PANTHERS FACED A TESTING OPENING MATCH AWAY TO LEATHERHEAD JUNIORS
Despite Panthers beating them twice last year, Leatherhead narrowly missed out on promotion to Elite as they had beaten pretty much everyone else in the Premier division last year.
Because of the known quality of the opposition, Panthers lined up in their more defensively minded formation of 4-2-3-1:
GK: Leo Aukstolis
LB: Tate Foxhall (c)
CB: Jake Carlyle
CB: Ollie Matthews
RB: Joe Clements
CDM: Jack Lench
CDM: Josh Lovett
CAM: Zeno Taylor
LW: Jake Bainbridge
RW: William Anderson
ST: Ryan Binnie
CDM: Will Lowe
CAM: Omar Murad
ST/RW: George Bennett
LW: Devon Wasko
5 new recruits had been added to the Panthers squad over the summer (Leo, Joe, Jake B, Jake C, Josh), and the only time the team had played together before today was in last week’s 11 aside tournament success.
One thing that is pretty evident in this Panthers team is that defensively we are very solid, not only with the back 4 and GK, but with the defensive midfield wall in front of them that Josh, Will and Jack offer, we are a hard team to break down, and to be fair Leo did not have a lot to do today.
The step up to 11 aside is going to be physically challenging, but Panthers are a fit team and William Anderson in particular was terrorising the Leatherhead LB, putting in a number of crosses that Panthers should really have capitalised on.
The subs in the first half saw:
- Will replace Jack
- George replace Ryan
- Omar replace Zeno
- Devon replace Jake
Panthers had a number of chances to take the lead, but were denied by some pretty good saves from the Leatherhead Keeper
However, with a little more than 5 minutes remaining of the first half the deadlock was broken when William ran onto a through ball from Omar, rounded the defender and hit a typically powerful shot across the Keeper.
For the second half Jack came back on to give Josh took a well earned rest
The half was played out pretty much the same as the first, with Leatherhead playing some intricate passing, but not really penetrating the Panthers midfield or defence, and with Panthers holding and then playing it forward to exploit the pace on the wings to then feed the strikers.
Regular tactical substitutions throughout the half kept the Panthers players fresh.
One massive weapon Panthers have is the danger they possess in set plays. Omar, William and Ollie can be relied upon to deliver pin perfect crosses, and with Devon, Jake C, Will and Tate they have strength in the air.
On 66 minutes Panthers doubled their lead when one of these set pieces was made to count. William swung in the corner and Jake C powered a header past the Keeper.
Panthers comfortably saw out the rest of the game to get their season off to a winning start.
William had a near perfect game on the right wing, terrorising the Leatherhead defence, and deservedly scored his goal and got the assist for the second. This win however was based on a strong defensive display. Jake C and Ollie were strong in the centre, whilst Tate and Joe really gave the opposing wingers absolutely no opportunities. But for his all round midfield tenacity, and the fact that it was his first game in Walton Casuals colours, AND that he has just recovered from a broken foot, the Man of the Match award goes to Josh Lovett.
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