NWL U12 Division 1: Croft Juniors Red 2 CCCFC Whites 0
Season 15/16 -
Under 12 White
The Whites reserved one of their best performances of the 2015-16 season for the final day as a gusty, determined display pushed four-times Division 1 champions Croft Red all the way on their own patch.
Some assured goalkeeping, resolute defending and tireless work in midfield helped keep the scoreline blank until deep into the second half, with all ten players on duty making heavy contributions. And the visitors’ hopes of pulling off a major upset against a team who have never lost a competitive North Wilts League match remained very much intact until Croft broke the deadlock thanks to a fine finish with 15 minutes to go. A penalty soon afterwards gave them breathing space, but they certainly knew they had been in a game and the home coaching staff were full of praise for the Colts’ efforts afterwards.
While Croft’s ability, physical strength and high work-rate on and off the ball meant they enjoyed most of the possession and the better chances overall, the visitors gave them some anxious moments in a goalless first half. Sam twice fashioned shooting opportunities inside the area before placing shots narrowly wide – one into the side-netting – and George also threatened an opener after exchanging passes with Matthew.
Croft’s giant centre-back had netted twice with headers from corners in the reverse fixture at Castle Combe but this time the Colts kept him out despite the hosts winning a number of set-pieces. Luke S was handed the unenviable task of marking the dangerman but stuck to it well, while also limiting the supply line from the Croft left during open play.
Max could not be faulted for either goal, commanded his box brilliantly and held on to numerous crosses. Josh and Bradley formed a superb partnership at the heart of the defence, put in tackle after tackle, kept their concentration and were no-nonsense when they needed to be.
When Croft escaped the attentions of the back-line, others were on hand to help out. Toby fought hard on the left flank and got back to prevent a certain goal with a magnificent, last-ditch tackle at the far post, while Tom showed terrific pace to close down and deny a Croft attacker as he raced through for a one-on-one chance.
Matthew was given few chances to weave his magic going forward by a tenacious Croft midfield but ran himself into the ground for the cause in an energetic performance that spanned from the first minute until the last, breaking up a number of Croft moves and always looking to get his team on the front foot when in possession.
Luke V also covered plenty of ground in the lone striker role and, although he had his work cut out against the league’s meanest defence, his unselfish play helped to create space for the supporting midfielders to exploit in the opening period.
Results elsewhere on the last day of the season meant the Whites matched last season’s achievement of a fifth-place finish in North Wilts League Division 1, the highest standard of grassroots football in Wiltshire. They scored victories over three of the four sides who finished above them but their inconsistency since Christmas was highlighted by their failure to beat two of the bottom three teams.
The challenge awaiting this talented squad next season will be to replicate the resilience, fighting spirit and teamwork shown against Croft on a more regular basis. If that can be achieved then an exciting final year of 9v9 football is in prospect in 2016-17, particularly with two cup competitions to look forward to alongside what is sure to be another fiercely-contested Division 1 campaign.