Chalfont St Peter FC U8 Dragons vs SJFC U8

STANMORE launched a stunning comeback from 4-0 down away at Chalfont St Peter but just fell short at the last and conceded a late winner.

In the final game of their inaugural season, the U8s went down very early but roused themselves into making a glorious effort at pulling off a famous win.

It wasn’t meant to be in the end, but the raucous away support appreciated the players’ efforts.

It was initially unclear whether a few weeks off would give the legs some much-needed rest or simply make the team rusty.

The latter certainly looked like a more convincing hypothesis early on, as SJFA conceded their earliest goal of the season – a strike from the halfway line after just a few seconds.

The whistler seemed to have woken the team up – a midfield battle ensued as SJFA began to dominate their traditional strength areas on the wings.

But defensively, they struggled early on. There was not enough intensity to get to the second ball and Chalfont were able to score twice from rebounds.

And when a fourth – another sweet, low strike from the edge of the box – flew in, things were looking grave.

But this isn’t an ordinary group of players. They knew they had firepower going forward, and it would just take one goal to open the floodgates.

It came from an unlikely source – an own goal. A whipped corner into the area came off a defender to start the comeback.

Minutes later, Hussein Dhalla teed up Noah Hussein to curl into the bottom corner and halve the deficit.
With their tails up, SJFA started to play. Mahdi Hassan Lalji, in a new centre-midfield role, looked like Bernado Silva as he popped up all over the pitch with typical flair.

Ali Husayn Walji and Mohamed Moosa gave the opposition defenders a torrid time, stretching the back line and winning dangerous free kicks in their territory.

It was from one of these that Noah curled another one into the top corner – a fitting goal to earn him the Golden Boot award at the end of the game.

At half-time, it was clear Chalfont were going to try and press on to stifle the U8’s momentum. Changes were needed to keep the third quarter tight.

Zaynali Mohamed bossed the midfield and stopped the opposition getting any sort of offensive momentum throughout the period, while Hassan Daya, making his first appearance in goal since the opening day, put in a magnificent performance between the sticks. Captain Danyaal Panju and Aliabbas Dharas continued their growth as defenders, both with playing from the back and clearing the ball.

SJFA had to wait till the fourth for their opportunity. Mehdi Lakha, deployed on the right-wing, disrupted the backline brilliantly with clever movement and pressing. It allowed Muhammad ‘Right Place, Right Time’ Moosa to slot in the equaliser.

A frantic end saw SJFA get the wrong bounce, however. Noah Hussein appeared to have been tripped by the opposition striker as he took the ball off him and placed the ball home. But despite protests from the players, they had just conceded an unfortunate winner.

They couldn’t quite rouse themselves for one final effort as Chalfont defended well in a low block. But they certainly shouldn’t be disappointed.

In many ways, it was a match that summed up the progress that the U8s made this season. The way the players dug themselves out of a situation that looked, at times, like it could turn into a rout, was a true testament to their mental strength as well. All that’s left is to close out games.

Manager Kumail Jaffer said: “This season, we learned how to play. Next season, we will learn how to win.”

Hussain Dhalla
Mehdi Lakha
Danyaal Panju
Aliabbas Dharas
Noah Hussein
Muhammad Moosa
Ali Husayn Walji
Mahdi Hassan Lalji
Zaynali Mohamed
Hassan Daya