After the disappointment of last week when their opposition failed to turn up, the U14's Tandridge team officially began their season in very sunny Dulwich although initial impressions were not promising as having battled through heavy South Circular traffic to reach Belair Park we were greeted by one man putting up nets but no opposition although kick off was only 20 mins away. They eventually appeared and the game started about 15 mins late.
Straightaway Sevenoaks were on the offensive and they had two or three good chances in the first five minutes. Seven minutes in and they were in the lead, Brandon Parsons opening his account for the team picking up an easy rebound. They had a couple more opportunities to increase their lead before Blue Stars had their first attempt after 15 minutes. Would their generosity in front of goal prove costly?
Blue Stars were getting into a rhythm now. They had a number of quick and skilful players and were pressing forward. Sevenoaks were inviting them on by being a little careless in possession but excellent defending by the back line kept them out. Arran Donald, in particular, making some super tackles and showing great comfort in possession. However, an equaliser seemed inevitable and it finally came on 33 minutes with a smart shot from a narrow angle at the near post.
Half time finally came with the referee adding an extra 10 minutes for some reason with the scores tied. The visitors were being shackled by the home linesman’s propensity to wave his flag (well our flag as the home side nor the ref had their own or indeed, a match ball) with the passion of a Morris Dancer.
Early in the second half the hosts broke forward, the ball was on the left and crossed into the box where it went harmlessly wide. The referee blew his whistle for what everyone thought was a goal kick but to the surprise of all, including the home side, awarded a penalty apparently for hand ball. No-one appealed but the home side gratefully accepted this unexpected bounty and took the lead. Sevenoaks heads were down for a while and they lost their shape and it was 12 minutes before they got anywhere near the other goal. They were the victim of yet another dubious offside decision but shortly after a good cross from the left gave Freddie Watkins a good chance but he skied his shot.
A superb break from the away team turned a home team corner almost into an equaliser. Danny Knowles caught the ball and cleared quickly to Joe Ashton who fed in Kai Okulaja for a trademark sprint towards the box, Josh Penfold almost met his cross but it got a faint deflection for a corner. This attack gave Sevenoaks a lot of confidence and they went hunting the deserved equaliser. However, interesting calls from the sidelines continued including one from near the corner flag when the players were two yards in from the halfway line. It’s difficult to compete when the team have to deal with such iniquities.
Pushing forward created space for the other side especially as players tired in the sunshine but the defence showed great composure on a number of occasions when dealing with one on ones, Joe Cole dealt with a situation superbly when confronted with their big centre forward forcing him away from goal before being dumped onto the ground without even getting a free kick for his pains.
The last couple of minutes were exciting, Sevenoaks had a number of half chances but just couldn’t find the gaps and the match finished 2-1 to the home side. They can take a lot from this game, they worked hard but didn’t quite get the breaks but if they perform like this in future games then the season should play out well for them.