The 2019/2020 Under 17 squad were essentially a new team and experiencing their first year together at Roffey this last year. Starting with a squad of 16 players from 5 different junior sides, we were late starting our pre-season and with very little practice or game time together.
It’s fair to say the whole season has been one of constant disruption. With the worst rain I have ever known throughout a football season, many games were postponed, only to be finally cancelled when the league succumbed to Covid-19.
We started the season against a strong an experienced Forest Row side. Finding ourselves down 2 - 0 at half time, it’s fair to say we had a slow start. We only had 12 players available, and with injuries, finished the match with just 10 (barely) fit players. Losing the match 3-0 overall, it was a good performance despite the result. Next up were Lewes Juniors away on the hottest day of the year. We were by far the better side, but Lewes scored on the break and knew how to defend a one nil lead. They held out and continued to frustrate us. We hit the post, the crossbar and missed open goals! A blatant hand ball in the area wasn’t given, so again, lady luck was against Roffey. Next game on the road was against Withdean on their small 3g surface. Despite Roffey taking the lead, Withdean used the artificial surface to their advantage and with three strong attacking players they deserved their win. Next up was Burgess Hill away. Despite the monsoon rain, their pitch was ‘playable’. Not sure it was playable for football, but we started to see the hard work in training starting to click, the boys understanding the game plan set in place. We played to our strengths and were deserved winners on the day. We then had the return match against Lewes at the ‘Theatre of Trees’. Once again, Lewes took the lead against the run of play … but this time, Roffey were a different outfit and continued to ‘believe’ and work hard. We finished 5-1 winners. A big turnaround from the previous loss earlier in the season. We also had games against Billingshurst, winning 9-0. Lancing away was an interesting game, with some shocking behaviour from the opposition and a lack of control from the ref. However, both results were cancelled as a result of the two opposition teams leaving the league.
So, our league performance after 5 games consisted of 2 wins and 3 losses. I firmly believe the tide had turned and we were a much better side in the second half of the season. It’s a shame we haven’t been able to play our other 8 matches to finish the league. On a points per game played basis, Roffey would have been a solid mid table side.
Other highlights in the year was Roffey’s first experience of playing under the lights in the Floodlight Cup. A first round tie against a side a year older and top of the U18/19 league, it was never going to be easy. The boys were fantastic on the night. We matched them for long periods of the game and kept the score at 1-1. Cuckfield managed to take the lead with 10 minutes to go, and the changes which I made to the team to try and chase the result didn’t work out. However, it was a fantastic experience and probably the best performance of the year.
We also played in the indoor Futsal competition. We qualified through the first round without a loss, but unfortunately the subsequent round of the competition was cancelled due to Covid-19.
I was extremely proud of how we performed in our short time together. For most of the boys this was a step up in terms the quality, and as a new squad together, they’ve all been a pleasure to coach and manage. Three of the boys in the squad were selected to play for the Men’s reserve side and the Men’s First Team. I am sure had the season not been curtailed early, other players would have also had their chance. Ollie started in his game for the reserves away against Ridgewood. Had the Coronavirus not impacted the season, then I’m sure he would have had further opportunities.
Kaine and George P both featured over a number of weeks for the Men’s 1st team. Their debuts came in an away fixture against Eastbourne Borough in the Sussex Senior Cup. Playing against seasoned pro’s, they represented the club well. They continued to feature for the team and gain further experience which will serve them well next season and beyond.
Next Season (20/21) we play at under 18 level in the Southern Combination League. This will provide a further challenge for the boys … but one that I know they will take on with endeavour. I also hope to see more of the squad progress through and feature for the adult sides. As a result, we will be looking to add players to the squad for the coming season. Please get in touch if you are looking to the opportunity to play for a progressive club with the opportunity to progress.