EAGLEY and Bolton County’s under-9s teams showed you are never too young to play the game the right way.
On a superb playing surface at Eagley Sports Complex the two sets of players never allowed their determination to compete take away from their eagerness to play pass and move football.
It was the home final game of the season for manager coach Lee Yates’ players as the switch from winter to summer sports means Eagley can now complete their ground preparations for the new cricket season unhampered by new stud marks.
And the club’s young footballers gave it a rousing farewell with a lesson in slick, stylish football.
They went into the game with a reputation as one of the better sides in Bolton at this age group.
But Bolton County gave a solid account of themselves, deservedly breaking Eagley’s defensive lines with a powerful low strike from Jacob Brooks and unlucky not to add one or two more.
Eagley were on the ascendancy throughout, encouraged by ever supportive coaches and parents, and almost went ahead after just 30 seconds when Joel Burgess hit a post.
It was a warning of things to come, and just 30 seconds later the technically impressive Ted Woolham fired home a powerful drive from 20 yards.
Burgess was on target with a low shot after a corner bounced loose in the box and Woolham poked in his second shortly after.
Finlay Barlow went just wide as County worked a fine opening, before their man-of-the-match Jack Butterworth made the first of a string of outstanding saves, denying the skilful Umar Khan who had shown lovely skill to get the ball on to his sweet left foot.
Barlow kept working hard up front, and he looked set to score before a superb tackle from Burgess prevented him getting his shot in from close range.
Similar defensive determination from Xenon Emerson saved County as he stretched to get his head to a cross at exactly the same time as Khan.
Emerson, a tiger in the tackle, was just one of Bolton’s heroes at the back.
Sam Hall marshalled the defence well and was always alert to providing the ball over the top for Barlow, Harvey Seigne was solid and Harry Collier was quick into the tackle and covered his fellow defenders well.
The versatile Corey Barnes was organised in defence and switched to become County’s main link between defence and attack where Barlow worked hard and was always alert to an opening and the tall, elegant Aaron Rodmell-Smith was a constant threat with his pace and direct running.
Eagley was organised at the back with Tyler Cairns solid and Owen Marshall fearless in the tackle and goalkeeper Bradley Yates doing everything he was asked to do well.
Eagley’s fast interplay was a joy to watch and they were lethal in front of goal.
Impressive midfielder Cole Bridge – who always seemed to have time on the ball – scored direct from a corner and Burgess got his second with a fine strike into the bottom corner. It turned into the Butterworth show for five minutes either side of half time, the County keeper denying Thomas Owens – a constant threat up front for Eagley – with a superb reaction save, turning away Burgess’s powerful long-range effort then producing an incredible double save when Burgess looked certain to get his hat-trick goal.
But he could do nothing about Sam Kinsella’s stunning 20-yard drive which smashed against the crossbar.
With the powerfully-built Woolham and composed captain Cole Bridge pulling the strings, Eagley kept going forward and scored two goals in a minute from Owens and Burgess.
Khan got the goal his impressive performance deserved, but County never lay down and grew into the game.
A superb move saw Seigne’s raking ball find Rodmell-Smith on the right wing. He jinked past his man and pulled the ball across for the ever-alert Barlow who fired just wide.
Brooks then found the target when he caught the ball sweetly from 10 yards and Collier almost got a remarkable goal for County with a thunderbolt from his own half either side of a super reaction volleyed goal from Owens and the final goal of the game from Burgess.
What the managers said...
Lee Yates Eagley U9s We want to get the ball down and pass and the good pitch at Eagley allows us to do that.
We try to play the right way and our boys did that throughout the game.
This is the most enjoyable season for me in 25 years of coaching, managing and playing because the boys have developed so much.
Last year we were at another club and we were an average team. We took a beating last year but the boys refused to be disheartened and have improved because of their dedication.
Dave Hall Bolton County U9s Eagley played very well. They passed the ball well and our boys found it difficult to cope with the passing and movement.
But they kept going and tried to do the right things.
And when they started to do it they got the goal.
If they remember the right things, passing, moving and working hard for each other, that’s when you see the results.