Its coming to a really crucial stage in the season now and the next few results will have a big say in the direction our season goes. Last season the results around Christmas time were really positive and had a good impact on the rest of our season; we won our FA Youth Cup game and went in to the Christmas break on a high. Hopefully we can emulate something similar to that this year, and off the back of our last two games in the league I really think we can do that.
Academy Match: Crystal Palace v Ipswich Town
After the disappointing draw to Chelsea, we were back to winning ways in our next game against Ipswich Town. Back playing at home, we were determined to get a good result and our hard work and good attitude in training the week before set us up to do what we wanted to do. Ipswich have a fantastic academy and have produced a lot of top players over the years. As always, we knew we’d be in for a stern test but we were up to the task and came away with a well earned win. It was pretty even up until half time, but we changed a few things at half time and they couldn’t cope with it.
Academy Match: Southampton v Crystal Palace
We let ourselves down the week after with a defeat away to Southampton. It seemed like we were defending all game and apart from a brief spell late in the second half, we didn’t pass the ball around and play with any confidence. We couldn’t really put our finger on why we never got going; sometimes you just have those sorts of games. We weren’t poor we just never did enough when we had the ball.
Academy Match: Crystal Palace v Norwich City
It was a top of the table clash in the next game at home to Norwich and one that we felt we had to win. They had a game in hand on us and were already ahead on points. We played the game with a great attitude and played with a bit of freedom which is something we hadn’t done in previous weeks. We deployed different tactics in this game to anything we have done before, and thankfully they came good. We were cautious of Norwich and showed them respect, but once that fear of failure went and we knocked the ball around, they couldn’t really handle us. The 4-3 final score line probably doesn’t do us justice as we had a lot more opportunities to increase our goal tally.
Academy Match: Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Our final game to keep you up to date with was our fantastic 4-1 win away to Arsenal on Saturday. As I’m sure everyone is aware, huge amounts of snow fell on Monday night and got worse as the week got on. Many games were cancelled on the weekend and not a lot of clubs were able to train leading up to it. It was a credit to both us players and staff that not one of us missed a day’s training and made sure we did all we could to get in.
Gary Issott alluded to this in the changing room beforehand, as it defined our team spirit and our eagerness to not let each other down. The easy option would be to look outside, not really fancy it and call in absent. It was a struggle for a lot of us, but the desire to get to training epitomized what this team is about. A usual 20 minute trip in to training for me turned into a 2 hour journey as I had to walk for well over an hour to the nearest tram stop. Other lads had to jog in to training and some paid up to £30 to get a cab.
After training inside at the National sports centre in Crystal Palace on Tuesday, we were lucky enough to use the facility owned by a certain Mr. Beckham in London on the Thursday. It was nice to train somewhere else for a change, and with it being a full size pitch, none of our work was hampered which meant we could prepare for the weekend as we always do. I think it was probably the best training session of the week, so hopefully we can use it again if we endure any more snow before the season ends.
It showed a great attitude by us all and one that we took into the game with us and kept for the whole 90 minutes. You know when you play Arsenal it’s going to be a very tough game and one that you will have to be at your best. They will have large amounts of possession, and will press you high up the pitch when you get it.
They had a youngish team out, but then so did we. We only had four second years starting, with two under 16’s, and the rest made up by first years. Apart from Mann and Sekajja, the whole team is pretty much new to youth team football as some of us didn’t get a lot of game time last year. Its great experience for all of them to be playing in the youth team so early as without a doubt it gives you an advantage when you become a second year and you already have that experience behind you. Most clubs won’t play their first years until late in the season, so by the time the league starts next year our boys will already have one up on them.
We started the Arsenal game on the back foot and didn’t really see the ball for the first 20 minutes. We kind of expected the game to be like that, and as long as we didn’t concede then we would give ourselves half a chance on the counter. We defended really well, and limited Arsenal to half chances. Although they had a lot of possession, a lot of it was sideways and not in behind us so we were quite happy for them to knock it about in front of us.
I knew we were doing a half decent job by the increasingly unhappy attitude of their striker. When times are a bit tough you need to stick together as a team and get behind each other. I think his petulance gave us all a bit of a confidence boost as it was proof we were doing well. We’re very dangerous on the counter attack, and it was no surprise that all of our goals were break aways. As I’ve said time and time again in my blog, you can have as much possession of the ball as you want but if you don’t capitalize on it and do something with it, then all it becomes is a statistic. They probably had 65% of the play, but couldn’t break us down with it. We had chances, and we took them.
Rio Ferdinand was spot on when he said that playing Arsenal is as tough mentally as it is physically, as you really have to be concentrated and switched on for every minute. I came off feeling like I needed to sleep for a few months, I was drained! Some times when you play you are so switched on and focused, that when you come off you can’t really remember anything that just happened. It was like that for me at the end of the game, bar a few tackles I couldn’t remember much at all.
It was a great feeling after the game, and the team spirit was epitomized in the minibus on the way back after the game…(I’ll say no more about that!!).
We are in for a swim and a light stretch on Monday before the Surrey Senior cup game against Ash Town on Tuesday. Hopefully some boys who haven’t played as much can get some good game time, which will set everyone up nicely for our game after that… The FA Youth Cup away to Cardiff City.