The boys 1st team faced their first big challenge of the season less than a week into term when they faced Felsted in the National U18 Cup. Preparation started with some training and selection sessions prior to Christmas and the start of the new term and competition for places was fierce.
The Woodbridge U18 team travelled to Felsted with seven debutants. A young team, including two year 10 pupils (Alex Weir-Simmons & Oliver Juszt), relied on senior players to lead the way and steady the ship and the talent and enthusiasm of new recruits to adapt quickly to a faster pace and increased pressure of senior school boy hockey. All involved passed this test and it made for a very exciting, end-to-end afternoon of hockey.
Woodbridge started the stronger team, forcing 3 penalty corners early on. Over-excitement perhaps led to less than clinical execution of the first few routines. Continued pressure and another penalty corner in the 7th minute saw Myles King open the scoring with a drag flick at a too awkward height for the Felsted goalkeeper to deal with. Woodbridge continued to build play up well but gave possession away too cheaply in the final third of the pitch by attempting long balls at the wrong time or running into flat sticks. Good defensive structure and discipline in tracking back ensured that Woodbridge was nearly always on hand to stop Felsted advancing. When they did break through Oliver Juszt in goal was on hand, making great saves to keep a clean sheet going into half time. 1-0 to Woodbridge.
In the second half, Woodbridge was more patient in their play and started to use the whole width of the pitch better. They played attractive passing hockey out the back and through the midfield, which resulted in good scoring chances. However, halfway through the second half momentum shifted in Felsted’s favour and despite heroics from Oliver Juszt in goal they equalised with 13 minutes to go. This seemed to negate any complacency the Woodbridge boys may have had and it was back to business. Slick passing and good decision making became the order of the day again. A few tired errors in defence gave Felsted a couple more good scoring chances but Oliver Juszt again denied them certain goals and kept Woodbridge in the game. As the Woodbridge bench started to prepare for the pending penalty strokes in the event of a draw, a very quick and clinical counter attack resulted in the perfect ending. Captain Ben Kilburn gained possession and moved the ball wide. It went back into the centre midfield where Myles King timed the perfect through ball to Alex Weir-Simmons in the D… two touches… GOAL! Woodbridge played clever, slow hockey for the remaining two minutes of the game to secure a most satisfying and deserved 2-1 victory.
There were many good performances, especially by players on debut (Oliver Bacon, Jakob Hatfield, James Phelan and Dom Ellis-Freeman). Ben Kilburn did not miss a tackle all game. Myles King was influential and ran Myles in midfield. Alex Weir-Simmons showed composure and quality. But ultimately player of the match went to Oliver Juszt – a brilliant performance in goal and showing why England Hockey have their eyes on him.
Woodbridge now wait to hear who they will face in the next round of this National Competition.