Match Reports

Boys’ U16 English Nationals Championships - Match Report

Jersey Hockey’s Boys’ U16 English Nationals Championships West Cluster – League 1 4th & 5th February 2017

With the weather having forced a cancellation of the first of two planned trips to the UK for Rathbones Jersey Boys’ U16s hockey 2016/17 England National Championships campaign, the squad set off at the weekend for an intense two days to play all four of their West, League 1 fixtures. To play four competitive matches in less than twenty hours was always going to be a tough challenge for the team, which included a number of younger players.

Saturday, 4th February

The trip started off with a trip to Reading HC for the boys watch a live English Men’s Premier Division match, which Brooklands won 4-2 against the home side.

Lead coaches Dom Pallot and Bill Aston, supported by Simon Watling, Paul Le Bihan and others, had prepared the squad, encouraging the squad to work for each other, protect the ball and be composed.

Trojans 2, Jersey 2

Under floodlights, the Jersey boys started fast and Jacob Bell found Tom Heelis in the D. Trying to round the keeper, Heelis was unceremoniously upended by the Trojans keeper and Heelis dusted himself off and easily converted the penalty stroke. Bell then nearly scored a second on a breakaway but the keeper saved his shot. Play was mainly scrappy in midfield with both sides trying to gain an advantage and then Trojans equalised. A long ball was played through midfield to a Trojans striker and his reverse stick shot beat Jersey goal keeper Piers Brandie at the near post.

In the second half Trojans started to dominate as Jersey were finding it difficult to keep possession but Brandie kept Jersey in it with a particularly good save. The pressure soon told and with about 10 minutes to go Trojan took the lead from a short corner. Jersey heads did not go down and they picked up their game trying to press for an equaliser. With 2 minutes left on the clock Jersey’s hard-working midfielder Adam Gower won the ball and fed Heelis. A mazy dribble found Heelis in the D and he forced the ball home. Over the whole game, perhaps a draw was a fair result.

Sunday, 5th February

After a good night’s sleep, the team set off for their three final League matches, knowing that they had to probably win two of them to have any chance of qualifying in the top two of the League for the Regionals round in March.

First up was a match against Fareham, who were top of the League at that point:

Jersey 3, Fareham 1

The boys played a fantastic match and this was by far their best performance since the squad got together last summer. The mature, fast and accurate passing hockey, keeping the ball sensibly, was a joy to watch for the troupe of travelling Jersey parents and friends on the touchline, whose support was greatly appreciated.  

An early Jersey short corner saw Gower taken out by the Fareham keeper and Heelis sent the keeper the wrong way with a skilful penalty stroke. Jersey’s Tom Bolton was having a good game in midfield, helping to dominate the possession and after Gower had won another penalty corner, Bolton smashed home a strong low shot from the top of the D.

Fareham did have a few chances themselves but Jersey Captain Henry Dowling was helping protect the defence and when they were needed defenders Chris Carnegie and Xav Barette were making strong tackles and distributing the ball well. Midfielders Jack Le Bihan and Rhys Thomas were also having very strong games, often linking up together well down the left.

Two goals clear at half time, the coaches stressed that goal difference could be a factor so more goals and a clean sheet would be very important. Fareham’s first attack of the second half saw a firm strike beat Brandie’s despairing dive and Fareham were back in the game, against the run of play. Jersey’s youngsters did not let their heads drop and they kept their composure, successfully defending two Fareham short corners. After a couple of cards had been given to both teams, play settled down again and Jersey began to dominate once more.

Jersey won a long corner and a routine straight from the training ground paid off handsomely. Codenamed ‘Africano’, the play went perfectly and Heelis buried his shot in the bottom corner. From that point, Jersey finished the game in total control but chances and short corners were not converted. This was a great performance and the boys went into their next two games at Havant in good spirits and with one of the two wins needed under their belts.

Havant 3, Jersey 0

Buoyed with the result from the last game, Jersey U16s took the field against what turned out to be a very strong Havant side, which included a player in the England National squad. With the majority of the opposition in the oldest age group and fresh from not having played a match just before, Havant were quick and strong in possession but Jersey were matching them in the early stages. A reverse stick shot from Heelis was narrowly wide and then a short corner not converted. Another attack from Jersey and Heelis was completely taken out by the Havant keeper – the umpires conferred but decided that the tackle was a fair.

Havant began to control the game and the Jersey defence was becoming stretched. With this many matches in a short space of time, the benefit of bringing a large squad was starting to tell. The Jersey coaches were using fresh legs by rotating the players as much as possible and youngsters Jamie Watling, Chris Thomas and Robbie Forest were contributing well to the performance. Havant’s pressure started to tell and they opened the scoring from open play. A second goal from a short corner followed and Jersey were having to defend. Barette and Carnegie were making numerous tackles and Brandie kept Jersey in the game by making a string of excellent saves. Then, right on half time, Heelis played an intelligent ball into the Havant D and Bell got on the end for the deflection but with the Havant keeper beaten the ball went agonisingly wide.

