St Paul's 1 HHW 0
Our first football match of the year can only mean one thing: my first match report of the year. Yay! I’ll be honest with you – these things are much easier to write when we win.
With the team selected and the tactics set, we headed over to St Paul’s in Chipperfield for our first league match of the season. We had hoped to play a friendly at the end of last half term to give ourselves a chance to properly gel, but that was not to be (staff sickness at the other school meant a last-minute cancellation). Thankfully, it was St Paul’s’ first match too and they were in the same boat as us.
At this point in the year, we usually have to worry about the failing light at the end of the day, but not this time. We played on a pitch around the corner from their school which had flood lights (mental note – floodlights do not automatically mean Astroturf pitches). Once we all found it and changed into the appropriate footwear, the players warmed up. I spoke to the ref and agreed on some specific rules – today was no kick-outs from the ‘keeper, normal throw-ons and back passes could be picked up. And then it was time to kick-off.
All things considered, the first half was extremely close with both teams being very evenly matched. On the plus side, there were moments of wonderful composure on the ball, some lovely passing moves and a few chances here and there. Players across the pitch were 100% committed to challenges and it was a proper, physical game of football. On the down side, there were a few wince-inducing passes that put players in unnecessary trouble and there were a few challenges that were, shall we say, a little on the late side. It all made for a fairly typical, exciting match of school football.
Now then, sometimes the results of matches rest on the finest of margins – one amazing strike, a sliced clearance, a misplaced pass, a glorious through-ball, etc. And this was definitely one of those matches…
To go off on slight tangent, I’m sure all the parents out there reading this will have had moments when you’ve said to your children – “If you do (insert slightly dangerous activity here), then you will (insert minor injury here).” And then, very predictably, your children ignore your warning and everything plays out just like you’d said.
I’m sure that all the boys will have learnt plenty from the match but, if nothing else, they know that a throw-in on the half-way line can very quickly lead to trouble. Hey, if only someone had warned them of that exact thing at half-time! And it was a real shame because we had been doing so well. But one misdirected throw led to this game’s only goal. Their attackers pressured our defence, a shot was well-saved but rolled agonisingly along the goal line and was forced home before anyone could recover.
And the game never really recovered. The floodlights had already kicked in, but it became harder to see what was going on. The final ten minutes degenerated into a series of clearances and throws and more clearances and more throws. The referee probably got sick of saying ‘Yellow throw’ over and over again. We huffed and puffed without creating anything clear-cut, and St Paul’s could (and should) have extended their lead.
And that was that, the final whistle went and hands were shook. As close as it all was, I think it was a fair result. It’s never nice to lose, but if the match was played in the right spirit and everyone tried their best, then all is good with the world. Looking back, we had a few opportunities to score, and with a little more composure, we might have done. But, there was no denying that our ‘keeper was definitely the busier of the two.
Having got to the end, two other moments from the match have just come back to me - that time when Ollie was clean through on goal, certain to score, and was completely taken out! A red card for sure if that had been a Premiership match, but as it was a schools’ match, just a free-kick. (The referee was really good, by the way, so that wasn’t a dig.)
And then there was another moment when St Paul’s had a shot from distance and our ‘keeper left it, totally confident that it was not going in. And the ball proceeded to smash against the base of the post! Yikes!
Anyhoo, we have two more matches next week and hopefully we can tweak our tactics to make best use of our strengths, and iron out those little errors.