The latest tournament for the Slazenger U16 boys was held at Harrogate on 1st December. Once again, Slazenger were competing in the 1st division.
Slazenger 0 – 2 City of York
The opening game was against main rivals City of York. With the last meeting finishing in a tense 0-0 draw, it was the York team that took the early initiative, playing high tempo passing hockey and putting the Slazenger defence under pressure from the start. Slazenger struggled to find the kind of form that had proved so devastating in the EHB Cup a week earlier and only some goal line defending and outstanding saves by goal keeper Ralph Toon kept the score even. With York dominating the mid field, the Slazenger forwards had little to work with so it was no surprise when York opened the scoring after about 15 minutes, the first goal conceded by the Slazenger defence all season. York increased their lead after 20 minutes when Slazenger failed to fully clear a short corner. To make matter worse, Matthew Feather suffered a painful blow to his thumb preventing him from taking part in any more games.
Slazenger 1 – 1 Bradford
Facing a team that they had beaten 6 – 0 a week earlier, the Slazenger boys again appeared tense, making too many handling errors and misplaced passes. Despite this, Matthew Stacey opened the scoring after 15 minutes with a fine reverse hit. Slazenger began to settle and play some more positive hockey, which resulted in Jamie Young winning a short corner in his first outing with the team. A well executed short corner routine saw James Higgins’ short stopped on the line with a foot. Rowan Tejura missed the resulting penalty flick and with Slazenger unsettled by events surrounding the flick, Bradford took advantage to grab a equalising goal less than a minute from the final whistle.
Slazenger 2 – 0 Doncaster
With Doncaster having already beaten Bradford 3 – 0, it was essential that Slazenger took the full three points from the last game of the day to stay in Division 1. After much positive team building and encouragement from the coaching team and parents alike, the Slazenger boys started more strongly putting the Doncaster defence under pressure and making goal scoring opportunities. Doncaster, needing just a draw to stay up, posed a significant treat which tested the Slazenger full backs, James Higgins and Tom Pitchforth and kept Ralph busy in goal.
After 12 minutes, Slazenger made the first breakthrough when Matthew Stacey, having just switched to the left wing, deflected a fierce cross from Dan Atkinson into the Doncaster goal. Doncaster pressed to get back into the game but Slazenger, now playing with renewed spirit, worked hard to deny them an equaliser, none moreso than Dan Levitt and Alex King.
It was well into the last 5 minutes before Matthew Stacey found the net for the third time of the day, deflecting a well executed short corner into the goal.
Selecting a ‘man of the match’ was not easy with several players putting a lot if effort into all three games. Ralph Toon kept Slazenger in the game several times and Dan Levitt maintained his high work rate throughout but James Higgins gets the vote for his performance at full back. It was a tough tournament but a good learning opportunity for some of the less experienced boys. Most improved player goes to Alex King who continues to grow in confidence and skill with every game.