On Sunday morning our U13 Academy team beat Heathfield 5-1 away from home to clinch the Crowborough & District Junior Football League U/13 league title. This was a great achievement as all our lads were still eligible to play at U12 level. The boys have had a tremendous season.
Going into Sunday’s game the team required a point to confirm the league title as Sevenoaks were hot on their heals, on the same points, but having played one game more.
Playing on a not used to full size pitch, Hastings began the first half with great intensity and desire to set the tone early, with a couple of big tackles flying in, notably from Armandus Briedis at Centre Half. Within the first 10 – 15 minutes Hastings had a number of clear chances to score, a couple from Dom Corbin charging on from midfield to put one narrowly wide and another just over the bar, Franz Cuison having similar chances. Though Cuison did inevitably score after beating a couple of Heathfield defenders with his blistering pace.
Hastings though experienced some trouble with Heathfield’s long direct balls into the channels, though Vince Barcellona seemed to be having a standout game covering the majority of these passes. However, Heathfield did capitalise on this tactic, some confusion between the Hastings back 4 and Ollie Barrow (who had another brilliant game in goal for the 12s) allowed the Heathfield striker to equalize.
Hastings remained on top for the rest of this half with immense pressure from the front 5 of Cuison, Corbin, Arthur Karapetyan, Sam Stockdale and Ronnie Grey who did not let Heathfield settle for a second. Just before the half ended a great set piece delivery from Stockdale was headed home by the impressive Briedis.
Hastings lead 2-1 at half time but had missed 4 or 5 clear chances. During the break it was a question of could the team maintain the work ethic and energy across the pitch whilst tightening up at the back and dealing with the direct long balls.
A couple changes saw Liam Ridgers (Squad Captain) and JP Simpson come on for Briedis and Grey. Thankfully the coaches were rewarded with just those ethics, immediately Hastings were on top as the work ethos was too much for Heathfield. The front 5 now becoming more influential as the game went on and Ridgers and Barcellona marshaling everything at the back. The movement in attack eventually saw Hastings scoring another 3 goals all by Simpson, with brilliant work from Cuison, Karapetyan and Briedis (who had replaced the very impressive Ben O’Donoghue in Central midfield).
Now leading 5-1 and looking comfortable Heathfield then had a strong final 10 minutes which saw our two full backs Harry Jeffreys and Reuben Martin defend exceptionally well against a couple of big, powerful wingers.
All in all, the work ethic, organisation and determination of the young U12 lads has been outstanding all season. They are a credit to the Club and to achieve this whilst playing up a year and U13 level makes their achievement even more special. And to add, they finished the league with the most goals scored and the least goals conceded, showing a great strength across the side.
Plenty more to come from this group of players in the stronger U13 Kent Youth League next season.
MoM – Franz Cuison for ridiculous work rate and pace up front, closely followed by Vince Barcelona at centre half who was outstanding throughout.