The Boys u16s finished their season, and their youth hockey careers, with a fantastic performance in the end of season playoffs, reaching the final only to be denied by the crossbar in a nail biting p-flick shoot out.
The day began with two pools of teams playing in parallel, with the winners and runners-up progressing to the semis. In the first match, Adel settled some old scores with a well managed 1-0 victory over Leeds. Simon, Ben K, Ben C and Max neutralised the threat from Leeds, while at the other end a few good chances went begging before Finlay slotted home from Matthew’s cross. Paddy’s reverse finish from Finlay’s pass gave Adel their next 1-0 victory, this time over Ben Rhydding B, after some tireless work and slick passes by Henry and Connor to soak up the pressure and feed the ball to Patrick, who ran the show in midfield all day long. Meanwhile Sholto taunted the attackers with his sweeper-keeper football skills – a bit unexpected given that he supports Bradford City FC.
This set the boys up nicely for the return leg against Leeds, where a 0-0 draw was the fair if unlikely result of some breathless end-to-end action. Connor and Matthew constantly found space out wide to stretch the defence; Patrick and Simon’s great tackling and distribution never allowed the Leeds attack to gain the upper hand. Ben K made short corner defending look easy and Ben C’s vital clearances kept Leeds out of our D. Tom stayed calm, struck a powerful short corner, and showed some classy touches, none better than his cheeky reverse lob into the D to set up a shot for Dan which just went wide. 4 points from 6 against Leeds; “best team in the city” as someone said. In the final pool match a draw was enough to go through as winners; Paddy gave Dan the ball to score although Rhydding got a late equaliser.
In the semi final Adel were just too strong for Thirsk, with fast exciting attacks earning a 3-0 lead within 10 minutes. Dan’s opener was created by a delicious through ball from Patrick, leaving our centre forward free to smash a half volley past the keeper. Dan then turned provider with a dribble and cross for Paddy to score, and then repeated the same trick a few minutes later. Paddy’s goals were a just reward for his incredible work-rate. Thirsk looked dazed but regained their composure, and capitalised on errors to get two goals back, setting up a dramatic finish. There was some anxiety at the back but Simon, Max and the Bens held on for a richly deserved 3-2 win, and a place in the final against Wakefield.
At this point, Wakey and Adel had each played 100 minutes of hockey, eliminating Chapeltown, Bradford, Thirsk, Leeds, and Harrogate along the way. It was, therefore, fantastic to watch these two talented teams go at each other in the final with 100% effort, as if it was the first game all over again. Neither side could get the upper hand, and the game ended 0-0, which meant a penalty shootout to decide the best team in the second tier of Yorkshire youth hockey. Sholto made a diving save, and Finlay coolly despatched his flick, but team mates were denied by the keeper or even – in Simon’s case – the crossbar, which took the full force of a rocket that flew an inch too high. In the end Wakey won the shoot out 3-1 and took the honours. Well done to them.
So – that’s all folks. Friday night was the last ever training session for this generation of u16 boys and it rained, of course – we wouldn’t have it any other way. And on Sunday, they closed their account in great style, showing the sportsmanship, hard work and talent that’s made it such a pleasure to work with them. The team’s development over the last two or three years has been a joy to watch, with many moving into the senior teams or about to do so.
Massive credit to the mums and dads who have unfailingly supported their boys, given them the right amount of encouragement and heckling, but never crossing the line with umpires or the other teams’ players.
And last but not least, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Simon Sutton, who has inspired and moulded yet another new generation of Adel players. Simon kindly give me a present on Sunday for my umpiring and coaching assistance over the last couple of years, but I hadn’t planned ahead and he left the pitch empty handed. So – can I say now, on behalf of all the parents (I’m one) and players (my son is) how lucky we have been to entrust our kids to Simon, with his endless patience and enthusiasm, his tactical nouse, and his ability to ingest a swear word whenever Adel miss an open goal. He’s had to do that quite a lot, but I think he secretly enjoyed it.