Easy as 1-2-3

Caterham Pumas v. Lightning

3 - 6

Third week on the road, a black mark for the coach (extenuating circumstances and an inability to follow the sat nav) arriving after the players. Just enough time for a quick warm up. Not a good start, but the boys looked ready for the match ahead.

The starting line up was George, Cosmo, Joseph, Vansh, Riley Tioba and Ben, playing in a 3-1-2 formation. The pitch was variable to say the least, quite sticky especially our first half goal area. George described it as a mud pudding (no doubt inspired by Ned’s creative mud sculptures from last week).

All the early skirmishes were in the midfield seeing both Tioba and Ben dropping deeper to help Riley, with disciplined defending from Cosmo and Joseph (Captain for the day) and playing in the unusual position of central defence. Neither side had an early attacking edge. Lightning were first to score in a breakaway move. Going a goal behind seemed to spur Puma’s on and we came under increasing pressure as they gained the upper hand. Ned came on for Ben, and Daniel for Vansh. Fresher legs didn’t quite come off, as Puma’s equalised. Against, the run of play, Lightning won a penalty for handball. Riley stepped up, but the keeper wasn’t fooled and saved. From the keepers drop kick we were baten in the race to the ball and Puma’s scored with George stranded in the mud pudding preventing him from leaping to save.

Halftime 2-1

No changes at halftime, but some tweaking of the formation positions based on first half performance. Tioba moved to the right and Daniel moved back to right back. Cosmo moved to the left side. George was much happier with the goal area, and rediscovered his mobility, no longer stuck in the mud. Lightning equalised following some fluid passing and movement (are the warm ups starting to pay off?). We were level for only a couple of minutes as Puma’s scored a worldy of a goal from the right side that was unsaveable.

Lightning are a side that never gives up however, and only a goal down is nothing compared to some of the mountains we’ve climbed this season. Ben came on for Cosmo, playing up front on the left hand side. The game was definitely shiftingLightning’s way but we still trailed by a goal. Plenty of pressure and Puma’s were starting to wilt. Cosmo replaced Ned and we started an onslaught. 3-3,
3-4 a lead at last. It’s worth mentioning a remarkable save from George to stop the Puma’s possible fourth. From my viewpoint he appeared to let the ball through his legs, but no, he’d cleverly smothered the ball with his feet and body. He picked it up to the disbelief of the opposing bench. Puma’s were getting no chances on the left hand side as Daniel doggedly, extinguished attack after attack.
3-5 another team effort Tioba hit the post and Ben hit the rebound home.

Vansh came on for Tioba, becoming instrumental in Lightning’s sixth. Skillfully marking Puma’s ‘keeper, allowing Cosmo to deliver the ball to Ben who took his opportunity well for another hat trick. So, easy as one (Riley), two (Tioba) and three (Ben), well not quite but a great performance from Lightning. It’s a good job match balls aren’t awarded to hat trick scorers else Ben would be putting together a nice collection.

Full-time 3-6

Goals: Riley, Tioba (x2), Ben (x3)

MoM: Daniel

Postscript: Walking away from the pitch, I came across the Puma's goalkeeper, and his mum, who was rather upset by the difficulty of keeping goal in the second half. Thanks to George's mud pudding description of the goalmouth I was able to reassure him that he played well and was definitely hampered by the pitch conditions.

Bumpy landings

Rigate Priory Falcons v. Lightning

8 - 0

Following Lightning’s back to back wins, confidence this Saturday was high. A beautiful morning, cold, bright blue sky, but the pitch proved deceptive. Weeks of rain had left it’s mark and the pitch was incredibly heavy with the sort of mud that sticks to everything, almost clay-like.

What could possibly go wrong. As the boys warmed up I watched the opposition go through their paces. It was clear they were well practiced and if their coach was a little shouty the result was a well organised team.

We started with our now familiar 3-1-2 formation with Cosmo playing the link player, Louis central defence, Tioba and Ben as wingbacks. Up front Vansh and Luke, with James starting in goal completing the line up.

Lightning made the first attack of the game but the move broke down on the right and Falcons were quick to get players forward and scored with almost their first attack. Within a few minutes Lightning went further behind, again from a breakdown of play in the opposition half.

