Panthers wrapped up 2011 with their first well deserved wins of the season. It was a chilly morning away at Brizen Field, Cheltenham.
Panthes started the first game against Gotherington in the ascendency, with the only effort from the opponents coming from a corner, which was saved by Alex Fulford. However, the pressure was all with Panthers with a run of corners and close long range efforts from Robin Hanman and Toby Scott. It was the later, that eventually put Panthers in front. Shun-Ta Cheong intercepted a Gotherington goal kick, moved forward and crossed to Toby on the other side of the goal, who hit a well placed shot past the keeper.
HT - 1-0.
The second half saw early pressure from Gotherington, when Panthers struggled to clear a string of corners. After Panthers got a hold on the game, it was all their possession for the rest of the match. Robin Hanman went free down the right wing, put in a excellent cross, but everyone in the box missed the vital touch. Charlie Holliday saw an effort just over. Another goalmouth scramble was cleared at the last gasp. Shun-Ta Cheong tested the keeper. Austin Plemel broke free on goal, but a last ditch sliding tackle prevented him getting a shot away. Austin also saw another effort go just wide. Toby Scott put another just over the bar. Ben Murphy put one just wide, and Shun-Ta Cheong also saw another effort saved.
FT - 1-0
Panthers also started the 2nd game brightly, with Southsides only chance of note coming from a break away, but Josh Bird tracked all the way back to make a great tackle.
Mid way through the first half, Anna Barnes took a throw in on the left wing. Josh Bird picked it up and crossed to Shun-Ta Cheong who was free in the box. Shun-Ta's effort first hit the post, but he beat the keeper to the rebound and managed to walk the ball over the line.
Toby Scott volleyed a clearance back into the Southside box, where Josh Bird let it bounce before catching a good volley which was well saved. Toby Scott also saw a good effort saved. Good Panthers pressure also let Oliver Leathem-Pugh in for an effort which was just wide.
The only worrying moment in the half, came from a free kick which went just wide.
HT - 1-0
The second half was much of the same. Panthers won a corner from the right which was taken by Oliver Leathem-Pugh. The Southside player on the near post, stuck out a boot, which looped the ball over his own keeper. Despite protestations, the referee considered that the ball had crossed the line, and awarded the goal.
Plenty more efforts fell for Panthers, notably a ball from Alex Fulford, putting Charlie Holliday free, but the shot went wide, and a couple of chances for Austin Plemel who worked into the right place, but couldn't find the target.
FT - 2-0
A great effort, 2 fantastic results, and a wonderful way to sign off 2011. Onwards and upwards from here!!
For his work on the wing, and creation of chances, the player of the week award was given to Shun-Ta Cheong.
It was another agonising week for the Panthers, coming away with nothing from a match that they deserved so much more from. 9 players and parents made the trip down to Cirencester to face a Forest Green side in the league.
The first half started brightly for Panthers, with the first chance coming from a corner. Toby Scott put the corner into box, which a Forest defender got to first. The defenders clearing header was met on the volley at the edge of the box by Robin Hanman, but the effort was well blocekd.
In between spells of Panthers early pressure, Forest did have a couple of efforts themselves, with shots hit across the keeper from the right hand side. On both occasions, these were both tipped round the post by Alex Fulford in the Panthers net.
Late in the half, another corner by Panthers was expertly turned into an effort on goal, with a backward header from Ben Murphy. Forest also had another good chance on the break, but that was again saved by Alex.
The second half was more of a 50:50 game. Early possession lost down the left flank, which allowed a tricky Forest player to cut inside for a shot, again well saved by Alex.
Most of the half was to and fro, with not too many chances. However, with 5 minutes to go, a 50:50 challenge just inside the Panthers half, was given as a free kick to Forest. Ben Murphy jumped to attempt to head clear the cross, come shot, but in not quite getting up to the height of the ball, it deflected off the top of his head, and looped over Alex in the net. 1-0.
Despite the unfortunate goal, Panthers never gave up, and had one last chance. The ball pumped into the Forest half, caused confusion with 2 defenders going for the same ball. The loose ball fell to Toby Scott, with just enough time for a snap effort, which rattled the corss bar.
It was a fantastic effort by the team on the day, perhaps the best performance of the season, but desperately unlucky.
Alex Fulford had an excellent game in goal, with a string of good saves, but also doing the basic things right - instucting the defence, being first to any loose balls etc. For this effort, Alex picked up player of the week.
Panthers travelled to Hatherley Park on Saturday, to face Cheltenham Saracens Reds in the first round of the C&G League Cup, both sides having progressed from a preliminary round.
Captain Ben Murphy won the toss and elected to play down the slope in the first half, the early part of which was very much 50:50 in terms of possession, with not alot of chances in front of goal.
Saracens did open the scoring when they broke quickly from a Pnathers attack. A shot from outside the box was parried by keeper Ethan Streatfield, who dived on the loose ball which was kicked from his grasp by the Saracens forward who then scored. The ref saw nothing wrong and the goal stood.
