Thrilling 80th Minute Winner Seals a Magnificent Display
Radcliffe learned why you play to the very final whistle today with a last gasp goal that grabbed all three points against a very good Eastwood team.
Radcliffe could have no excuses today, playing at the best venue in the league with a great spectator stand and an immaculate 3G surface.
With a squad of 12 and confidence from last week’s game I fully expected them to step up against a very tough Eastwood side.
The opening salvos showed that both teams were here to play lovely passing football and threaten the back line - never easy to defend against pace on a 3G with the wingers and attackers able to turn on a sixpence.
Radcliffe started with a back three to pack the centre of the pitch but soon made a substitution with Connor Bland making way for Ethan Fallon to drop into a back four. The cover wide was needed against a tricky Attack and their two strikers were exploiting the lack of numbers on the line.
It was going to take some skill to break down either defence and when it came it was worthy of it. Oliver Jones-Wilkinson getting a sharp foot in to dispossess the Eastwood midfielder and then using his pace and balance to dance past three players into the box and slot home past the keeper for 0-1 (13).
Eastwood were threatening though and it took some great, balanced defending from Will Halstead and Ethan Fallon to keep their pacey striker in check.
Much of the joy was coming down the left flank but, time and again, Jacob Sadler was able to just get a foot in or strength out their winger and put the ball out of play.
Good chances at both ends before the break saw both keepers tested but they were up to the task and half time arrived with Radcliffe’s noses just in front.
The second half was always going to be tough with only one substitute on a sunny day but we weren’t to know what a feast of football and drama we were in for.
The referee was consistent in his decisions but it seemed he was only consistent in penalising one team - it was great to see the boys not letting this get into their heads though and football was the winner...
Eastwood finally got the luck that their great football deserved when a curling shot from the edges was watched out by Harvey Woodward in goal - or was it? A wicked bit of spin saw it curl just inside the post and we were back level at 1-1 (49).
Really unfortunate but time to take a deep breath and keep going. Almost immediately, Harvey Woodward showed what a great keeper he is with a massive save that kept us level and Radcliffe’s passing play finally created a great chance down the left for Joshua Jones-Wilkinson. It seemed to have got away from him and the keeper taken him too wide but he didn’t give up and fired across goal from the tightest of angles and found the inside of the net for 1-2 (57).
Great timing and this set up a frantic period of play where both sides had great chances but defences and keepers did their jobs well. Ethan Fallon was throwing himself in the way of everything and on the odd occasion he couldn’t, Will Halstead was there on the cover to sweep up.
George Arrowsmith, who’d been a threat all game in the channels finally got his big chance with a one on one against their keeper but his shot was just smothered to deny us the two goal lead.
Eastwood then looked to have been given the lifeline they needed by the referee with an extremely harsh decision against Ethan Fallon who was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. His hands were tight to his sides and he was 1 yard away from the blasted shot!
The resulting penalty was neatly dispatched by their striker and we were yet again level at 2-2 (66).
Neither side could complain at the score line though to be honest - it had been such a good game with each team having their chances and playing lovely flowing football.
When it came to the final test though, it was the defensive display from Radcliffe that just about edged it. Ethan, Will, Jacob and Tom were immense and Harvey Woodward showed how hard he is to beat, time and again.
With seconds left, Harvey Woodward put in a trademark long kick that was controlled by Oliver Petchell and a nice inside ball to Oliver Jones-Wilkinson saw him create some space for a return to Oliver Petchell.
His strength and directness saw a good shot that nearly nutmegged the keeper who just managed to sit on the ball...it squirted clear though and fell to an Eastwood defender who hacked clear. Any other day that’s the final whistle but today it was destined to be different. The clearance ricocheted off another Eastwood defender and the keeper had to palm the ball away again but only into the chest of Connor Bland who bundled it home for a last-gasp winner 2-3 (80).
The whistle was for the end of the game and it took a few moments for it all to sink in.
The boys had played their hearts out and never given up to claim all three points.
What a game, what a result and what a credit to U16 football.
My man of the match goes to a player that never gave up today, was determined to block everything within 30 yards of him and made critical challenges time and again - Ethan Fallon.