The Magnificent Nine
by Joe 

Playing Hanworth with 11 men earlier this season produced a close game, however the mighty Sharks eventually won through 3-1. Illness and injury reduced the number of players available for the return leg to just nine. But while we may have been short on numbers, we were not short on heart, determination and talent.

Alejandro volunteered to go in goal and was magnificent and brave throughout, thanks to expert coaching from Victor, often racing off his line to smother dangerous one-on-one attacks.

At the back, Joel was superb in anchoring the defence, using strength and power to block and kill off Hanworth attacks. Either side of him, Rory and Martin were brilliant in their ability to nick the ball away from attackers, scrambling to snuff out Hanworth possession and playing cultured passes forward.

In the midfield, our captain Phin led his men by example, diving into tackles, tigerishly fighting to win the ball, never giving in and playing excellent through balls. A ‘Phinspirational’ performance.

Our wingbacks Francis and Ben worked up and down the lines tirelessly, offering dazzling skills and tricks that left the Hanworth players confused and dazed.

Charlie and I worked through from midfield to attack with good interplay and through balls. Time and again we were able to outpace the packed Hanworth defence, but unfortunately the ‘keeper was large and powerful and managed to block our shots.

As one of the opposition parents remarked at half time, it was really difficult to know which team had nine players, given the success we had in getting forward, while our ‘They Shall Not Pass’ approach at the back kept Hanworth at bay.

Our closest effort in the first half came from my shot from outside the box which rattled the bar and then dropped back to the keeper. I think it was 25 yards, but may have been 30 – jokes.

Hanworth’s first goal was fortunate for them and did not reflect the balance of play. A Sharks throw in was ruled illegal by the Hanworth linesman. The subsequent throw-in by Hanworth took a deflection and fell into the path of one of their strikers who hit the net. Alejandro had no chance.

Just before half time, Alejandro raced out to end a dangerous one on one. At the other end, Ben came agonisingly close to drawing Sharks level.

Early in the second half, a Hanworth cross from the right took a deflection and fell to one of their players who poked the ball home, However, Sharks remained resilient, still pushing on despite being two players down.

Francis moved forward and I was struggling with a thigh pull and dropped back into the defence. Francis and Ben went on a series of powerful runs, leaving Hanworth defenders resorting to desperate measures to keep them out. Finally, the pressure told. Francis was put through again and hit the back of the net with superb placement. The comeback was on.

Phin again picked up the ball in midfield and slotted a perfect through ball for Francis to score again – 2-2. The parents on the sidelines leapt for joy. ‘Come on the Nine!’ We were very grateful to have Sylvester cheering us on too. Hopefully, he will back on the pitch very soon.

Joel, Rory and I continued to battle the Hanworth forwards with tough tackles. Our long balls forward caused havoc in the Hanworth defence.

Sadly, Hanworth collected all three points when a hopeful punt forward sat up for one of their strikers to hit a looping ball which just fell into our net. Alejandro, who was superb throughout, had no chance.

Final score, 3-2 to Hanworth.

A big thanks to the coaches, who praised our determination in the most difficult of circumstances. We can all hold our heads high. We look forward to welcoming back our sick and injured.