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Double Header Weekend

Box Hill saturday and Murray United Sunday - that was the weekend requirement, but on Friday that changed as the U18 Game set for Saturday was postponed to Thursday night to allow Box Hill U18 to be at their best against BG on Sunday.
So the U14s took the late Saturday time slot to play the Dandenong Thunder boys. They were second on the ladder before then and had only lost once by a score of 1-0 to Dandenong City and drawn to Springvale WE. They were tough and played very well - keeping possession extremely well throughout the first half. We really did not trouble them and then they scored a goal after some really messy play in defense. We went in 1-0 down and had to now kick into a howling gale. Box Hill came out supremely confident (and lets face it, the way we played our first half why wouldn't they?) Perhaps it was this confidence or the blast that the players got at half time they seemed to change our attitude. We all worked really hard and were far more desperate to win the 50/50 battles. As a result we caused pressure on the opposition - a lot more pressure and they started to make errors and poor passes. Liron and AJ were awesome all game while Lou was excellent in goal.Jordy B played well and in the second half all played well. Lavo gave a great pass to Liron who scored and made it 1-1. Then we won a penalty and Sanih put it in with ease  We really played good defense for last 20 minutes as the game was so tight.It was excellent work from the 14s to earn a win against a very good team.
Day two saw us take on Murray united who had played Nunawading and beaten them 2-0! It was obvious that we were a better team but we were not playing well. Sanih finally scored after we had plenty of play, but our efforts were simply not like they were in the second half against Box Hill. It was almost slack work and this was really disappointing. But after about 10 minutes we found the net again and again as Sanih scored again, AJ scored a cracker and Betim scored 2. It was half time and we were 5-0 up. We still had to play better and so we implored the players to just play team football.
We made a real silly error in defense (again) and it was 5-1. Lavo scored off an assist from AJ and at 6-1 we were playing better. Our defense strengthened and were giving plenty of opportunity to the attackers. Unfortunately the boys up front were wasting opportunities by not playing team football and trying to add goals to their names! As a result we did not score any more and the game ended at 6-1.
The U18s came out and we had to send a message. We were playing Murray United who were on a roll - having won 3 out of 3 including against Box Hill, Dandenong City, NTC, and drawing to South Melbourne 3-3! We had played miserably lately - wasting many opportunities and giving away silly goals. The boys came out and played some wonderful football - some of the goals were absolutely excellent! George slammed the first one home after some great play from the defence through to midfield and then across the front of the keeper. We were unlucky not to score another one after an unbelievable save from their keeper from a rocket header from Nic. But we were treated to some awesome team goals - Nate to Nanton for a sublime finish and  and Nic to Nate for a fourth! Everyone was playing well and our defense was super strong in the first half. Charlie was excellent, as was Dhruv and kane and Wahed. Nanton and Tucci were super in the middle and Nate, Nic, Andre and George were working beautifully together. We were not one dimensional and it was a real pleasure to watch. Could we continue this in the second half? We decided to rest George, Wahed and Nic - how would we cope?
The opponents came out with the intention to possess the ball but great pressure saw Leigh score a goal. This did not phase them and to their credit they really boosted their game and fought well, The keeper was excellent and their midfield really dug deep. They had some chances and so did we. We gave Seb and Tom F a go after their long injuries and I was really happy with their efforts! It was great to see Seb whipping the ball in left foot and Tom F played with heaps of confidence running the ball up the wing! Toward the end we saw a cracking header by Nanton from Tucci's cross and it was 6-0. Special mention must go to Connor who has stepped in to be a keeper while we wait for Lewis to get better. It was the first clean sheet for many weeks and that is excellent!
We play Thursday so training is on Tuesday this week at Edithvale Reserve at 7PM!
Great job Boys - a real enjoyable game to watch!

Eastern Lions and another Draw!

I think we are all getting frustrated by some of the games we are playing. We really should be showing more on the scoreboard based on the number of attacking forays we make. On this Sunday we out shot the opposition on a comparison of 5 to 1 yet we managed to only score one goal. We had some great opportunities but our final kick was letting us down. The keeper made some great saves and kept us out from the back of the net. We were put in front by a cross from Leigh which just hung over the keeper, hit the upright and ricocheted in!
They capitalised on an error and made us pay. In the second half they had some great chances too but with 20 seconds left we were running in 1 V 1 against the keeper and hit it straight at him - te game remained level and we had blown a great opportunity to move up the ladder!