Panthers did have good moments of pressure, capped by a good run from Toby Scott, who put his effort inches wide of the post.
Saracens second came about in similar fashion to the first, with an effort parried by Ethan. The Panthers defence then failed to clear before a Saracens player got there first to scramble home.
Last effort of the first half, again fell to Panthers, with an effort from James Bennett well saved, and the rebound hit just inches over his own bar, by a Saracens defender.
HT - 2-0 to Saracens.
The second half saw the early pressure with Saracens who now had the slope with them. However, Panthers spirit was high, and they got more and more in the ascendency in the half.
The only goal came from a Panthers throw from the right hand side, which was played into the box by Shun-Ta Cheong and finished by Josh Bird.
Panthers finished the stronger and maintained good pressure. A shot from Charlie Holliday was well saved, and a long range effort from Robin Hanman was well tipped wide.
Unfortunately Panthers were unable to quite find the equaliser. Another game of nearlies and so close, and the team can be well proud of their effort.
Shun-Ta Cheong came off the bench in the first half and put in a considerable effort for the rest of the match, showing great movement and skills to beat players down the wing. As a result he earned himself the Player of the Week award.
Panthers entertained 2 inform teams at Parton Park on Saturday, with Southside coming off the back of 9-0 and 12-0 wins the previous weekend.
With all players available, Panthers took the strategy of playing one team of 7 in the first half, and the other 7 in the second half, of each game. Therefore giving all players an equal opportunity on the pitch:
1st Half Team: Ethan Streatfield, Oliver Leathem-Pugh, Robin Hanman, Josh Bird, Maddie Power, Shun-Ta Cheong, Toby Scott
2nd Half Team: Alex Fulford, Anna Barnes, James Bennett, Ben Murphy, Tom Mason, Austin Plemel, Charlie Holliday.
First up against Cheltenham Saracens, and the early pressure was with Panthers. However, after 5 mins or so, Saracens managed to get in front, when panic at the back following a corner, resulted in a scrambled goal. Soon after, failure to clear in defence again, let Saracens in for a shot from the right hand side, which skidded under Ethan to put the visitors 2-0 up.
Panthers managed to pull back level, with 2 goals inside a minute. Firstly a clearance by Robin Hanman, in his own half, bounced on the edge of the Saracens area and looped over the keeper, 1-2. From the Saracens kick off, Josh Bird intercepted a pass and went on a solo effort, skipping past Sarances players, before drilling past their keeper 2-2.
Panthers then continued to apply good pressure, and a break by Toby Scott down the right hand side, was crossed expertly into the area, for Shun-Ta Cheong to put the home side 3-2 ahead. What a comeback!!
Unfortunately, despite some great saves from Ethan, Panthers couldn't hold out until half time. Possession was given up down the left hand side, the cross parried by Ethan in goal, but only to a Saracens player who had been left free in the box, to equalise. More disappointingly, was the Panthers defence switching off at a short corner, which led to a late Saracens goal, putting the visitors 4-3 ahead at half time.
Panthers had some good pressure in the 2nd half. A Tom Mason effort from about 2 yards out, remarkably saved. Another effort pushed off the line, and a Josh Bird long range effort well held by the keeper.
The only goal of the second half, did fall to Saracens though. A corner, dubiously taken around 2 yards out from the corner flag, was curled straight into the net. Final score 5-3 to the visitors.
The second game, also got off to a poor start. Panthers didn't manage to get the ball clear again. It was picked up by a Saracens player who skipped through the defence for an early goal to Southside.
The pressure was all with Southside, who added a second shortly after, from a corner. This was drilled in at the near post, and unfortunatley cannoned in off Robin Hanman.
Southside had sustained pressure, and our few forays forward, only left us exposed at the back where Panthers players failed to get back. Southside could have easily scored another goal, when this situation left them 3 on 1 in the Panthers half, but they over-ran the ball, which went out of play.
Southside scored a 3rd, when an uncleared Panthers goal kick, was then played across our own box, to open Sarances players lining up to score. 0-3. Southside also broke again, late in the half, with Panthers exposed at the back, but a last ditch tackle by Josh Bird kept the score down.
The second half, was a bit more even. First chance to Southside who had 2 players through on the goal keeper, but fortunately they left it for one another and Tom Mason got there first. The 4th Southside goal, came again, from an uncleared goal kick, straight to the opposition, who shot straight back past the Panthers keeper.
Southside then maintained pressure for the rest of the half. Tom Mason saving a long range effort well. Final score 4-0 to the visitors.
These were always going to be tough fixtures, and there was some spirited play in the first game. Plenty of learning to come from the weekend though.
Despite everything, Robin Hanman did have a really solid game at the back again, topped with his goal from the half way line. It was good to see the other players recognising this too, and quite rightly suggesting that he should pick up the player of the week trophy.