The Fielding girls football team finally arrived bright and early to Crystal Palace today for their first ever taste of the London Youth Games. Just getting to the tournament today was no easy task as they first had to qualify for area finals ahead of 23 other Ealing schools. At area finals the 2 best Ealing schools played against the 2 best Southall schools who came through the same process with the winners of that tournament getting the opportunity to represent the Ealing Borough against 31 other London Boroughs at the Games. So before a ball was even kicked today the girls were among the best 32 teams in the whole of London in a competition that started with around 770 schools!!
We started off the day in a group of 4 teams with the top 2 teams qualifying for the medal competition which would start in another group! We were drawn with Camden, Kingston and Greenwich in a group where we knew absolutely nothing about any of the teams we were facing. Our first game was against Camden in what was quite a scrappy start from both teams. The pitch was wet and boggy which didn't help but eventually we had a breakthrough as the ball came to Alessia who looped the ball over the Camden keeper and into the net. In a very tight 6 minute game, that was about all that happened! First game was done and we were off to a good start with a 1-0 win. Game 2 was against a Kingston team who looked like they good be a very good team, with their captain in particular looking like she was a dangerous player. Throughout the game we nullified their threats quite often with some superb defending from Riya and they did the same to ours. The 6 minutes flew by and the game ended 0-0. Four points from six though so we were looking in good shape to go through.Our final game in the group was against Greenwich. We were starting to get into our stride a little more in this game but still weren't able to create much in the short games. However, after some good possession the ball was played through to Alessia again who gave us the 3 points with another well taken goal. So with 2 wins and a draw from the initial group we had done enough to go through top of the group and into the medal competition.
The next stage of the competition was 4 groups of 4 with the top 2 teams in each group progressing through to the quarter finals. We had Havering, Merton and Croydon to get through if we wanted to make the quarter finals. First up we had Havering who looked like they could be the toughest team in the group. As expected at this stage of the competition it was a tough game and there really wasn't too much between the two teams as again both teams struggled to create any meaningful opportunities.So when the whistle blew we had started off another group with a 0-0 draw. In the other game in the group between Merton and Croydon, it also ended goal-less so we were all square in the group. Our second game was against Merton and to try to create more chances we changed formation by going with 2 in the middle and adding a player in between midfield and striker. Oona came into the new role to try to make it work for us. The change did seem to work as we had the ball in the opposition half for large portions of the game and nearly went ahead through a fine strike from Lily. Still no goals though and suddenly Merton were on the break and had a 1 on 1 with Alicia. Alicia stood her ground and parried the shot wide to keep it at 0-0. The whistle blew and the game ended without a goal once again in this group. It must have been a bad pitch because in the other game in the group after us, it again finished 0-0. So after 4 teams had played 2 each everybody had 2 point and 0 goals! Merton and Havering were up next in our group with all of us knowing that should there be a winner, the winner would go through to the quarter finals. Merton stole a goal and won 1-0. They were through. That meant that win in our final game against Croydon would see us through. After having a break in the previous game Alessia was restored to her usual number 9 position which meant Izzy went into the spot behind her. The team were brilliant and created a number of good scoring opportunities before it was our number 1 goal scorer who popped up again to put us ahead. Not long after the whistle went and we were through. However, to determine who went through as group winners and therefore playing a 2nd placed team in the next round we had to go into a penalty shoot out against Merton. Lily scored the all important penalty to give us the top spot.
In the quarter finals we were drawn against Lewisham, a team who in all honesty we were surprised to see in the knockout stages. We were very happy with our new formation and felt very confident going into the game that we could get a win. Serafina was breaking up play in the midfield very well in this game and was able to pass the ball on to again create chance after chance. But still the ball would not go in. Lewisham barely got the ball out of their half for the whole game but they held on for a 0-0 draw and forced the tie into penalties. To make it more tense penalties were sudden death straight away so every penalty was pressure filled. After some excellent goalkeeping from Alicia and some calm penalties from Lily, Izzy and Serafina we were through!! Into the semi finals of the London Youth Games.
The semi final saw us drawn against Kingston, a team we drew with 0-0 in the initial group stages of the competition. However, knowing that we were now playing some great football compared to the start of the day we were again feeling confident. We started great and were on top of the game early on with some great dribbling from midfield from Lily and Serafina. Again the ball was played into Alessia who put us 1 up early in the game. Now we had to remain composed for quite a large portion of the game. We were doing well but then a brilliant move from Kingston left Alicia 1 on 1 with the Kingston captain and even Alicia couldn't stop this one as Kingston equalised. The whistle went and we were left with another penalty shoot out. Kingston had the first penalty which for some reason had '1 step' rule introduced. Both teams struggled to adapt to this rule with the sudden death penalties going all the way through the teams to the goal keepers and then back round again. Eventually Kingston scored and we couldn't and we were out!
