The first half was a tough affair. The Figtree team was fast and enthusiastic, keen to get to the ball and to take the ball off the Albion Park team. On the other hand, while the Whites looked to be the better team, they were not going hard at the ball, standing off and waiting for things to happen without making them happen themselves. Perhaps it was the ‘last game’ syndrome, or just the phenomenon that happened most of the season, where the team just didn’t click together in the first half of matches. The match was being pressed into the corridor, and the Albion Park team plays much better when they are able to spread the ball wide and open the game up. Ky Van Helden and Claire Kadwell were doing well up front, and Zoe Middleton narrowly missed adding to her goal tally when she wasn’t quite able to get a foot on a ball that crossed their opponents goal with no one there to stop it.
The only goal of the first half ended up as an own goal, as Josh Peters’ curling corner found an opponent who bunted it into his own goal. All of Josh’s corner kicks were dangerous, and this was a reward for that. At the break it was Albion Park 1, Figtree 0.
From the outset of the second half the Albion Park team forced its dominance home. The first few minutes were hard fought, until a superb long ball from Ky in the backs through to Noah Black up forward gave Noah the chance he was looking for, and he took it by banging the ball into the back of the net, and the score was 2-0. This moment was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Figtree showed they were tired, and the amazing fitness levels of the Albion Park team came to the fore again as they mounted wave after wave of attack. Momentum is a wonderful thing, and the second goal had provided this.
A few moments later, Josh dispossessed his opponent in the middle of the field and sent a perfect pass to Noah who again found himself with no one in front of him, and this time he caressed the ball past the keeper for a 3-0 lead. The team was now on top, and it was still the defense that started each raid. Jack-Ryan Eberwein was playing his role perfectly, stopping any attacks and getting the ball well down field with terrific clearances. Belle Kadwell made three terrific runs to dispossess her opponent and stop their attacking raids, one where she got all ball with her tackle but it rocked the spectators such was its impact. Fantastic stuff. Another excellent tackle in mid-field by Belle was followed by a pass to Indy Middleton who made a lovely cross field run and then the perfect forward pass to Ky up front, whose first booming shot was blocked by the keeper, but he jumped on the rebound to get the ball in the back of the net, for Albion Park to take a 4-0 lead.
It was party time by now for the Whites, and with positional changes being wrung every minute, all the players were getting a chance to shine. From mid field Noah got the ball from Josh, and made a great pass up the right to Brock Young. Brock has had a great season, and once he got his bionic eyes halfway through the year he has been pushing for his chance up forward. Today he received the ball from Noah, beat one opponent, and then lined up with his right leg pulled back to its maximum. The spring was sprung, his leg crashed down on the ball and he crushed it into the back of the net, leaving the goalkeeper clueless. It was Brock’s first and only goal for the season, but it was well worth the wait. Albion Park led 5-0.
With time running out the Park team was relentless and continued their assault. With moments left in the match, Ky was standing just on his opponents side of half way, but when Ky lets fly with that left foot it doesn’t matter. Most of the spectators have been waiting all season for Ky to score a goal from half way, and though it wasn’t quite that far out, he still lashed out and sent the ball careering past every opponent and into the back of the net for a 6-0 victory.
It has been another wonderfully enjoyable season watching these kids do their thing. Every single one of the ten players in the team has improved immeasurably since the start of the season.
Belle and Claire Kadwell, new with the team this season, have been a revelation, with their determination and fearless play. Not only did they make the team’s defense a stronghold and also helped to lead the attack, they inspired a huge transformation in the team’s other female star Zoe Middleton. Zoe took no backwards steps this season, and harassed her opponents no matter how big they were, and I think having other girls in the team helped her enormously. All three should be especially proud of their seasons.
Jack-Ryan Eberwein and Jack Tate have made vast improvements. Jack-Ryan may have been a bit stand-offish last season, but this season he never failed to rush at his opponents to get the ball off them. He fought hard in defense and played well in attack, and his kicking especially was terrific, booming out of defense when needed and long into attck when in mid field. Jack Tate spent most of the season embarrassing opponents by beating four or five at a time before slotting the ball into the goal. His five goals at Lakelands in the team’s first win for the season was a highlight. Indy Middleton was the same, tenacious and unstoppable. He wanted to be around the ball at all times, and he too this season became more determined in chasing the ball and hounding his opponents. Without trying to repeat myself, all of these things also apply to Brock Young. He might look small and wiry, but he has a big heart and no fear, and his work in defense this season saved a lot of situation that could have been dire for his team. Once his bionic eyes came in, you could also see (no pun intended) his confidence grow in all situations. He was Mr Reliability.
Noah Black and Ky Van Helden again had great seasons, taking on more responsibility with having lost Nicky Newell. Both were terrific in defense and sweeping roles, always shutting down attacking plays and clearing the ball. Up front they were always dangerous, and every time they got the ball you sensed they could score. They both would have scored even more goals this season if they had realised how much time they had sometimes. Both have a wonderful sense of the game.
I don’t like to overplay about Josh, as the obvious bias will always apply. I am immensely proud of the way he played this season. He wants to learn, he wants to be in the centre of the action, and while everyone wants to be a goalscorer, I thought it was his ‘assists’ this season that spoke more for his play than anything else. If he can learn not to score the best own goal of the season when he forgot which way his team were going (2016) and not to pick up the ball in the middle of the box when he isn’t goal keeper (two weeks ago) I’m sure he’ll do even better in 2018.
These teams don’t run without the help of the parents, and their support on game day. The Whites were very fortunate to have such a great presence from parents, siblings and grandparents through the season, and I’m sure the kids all appreciated it.
Massive thanks to Matt and Hannah Middleton who took on the role of coaching and organising the team. There is nothing easy about organising training and canteen duty and setting up goals and all of the other things that go hand in hand with junior soccer, and given their enormous tribe and Matt’s uncanny ability to injure himself in a hundred different ways, their efforts can never be thanked enough. Also to Shane Black as Manager who sorted out the game day issues and was also important to helping to organise the team, often with a ragamuffin attached to his head for most of the time. On top of that, Andy Middleton’s knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm on match day was so important for these kids, he makes every game day a joy to attend. Dan Kadwell was a constant at training and at the games, and his knowledge of the game and easy going handling of the kids was a much added bonus this season.
For anyone who has any particular interest in the team’s year, who may have missed a report (and there are three games I did not do a report on due to other issues) you can find them all posted on my blog at this location.