WATFORD FRIENDLY LEAGUE UNDER 18 GREEN DIVISION
Stonegrove Park Tigers 1 Whetstone Wanderer Jaguars 0
A strike from Jo Woolf saw Stonegrove Park Tigers got their WFL U18 Green Division campaign off to a winning start as they recorded a hard fought victory over Whetstone Wanderer Jaguars.
It was a gloriously hot day for a fiery performance to get the 2012/13 season off to a good start for the Tigers. The conditions were not like most of your typical late summer days – instead of rain there was glorious sunshine.
The baked hard pitch and the weather both sapped energy and meant the boys were encouraged to take on board water throughout and if needs be a well earned substitution, to take advantage of the new for under-18's, roll on, roll off substitution rules in the Watford Friendly League.
Stonegrove Park Tigers are essentially a new team, with some new additions to a merger of last season’s U18 and U16’s teams. Unfamiliarity in the first game was always a risk, but was quickly forgotten as the team opened up with some lovely flowing passing football.
For all Stonegrove’s possession, chances were scarce at both ends, albeit the best fell to Stonegrove, when a near open goal went begging.
There were monster performances in the heart of midfield with Noah Style, Ethan Ezra and Eddy Wax all helping to disrupt Whetsone’s midfield.
It was 0-0 at half time, which left Stonegrove feeling a little hard done by but the boys were seen to be tiring in the heat.
The second half, was not Stonegrove’s; Whetstone were probably 20 per cent more match-fit and had by far the greater of possession, but a back four of the excellent debutant Mehar Sethi, Alex Chaimo, Ben Kreiger and man of the match Joe Myers limited Whetstone to pot-shots, save for one rebound that set their centre forward free and who should have scored.
But inspite of the fitness induced change in the balance of play, Stonegrove did ask questions of Whetstone, with Ethan Ezra’s running and direct wing play a constant thorn in Whetstone’s defence.
On 75 minutes a break upfield saw the ever running Jo Woolf gain control in the penalty area, and a deft flick with the outside of the boot, left their goal keeper stranded, but the ball agonisingly hit the post.
It was a delight that both Woolf and Joseph Eskenazy were following up and Woolf himself was there to tap the ball into the unguarded net.
The rest of the game was backs to the wall. Tiring and in some cases nursing injuries, Stonegrove defended the slender lead. In such circumstances the chasing team will get irked and will play to the very limits, and possibly, beyond the rules.
Defending the lead, a team won’t always get the protection of the referee, but it highlights that it is important not to react to such provocation as football is the team game and all players must contribute.
A player who is sent off, cannot contribute and therefore makes it that much harder for his teammates. Stonegrove naively fell for this sucker punch and the last five minutes were unnecessarily tense as a result. But significantly the all-new Stonegrove Park Tigers held out to claim a good win with lots of positives to build on.
Stonegrove manager Kevin Bernbaum said he was "pleased with the result" and commented on "the safe handling of goalkeeper Sam Ellard, the midfield tenacity of Scott Greenfield, Josh Battat and Noah Lachs and up front the hard working Joel Bernbaum".