Shepparton Road Trip

We trudged off early to Shepparton having to play at 3PM. Most of us drove the 3 hours up on the morning, played and drove the three hours back! I was thinking that this was a pain in the bum but on the way home I recalled the amount of driving when Nate was U10 playing in the USA  ENCO league when we would have to drive from Nazareth to places like Delaware, Princeton NJ, Baltimore MD, Washington DC, etc for a game that virtually lasted 60 minutes! Now I moan over a 3 hour trip!! I'l have to toughen up!
Anyway, we were short on number carrying only 13 players and had no keeper and having to play a very physical Shepparton Team. The coach was quite animated and aggressive so naturally the team plays like this! We were getting pushed, hacked and elbowed quite a bit but the referee was letting it go. Shepparton scored first off a defensive error after we had had about 10 near misses but could not put the goal in. Finally we scored and their coach went off! He was evicted from the ground but still kept coaching from the car park. 1-1 at the half after a score from Nic.
The second half we were controlling the game pretty much and put on two hard earned goals to win 3-1.
We are still making mistakes from a lack of focus so this is something we need to work on!

Bulleen Brings Draws

It was Kind of unusual really! Two games - U14 and U18 - both playing Bulleen and both games were like exact replicas of each other! The games ended at 1-1 draws and in both instances we were highly unlucky not to win. Both goals came from simple mental mistakes to earn each Bulleen team a goal. We, on the other hand, scored two great goals and missed many many opportunities to earn the entire 3 pints. In both games Dandenong Thunder totally controlled the second halves, only to let the games slip. But that is why this game is so brilliant and the most popular on the planet. Sometimes things go your way - and other times it can be tough!
Both goals were awesome by the way!
In the 14s Oscar was played the ball and in his role as the 9 he played in back to AJ in the 8 and he shot a great goal past the keeper to give us a 1-0 lead. However while we were still celebrating Bulleen quickly took the kickoff, raced down field and shot over the keeper - less that 1 minute after we scored. We had so many opportunities after this but could not convert!
In the 18s we saw many chances go begging and then Bulleen hit us on a counter catching us out of shape at the back and forcing us to give a penalty away. So from 1-0 down we attacked many times but still could not convert. Finally, in the second half, George took a corner and nate side volleyed a rocket into the top corner. We had 80% of the play in the second half and some real opportunities - but could not convert.

We have a big weekend coming up - a big trip to Shepparton to play the Goulburn Valley Suns, who are getting stronger as the season really gets into swing. They are always tough to beat up there and the local referees make it somewhat harder.
We still have an inordinate amount of injuries, some which have been long term and not allowed some players to even have a game yet! But we will work through this.

South Melbourne Games

The U14s played first against a good South outfit. The game was very close with quick movement and South controlling the ball better on the ground. However the first big chance came from Jordy Bates shot which rattled the crossbar followed by another that was cleverly tipped over by the keeper. We had about 5 or 6 shots inside the 18 yard box including another that smashed into the upright to be denied a goal. The score could have been 2 or 3 to zero but we were just a little rushed in front of goal.
The defense was starting the get on top and Lou was doing a great job inside the box. His talk is excellent and he works hard to keep his defense together. Jordy H, Agim, Pete, Liron were all playing solidly trying to work the ball to AJ and TOM L. Tom R was also working hard and over the last 15 minutes we really started to get on top. The half time score was 0-0.
In the second half we started and were all over them. Oscar missed a couple from close in and their keeper saved some shots and we were unlucky not to score another 2. Betim was playing his best game ever and Pete G was ding his best to run the ball through the spaces. However the game was still 0-0 and in the balance. Against the run of play we gave the ball away easily up front and they countered. We let a player run with no pressure and he shot from an angle from about 25 metres and the ball escaped the grip of the keeper and went in and we found ourselves 1-0 down. It was unfortunate but that is the game. We had been clearly on top for 30 minutes straight and South had defended solidly and we had given them an easy goal. This seemed to drop the heads of the players and gave South momentum and confidence. Again we tried to attack time and time again but they thwarted our attempts. In the end we allowed another of their players simply to dribble towards the goals without pressure and he placed one over the keeper and the score was 2-0. Our defense, together with the midfield who were not running back to support, even though for most of the game had been solid, allowed 2 scores hat definitely could have been avoided. On the positive side however, we did play better this week and created some real chances. We will simply have to keep working.

