The Smiles are back for the Junior Hoops u7 Saints

The Junior Hoops u7 Saints bounced back from their first setback in a number of months with a host free flowing football across the weekend that ended up with the team being crowned winners of the Burnden Park Champions League.

The weekend started early on Friday evening with a Saints and Bears combined team being invited to play the Burnley Pre Academy u7s at Turf Moor. Rather than being daunted by playing in the shadows of a Premier League stadium, the boys rose to the occasion playing a mesmeric brand of attacking powerful football interspersed with individual skill and brilliance. This set them up with a smiles on their faces and a spring in their step for Sunday morning’s Champions League event in Bolton.

The round robin competition featured teams from across the Greater Manchester area and saw the Saints being overseen by deputy duo Simpson and Gregson with Head Coach Dean Mc drafted into to share his coaching nous with Team GB Olympic swimming hopefuls.

Game one saw the Saints take on the Leigh Vikings and fast start from the boys in green and white took the Vikings by surprise. Forget Salah, Mane and Firmino as Sunday morning saw Oakley, Teddy and Leighton (aka The Bandit) link up repeatedly to cause headaches for defences across the tournament. Teddy opened the scoring with a quick fire double before Oakley got in on the act with a smart finish. Not to be outdone, Leighton rounded off a great start for the Saints off with two goals, the second of which saw him break from midfield and skip past two defenders before slotting home from eight yards out.

Onto game two against the Adlington Falcons. With Huey providing a defensive shield and Matthew playing like Allison in goals Oakley, Teddy and Seb all got in on the goal scoring act. Seb scored from 15 yards out in what was a goal of the tournament contender only to see Oakley take it up a level and nearly rip the net with two free blistering kicks from distance that put daylight between the two teams. More goals followed from each of the boys before Teddy rounded off the performance with a brace.

Game three was against the TT Del Pieros and this time it was midfield enforcer Alfie’s turn to shape the game. He opened the scoring with a powerful finish from inside the box after great work from Leighton breaking from defence and playing a defence splitting ball to assist. Minutes later Alfie turned provider as he launched a Delap-esque throw into the box where Seb leaped above everyone else to place a glancing header into the far corner. With the Del Pieros pouring forward to try and get back into the game the Saints played on the counter with Matthew pulling the strings from the back and spraying passes into his front three. First it was the Bandit who benefitted and then Oakley. Finally with a minute left on the clock, Matthew played Leighton in on the left. The Bandit turned provider with the cheekiest of ball rolls to earn himself a yard of space before setting up Oakley to round the game off.

The final group game saw the Saints play Westbury Athletic, a previous finalist in last year’s Burnden Park Champions League. In a tight affair the difference was the predatory instincts of the Bandit and some wizard wing play from Teddy on the right and Oakley on the left. Two goals supported by some strong blocks from Huey and Alfie and assured handling from Seb saw the Saints progress to the knock out stages.

First up it was a return fixture against the Vikings. Whilst the weather took a turn for the worse the Saints served up their best performance of the morning so far with goals spread across the team. Oakley, Matthew, Teddy, Leighton and Seb all got in on the act with Matthew’s finish the pick of the bunch, a sweet left footed strike from the edge of the area.

Onto the final against surprise package Adlington who battled through a tense penalty shootout in their semi final to face off against the Saints.

Quick fire goals from Teddy and a Leighton set the Saints on their way before Adlington hit back with a great goal of their own. Rather than sit on their lead the Saints saw attack as the best form of defence with Seb stopping all in his path and turning defence into attack with some quick passing. Leighton added a third after smart work from Alfie in midfield to dispossess the Adlington defence before Teddy scored two goals, the second of which saw delightful footwork to free himself from two defenders and leave himself one on one with the keeper before opening his body up and curling an unstoppable finish into the bottom left hand corner.

The final whistle blew to call time on a brilliant morning’s football from all involved and a five star performance from the Saints. All that was left was for the smiles to beam, Leighton to lift the trophy and the celebrations to begin.

C’mon the Hoops!