An interesting Mothering Sunday friendly with most of the boys getting a chance to try some unfamiliar positions, a scoring debut for Alex, a cracking first goal for Martin, a chance to explore some of the specific laws of soccer and mini soccer – and 10 goals to boot.

Again, as a friendly, it gave Craig the chance to experiment with positions and give the boys a taste of what it’s like to play in different areas of the pitch and appreciate the responsibilities and difficulties faced by their teammates who play there regularly.

So Ben and Nile started as full backs with Martin in the centre back role, with Phin and Jakub upfront and Alex making his debut in the middle.

It was a difficult start for Alex, who took a while to adjust to the pace and intensity of the game. It’s always amazing how different a “real” game is compared to training and even a match in a training situation. But after his first tentative minutes, he came back on in the second half with a renewed vigour and played superbly.  But more on that later.

Meanwhile, the Sharks were looking solid enough at the back despite the shift around and dangerous going forward. Phin and Jakub were exchanging passes well and creating good openings in the first few minutes.

They’d remembered how the Target keeper was quick off his line, so Jakub tried some early first time shots when sent clear cleverly by Phin, but couldn’t make them count.

Ben fired in an inviting corner from the right and it fell to Nile who tried to volley first time but couldn’t quite connect properly. On the other side Jakub delivered a great corner to the far post, which Alex just got his head to but it went behind.

At the other end Target were creating their own chances and a bit of hesitancy in the Sharks’ defence allowed them to score two quick goals and take a 2-0 lead.

Wiktor came on for Ben and Francis replaced Alex and the Sharks continued to look dangerous going forward.  Phin received the ball from Martin, danced around two players and sent a great through ball to Jakub.  He tried a first time shot but the keeper was alert and parried it well.

Target scored another from a corner shortly afterwards and 3-0 seemed harsh on the Sharks. But it seemed to spark them into life.

Phin played another great through ball to Jakub.  Jakub raced onto the ball and just got there ahead of their quick-off-his-line keeper. The ball bounced off the keeper and back into Phin’s path. He steered it confidently into the empty net.

But the Target keeper had got a head injury during the clash with Jakub, so I had to bring the play back to the point of the injury and disallow the goal, restarting with a drop ball played back to the Sharks once the Target player was ok.

It was not a foul by Jakub, because he reached the ball first and it was simply a clash after he had played the ball. But a head injury always means an instant stopping of the game at every level, right up to the Premier League. Indeed at this age, you usually stop for any injury where a player is obviously hurt.

It was frustrating for the boys who thought they’d got back into it with a fair goal.  But remember, we were upset a few weeks ago when play was allowed to continue and a goal awarded when Phin was down injured after a tackle.

Soon afterwards another incident occurred that needed some clarification.

Target were attacking down the right hand side. A deep cross came into the box dangerously, but fell to Wiktor at the far post. Wiktor cushioned the cross into Rory’s path and he instinctively picked it up. Unfortunately that counts as a back pass under the laws of the game and I had no option but to blow for a free kick against the Sharks.

Despite some apparent confusion from the sidelines, the laws are quite clear on free kicks in mini soccer: there are no indirect free kicks. On the main body of the pitch, all offences are punished with a direct free kick. In the penalty areas, any indirect offence that occurs is treated as a direct free kick – but to be taken on the edge of the penalty area directly in line with where the foul was committed. A back pass handled by the keeper is an indirect offence in normal football, so the ball was brought back to the edge of the box and a direct free kick awarded.

Jakub and Phin made a wall and they did their job well and deflected the ball behind for a corner as the Target player shot towards goal.  And that was half time.

In the second half the Sharks were transformed.  Nile volunteered to go in goal, Martin went upfront, Rory went to left back (where he had a superb half) and Francis to right back with Jakub in the middle. Wiktor and Ben took up more familiar roles on the on the wings.

The Sharks were immediately on the attack. Wiktor, who had an outstanding game, was creating all sorts of havoc in the Target defence.

Early on he played Martin in with a great through ball and he was clear. With great composure Martin collected the ball, steadied himself and fired the ball past the Target keeper.  A fine goal – and the start of a Sharks’ fight back.

Wiktor was soon involved in the second Sharks’ goal – picking the ball up in midfield and waltzing around three defenders before slotting the ball home from the right hand side.  Another great goal and the comeback was on.

Unfortunately, the Sharks were leaving themselves open at the back. Target scored another three quick goals to puncture the Sharks’ momentum.

Jakub went into goal to replace Nile and Alex came back onto the pitch for his second taste of the action. He was immediately involved and causing problems up front. He was tackling, winning the ball, and beating players with great determination.

And he soon got the goal he deserved. Ben played it to him on the left, where he turned his man skilfully, ran into the box and fired a low hard shot past the keeper at the near post. An excellent goal, well worked and well taken.

And here we’ll take another diversion into the fascinating laws of the game! Throughout the match we seemed to have some trouble with throw-ins. I had to keep asking the boys to take them again – either for not starting with the ball right behind the head, or for having one or both feet off the ground when throwing the ball.

In actual fact there are some common misconceptions about throw-ins, which it’s useful to bear in mind.  Although the ball has to come from behind the head, it can be released in front of the head as long as it is part of one continuous movement. Many referees – even at Premier League level – will penalise a throw when it is released from the forehead area. This is incorrect.

Another misconception is that both feet must be behind the line when taking a throw. The laws states that both feet must be on the ground, on or behind the line. So provided part of the thrower’s feet are touching the line, the throw in is legal. Again, I have seen referees in senior football incorrectly penalise players for this non offence.

Finally, while we’re on the subject of lines, there is a lot of confusion about when the ball has gone out of play during a game. Often I have to shout to the boys to play on when they think it has gone out for a throw-in. The law states that the whole of the ball has to have crossed the line for it to be out of play.  On the line, or mostly over the line, is not out of play.

Anyway, back to the action! It was Wiktor’s turn to turn on the style again as he got the Sharks’ fourth goal. Again, he got the ball in midfield, skilfully skipped around three players, took the ball wide on the right and fired a shot across the keeper and into the net off the far post.  His brother was there to tap the ball into the net, but it had already crossed the line for Wiktor’s goal.

It was now 6-4 and an unlikely comeback was not totally out the question with around 5 minutes left.  With the minutes ticking away, Wiktor played Ben in with a great pass and he was clear into the Target box. With the goal at his mercy, he tried to turn onto his right foot, slipped, and the chance had gone.  Such a shame because at 6-5, it could have been a very exciting finish to the game.

As it was, the Sharks couldn’t score again and the game finished 6-4 to Target.

It was a good workout for the boys, although we saw a few tears again which we haven’t had for some weeks now.

The next match is our first 9v9 match, which is new to every team for next year, so it will be interesting to see how we adapt and which formations we play. The offside law also comes into play next season with the 9v9, which is a something very tricky for the boys to get their heads around. Defenders and attackers will need to adjust their play to take it into account, so it adds a whole new dimension to the game.  But thankfully they’re not having to play 11v11 on full size pitches with full size goals!

Damien

Thanks to Kasia again for her great photos (and for clarification from the Pienkowski family about who was claiming the last goal!)