Jags stopped at Stopsley final
By Kierran Groom
...in Sunday tournament
The Newport Pagnall Jaguars U12s once again continued their tournament record of “go deep, stay late” at the Stopsley United tournament last Sunday.
The tournament started in uncertain fashion. Off the field, car parking confusion and lack of clarity about the tournament as a whole caused some jitters amongst the Jags’ loyal following. On it, the boys started without their customary verve and swagger against 3rd division EB Lions. It may have been the after-effects of the chastening AstroTurf experience at self-named “Two Touch” the previous day, or it could have been the steady unscheduled downpours onto the semi-cut grass – who knows?. In the finest traditions of lower league underdogs, EB Lions parked the bus, packed the midfield, played it long to the big man up top and seized their rewards when the big fella converted a muscular header to cancel out Seo’s assured early strike. Worse was to follow when Tom uncharacteristically spilled the ball, now resembling a greasy bar of soap, and it slid agonisingly into the tangle of unkempt goal netting which hung roughly from the rusting metal goal posts.
But the Jags crew are known for their resilience as well as their skill, and despite pessimistic murmurings from the rain sodden fans, a determined counter-offensive saw a smart finish from Harry to secure a surprisingly hard fought point. Not the most distinguished of openings.
Off the pitch, meanwhile, things were looking up. The rainclouds cleared and we received news that lead coach Kierran was destined to rejoin us shortly after his late night musical escapades seeing Elton John in Cardiff. He returned to hear the news that “We’re still standing”.
With the coaching duo restored and the sun out, the boys took the field for their second match against SBJ Impact, but it was the Jaguars who made the impact. Sam settled the nerves with an authoritative early penalty. Shortly afterwards, Dylan, now beginning to look menacing up front, added a second and a strike from Theo secured the points.
With the Jags now beginning to fulfil potential, confidence was building as they took the field for game 3 against Stopsley United Saxons. From the off, the Jags started their crisp midfield passing, creating a multitude of chances which were converted with glee by the grateful strikers. Dylan bagged a hat-trick, including an outrageous backheel, and Sam, not to be outdone, also struck successfully three times. With the referee adding insult to injury by elongating the contest, the proverbial “cricket score” of 12-0 was achieved and a warning message sent to all other teams.
The final group game had looked potentially tricky, but with Joel putting in some thunderous tackles in midfield, Billy looking solid in defence and Roman and Sonny attacking the flanks with gusto, the Warden Warriors were thwarted and a 2-0 win achieved.
Any semi-final jitters were similarly settled quickly, with another polished display against Crawley Green and a very solid 2-0 scoreline achieved in a game which only ever looked like it would end in a Jags’ victory and thus yet another final appearance.
Two evenly matched teams went head to head in an entertaining final. In a game which could have gone either way, a strong Berkhamstead team took a 1-0 lead. The Jags pressed and battled, but with so many players forward, Berkhamstead launched a late counter attack and despatched a goal with the last kick of the match to secure a 2-0 victory.
Well done to Berkhamstead for their tournament win, but well done to the Jags too for improving from an unpromising start to reach yet another final; for entertaining their fans with more silky and positive football; for providing a goalfest; and for representing the club with distinction once again. Thank you to the loyal spectators on a day of mixed conditions. The reward for such loyalty was once again to progress to the business end of the tournament and to leave all watching with confidence of further quality performances and more silverware in future.