The U18’s travelled to Havant & Waterlooville this week in their opening league fixture, on paper this was going to be a tough test against a club traditionally strong in this age group.
We lined up with a young squad and there was an obvious physical difference between the two sides with H&W fielding perhaps more second years than us. With players and staff arriving late due to traffic problems our preparation wasn’t ideal and with Paul Dollner away it was Ryan Gayler and Kev Townsend who took the reins and prepared the lads with help from Pete Miles.
Early exchanges were dominated by H&W with their pace going forward a real threat however the lads stuck to our game plan and kept a solid shape to frustrate the home side. They did, however, break the deadlock on 30min when the left sided midfielder cut inside and bent a delightful shot into the top corner, we didn’t panic and stayed resilient while looking for a counter breaks which nearly led to an equaliser, however, we went in at the break one goal behind.
Second half and with the slope in our favour we made two changes as late arrivals Zak and Nathan replaced Jack N and Reagan, with H&W growing increasingly frustrated thanks to our work rate and discipline we found a break through and Luke finished from close range to make it 1-1 on 60min, this lifted the lads and confidence grew with Ty showing quality on the ball and Max holding the midfield together.
Alfie continued to pose a threat up front and his patience was rewarded when he fired in from 15 yards out to put us 2-1 up with 20 min remaining!
A long 20 min for the management team and we rode our luck a few times but credit to the lads who gave everything and came away with all three points 2-1. A special mention for Tom our keeper who pulled off a few excellent shot stops to keep us in the game and a young player with plenty of potential.
Overall, it was a positive experience and we look forward to the season optimistically.