In preparation for next season, the AFC Henley Hurricanes U10s played a friendly nine-a-side game away to the Hawley Raiders. To date, the games played in the U9 and U10 age groups has been seven-a-side. However, from September the games will be nine-a-side, with bigger pitches and larger goals. AFC Henley’s players had a first taste of the new format the previous weekend in a bilateral tournament against Marlow with mixed teams. This game was the first opportunity for the Hurricanes to play nine-a-side as a team.
In contrast to the recent hot weather, the game was played on an overcast morning. Flasks of coffee and coats replaced suncream and sunhats. However, the dark clouds kept moving on, and the morning stayed dry.
The game began with the Hurricanes playing uphill, and getting used to the conditions and the new format. Unlike the previous evening’s England game, both teams were lively and looked to impose themselves. The Hurricanes began to challenge on the right, one particular move from Jack Callaway to captain Shiva Vadhoolan and then to Oscar Robinson, whose cross fell perfectly for Luca Currie to pop it into the goal.
The Raiders, meanwhile, were living up to their name, taking every opportunity to surge forward in numbers and put the Hurricanes’ defence under pressure. Their attack combined strength with pace. One raid led to a sweetly-struck shot from outside the area which found the back of the net.
These early exchanges set the tone for the game. The Hurricanes were passing the ball well, and using the long ball successfully to find their forwards. Both defenders Jack Tookey and Dominic Ellis produced good downfield kicks. Jack Callaway was working tirelessly on the right and getting crosses into the box.
When the Raiders attacked, the Hurricanes got back to defend. At different times, all of Nicolas Hernandez St Clair, Luca Currie, Dominic Ellis, Jack Tookey and Shiva Vadhoolan made important interventions. Goalkeeper Harrison Carpenter Buckett needed to be alert to long balls.
Both teams were getting to grips with the nuances of the offside rule, which provided new challenges for attackers and defenders alike.
The second half brought a change of ends and the Hurricanes began shooting downhill. Shiva Vadhoolan had an early strike but the offside flag was up. Moments later Shiva Vadhoolan won the ball in midfield, and found Jack Callaway, who crossed the ball in for Oscar Robinson to power home. Will Lindsay was typically quick on the left, and Jack Tookey was narrowly wide with a trademark powerful shot from distance. For the Raiders, their defence was effective, one player in particular combining speed and skill to limit the opportunities for the Hurricanes to shoot.
The Raiders continued to attack too, and put the Hurricanes under pressure. Their striker was strong down the right side and produced a fine cross. The pace of the game had accelerated, despite the bigger pitch increasing the amount of running required. The Raiders defence was again quick to cut out a run from Jack Callaway, whilst at the other end Jack Tookey single-handedly thwarted three attackers. The pace of the game brought goals too. Oscar Robinson’s first shot was blocked by a Raiders defender, but the second was more successful. At the other end, man-of-the-match Dominic Ellis produced a goalmouth clearance of his own, but the pace and smart passing of the Raiders brought them a goal too.
If this is how nine-a-side football is played we have a lot to look forward to!