Falcons third goal was well worked, but enormous bravery from Louis almost rescued the situation stopping the ball on the line, only for the Falcons forward to bundle the ball over. In doing so he left Louis clearly injured necessitating an early substitution. James was busy in goal, and was putting body (and ear) on the line. Unfortunately, a minute after Louis enforced substitution, James took the full force of a Falcons shot to the side of his head. Having just used George to cover for Louis, Stefanos bravely stepped in to the breach. The game was still only a little over ten minutes old.

The Falcons manager was constantly barking his orders to his young charges. It wasn’t pleasant or necessary but there was clearly a lot riding on the game. I kept looking for Raul, Edu and co as I was certain he must be auditioning for his next role, the vacant Arsenal position. If he succeeds, I’ll send my season ticket back and start supporting Spuds.

Goals 4, 5 and six duly came without reply from Lightning.

Halftime 6-0

We had been over run by a well organised team. A change of direction was needed. The challenge now was to limit the damage inflicted. We started the second half with a determination not to concede as many goals. A more defensive 3-2-1 we hoped would help.

George took over in goal, Louis returned to the centre of defence supported by Cosmo and Luke. Matthew and Ned in midfield with Tioba as a lone striker.

The change worked well and despite the pressure from Falcons, Lightning played well and as the half progressed started to create chances of our own. Some great running from Tioba, a sequence of corners well taken by Cosmo and a beautifully struck shot from Matthew couldn’t redress the balance but the boys stuck to the task and kept playing without fear and I was QUIETLY impressed.

The game ended 8-0 to the home side but I think my season ticket is safe.

A word on our subs. The mud proved an entertaining distraction for all those on the sidelines at various times as their team mates toiled. The Xmas pudding mud pie (serves 6) the best of the various offerings, made lovingly by Ned. This, and his performance on the pitch, made him my Mudman of the match.

Well done all, the spirit of the team is unbeatable

Mud, mud glorious mud…

BB Soccer Academy Tigers v. Lightning

2 - 9

A miserable day, a cold breeze, drizzle and rain, and a sloping pitch also used for Rugby. The result mud – and lots of it. Not ideal for football, especially as this was Lightning’s first big test of the season. The corresponding game, our very first match, was played in bright sunshine, and despite a brilliant fight back ended in defeat (See report). This would be a very different affair. The squad looked good on paper but even the warm up was bitterly cold and I genuinely felt we might struggle in the conditions.

We started playing on the downhill slope, and adopted the same 3-1-2 formation, successful from the previous week.

Lightning started well and Tigers found it difficult to get out of their own half. Tioba and Joseph were playing in unfamiliar wing back positions but showed good presence both in attack and in defence. Passing and dribbling was in plentiful supply and Riley was dominating in midfield. Luke playing at the front for the first time also showed real promise and assisted with a great pass to for Riley’s first goal. The first half was certainly the Riley show, scoring the our second and third for a first half hat trick. Tigers proved resilient and fought back to a respectable 3-2, before Louis from centre back scored another.

Half time 4-2.

A great first half, but now for the challenging uphill leg. James made his goalkeeping comeback. Lightning applied great pressure despite the incline, and a fifth goal followed, as the opposition failed to clear turning the ball in to their own net. Ben returned to the affray and scored within a minute of coming on the pitch, with a deft touch. The drama continued, Vansh working hard suffered a very late challenge and had to retire from the game. Riley came back, and scored an absolute screamer to complete a double brace. Not to be outdone Ben got his second. The boys showed real maturity in their play and possibly the best goal. A short corner from Luke to Louis, a delicious cross and a beautiful volley from Ben completing a team goal, and in doing so making him our second hat trick hero of the day.

In summary, Lightning’s best performance to date, A+ for the boys, and for parents, the most extreme washing exercise this year…mud, mud glorious mud!

Goalscorers: Riley 4, Ben 3, Louis, OG

Player of the match (as voted by the players) Riley

The shape of things to come?

Lightning v. Oxshott Royals Blues

4 - 1

First challenge at Bushy today: Stop the goalposts being put away before we kick off. No goalposts no match.
Second challenge: Dragging the team away from an entertaining practice match on the adjacent pitch.
So, goalposts check, players check, opposition check, referee check, match ball check - looks like we’re ready to play.

