In my match report after our last trip to Harrogate in December, I noted that our next tournament was just 2 weeks away. How wrong could I be? With three successive cancelled tournaments, Slazenger travelled to Harrogate 3 months later with 16 boys including two boys on their first tournament; Elliot Golding & Lee Stringer.
The only player missing was Jack Garside who was taken ill the day before. Prior to the tournament, we had arranged to loan players to Huddersfield and Bridlington. However, Bridlington pulled out at short notice as they could field only 4 players, conceding their games 3 – 0 as per league rules.
On our previous visit to Harrogate, we experienced “cold weather but were spared rain or sleet”. This time we were not so lucky with the weather playing a major part in the tournament.Squad: Aidan Hopkinson, Alex King, Ben Stevenson, Elliott Golding, Isaac Fisher (Capt), James Higgins, Lee Stringer, Luke Gueli, Matthew Feather, Matthew Stacey, Mayank Gupta, Nick Calderley, Ralph Toon (GK), Robert Cann, Rowan Tejura & Tom Pitchforth
The first game between Huddersfield and Harrogate was played in freezing rain and was won 2 – 0 by Harrogate, with both Elliot & Nick acquitting themselves well for Huddersfield, particularly Elliot, who made some well timed runs at centre forward which were not picked out by the other Huddersfield players.
Slazenger (5) vs. (1) Huddersfield
Slazenger were quick to take control of the mid field, stringing together passes well and creating scoring opportunities right from the start, We quickly moved into a 2 – 0 lead within the first 5 minutes thanks to goals from Isaac and Matthew Stacey which raised a small smile as he scored against his old club. As the cold rain turn to sleet, Slazenger continued to push hard for another goal, working play towards the left to bring Lee & Ben into play. Pushing so hard for another goal left us open to counter attack and we played the price when Huddersfield managed to ‘bungle’ the ball over the line on about 10 minutes.The team reacted well, without panicking and continued to play good passing hockey which resulted in 3 goals in quick succession from Isaac, Robert and Tom to win the game convincingly.
Slazenger (2) vs. (1) Harrogate
While Slazenger were taking on Huddersfield in freezing rain and sleet, Harrogate were sheltering and resting in the warm club house. This advantage showed as Slazenger started a little slower than in their previous game coming under pressure, particularly down the Harrogate left. It was from one of these attacks that Slazenger failed to clear the ball fully leaving a Harrogate player with space and time at the top of the circle to score.
Again Slazenger did not panic, passing the ball and threatening down both flanks as well as down the middle of the pitch but as the sleet turned to snow, Slazenger clearly had the upper hand. Several shots were saved or missed by very little and Harrogate attacks became less frequent and less likely to score. However, it was not until 8 minutes from the end that a passing move through mid field led to the ball being played wide on the right where Matthew Stacey and Luke worked the ball around behind the defence before Luke laid it back for Isaac to finish almost unchallenged to equalise.
Straight from the restart, Slazenger pressed hard, with Aidan winning the ball well inside the Harrogate half leading to a string of short corners one of which Isaac slotted away convincingly to give Slazenger the lead. Harrogate then pressed hard in the last few minutes with Slazenger defending in numbers to record a deserved win.
It is worth noting that most of the Harrogate parents/supporters stayed in the warmth of the club house while the hardy Slazenger parents braved the elements (under the covered stand) to cheer on their team which might well have been the deciding factor.In the circumstances, the friendly that had been arranged between Harrogate and Slazenger in order to give some of the less experienced players in both squads more pitch time was called off so that everyone could get dried out and warm.
Player of the Tournament was Isaac Fisher who not only scored 4 goals but also controlled the midfield superbly and passed the ball around.
Most Improved Player was Alex King who is growing in confidence and skill to match his determination to win the ball, particularly against Harrogate.Thanks to John Toon who umpired three matches in succession.
I umpired just the first match so can appreciate how cold he must have been.Slazenger U14 boys finished 2nd in the YYH league, securing a second successive place in the playoffs which will take place on 29th April at Halifax HC. Congratulations to the team! Please keep this date free in your diaries!