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Diamonds Defeated but not Downed

Kat Taylor Smith18 Mar - 11:24
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Charlton Athletic Academy 4 - 4 Teddington Athletic Diamonds (6 - 4 AET)

Cup finals can come around fairly infrequently for players of any level. However, this weekend the Diamonds were fortunate to be able to play in the second final across consecutive weekends.

With the opposition Charlton Athletic U15 Academy playing in the U16 JPL the Diamonds entered the game as underdogs. What transpired was a truly wonderful game of football. The pre-match team talk had focused on learning the lessons from the previous weekends cup final defeat to Dorking Wanderers. A rather inconsistent display had left players and spectators frustrated that they had not played to their potential. Fortunately, they had the opportunity to put things right and wow did they do just that.

The first half was mesmerising and frantic. The Diamonds went toe to toe with their Academy opponents. It was a half of football that seemed never ending. Every time the opposition scored the Diamonds would equalise. The first goal was particularly special. A whipped free kick from out wide was met on the volley and flew into the back of the net. Indeed, it perfectly represented the intensity of the Diamonds play in the first half. The players were also helped by the atmosphere and noise generated by the loyal TAFC supporters.

With a larger squad size the opposition were able to make wholesale changes throughout the game. In contrast, illness and injury had hampered the Diamonds to select and full squad and were only left with two fit substitutions. It was therefore no surprise that the second half began in a more gentile fashion. With their opponents becoming more and more vocal and frustrated the Diamonds continued to play with passion and cool heads. When the opportunity arose their passing game, from back to front, continued to cause problems for the opposition. With one goal each exchanged in the second half it looked like the game would finish 3-3.

Yet, with 10 minutes remaining Charlton scored with a well taken goal. This game though had one more twist. An immediate tactical change bought the game level with the Diamonds fourth goal. With the right sided centre back pushed further forward she found space to slide a perfectly weighted pass which the centre forward collected to round the on rushing goal keeper.

The second half of extra time provided to be one step too far with the Diamonds. Enforced to make more changes due to illness the opposition capitalised with two quick fire goals which earned them the Cup.

Yet this never felt like a defeat. For a team like the Diamonds to take an Academy side to extra time was a testament to how hard they had worked and how positive they had been on the pitch. As the girls entered the restaurant area of the football ground after the game the many spectators greeted them with a round of applause that left the players in no doubt what they had accomplished. Success in youth sport can be defined in many ways. Although no trophy was taken back to Bushy Park the TAFC Diamond players were the winners learning so much about themselves, the potential they all have and what they can go onto achieve in life and sport. The club and parents should be immensley proud of how the girls played and conducted themselves during and after the game.

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