We decided on a slight change in system today. Previously, 2-3-1, now 3-1-2, so new disciplines required from the boys. Lightning started brightly, and we were unfortunate not to score from well worked play from both sides of the pitch. Joseph, in particular was unfortunate with his efforts. Tioba and Riley looked lively, and Louis playing an unfamiliar central defender role was commanding. Behind him, George looked comfortable and dealt with all the oppositions shots which were increasingly long range. Matthew, Cosmo and Daniel came on for Joseph, Tioba and Riley and we continued to dominate without success. The game turned slightly in favour of the opposition, who were a very good side, playing some nice passing and putting us under more pressure as the half drew to a close. Players were starting to lose their shape a little in the new system, but we held it together.

Halftime 0-0

With James’ recent arm injury we decided to keep George in goal and allow James further recovery time, and so he replaced Luke as the right sided defender. The second half began with renewed energy from Lightning and some promising attacks involving Matthew, Ben and Cosmo. Cosmo was the first to strike. A well taken goal for a deserved lead. More substitutions, Tioba and Riley coming back on with Cosmo dropping back to central defender as Louis took a well deserved break. What dividends a substitution can make with Tioba scoring almost with his first involvement and Riley adding a worldy of a third a few minutes later. A little nervousness set in and Oxshott pulled a goal back, and could have scored a second if not for a quite brilliant save from George pushing the ball over the bar.
Lightning regrouped and found a little composure. One last substitution, Ben back on, and again the alchemy of substitutions got a result with Ben scoring shortly before the final whistle.

Lightning’s first victory, and well deserved. The whole team played really well. A Saturday to saviour. Here’s to many more.

Goals – Cosmo, Tioba, Riley and Ben
MoM: Tioba

Lightning fightback runs out of time

Walton Warriors v. Lightning

3 - 2

Lightning’s first game in almost a month, postponements followed by half-term, no training for three weeks, an early start and a cup match to boot. Add to that a referee without a whistle! I thought best to get all our excuses out right at the start.
The boys started slowly, defenders James and Luke having to work hard to keep the attacking Warriors at bay. Warriors pressure continued and in truth the boys couldn’t impose themselves in the early exchanges. On a bright note, new boy Riley looked good on the ball with some strong tackles and decent distribution that the team couldn't make the most of. Our first real chance came after about 15 minutes when Louis got on to a good pass from Riley, looked to have beaten his marker and was about to shoot and the Warriors defender brought him down. Penalty! Good run up, goalkeeper sent the wrong way but the ball agonisingly glanced the post for a goal kick.

The game was now evening out with both sides getting chances. Warriors second came after a goalmouth scramble which it appeared Stefanos had actually saved. The referee felt the ball had crossed the line and goal was awarded. At half-time JAR (James’s Assistant Referee) confirmed the correctness of the decision.

Second half, the boys were waking from their slumbers, playing better football and unfortunately went a further goal behind against the run of play.

The great thing about Lightning is that every last player never gives up. 10 minutes to go and by now Lightning are playing far the better football. Defenders Cosmo and Matthew have the measure of the Warriors attack and are building play from the back. The midfield are moving the ball around really nicely. A goal now and Warriors will certainly feel the pressure.

Six minutes to go, three corners in quick succession.

Five minutes to go a lovely team goal, the too many players involved to name them all but a great finish by Riley.

An electric last few minutes, with two to go another team goal, this one finished by Louis.

Could the boys, take it to penalties?

Alas not, just enough time for Warriors to kick off and the referee indicates time is up.

In summary, a slow start after a long break but a brilliant comeback that we couldn't quite complete.

Now, back to the league and much to be optimistic about!

Goals: Riley and Louis
MoM: Riley

Improvements, progress but no result

Lightning v. Reigate Vipers

2 - 4

Today was one of those days. Boys arrived with their usual enthusiasm and we fielded one of our strongest line ups with the players available. George started in goal, Ned and Louis provided defensive cover. Cosmo was our pivotal midfielder with Joseph and Tioba left and right, Matthew providing the striking prowess.
Reigate started more strongly of the two teams but their attacking was inert and skilfully marshalled by our defence. We looked strong on the counter attack but couldn’t initially breakdown a well organised Reigate defence. Neither goalkeeper was troubled in the first 15 minutes or so. Finally, a really beautiful move from Cosmo passing to Tioba who laid on a inch perfect pass for Joseph who took his chance with great composure 1-0 Lightning. Could we finally break our duck this week? Reigate’s equalising goal sadly followed swiftly, and it was a soft one, the ball barely over the line, but a goal nevertheless. For a minute or five our composure deserted us and it looked as if we might be overrun and were lucky that Reigate could only muster another soft goal. Ben came on for Ned just before halftime and quickly settled in to the unfamiliar role of right back as Louis moved across to the left. The second Reigate goal reawakened us, and a fantastic team goal scored by Tioba followed on the stroke of halftime. Plenty to play for.