A narrow loss in this game would not be too detrimental, as long as Jersey won their last game against Winchester. With a formation change to help, Jersey took the game to Havant and the second half was very even, with Will Wycherley having another strong game in midfield and attack and Jack Harben using his pace to stretch the Havant defence. Slightly against the run of play, Havant scored a third on the break but Jersey kept them out for the rest of the game and then narrowly missed a short corner of their own as time expired. That goal would have been important, because Jersey now needed to win their last game by two clear goals to qualify for the Regionals round on goal difference.  

Jersey 6, Winchester 4

With tired limbs, sore knocks, ice packs everywhere and some cramps setting in, Jersey’s U16s knew they needed one last huge effort to win this game by two goals to qualify. Given the circumstances, what followed was a most amazing game of Junior hockey…….

Against the team at the bottom of the League and having lost all of their games so far, Jersey were confident that could get the result they needed. Rolling substitutions were keeping as many fit players on the pitch as possible but Winchester started fast. They converted an early short corner and then broke away and scored again! Needing to win by two goals, Jersey found themselves two goals behind and Winchester were attacking again. Brandie then pulled off two remarkable and brave saves to keep Jersey’s slim hopes alive.

Dowling somehow managed to keep encouraging his teammates and led by example to force Jersey back into the game and Wycherley and Rhys Thomas especially were starting to impose themselves on a young but talented and fresh Winchester side. And the comeback started…..Just before half time Jersey won a short corner but the routine broke down and the ball fell to Wycherley who absolutely drilled home a low unstoppable shot. Jersey attacked again and Rhys Thomas drove in a dangerous cross and at the far post Chris Thomas flung himself at the ball to deflect it home – something that the squad have been practicing.

Level at half time and Jersey were still in with a chance. What was to come was great sport to watch. Winchester attacked and after a melee in the D they scored: 2-3. Wycherley and Watling combined down Jersey’s right and after a mazy dribble into the D along the backline, a prefect ball back to the top found Heelis, whose shot arrowed into the far corner – 3 all and Jersey still needed two more.

Further disappointment followed as tired minds let a Winchester forward drive into the D and round Brandie to tap in – 3-4 down and Jersey needed three goals with about 15 minutes remaining. The turning point came straight after – Winchester attacked and an attempt was goal bound. Brandie came out and dived and deflected the ball straight on to the post! Undeterred and showing grit and determination, Jersey’s boys surged again with nothing to lose. A clever ball found Harben haring into the D and he drove home an excellent shot – 4-4 – two goals needed and the first of those came very quickly. Le Bihan won the ball I midfield and drove towards the goal. He slipped the ball to Bell in space on the back line and his shot from a narrow angle beat the keeper at the near post – 5-4 up with ten minutes left – one goal needed – or was it.

News came from the touchline that a 5-4 win might now be enough to qualify on the goals scored tie breaker against Fareham. Should the coaches push on for the second goal cushion, or consolidate and hope that the information was correct?

Game flow was now from end to end and Jersey had to defend two successive Winchester short corners, which they did with skill and concentration. With five minutes remaining, Bell went on a skilful weaving dribble and won a short corner. One of the practised routines paid off as Bell himself deflected in the clever work – 6-4 to Jersey and they were two goals ahead. At this point Winchester were broken and the final minutes saw Jersey keep possession comfortably and hold on to their two goal win.

This quite young for their age group squad had confronted some tough obstacles but had never given up and their determination to keep going till the final whistle in all four matches was a credit. The success that it brought has meant qualification for the Regionals round in March – one step away from the Nationals Finals. There will be talented and good hockey teams to compete against in the Regionals round but this team, welcoming back Toby Treharne who was injured, can go into the games with the positive experience from the League matches and if they show the same spirt and teamwork, who knows what might happen.

Scorers:

Heelis 5, Bell 2, Bolton, Wycherley, Thomas C, Harben.

Squad

Henry Dowling (Cap), Chris Carnegie, Jacob Bell, Jamie Watling, Piers Brandie (GK), Adam Gower, Jack Le Bihan, Will Wycherley, Tom Bolton, Jack Harben, Rhys Thomas, Chris Thomas, Xav Barette, Tom Heelis, Toby Treharne, Robbie Forrest.

Bill Aston

“The whole weekend was a tremendous success. The first game’s jitters were quickly banished and the squad showed what it could do in the second game. The third match showed the boys the level of hockey we need to be aiming for, and the final match was a game I will never forget. It was one of the most impressive displays of stubborn and belligerent desire to win I've ever seen!”

Dom Pallot

“The will to win and drive shown by the boys was great to see and they really started to realise what can be achieved by working as a team. This experience will help develop their hockey immensely and we are really looking forward to testing ourselves again in the Regionals.”

“As a coach, it is so pleasing to see all that hard work on the training ground pay off, when routines and set pieces create goals or game-changing moments.”