Keenly Contested Opener
A tough start to life in a new league
Having decided to leave the Woodspring League, we were aware that life in the Avon Youth League would be more challenging - more games and more keenly contested. The first of those tests was being ready to play on the 3rd September, but unfortunately we had to do so without a full compliment of players. We welcomed Larkhall Athletic in our first AYL game and we had a bare 11 available to play, which also meant a tweak to our favoured formation. We had Toby in goal and a back three (as is fashionable!) of Emmanuel, Luca and Max. Dex lined up at right wing back with debutant, Flynn, starting at left wing back. A midfield 3 of Liam (following his permanent transfer back to the team), Kyran and Olly lined up behind a traditional front 2 of Elijah and Mike. We were keen to get the ball forward quickly and use the abundance of pace we had up there.
The difference in quality for the new league was definitely evident from the off, but we were pleased to see that this was not too much for the team and they relished the challenge. We made a quicker start and it was not long before we scored from a corner. However unusually this was a slightly scuffed corner from Kyran that went along the ground to the rear of the penalty area where Mike was waiting to sweep the ball home. A second soon followed after a goal kick from Toby was latched onto by Elijah and he raced clear before a slightly untidy finish beat the Larkhall keeper to make it 2-0. However that was as good as it got for the team as our lack of pre-season preparation started to show as we retreated and struggled with our legs. Larkhall rotated their 3 or 4 subs well and they appeared to have more running in their legs. I accept that this is a management issue and unfortunately we arrived at this game a little undercooked - a mistake that won't be repeated. Through the second half Elijah and Mike were both limited by injury and this blunted our attack. In spite of this both managed to it the post and a late header from a corner was put agonisingly wide by Elijah.
In the middle of all that pressure though there were some really positive performances. Liam and Flynn both looked strong on their first league appearances and both showed composure and awareness. Emmanuel was strong at the back sweeping up trouble and Toby made a fine string of saves and generally controlled his penalty area with great authority. Max was solid in defence on a full start too.
Unfortunately the two goals conceded were a little weak and probably down to a lack of match sharpness as much as anything else. The first from a second ball that broke at a corner and the second from a loose ball when we looked to have thwarted the Larkhall attack. In the end I think a draw was probably a fair result and we were happy to avoid defeat with just the 11 players. We can definitely compete in this league, but we will need to ensure that we are "on" for each and every game - it will be an enjoyable and action packed season.
Man of the Match: Toby Clark - quick off his line, marshalled his defence well and made a number of high quality saves when called upon.