Sunday 25th November Finch hurricanes lads took on Balham from the Premier Elite (2nd in their league by just 1 point) in the SPL senior trophy. And with Silent Sunday, it was up to the lads to self organise during the game. We saw Ollie and Max return from injury, Dan not quite ready.
The lads were really focused in the team talk in the changing room and the warm up activities. We ran through the entire team tactics for the first half, including things to try to say to each other in the game.
From the kick off, it was going to be a game played at pace. Balham were quick to press and even quicker on the break. Their simple style of play proving very effective. Finch responded really well, working hard to apply their own pressure. Ollie got the first goal with a long range free kick around the wall and through the keepers gloves.
The lead was short lived when Finch conceded a penalty for handball. I didn’t see it but the lads felt it was unfair. And that took a few minutes to recover from, which was punished further with another Balham goal walked into the Finch goal. Finch escaped another penalty from a very obvious handball which wasn’t seen by the ref (although the Balham linesman saw it). Finch were struggling to maintain possession as the half finished, composure on the ball and quality of passing impacting their game. 2-1 at half time.
At half time my biggest issue was the “switching off” after the penalty decision. Right or wrong, the referee decision is final. Thats the laws of this game, so get on with it!!
The second half started as highly charged as the first, with both teams pushing for the next goal. Finch were giving as good as they got, pressing hard across the pitch. Possession continued to be a challenge with the Hurricanes electing for more complex football, the extra touch, a turn etc when there was a simple option. This made it easy for Balham to deal with. And Balham played a very simplistic style of football, playing the way they are facing and using pace/space to create opportunities.
Balham got the next goal from a back post tap in after they worked the ball well down to the touch line for the cut-back. But Finch kept going at them, and a pass and move sequence gave Ollie the shot on goal (best shot of the game) which was spectacularly saved by the Balham keeper at full diving stretch. Minutes later Finch conceded another penalty for a trip in the box, and Balham put it away to be 4-1 up.
But the home team were not done and some quality footwork allowed Cam to slot the ball past the Balham keeper. 4-2 and the clock ticking down, Finch pilled on the pressure. 2 corners in quick succession saw Jake up in their box challenging for the ball, but Finch could create the chances.
Final score 4-2 to Balham, but Finch gave them a game, well done to the lads. And when you consider where Balham are placed in their league (an entire league above Finch) the lads did amazingly well. On another day, no penalty decision and Ollie’s shot going in, maybe a different result but that’s the way it goes. Thank you to Graeme for running the line and to all the supporters for both teams.
I will admit the Silent Weekend was a challenge, but also an important opportunity for the lads to take the initiative for themselves. Their ability to self organise, motivate and talk to each other in real time is a really important skill both in football and their wider development as young adults. It is a skill, something that needs work and practice but rarely gets the opportunity with us adults directing things. And at this higher level of football it can be the difference between teams. I was particularly impressed with Dan, Jack, Lewis, James, Marcus and Ollie on the comms front, actively talking to their team mates during the game. Definitely not something some of the lads are able or willing to do, but we will keep working on it. Thank you to all the parents for embracing the league/FA initiative.
News from the rest of the league, Bourne beat Abbey Youth to put them 4th and Burpham beat Finch Sharks. This puts them both on the same points as Haslemere and Finch. The 3 teams chasing the leader (Virginia Water) just 3 points each with a game in hand. This looks like the break away group in the Premier division. Burpham not far behind in 5th.