The girls, the teachers, the parents and the crowd that had gathered were all gutted as Fielding played out of their skin to get this far in the competition and had to settle for bronze. If at the start of the year we told the girls they could have a bronze medal at the London Youth Games they would have snatched it away straight away. However, it says a lot about how far the girls have come and their determination to be winners that they were all in floods of tears at being named as the 3rd best team in London! What an incredible achievement from the girls though and one we are all very proud of. We can't wait for next year when we will work our socks off to get to the London Youth Games again and get the gold and the number 1 spot that was so close this time round!
The long awaited Reading tournament, hosting some of the best primary school teams in the south of England, finally arrived today. After an hour drive on the M4 we arrived full of excitement. Fielding, representing Brentford FC were drawn in a group with Charlton, QPR, Bristol City, Wolves and Ipswich. Upon arrival we were told Charlton had pulled out so we were given two 2-0 wins straight away, what a start!!
Our first actual game was against Ipswich. The boys on both teams seemed nervous in this first game and ended the game without a shot on goal from either team. A very cagey 0-0 draw taught us that these games were over quick at only 6 minutes long. We needed to be more positive.
Our second game was against QPR and a school we knew a little bit about, St. Raphael's. Fielding got on the ball and were looking comfortable. Sonny received the ball wide on the right and had a pop from a very tight angle. The ball shouldn't have went in but somehow it squeezed in past the keeper. 1-0! That goal perked us up more and gave us nice early boost. Shortly after Luka T ran through the QPR midfield and played a lovely through ball to Luka V who calmly slotted home for Fielding and Brentford's second. Final score 2-0.
Charlton would have been our next opponent but as they didn't come we were awarded a 2-0 win and a short break before our next game against Bristol City. Luka V scored an early goal for Fielding to give us the advantage straight away. After that there was a number of very good chances to score that we didn't take. Fielding remained composed and continued to play some great football and eventually Sonny was put through 1v1 with the keeper and expertly placed the ball into the bottom corner. Another 2-0 victory.
Our fourth game was against Wolves, a team that looked quite good in the games we had seen them in. Fielding had a little bit of luck with another shot from Luka V which took a deflection past the keeper and into the net. Not long after going 1 up, we won a free kick just outside the area. Luka V, confident after another goal stepped up and curled a shot past the wall and beat the keeper, but not the post! Still 1-0. A few minutes later Wolves were on the attack and had a good effort saved by Noah. Noah saw Luka T making a move down the left and rolled out to him, Luka dribbled the ball forward and played the ball across to Artie who demonstrated more fine shooting from Fielding to score our second goal. That wrapped up the game and gave us another comfortable 2-0 win.
After playing everybody in the group once we were moved onto a different pitch to play everybody in a second fixture. It was time to play Ipswich again, the only team we hadn't beaten so far. Fielding now had some momentum though and were playing with confidence. The boys had worked out they had to start quickly and were off to another flyer when Sonny followed up a shot from Artie who put away from close range after the keeper spilled. After another good spell of possession Fielding won a corner which was whipped in by Luka T. Michael rose at the back post to head past a helpless keeper. We were 2 up with a few minutes to play still, and the boys wanted more. After one of the best passing passages Fielding have had this year the ball was given to Sonny in front of goal who scored his second of the game. A great display saw us finish off 3-0 winners.
Next up was QPR for the second time. The boys were very confident going into this game and perhaps this was the reason why they ended up getting caught out at the start of the game. QPR played it through to their attacker who put the ball past Noah. 1-0 QPR. The boys heads dropped and conceded another goal shortly after which led to our first defeat.
The boys were shell shocked and now had an unwanted 15 minute break because of the Charlton no show to mull it over in their heads. Next was Bristol City though and a chance to get back to playing some good football. The boys were struggling though after their first loss and were playing with no confidence at all. Heads were still down and after a game of creating nothing for ourselves Bristol popped up and scored to win 1-0. Unfortunately it was the same story with our second game against Wolves which resulted in another 1-0 defeat.
With Mr Winn and Mr Thomas, the parents and the boys all scratching their heads wondering what had just happened we waited to see if we were through to the semi final. The top 2 teams in the group went through and because of our earlier good form we still managed to finish top of the group. We were up against the runners up of Group 1, MK Dons.The news that they made it through seemed to lift the boys as they created a couple of early chances, but nothing to test the keeper yet. After a very tight game MK Dons hit a shot from outside the area which beat Noah low to his right. We quickly got the ball out of the net to restart, ready to try to get a goal back when the horn sounded for the end of the game. We lost 1-0 in the semis to the last kick of the game.
We stayed to watch the final, which was contested by Ipswich, from our group and MK Dons. It was scrappy game which was won by a shot off of the shin of the Ipswich striker. Ipswich won the chance to play in front of a full Wembley stadium during the Championship Playoff Final in May. Fielding could be happy that they we made it as far as we did but unfortunately were left imagining what it could have been like at Wembley. Well done though boys, its been a great season. Peal shield final in a few weeks to hopefully finish with another trophy!