A disappointing day for the Slazenger U16 Boys, which began with high hopes and some initial positive play. Due to Ben Rhydding not being able to raise a team, the boys were asked to play four matches on the trot at Pocklington, totalling 100 minutes hockey. While they persisted, the back to back matched took their toll.
Slazenger (0) vs. (0) Harrogate
A strong opening ten minutes against Harrogate showed some good passing interplay. Slaz took the game to their opponents and maintaining positional discipline, leading to a number of early strikes on goal, which required good play from the harrogate ‘keeper to avoid Slaz taking the lead. As the game progressed, Harrogate developed their own play and Slaz slipped back into their old, bad habits of mids and half-backs playing too deep. This gave Harrogate the freedom to press Slazenger inside their own half. The horbury side continued to compete hard, but conceded a number of penalty corners through indisciplined play. The last was conceded just as the final whistle was blown, but some quick work by Alex Calderley combined with work from James and Keeper Ralph Toon maintained the scoreline. The result was a fair representation of the game; Slaz had created the better chances, though a combination of good goalkeeping from Harrogate and continued pressure had maintained the equilibrium.
Slazenger (0) vs. (6) Gateshead
The second game on the trot was against Gateshead. After a hard game against Harrogate, the team lacked the fire and strong tackling which they had benefited from in the first game. Gateshead represented a stronger challenge than Harrogate, and took advantage of this weakness. Unfortunately, Slaz had not learned from the first match and continued to play too deep and not mark well enough. The skillful opponents pressed this advantage, forcing errors and playing fast effective free hits. Within 6 minutes, the team were trailing by 4 goals. Ralph Toon’s keeping unusually tentative – reflecting the mood of the team. On the few occasions Slaz broke out of our own 23, they failed to provide an outlet for the ball-carrier, who was too often left with no option but to hit the ball away or take it into contact. In the end, the Slazenger side were fortunate to keep the score to what it was, as it could easily have been in double-figures.
Slazenger (2) vs. (6) Doncaster
After such a coprehensive defeat, it was going to be tough for Slaz to raise their game. However, the team rallied and played a more competitive level of hockey. However in a repeat of the previous match, they were quickly behind by 2 goals, causing frustration and disquiet.
This was not helped by the implementation of a 3-2-3-2 formation which they were still adapting to. A third was conceded through direct pressure by some more physically powerful players on the Doncaster side. With slaz’s more inexprienced players unable to intercept the more experienced strikers, the team were 3-0 behind.
However, the team picked up and created several good chances through quick movement of the ball. Robin Brearton converted 2 to put them within touching distance. Unfortunately, a reversal was not to be, as injury led to 3 of the most experienced of Slaz’z lineup being substituted. With this loss, Doncaster quickly overran and scored a further 3.
In this case the result didn’t reflect the balance of play and there were many positives to take from it. Danny Croxall continued his good run of form from the Mens 4th (Development) team the previous day as a strong defensive anchor. Alex Spencer-Taylor excelled down the right wing, and Captain Tim Hunter who ran himself almost to exhaustion and didn’t let his head drop, which was remarkable. Finally the aggression around the D of regulary Luke Guelli and Brearton.
Slazenger (1) vs. (4) Halifax
The final game against Halifax was a much more even affair. Again, a couple of early lapses of concentration saw the team 2-0 down, but they battled back stronger. Spencer-Taylor and Brearton combined well down the right wing, setting up Gueli to net a response. However, the strains of the day were beginning to tell and gradually the boys faded, conceding two soft goals at the death.