U9s Warriors - Confident and Decent Display
By Barry Millar
Merriott Gruffalos v U9s Warriors
The Warriors travelled to Crewkerne for their final Knockout Plate match in search of a good result to give them a chance to progress to the next round. The match survived the poor weather, which worsened at kick-off with the Warriors having to start against the hill, wind and horizontal rain.
The challenging conditions made for a goalless first quarter with an even amount of attacks from both teams and not much difference between them. An early break saw both Ethan and Dylan miss time the chance to shoot in open space and Isaac had a shot pushed out for a corner. A good cross from Sonny and deep ball from Eddie at the back created more shooting chances but nothing quite on target.
A close shave came when Ethan put in a strong tackle in the middle of the pitch which resulted in the ball flying towards his own goal and only a few feet wide. It didn't bother Alfie, though, and he was very much in charge of his goal today, his training is really showing - calmly taking the ball down on his chest when passed back to and then moving it on to start the next attack.
The second quarter sprang into life with Ethan scoring two in a minute, his first coming from an Isaac cross which he won the scramble for and slotted in from a tight angle. Then from the restart he won the ball and snaked through the defence for a quick second and a good cushion to settle the team.
Merriott continued with the occasional attack - Alfie safely gathering up a snap shot from the left and pushing another shot out for a corner. He also needed to watch the ball closely when an accidental back pass let their attacker in on goal, but Josh M forced him wide making him shoot off target.
Eddie, suffering a little from an early ball in the face, was playing a strong game in defence, with Josh alongside and Sonny a pillar of strength just in front of them - all contributing to the efforts in keeping a clean sheet.
Sonny had the first shot of the third quarter, unfortunately slicing wide but well positioned to try it none the less, as the hill started to help the Warriors. Josh M turned around a Merriott attack into a Wells one cleverly and the following shot from Isaac was on target until it got deflected past the post. Dylan's positioning finally paid off when a free kick from Isaac dropped into the goalmouth and he got the critical shot in first at the far post to grow the lead.
The hill and the score led to an understandable increase in confidence but perhaps a little too much when a quick pass lead to a Merriott counter attack. Their striker was beyond the back line with only the keeper to beat 1-on-1 but he shot wide when Alfie came forward to close the angle perfectly.
Eddie got the crowd roaring when as the ball broke to him just inside the Merriott half they could all see what needed to be done, and he obliged with a powerful shot from distance which only just went wide. Ethan continued with his midfield endeavours and was bought down in the box but the referee gave nothing.
On a good sized pitch, Alfie managed to kick the ball from his hands all the way to his opposite number, only he knows if he was actually trying a shot on goal!
Isaac chased down everything that came to him up front but the Gruffalos were determined to keep plenty in defence and a wall of orange for him to try and get through. Dylan had more success on the left in space with two chipped cross-shots requiring the Merriott keeper to stop them both going into the top corner.
Not to be outdone, Josh M had an Eddie-style long shot but from even further back and although saved by the keeper it was well struck and on target. Merriott's #9 was their only real threat but Alfie was up to it each time and his final save was a push up and over the bar from a shot straight at him.
The game ended with a good run and pass down the right from Ethan to Sonny whose shot was only just wide and hit the side netting.
A confident and decent display in poor conditions which will hopefully see the Warriors progress if other results go their way. In the four-team group only Aller Park can now knock the Warriors off top spot, and they are six points behind Wells with two games still to play.
Goals: Ethan (2), Dylan
Martin's man of the match: Alfie L & Ethan - Shared today for their contributions at both ends of the pitch.