
Dragons were next and the boys spirits were still down a bit, struggling to cope with the good stick skills of 2 of their players. They caught us on the break to score a goal, but again this served to enliven us. Ben started to dominate the midfield, Scott jabbed away any intruder into our defence, and Josh's mesmerising runs down the right were causing them real trouble. Ben took a great, quick strike from the top of the D into the bottom left corner to drag us back to even, and we continued to press. Henry didn't stop running up front and in the short corner at the death, a great strike from Sam was somehow pushed out by a a diving keeper to his right. A draw might just be enough, but we knew our last pool game against a so far undefeated Wimbledon A would have to be good.
v Wimbledon 2-0 win
And so it proved. By now the coaches had become a bit repetitive about the need for more ball speed and width perfectly square of the player, but the boys firmly applied it. We pinged the ball around the opposition, Sammy tirelessly getting back to shut down their danger man on the right, and Josh again making great attacks down our right. With some stunning skills he dribbled into the D, used 3D aerial skills to round the defender and keeper and scored! We kept passing with great speed and, not to be outdone by Josh, Jack entered the D from the left, dribbled through their defenders, again with 3D skills, and scored to make it an important (for goal difference) 2-0 victory.
Semi-Final v Surbiton A 0-2 loss
So we'd progressed through to the semis on goal difference (by 1 goal only!) but as losers of the group were to face Surbiton A. We weren't overawed by any means and the game was pretty cagey, with both teams trying to play a fast pivot round the back and use the width. Both Jack and then Henry completely exhausted themselves chasing down the pivot, but it worked in slowing down their attacks. Their strong centre back, however, shut down many of our attacks and against such good tacklers, we tried to dribble it through them a bit too much. They eventually broke through and scored, but we kept on playing a good structure. With 2 minutes to go, Surbiton cemented their victory with a great reverse stick strike. So to Barnes in the bronze medal play off, with the winner to go through to the regionals (as Surbiton's teams made up the final and only 1 club's team can progress).
Bronze medal match v Barnes 5-1 win
We finished off the tournament with style, with Scott closing down their dangerous centre forward (who had knocked us out of the Surreys 2 years ago) and James passing quickly out to the wings. 2 of our 5 goals came from great runs down the byline, which were unselfishly pulled back by Jack and Josh to Sammy and Josh to slot in. Henry positioned himself brilliantly to tap in a cross at the far post, Josh got another from his trademark mazy run, and Jack had a reverse stick goal to rival the Surbiton player from the previous game. Sam was very unlucky to hit the post with a diving strike and Scott ventured into the D to also try and nab a goal. Barnes did score a goal, but we ended up as comfortable, relieved 5-1 winners and with bronze medals around happy necks!
It is sometimes said that a good team learns how to "win ugly" and, to an extent, that is what we did by getting through to the regional competition. We know we didn't play as well as we can, but we played very well in bursts that were enough to drag us through the competition. So we look forward to showing what we can do at the end of April, especially as we should be recharged by the return of Caspar up front, and very talented boys determined to do their best.