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Fighting Start to the New Season

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

We were blessed with the sun shining and a lovely warmth in the air this Sunday morning for the start of the 2021/22 season.

Loughborough Phoenix kicked off their campaign against Birstall Utd and what a game it was too.

The game was fast paced and we put our practice to play, of fast passing to playing forward at pace. Within minutes we had led a barrage of attempts on goal only to be foiled by the Birstall goalkeeper consistently.

By the 11th minute a great ball through the middle from Massimo led to Dan pounding home the first goal.

Birstall didn't give us an easy tun though, it was end to end attacking.

The fast pace seemed to take its toll on our boys as we seemed to flag a little, I think the realism of the new pitch being a great deal bigger and so much more ground to cover hit them all at once.

This led to the opposition changing their tact and playing the high ball over the top of our defenders to gain the advantage of three consecutive goals against us, taking Birstall into half time with a comfortable lead.

I am fortunate with these boys of ours that they do trust me when I jig the formation a little in order to counteract the style of play of the opposition, but also to give us a more controlling pace to the game. With the cobwebs blown off and the wheels greased we took to the field for the second half.

This time our passes were more thought out and again the fast pace of our passing started to pay off.

With Finn leading a run through the middle to find a great ball out to Charlie on the right wing for him to cross a ball to the edge of the box where he found Tom not having a clear path he laid it off to Dan to nail home his second of the day 38th minute.

Now the game was on, the boys not content with this kept the momentum going, pressing high up the field the ball found its way out on the left with a run down the wing by Jack to find Mass on the edge of the box passing a great ball across the goal mouth to find Evan who turned two players to nail home a powerhouse of a shot to the bottom right corner just passed the finger tips of the goalkeeper on the 45th minute.

From a counter attack Birstall managed a 4th goal again giving them the lead of 4-3, once again the boys dug deep and definitely not a team that gives up easily, we were on the attack again this time a great run by Cameron up the middle putting a ball over the top of the defenders only for it to be booted out in panic by the goalkeeper finding AJ on the halfway line laying off a great ball through the middle to Tom, who was on the edge of the box he turned right, then left and the right again a what a goal it was on the 53rd minute.

Not long after another play out from the back from Matty finding Charlie with a great run down the wing taking it all the way to the touch line, then pulling it back into the box to find Finn shooting and the ball taking a deflection out finding Tom shooting and yet another deflection out. Fortunately this time finding Massimo who some how found a pass through all the defenders legs to find Evan, who comfortably scored his second of the day on the 65th minute, giving us the lead of 5-4.

With minutes to go the whole team retreated to take a defensive approach to the dying minutes of the game. Birstall didn't want to give up the fight either They mounted a final flurry of attacks on goal only to find Phoenix defenders and goalkeeper digging deep and fighting for the win they richly deserved.

Now to big the boys up a little in what was achieved today. This is the first time all twelve of them have been together this summer and considering they haven't had any pre-season friendlies, they performed brilliantly.

Defensively Jack, Matty, Cameron, Rocco R and AJ did very well as we have to remember this is a new defensive line up and will take a little time to bed in together in saying that they all played brilliantly, tackled well and covered well too with some great clearances. Also full credit to the wing backs as that's some serious running up and down the field.

In Midfield Evan, Massimo, Tom and Charlie again learning a new formation is never easy but credit due, they played really well, closing down and hustling continuously to gain the advantage, with some good passing and movement on and off the ball.

Forwards Dan and Finn some fine movement again on and off the ball, nice goals by Dan and great dedication from a jetlagged Finn making some fine runs.

Last but not least Rocco our Goalkeeper, today he worked hard, made some fine saves and some good clearances out.

He has had a hard time of it today as he also has to get used to a bigger goal and a new defensive line up in front of him, which will come over the next few weeks.

What I admire about these boys is their work ethic and camaraderie is brilliant, not once did I see any heads go down or any moments of blame being thrown around. They just did what they do best and that is to fight to the very end.

Well done boys, proud Manager and lots of proud parents too today.

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