Second half was a more drab affair and in truth neither side seemed likely to score. Lightning applied plenty if pressure and won several corners but simply couldn’t convert. The opposition were reduced to shooting from distance and their third goal actually came from a speculative effort just inside our half. The shot was good but conditions saw it skip off at least two Lightning boots before nestling in the back of the net. Their fourth goal near the end was well taken but again had a slight feeling of good fortune about it.

In truth this was a tough defeat in challenging conditions. The boys will get some points on the board soon of that I’m sure.

Heads up, chins up Lightning!

Goal scorers: Joseph and Tioba

Man of the match: Ben

Chargers generate a little more power than Lightning

Redhill Youth Chargers v. Lightning

3 - 1

Early start, bit of a mix up on the roster (sorry folks) but still nine bodies ready and willing to take on the Chargers. Quick warm-up and decision on goalkeeper - wot no gloves. Never mind we have enough keepers in the squad that means there is always a spare pair readily available.

The Chargers looked big, especially their no.5. Chatting to their manager Lightning were up against another established team, playing together for three years.

Chargers started more strongly, but our twin defenders ensured we weren’t overrun. Louis was involved and linking play well with Joseph and George. The game seesawed and both teams missed early chances to take a lead. Eventually, Chargers made the breakthrough with a well worked play.
This was the wake call Lightning needed and the boys started applying pressure and we were behind for no more than five minutes. Our third corner from the right ping-ponged in the penalty area as Chargers failed to clear and Louis (according to Louis) managed to get a toe to the ball and turn it into the net. Halftime 1-1.

Oranges have already become a great feature of our games, but can also prove a distraction from the coaches halftime talk.

Goalkeeping gloves returned to their original owner and a stint in goal for James (albeit slightly reluctantly due to recent dentistry).

The game had only just restarted and Chargers took advantage as Lightning players adjusted to new positions on the pitch.

The match remained tight and although Chargers scored again Lightning were never outplayed. Ned, Luke and George were industrious in their defending and Louis was unlucky not to score and hit the post after a beautiful run from the edge of our penalty area to the edge of theirs. Talk about box to box... Joseph provided great support and like Hazard seems to draw the majority of the fouls from the opposition.

Good contributions from Daniel and Vansh made for an overall pleasing performance despite the score line.

All the boys are starting to show more composure and it’s good to see them passing to each other and playing in a positive manner.

The results will follow!

Scorer: Louis

Men of the match: James and Luke

Dark skies and dark arts fail to spark Lightning

Lightning v. Epsom & Ewell Colts Hoops

0 - 6

Our first home game at our new home - Bushy Park. The expected rain hadn’t arrived but the sky was dark and a little threatening. A strong wind was blowing the length of the pitch from left to right. Looking over at the opposition it was clear they were a well organised, experienced outfit.
James started in goal having recovered from last weeks foot injury which transpired was caused by one of his teammates not the opposition as previously stated.
The opposition attacked with some considerable threat and disciplined organisation. Despite the Hoops playing in to the wind, It felt a case of when rather if they would score. Cosmo, Joseph and George defended doggedly and it took almost 10 minutes for our defences to be breached for the first time. It was also clear the Hoops had been coached in the dark arts of subtle pushing and leaving a foot in a tackle. Joseph in particular seemed to be on the receiving end of this treatment as he frequently broke up their play and attempted to start Lightning moving forward from the centre of midfield only to be stopped by an opposing arm or foot.

Dams once breached do have a tendency to leak, and so it was with Lightning today. 4-0 and halftime couldn’t come soon enough. It did, sanctuary for 5 minutes.

A carefully worded chat from the coach, and oranges were administered. The boys took to the pitch, reinvigorated and started to play with a lot more discipline. James continued in goal as Stefanos had missed the bit about getting ready at halftime as he gorged on the oranges.
Luke moved to left back to replace the departing Cosmo.
Lightning started to compete more. Some passages of play were really pleasing. Joseph and Tioba were combining well in midfield and Vansh almost scored after a particularly well worked play. The oppositions dark arts seemed in greater use, both Joseph and Tioba got more than expected fouls against them. Joseph was now anticipating these tackles and was beautifully skipping over some of the scything tackles coming his way. Stefanos (having finished the oranges) came on to replace James and made some brave saves, frustrating the opposition. They still managed two goals near the end of the match leaving us with a deficit of 6 at the end.