The U18s had to play at Darebin. South Melbourne were unlucky to lose to Bentleigh Greens midweek and needed to bounce back to stay in he hunt. We knew they would come in fighting hard. We also were 6 players down, injured and absent which puts a lot of strain on everyone. SOme of the parents were nervous about missing key players but we had to do the best with the makeshift line-up. Some folks found themselves playing in different roles and with only three subs (with tomorrows second game against Bulleen to consider) it would be a big ask.
To the credit of the players we started off really well. We tried a safety formation at centre-back and this seemed to be working. We had a good structure trying to counter the opponents playing out from the back and immediately this worked when Nate intercepted the keeper and did a quick pass to Nic who shot past the keeper and into the goal. It was a great start. Soon after we earned a corner and Nic, once again rose up and put in a wonderful header! we were 2-0 up and looking strong. Then George, playing well in attack, tured and put in a ball from 35 metres that curved and beat the keeper - it was an amazing shot! Our forward structure was back to normal and with Leigh and George continuously changing sides it confused the defense somewhat.Tucci was playing awesome in the middle and was creating a lot of chances. Eventually, Nanton won a ball in midfield, ran down quickly and passed through to George in the 7 who lasered a pass across goal at hip height. This was met with Nic's fierce header that was an equal laser into the back of the net - it was unstoppable and we were 4-0 at the half. There was still room for improvement and we certainly did not want to go easy. Our defense led by Connor and Lewis were strong, limiting the opportunities of the opposition.
The second half started and the opponents came out more physical, in fact probably too physical with clips and tackles that were unnecessary. The referee let much go which created frustration. The game was far more even of a contest and South attacked far more quickly than previous. But it was a great set up and play that saw our lead extend. George played Nic into the corner and Nic took a touch while running. George sprinted diagonally to the front post and Nic hit George front post with a reciprocal laser and another great header goal.
The game became scrappier and much more physical and eventually we made a silly error and we gave another unnecessary goal away - something we seem to do weekly!
5-1 was the score and the boys should be proud of the way they played - but we have another game today against Bulleen who will be out to break us!

Painful Day All Around

I figured I better wait until the next day to write this report. Both teams played poorly yesterday - pretty well not much else to say. I realise that both teams had key players missing  and both teams played without a true 9 which hurts structurally, yet there should be enough depth to cover.
Simply, we were out defended by both 14 and U18 Heidelberg. Defensively, our teams struggled to keep pace with the quick diagonal balls through gaps and both defenses played too flat. They found it easy to pierce our back four however we struggled to pierce their back four.
I guess what hurts is that I know we are better than both teams - we just did not bring our game yesterday.
In the 14s and 18s we made some real howling mistakes. Falling over at crucial points, missing the ball at other crucial points, misreading the bounce of the ball or just not having the speed to keep up with an opponent nor the endurance to run out a whole game. Players looked tired and this creates simple mistakes based on pressure from the opposition.
This is one thing we have learned lately. When a team puts loads of continuous pressure on us we can't handle it. We need to address this at training.

U14s - we need to start again and build from the back. We are too poorly skilled and are rarely in the correct position to execute our game plan. Not one player can run out a full game. We miss training, come late to games, don't follow simple instructions and even more sadly, many of us lack that competitive desire that is necessary to play at NPL level. There is no communication at all! It is absolutely clear that most of us need strength, conditioning and speed development NOW!

U18s - the small pitch was obviously easier for Heidelberg to defend our spread offense and it allowed them to defend tightly and close all gaps. Yet we had three or 4 chances in the first half that we should have buried. In defense, we made some poor reads on the bouncing ball and played too flat and were punished. They had 5 or 6 entries into our defensive half and scored 3 times. Our lack of pace was clearly evident. Even though we have some fast players there are 12 from 20 that need to do strength, speed and conditioning.
So with a 3-0 deficit, I reiterated exactly what I said before the game. Keep possession, stop long balling on this little pitch and keep structure down back with a cushion. Move the ball laterally and quickly. We did this and started to control the game. They plugged 8 in the box and defended stoutly. We earned 1 goal and then missed a few easy chances. We scored a second and all of a sudden we were 3-2 down. We easily could have been 3-3 but we missed open goals from metres out. In fact we could have wrestled the lead back. They were getting tired and falling apart in shape. But for some inexplicable reason we abandoned the lateral game and started to long ball it again. They countered a few times and could have hurt us more if it wasn't for great work by Lewis but he can only protect the goal 1 v 1 a limited amount of times and they scored again to make it 4-2. Four defenders were repeatedly beaten by 1 or 2 players because we were trying to force the equaliser and gave it away, and they countered rapidly. And, on each occasion, we had no cushion - we left a defender 1v1 and we were done!
So let's hope both teams have learned about their shortcomings and are willing to apply themselves to correct the situations. We will see Wednesday I guess.

The Canberra Expedition in Pictures

First of all a great well done to Owen Magee for his photography work in the below Photo Album
Check it out!
Canberra Photo Album