U16 boys lose to Marlow...
mathematical proof... not just the score...
It is often said that time is a great healer and having played (and won) another game since, perhaps there is some truth in that. It’s been a week or more since the match and whilst the pain of defeat is never easy to take and the memory of what actually happen dims into vague recollection, rationalisations and analysis of the performance has been made and lessons are being learned both by the players and the coaching staff.
It was a bitterly cold afternoon, too cold to sit in the stands and watch the 1st XI game as planned, so the warm up started early following a reasonably brief team talk. Distractions were a-plenty with several familiar faces from JRPC and a previous player on the opposition team, which seemed to be firing the boys up more than anything else.
It is at times like this and in producing the match report I recall that it’s a simple equation that states;
Performance = Ability - Distraction
In retrospect it seems that the distractions were many and significant enough to reduce the ability of a strong Reading team to a defeat, with the main positive to take from this statement being that the distractions were more of our own making than anything else.
It was always going to be a very tight match, with both teams evenly matched across the pitch. The early and tense exchanges led to scant opportunities for both teams and it took over 15 minutes to get the first short corner, harshly given for the first real stick tackle in the Reading defensive 23, which was thankfully (from a Reading perspective) spurned. The warning signs had already been there following poor reactions to an early free hit that was clearly indicated to be just outside the same 23 metre line and a Marlow player in acres of space was unlucky to deflect a driven ball wide. This was, in truth, a period where Reading were struggling with getting organised, with several players attempting to do too much in the desperation for a strong performance against friendly rivals.
Marlow opened the scoring from their second short corner after 20 minutes. A well worked routine that seemed to be executed in slow motion as the ball was returned to the injector from the top of the D, outside the keeper’s right post for a deflection in. Someone had to score first.
This made the Reading boys try harder in their slightly disjointed and misfiring team structure due to some tactical substitutions, with opportunities falling to Cameron Ellis, who unfortunately couldn’t quite get enough space to get a shot away on a couple of occasions, and Archie Sweeting with his chances just not quite coming off. Sam Armitage was making some good forward runs to get behind the Marlow defence whilst Nathaniel Majakas was holding strong in midfield amidst the chaos around him. Reading were slowly building through Angus Haigh and Fred Newbold despite the tense feel to the game, which always looked to have at least one more goal in it. Arguably the best opportunity of the half fell to Fred Newbold, who found himself in space at the top of the D and attempted to round the Marlow keeper but failed to convert the opportunity.
At half time, it was still 1-0 to Marlow and anyone’s game with the next goal likely to be critical. Marlow were putting together the better build up play but Reading just about shaded the count of genuine goal scoring chances. The half time team talk was all about the boys playing with their heads more than the hearts in attempt to regain some composure as it seemed the boys were forgetting how to play as effectively as they had done in previous matches due to the growing distractions of things not quite going their way.
It became apparent quite quickly that this message hadn’t really got through. There was no shortage of effort on display, it was simply misdirected for the first 20 minutes of the 2nd half but there were flashes of hope. Some intricate interplay opened up the Marlow defence on a couple of occasions but even then they were not frequent enough. Marlow’s superior and more considered build up play eventually paid off with a 2nd goal after 50 minutes, where a weak reverse stick strike from the edge of the D deceived Henry Saxby in goal and rattled against the backboard.
This seemed to have an effect on the Reading boys who rather than get their heads down kept persisting. Shape improved slightly and momentum shifted towards them with a couple of close misses through good link up play putting Marlow marginally on the back foot.
The final 15 minutes of the match, however, resulted in decisions that would ultimately influence the final score.
A blatant back of the stick offence by a Marlow defender to prevent Archie Sweeting, who had got behind him from getting the ball resulted in Reading being given a life line with the award of a penalty stroke. Following the joy of getting the opportunity to score, and much to the surprise of the Reading players, supporters and both sets of coaching staff, the decision was overturned by the umpire at the other end. A penalty corner was the resultant decision which was, sadly, not converted to right the perceived wrong from Reading’s perspective.
Not surprisingly the distractions were beginning to weigh on the Reading players but they still didn’t give up and continued to push for a way back into the game although it had the feeling of slipping away from them no matter what they tried.
This was confirmed in more unusual circumstances, with Marlow awarded a penalty stroke with five minutes remaining by the eagle eyed official following Henry Saxby allegedly covering the ball with his glove. This was despite at least one stick tackle from a Marlow attacker and with Henry feeling hard done to as he suggested afterwards his glove was behind the ball, not on top. It was no surprise to see the penalty stroke converted and the game finally get just too far away from the boys.
There was some cause for a cheer in the closing moments as Sam Armitage and Archie Sweeting again combined in the D with the keeper making a save only for Archie to pounce on the rebound and flick the ball into the roof of the net from a narrow angle, making the final score 3-1 to the red team.
The general feeling was of a disappointing result and team performance but in truth, there was a good performance trying to get out of the boys for the vast majority of the game. They needed to find a spark and earn a little more luck than they managed to, with the feeling that the final score didn’t really reflect the close nature of the game. On a different day with a little more composure and perhaps better preparation from the lead coach there is confidence it would have been a different story.
Performance = Ability - Distraction indeed.