Again, the boys played really well and should remember today’s opposition have been playing together for three seasons. All things considered we’re not that far behind.

Shout out for Louis, today’s super fan on rotation.

Man of the match: Joseph

Rough and tumble

Oxshott Royals v. Lightning

8 - 0

Ralph Hasenhüttl said after his first game in charge of Southampton, “some games we win and some we learn lessons from”. Today was definitely in the latter category. Another hot day (my car said 31c when I got back to it), and Lightning were under pressure from the start. But George making his goalkeeping debut looked comfortable in the early skirmishes. Oxshott were well disciplined and more physical than Teddington. We’d need to be at our best to get something from this game.

Oxshott pressure continued and the boys defended well. Their first goal came from a corner and unfortunately we turned the ball in to our own net. A second followed before halftime from a good movement from Oxshott. Still everything to play for.

James took over in goal for the second half.

Oxshott scored almost from kick-off and now had the bit between their teeth. The boys were struggling a little in the heat. However, their determination and heads up attitude is a treat to watch. Goal four was the result of a bit of a defensive lapse and goal five left James with a foot injury. George stepped back into the breach, and would produce what turned in to one of Lightning’s match highlights a little later.

Oxshott were proving to be a very physical side and the fouls were coming thick and fast. Cosmo, Louis, and Ben all requiring the coaches attention. The boys reacted well and kept trying to play football positively.

Goal six, another slight lapse from us, goal seven - quality play from the opposition.

We knew it wasn’t our day when a great attack involving Joseph and Tioba shook their left hand post with the goalkeeper beaten.

Another powerful attack from Oxshott, their forward hit a stunning strike. George’s reaction even better and with strong hands pushed the ball over the bar.

More pressure from Teddington, with two superb corners from Cosmo, one almost finding it way straight in to the net. A final break from Oxshott and an eighth goal.

Final whistle. We battled, we’re all a little bruised but some good lessons learned and next week's match is only 6 1/2 days away. Onward!

Man of the match: George

Lightning fail to fell Giants!

Lightning v. ESPA Juinors - Giants

3 - 4

What a great day to play cricket football. Clear blue skies and gentle sun making a perfect backdrop for Lightning's second match at Udney Park.

The team welcomed four debutantes, Tioba, Joseph, James and Luke. Three of the four started. Like the previous week it took a short while for the team to gel but the boys worked hard and quickly had the upper hand with most of the attacking play coming from the home side. A goal would surely come. Some powerful running by Tioba, supported well by Ben and Ned, the team were bound to score. We have two great corner takers in Cosmo and Louis and despite a couple of missed chances we eventually scored our first. Quite soon afterwards Tioba, with a clear goal scoring chance was tripped be the opposition goalkeeper and a penalty duly awarded. A strong but ever so slightly misplaced shot kept the opposition in the game. A fabulous save from James and subsequent clearance by Louis kept the Lightning advantage. A second goal for Tioba left the home side leading 2-0 at halftime and looking comfortable. Possibly too comfortable.

The second half saw James replaced by Stefanos in goal.

The Giants started the stronger side but their first goal was still against the run of play. A good cross from the left found their right sided midfielder in front of an open goal. The goal gave Giants momentum as we slightly wilted in the heat. However, their equalising goal was due more to misfortune on our part than great skill from them. A foul midway in the Lightning half, a decent free kick and although Luke lept bravely to block, the ball skimmed off the top of his head, confusing Stefanos as the the flight of the ball changed and Giants were level. Still everything to fight for though. Chances were coming to both sides now and Giants were first to make the most of theirs, giving them a deserved lead.

Once again Lightning dug deep and lovely goal rewarded Luke for his persistence with the opposition defence.

On the break again, Giants scored a fourth and despite continuous pressure from Lightning, including three corners in the last minute of the game, we couldn’t force an equaliser.

Overall, another great game to watch, all the boys played with passion and heart from start to finish.

Man of the match: Louis
Goals Tioba (2), Luke

Finally a special thanks to George and Vansh our super fans of the day!