In the first game after their promotion to Division 1 was announced, the Beechfield U11 Hurricanes faced a strong Swinton Jaguars side, who are an experienced Division 1 team, in their first a Supplementary Cup Group B game. The Hurricanes were missing Oliver Williams, who was their Man of the Match last week, due to illness and were also without Head Coach Ben Robinson. However, the rest of the team were in good spirits after their recent promotion, on a bright but cold and windy morning, and seemed to be looking forward to the challenge of playing at a higher level.
The Hurricanes started brightly and had the lion’s share of possession and territory as the Jaguars took a while to settle into the game. However, it was the Jaguars who managed to grab the first goal of the game, with a scrappy effort after the Beechfield defence failed to clear their lines effectively. Unfortunately, this seemed to fill the away side with confidence and it wasn’t long before they doubled their lead with an excellent solo goal from their Number 7, who used some great footwork to beat three defenders before tucking his shot into the bottom corner.
The Hurricanes could easily have let their heads drop at this point but, to their credit, they battled back into the game and continued to dominate for long spells. Oliver Hall made some dangerous runs down the right and Reece Cartwright put pressure on the Swinton defence, as their ‘keeper was called into action a number of times. When the Jaguars did manage to launch a counter-attack, they found Fabio Figueiredo in his usual, tough-tackling mood, which helped to snuff-out any signs of danger at the back.
The Swinton players seemed to become increasingly frustrated by the pressure they were under, which led to a few heavy tackles and off-the-ball challenges flying in, which the referee bizarrely decided not to punish?! Unfortunately, one of these challenges caught midfield general Joshua Whitehead late and hard, which meant he had to limp off just before the break due to injury. However the Hurricanes’ players still refused to let up and, on the stroke of half time, Thomas Robinson whipped in a superb cross from the right hand side which beat all of the defenders and found Henry Errington who slid in brilliantly to poke the ball past the visiting ‘keeper for an opening goal that Beechfield’s efforts thoroughly deserved.
The half time team talk was delivered by Glenn Whitehead and his assistant Tom Hall, but their wise words were interrupted as the referee spotted a sink-hole on the edge of the penalty area that had suddenly appeared?! The hole was about a foot wide but seemed almost bottomless, and hence presented a danger to the players’ safety, so the game had to be moved onto the adjacent pitch. Unfortunately, the delay seemed to knock the Hurricanes players out of their stride and allowed the Jaguars players to re-group, as Swinton started the second half on the front foot.
The Jaguars pressure paid off, albeit in somewhat fortunate circumstances, as a mis-hit cross from wide out on the right wing caught the increasingly strong breeze and drifted into the far top corner for a goal that caught everyone by surprise, and restored the visitors’ two-goal lead. Beechfield were determined to stay in the game though, and really got stuck in, as the referee continued to ignore fouls and offsides all over the pitch. The Hurricanes’ captain Dillan Caldwell was particularly resolute in his defending, as he put in some fantastic last-ditch tackles in his crucial position as sweeper.
The referee’s most significant decision of the game was to award Swinton a penalty, after quick footwork from their Number 7 drew a slightly mis-timed tackle from the Hurricanes’ defence, and one of their other strikers buried the resulting spot-kick into the bottom corner. Going three goals behind could easily have led to the Beechfield players’ heads dropping, but again they showed their determination and strong character by muscling their way back into the game. Man of the Match Jamie Maher was becoming increasingly influential as he put in some tough tackles to break-up the Jaguars play in midfield, but also displayed great vision and intelligence to release his team-mates with some great balls forward. Enzo Barbosa gave the Beechfield attack some fresh legs and his willing runs against a tiring Swinton defence continued to cause the visitors an increasing number of problems.
It wasn’t much longer before the possession and territory paid off as Amaan Khan went on a barn-storming run up the middle of the pitch and, despite being fouled on more than one occasion, managed to release Henry Errington who slid a clever ball across to Alfie Rostron who hammered home with a first time volley for the goal of the game! This was little more than the Hurricanes deserved, and they were unlucky not to add to their tally after a number of good efforts drifted just wide or were saved well by the visiting goalkeeper.
The Jaguars remained a constant threat on the counter-attack though, and the Hurricanes’ own goalkeeper, Oliver Dalton-Bunker, was called into action to protect his goal from a number of dangerous shots and free kicks. As the game drew to a close, he made a good save from a vicious shot from just outside of the area, but couldn’t quite prevent a Swinton player from scrambling home the rebound to secure their victory, and give the game a scoreline that probably flattered them a little.
The Beechfield boys had competed well throughout the game, and dominated for long spells, in their first match at this new, higher level. Swinton were delighted at the final whistle to get the win, although both sides were left frustrated and confused by a number of the referee’s decisions. After the game, caretaker coach Glenn Whitehead said “I think we did well today. The long break at half time as we changed pitches didn’t help as we were dominating the last ten minutes of the first half. Well played boys, and Jamie on being Man of the Match”.
The Hurricanes squad for the match was: Oliver Dalton-Bunker, Fabio Figueiredo, Alfie Rostron, Amaan Khan, Oliver Hall, Henry Errington, Dillan Caldwell, Jamie Maher, Joshua Whitehead, Enzo Barbosa, Reece Cartwright and Thomas Robinson.