POSTED: April 03 2021 14:00:00. By Ben Robinson - Hurricanes back, and can be proud, despite defeat.

U12 Hurricanes (Away) v Fletcher Moss Rangers U12 Colts
Saturday 3rd April 2021 (9.30am KO)
Merseybank Playing Fields, Merseybank Avenue, Manchester, M20 2ZH
Referee: Patrick Mahon
Lost: 1-0 (HT 0-0)
Man of the Match: Oliver Dalton-Bunker

In their first game for four months, the Hurricanes made the long journey to Merseybank to face a strong Fletcher Moss outfit who had won all six of their games so far in this disrupted season. The teams had last played each other all the way back in September 2020, with the Hurricanes on the receiving end of a 6-1 drubbing in their first league game in Division 1. The challenge was certainly not made any easier by the loss of influential midfielders Olly Hall and Josh Whitehead who were having to isolate after a positive COVID case in their school bubble.

However, the Beechfield players didn’t seem to let any of this bother them as they started confidently on a big, wide pitch in crisp, cold conditions. They even had the first chance of the game as Enzo Barbosa forced a smart save from the home ‘keeper. Neither team showed any sign of rustiness after the long lay-off as the game proceeded at a high pace, with the ball flowing from end to end.

As the first half wore on, the Fletcher Moss side did begin to dominate position and possession at times, although the Hurricanes looked assured at the back and always looked dangerous on the counterattack. Jamie Maher looked particular solid in defence and he was able to regularly release Thomas Robinson, who went on a number of strong, dangerous runs down the right.

However, the home team were beginning to create more chances and Dillan Caldwell was forced to make a number of last-ditch blocks and tackles, including one where he put his body on the line and ended up with a nasty whack on the shin. On the odd occasion that the ball did get past the Beechy defence, Oliver Dalton-Bunker was able to calmly deal with any chances that were aimed at his goal.

As the half drew to a close Fabio Figueiredo and Owen Hogben both made important challenges to break up play on the edge of the Hurricanes’ box while Alfie Roston and Henry Errington linked up well to move the ball forward quickly whenever the away side got the chance to counter.

However, the game remained goalless at the break as the Beechfield players took a well-earned rest and coach Ben Robinson took the opportunity to shuffle his pack. Henry Errington dropped back with Fabio Figueiredo moving further forward as the second half began, and the Fletcher Moss coach utilised the luxury of the three substitutes that were available to him.

The home team definitely made the stronger start after the break, with the game being played almost entirely in the Beechfield half at times. Goalkeeper Oliver Dalton-Bunker was forced into a number of smart saves and last-ditch clearances but otherwise, the away side showed great determination and defended resolutely. As both teams started to tire, the game opened up once again. Owen Hogden and Alfie Rostron were becoming more and more influential in the middle of the park, and Jamie Maher and Thomas Robinson contributed to a number of threatening attacks down the right, which filled the away team with hope.

However, after few heavy challenges, some dubious decisions from the referee, and a few unfortunate clashes, a number of the Beechfield boys were struggling to continue at times. The lack of available substitutes and the long period without a game seemed to take its toll on the walking-wounded in pale blue as the Fletcher Moss players poured forward. Even Man of the Match Oliver Dalton-Bunker was helpless to intervene as the huge home striker drilled home a low, hard shot that almost burst the back of the net to give them a lead that they barely seemed to deserve.

At a point in the game where the Hurricanes could easily have felt aggrieved, given up or let their heads drop, they did the precise opposite and somehow found a second-wind which drove them forward in search of an equaliser. Owen Hogben began to dominate the midfield and was part of some great, free-flowing football as the Hurricanes played almost all of the remaining minutes in the opposition half. Thomas Robinson, Enzo Barbosa and Alfie Rostron all forced saves out of the home ‘keeper and Henry Errington was desperately unlucky to rattle the crossbar in the closing moments.

Another few minutes would almost certainly have seen a Hurricanes equaliser (if not a winner) but the referee’s whistle brought proceedings to close before the away side managed to find the goal that their efforts definitely deserved. The players looked hugely disappointed as they limped from the pitch at the end but should be incredibly proud of their efforts in a game where everything seemed to go against them and yet they could still so easily have won.

After the game, coach Ben Robinson said “The boys did great today, so proud of them. We missed Josh and Olly for sure though - we definitely win that game with a full squad!” Hopefully, the Easter eggs that each of the lads received at the end of the same will help to soften the blow of a narrow defeat and give them the boost they need to carry their outstanding efforts forward into next week’s match.

The Hurricanes squad for the match was: Oliver Dalton-Bunker, Jamie Maher, Dillan Caldwell, Fabio Figueiredo, Owen Hogben (c), Alfie Rostron, Thomas Robinson, Henry Errington and Enzo Barbosa.

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