Swans Sail into the Semi-Finals!
Chilwell's Year 9/8 football team secured a place in their first ever Semi-Final with a 4-2 victory away at Magnus Academy in Newark on Tuesday afternoon.
Once again missing a raft of first team players, this squad showed their adaptability, togetherness and strength in depth, with all 11 players and 2 subs playing key parts in the game.
The Swans were without their hat-trick hero from the previous round, as well as their regular striker and right back, but again found a way to present problems going forward from the off.
Missing their usual talisman Alfie W, Olli L stepped into a floating CAM role for Chilwell. Flanked by Angus T who stepped into Olli's position on the left flank, it was Angus who was brought down after 5 minutes for a free kick wide on the left deep into Magnus' half. Olli L, picking up free kicks from the absent Alfie, duly dispatched, crossing into the opposition box. After a brief scramble the ball fell to Chilwell's chess-playing midfield mastermind Will G who slotted home from close range for his first ever goal for the Swans.
Returning from a brief absence with injury this was a fine return to form for Will, who once again helped to organise the midfield reshuffle and get the engine running again for The Swans in the centre of the park.
Magnus responded, quarter finalists themselves they had plenty of pep, and particularly in midfield showed they were capable of battling for the ball and carried a threat of their own, but Chilwell for the most part controlled possession and in the 20th minute that pressure started to tell once again. Magnus had been on the front foot, but a driving counterattacking run from Olli L led to a Chilwell free kick some way outside of the Magnus box. Olli L stepped up and fired a wonderful looping freekick over the keeper into the top right corner of the goal. If the County Cup had a goal of the month competition, this would have won. Pressed for a score out of 10, Mr Holmes gave this one 9.5 out of 10 as it was close to unstoppable. Well done Olli.
The match, likely to be manager Holmes' swan song with the team, seemed to be going according to the script, but perhaps a little complacency had set in as Magnus continued to battle for possession in midfield with a rare break hit back with a rasping, powerful low drive from what was little more than a half chance on the edge of the box. This was a wake up call.
This Chilwell team were disappointed to be knocked out of the 5th round of the ESFA cup two weeks ago, and perhaps those memories served the team well as the Swans continued to go in search of another goal, and the 3rd goal came shortly before half time. Olli L involved again, this time sliding the ball through on the left flank for Angus T who took a few touches before firing a low, left-footed drive across the keeper into the far corner to send The Swans into half time with a 3-1 lead.
The 2nd half was combative with Chilwell at times struggling to emerge from defence with possession as they like to do and when they did, finding a resilient Magnus defence waiting. Despite the stronger pressing from Magnus, it was Chilwell who continued to control possession in the 2nd half and applied the pressure that gave the Magnus goalkeeper an opportunity to showcase his abilities with a couple of excellent saves and prevented Charlie G, playing a year up for the first time from marking his debut on right midfield with a goal. This was a fine debut for Charlie who was expecting to be introduced as a late substitute, yet ended up starting his first game with Y9 in a quarter final and must surely now feature in the next round after this composed, industrious and energetic display.
As the half progressed there was more Chilwell pressure, with Evan S hitting the bar, but no goals. And, much against the run of play, Magnus found a goal of their own, again, their outstanding player, an athletic and technically-gifted midfielder pulling a shot seemingly out of nowhere to make it 3-2 and set up a potentially nervy last 15 minutes.
In what is likely to be his final act as manager, Holmes took the decision to introduce substitutes Zach R and Omar A with 15 minutes to go. The Swans continued to play on the front foot, passing the ball out of defence and went looking for their 4th. Evan S continued to find space in midfield and it was one of Evan's shots that led to a rebound with Super-Sub Zach R reaping the reward for his patience and unselfishness, coolly slotting home to make it 4-2 and settle the nerves of his delighted manager and fans.
This result was no less than the team deserved on the day, everyone involved had an important role to play, and the squad adapted well to enforced changes, seemingly growing with each new challenge.
The performance, conduct and result were all very pleasing for the manager and to see a debut player perform so well adding depth to an already strong squad was also a fitting finale. The squad can now look forward to the Semi-final of the County Cup early in 2024.
Man of the Match: Olli L