Windsor Youth Harriers Gladiators 3 Ashridge Park 1
1-0 (2 mins)
1-1 (Jamie Cole, 9 mins)
2-1 (11 mins)
3-1 (31 mins)
Star Player: Jack Gillingham
I have a feeling the Duke of Marlborough is supposed to have suggested that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. Whether he meant the home pitch of Windsor Youth Harriers I am not sure. I don’t know how many of this country’s leaders actually went to Eton College. But it’s a lot. Hmmmm….to be honest I am not sure how they would have fared against an aggressive side with a couple of very skilful players. Joe was back for this game and whilst Graham started with a squad of 13, first half injuries to Tim and Dan soon put paid to that, and we were down to what Harry Redknapp used to call "the bare bones" after about 15 or 20 minutes.
Once again we started slowly and Windsor completely controlled the early exchanges. They were camped in our half and overwhelmed the midfield and defence and it was no surprise when they went ahead after 2 minutes. 1-0. Somehow we managed to stay in the game as Windsor created and missed several more early chances. Our front two of Jack and Jamie were, however, causing Windsor some problems and we won a corner on the right. The ball cleared everyone in the centre, but Alex hooked the ball back into the danger area with his heel, and the chance was buried from close range by Jamie. 1-1 after 9 minutes. This parity lasted all of two minutes before Windsor carved us open once more and a shot from the right edge of the box went across Joe and into the bottom corner. A third followed on the half hour, and despite some lively moments up front, the boys were unable to claw anything back. 3-1 at half time.
Some words from Graham at half-time - and in reality the boys already knew what they were doing wrong at the back and how to rectify it. But a reorganisation was needed to enable us to compete in midfield, with Jack and Jamie dropping back into the central areas. In fairness, we woke up in the second period and competed well, but we lacked the penetration up front to get back into it. We could have sneaked a second following a great move down the right, but needed an extra touch which their defence snuffed out. The game ended on a slightly tetchy note with Windsor’s players diving in several times, feet off the floor. However, full marks for restraint from the boys, after Jamie was confronted for “looking at” one of their players and during the handbags mêlée that followed. 3-1 the final score and a very good effort against a decent side.
Meanwhile the football season ground to a halt. Restaurants and bars eventually closed. Schools shut their doors. People started using loo-roll as currency. Endless links to videos on Whatsapp – one or two of them pretty good. Finally, civilisation as we know it ceased to exist as Eurovision was cancelled. Mid-term verdict: “must do better”.
I do miss Saturday mornings, though. Lessons on the pitch? We need to kick off on the front foot, and compete from the whistle. We should try to limit the number of needless fouls, especially near the box - we absolutely have to be physical, but refs have only so much patience. And Graham’s advice about being first to the loose ball is 100% right. Plus, whilst it is fine for mums on the touchline to be turning their back on a ball arrowing its way toward them, I would like to see the boys making some sort of contact a little more often. If we added these small tweaks to fantastic endeavour, skill and team spirit we won’t go far wrong, if and when the football re-starts. And who knows what we might achieve with a fully fit squad and fresh legs off the bench?
Off the pitch? It seems to me that what we are experiencing is a fleeting glimpse of what large parts of the world face on a daily basis. Just maybe there is a silver lining and we can see that there are different ways to live life. Finally, the Dunkirk spirit that has emerged reminds me of stories my dad used to tell about World War 2. One of them went something like this: "The street we lived in had an raid shelter for communal use. So when the siren sounded, the whole community would gather. I well remember my father reassuring the assembled children, telling them that the only bomb you needed to worry about was the one with your name on it. That came as a bit of a surprise to our next door neighbours, Albert and Marjorie Doodlebug".
Report by Max Gall (with additions by Graham Ayton)
Managers comments: Not much to add to the above. If, as seems likely, this is the last game of the season, then it is a fairly typical summation of how things have gone: lack of concentration and application in patches being ruthlessly exploited by the opposition; injuries leaving us without options and with players having to fill in secondary positions; but substantial periods of the game showing that with a fair wind we can compete at this level - ideally with the addition to the squad of a genuine goal-scorer and maybe a midfield "general". Let's see what next season brings. For this game, our defence (Will, James, James and Alex) deserve credit for listening at half time and sorting things out emphatically in the second half where Windsor rarely looked like adding to their tally; but our most impressive partnership were Jamie and Jack - both up-front in the first half and in central midfield in the second, playing with determination, energy and no little skill. Purely on the basis that Jamie has been recognised a few times recently, this week's star player award therefore goes to Jack.