South East’s maiden Men’s Southern Championships campaigns finally got underway with Saturday’s North Chigwell double-header against Metro.
On a day when no fewer than fourteen players were unavailable, coach Glen Roland was left with no option but to call on our energetic band of teenagers to turn out for both games.
With fifteen-year-old Jesse Mason between the sticks and coach Roland playing as a makeshift centre half, the reserves fought well in a tight first half, with the only goal coming direct from a Metro corner.
Veterans Jayden Wiggins and Terry Kent were pulling the strings impressively in the middle of the park for Metro, and a five-minute spell midway through the second half saw the hosts score twice to seemingly assure the victory. The South East coach, celebrating his birthday, finished off a slick Metro counter attack by slotting home himself for an own goal for the third, bringing a degree of amusement to both supporter groups.
Roland promptly benched himself and brought on son Nick, fellow teen Patrick Quinlan, and veteran Andy Rhodes in a last throw of the dice and it was Rhodes who brought us back into the contest with ten to play when he also managed to score direct from a corner.
As the game headed towards its dying embers, the teenage substitutes combined brilliantly for Quinlan to finish with aplomb to set up a grandstand finish. Amazingly, the pair repeated the feat a minute later for Quinlan to claim a point for his team with virtually the last kick of what turned out to be an unexpectedly exciting game.
With no fewer than six players having to double up for the Veto Men’s Southern Championship game immediately afterwards (and five more on the bench), it was no surprise that we turned out to be no match for a fresh and highly impressive Metro first team.
We battled on gamely and special mention has to be made of goalkeeper Simon McGuire who, despite the deluge he was under for most of the game, pulled off a series of fine saves and also managed the incredible feat of saving two Metro penalties.
It is impossible to draw many conclusions from the eight goal drubbing with so many players unavailable. Our young side deserve credit for never giving up the chase or taking a backward step against their vastly more experienced and accomplished opposition. It may have been a different story with our full team available, so hopefully we will get the chance to find out in the coming weeks how competitive we can really be.
Earlier in the day, our Under 15 team took on Clarence in an entertaining first hit out at Pembroke Park. The team is shaping up nicely with skipper Brad Woolley relishing finally having the opportunity to play at his own age group (having played two years up for the past few seasons), while Sam Sartori and Dane Sutcliffe look particularly dangerous on the wings, and Zyhe Ackroyd showing tremendous energy alongside the captain in midfield.