Opening games of the season are traditionally played in hot conditions, so on a gloriously warm and sunny September morning the Lions travelled away to Felpham Colts for their first match of a new league season and a brand new adventure in a new league.
Some players received new match shirts prior to the match which it was hoped would act as an added inspiration rather than trying to play as though vacuum-packed into a shirt 5 sizes too small.
Magnus skippered the side in the absence of Fraser and led the team in the pre-match hand-shakes before winning the toss and electing to kick toward the goal facing the sun.
In front of Eron a backline of Magnus, Joe, Rory and debutant Tom M pushed up from the start, and the midfield of Ted, Louis and Tom L worked hard to win the ball and look for the options upfront and wide offered by Harry, Ben and Hamish. Brodie and Daniel started on the bench but primed and ready for action.
The Lions started the stronger winning the ball at the back and in midfield and continued to feed Harry on the left as we pressed the Felpham defence. With some sharp passing we were finding openings around the box but our shots were either wide of goal or the Felpham keeper was equal to our efforts.
Felpham were looking to hit us on the break but the Lions’ backline remained solid with Joe winning the balls in the air, Rory and Mags shutting the door on attacks with their pace, and Tom M looking very composed and confident on his first start playing short passes out of trouble.
On 11 minutes Ted picked up a great pass from Mags on the left and drifted past a first player. He cut into the box past another player and closed in on goal from the angle, before firing powerfully with his right foot underneath the keeper for our first goal. 1-0 Lions. The roar of the Lions support echoed round Felpham as the boys swamped Ted.
Felpham responded positively and forced the Lions back for a period, but on the left and right Mags and Tom M continued to repel attacks while looking to play passes out of defence. In the middle Joe and Rory combined very well winning the ball on the floor and in the air. Eventually a Felpham attack down the left resulted in a cross which was diverted by Louis to the edge of the box, and then only half–cleared. The Felpham midfielder seized on the half-chance to hit a shot which found its way into the net to equalize. 1-1. Game on.
Loxwood again assumed dominance in possession and territory creating many chances and frequent corners but were unable to convert the chances into goals. Just before HT Ted wrestled clear in the box and chased in on the keeper who did well to deny Ted. Ted was then replaced by Brodie in midfield with Ben tucking inside. Half-time 1-1.
The boys were told at HT how well they were playing, and to keep passing the ball and creating chances. With a bit more composure and luck we would score and hopefully win the match.
The first 15 minutes of the second half saw the Lions continue to press for a goal but again we were frustrated. Ted re-entered the field in a straight swap with Ben. Slowly but surely the Lions were turning the screw but the next goal came from a long ball from Eron which bounced high on the hard surface. Hamish gambled; ran through clear on goal, and then flicked the ball with the outside of his right boot past the keeper. 2-1 to the visitors. Again the cheers rang round the ground as the away support and the boys celebrated. Could we go on from here?
Eron made another fine save as Felpham caught us on the break but increasingly the Lions were beginning to stroke the ball around and play passes. Louis then picked up the ball in midfield, exchanged passes with Tom L and then released Hamish through the middle. The ball looked to be running to the keeper but he hesitated and Hamish stabbed the ball past the keeper before knocking the ball into an empty net. 1-3. High-fives again and loud cheers.
Ben replaced Tom L and looked lively as Brodie on the right was increasingly becoming an influence releasing balls inside and offering width on the right to balance Harry’s continual threat on the left. On 63 minutes Hamish received a pass deep and Ben ran beyond to receive the pass from Hamish. Ben held off the defenders as he closed into the box before firing right beyond the keeper. Great finish. 1-4.
By now the Lions' tails were really up and perhaps some off our earlier fitness work was paying off as the boys knocked the ball around. Daniel replaced Tom M who had a superb match, never looking unduly troubled. The Lions pressure continued and Hamish and Louis hunted down two Felpham players on the edge of the D before Hamish burst through to hit a shot high into the top left corner for his hat trick. 1-5. The travelling support could relax now but the cheers were just as loud as the boys celebrated.
On 70 minutes Harry had a snap-shot just wide, Ted tested the keeper again and then Hamish was fouled outside the box on the left. Hamish stuck a curling free-kick which the keeper tipped onto the bar only for Louis to nod the ball back over the keeper lying on the floor. 1-6.
Well done all and a great start for the Lions and a very positive all-round performance. Thanks to Ken for the linesman duties and thank you again to our brilliant supporters including Just and Fraser’s Grandad and Grandma, even though Fras was injured for the match.
Home next week to Worthing Dynamos…