U16 Boys Finish the Season in fine style
By Stephen Tabb
Much to be proud of with victory in final game
This match proved to be an excellent one on so many fronts.
Playing at home, and immediately after the Captains v Presidents XI match, the lads were able to showcase some fine skills on a balmy afternoon. The lads put on a true spectacle, taking a deserved win, but some of the reasons why this game was such a positive experience:
1. The victory avenged a 5-0 loss to Bromsgrove at the start of the season. This victory meant that whilst the lads lost their first 3 matches within the U16 Tier 2 National Cup, they have not lost since December - recording 3 wins and 1 draw in their unbeaten run. This meant that the lads finished 5th overall within the Midlands Tier 2 competition.
2. This season has continued to strengthen the great partnership that is being developed between Sils and Stratford, enabling our lads to make friends, and also get more match opportunities than they would have done if we were not able to join up with them; it is fair to say that the parents of both teams have also developed friendships, and with almost every single player being within this squad being U15, it means they can all continue to play in the same side next year.
3. The team was able to "blood" a number of our talented U14s and U12s - all of whom kept good account of themselves - and were expertly supported by their older, more experienced colleagues.
So to the game itself.
The early exchanges were tight - Bromsgrove relying upon their three strong central players to dominate possession for the first few minutes, but not really create any real chances to trouble Ben Rice in goal. The first moment of quality saw Sils take the lead. Ollie Tompkins, who was beginning to make real progress with his pace and close skills enabling him to attack the inside channels aggressively, turned the ball over from a Bromsgrove 16, and having beaten a player, fed the ball squad to Dan Bridges; Bridges took one step to his right, and thundered a shot towards the far post - Tompkins continued his run and deflected the ball in to take the lead.
Bromsgrove hit straight back though. With the visiting midfield transferring the ball down the left, the ball found its way to former Sils player, and Bromsgrove guest, Harry McGuirk, who carried the ball strongly into the D and at the last minute slipped the ball to his team's centre forward who had the easiest job to turn the ball home.
However, in the same fashion as Bromsgrove had hit back immediately, so did Sils. This time Bridges was the one who managed to win the ball back from a visiting defensive hit out, and his touch was enough to find Tompkins. Ollie still had plenty to do, but managed to evade the challenges of three defenders in close proximity in the D, to then flick home and score an excellent second.
The speed of this response really took the fight out of Bromsgrove, and Matt Squance in the centre of the pitch was also now beginning to find space to drive the Sils team forward. It was just reward that before half-time he had scored a goal (a shot from a PC deflected past the excellent visitor's GK by his own defender), and Bridges had combined again with Tompkins, but this time, it was Dan who scored with Ollie attacking down the left and finding Dan on the far post with the simplest of tap-ins.
The second half started in a similar fashion - Sils playing some nice stuff, with the younger players all gaining great experience from playing at this level with, and against, some very good quality players.
The lead went up to 5 goals, with Bridges scoring a second, at the second attempt, converting with a backhand finish after an initial save. As Sils legs tired, and different players were given opportunities, Bromsgrove were able to reduce the deficit by scoring 2 goals for themselves, but Sils were not done, and 12 year old Matt Hulbert joined the list of scorers (not bad in an U16 match!) to leave the final score as 6-3 to the home team.
This was the first year we have entered the Tier 2 competition, and whilst the start was difficult, I think everyone will reflect on it being generally a very positive experience overall. Time for a well earned break, and then the lads will no doubt do their clubs proud again next year! Thanks to all at Stratford for their support - we hope you have enjoyed it as much as our lads have.