THE MARGINS that define football games were laid bare on Saturday as a few disastrous minutes meant the U9s suffered defeat away at Chalfont.
Having dominated the running in many games this year, SJFC were penned back for much of this game and relied on counter attacks of their own.
And for the most part, it worked. Following a strict fitness regime over Christmas for many of the players, they earned a clean sheet in the first quarter which saw the hosts stifled for much of it and Mohammed Haji making a wonderful save when called upon. At the other end, Noah Hussein was close to delivering the sucker punch with a powerful strike that whistled wide.
But it all went downhill in the second.
A deflected effort took a hopeful shot past the goalkeeper and from there, Stanmore were rattled. Some misdirected play out of the back led to goals two and three for Chalfont, while an effort just before half-time compounded the misery for the away side.
As always, the lads are instructed to split the game into four. After a draw and a loss in the first two quarters, the manager urged the side to go out and win the next two.
The effort that followed was very pleasing. Aliabbas Dharas grew in confidence with another Van Dijk like performance of aggression and anticipation, while Hassan Alimohamed impressed with his speed and strength in the tackle. In a new centre midfield role, Danyaal Panju showed positional intelligence to protect his centre backs.
Zaynali Mohamed came on in right midfield to lock down the dangerous winger successfully, while captain Hussain Dhalla and Qasim Khoja rotated well up top to provide a threat in behind and effective pressing.
It took a rocket into the top corner to break the second half deadlock, with a much more even game ensuing.
It took till the final minutes for SJ to get their reward. Mahdi Kermali went on a one-man pressing mission to dispossess the Chalfont defenders before laying it off to Muhammad Jawad Tejani to emphatically finish. With the tide starting to turn, Stanmore committed a few too many forward and were caught out with Chalfont’s sixth at the end.
Manager Kumail Jaffer said: “It was a very different type of game to what we were used to this season. While we usually dominate and get caught on the counter, this time around we were forced to sit in – which the boys did very well for three of the four quarters of the game,
“They will learn a lot from this about focus, strength in the tackle and the tight margins that means games either become a win or loss.”
Muhammad Jawad Tejani