Bridgewater entered new territory this week, as they took part in the U11 AJIS Hockey Tournament at Manchester Grammar School. With 12 experienced schools involved and the Bridgewater boys having only a few sessions to learn the basics of the game, any victory was going to be an achievement. However, the team know how to battle, work hard and adapt to tactical situations. This was evident in the first pool game as Bridgewater switched from a 2-3-1 formation to a more attacking 1-3-2 shape early on in the match. Hari moves up front to support Moaed and the extra pressure soon began to tell on the Scarisbrick defence. Five short corners, chances for Matteo and Jaydon and eventually Craig found Moaed in space, to sweep the ball in the net. Game one and mission accomplished, a first win for Bridgewater.
Things got even better for Bridgewater in game two, as they stunned Bolton School with their energy and pressing game. The opposition keeper was in great form to deny shots from Craig, Moaed, Regan, Matteo and Jaydon. A scrambled clearance on the Bolton goal denied Craig a goal before Jaydon scored a fabulous solo goal to give Bridgewater another 1-0 win.
A terrific start for the team but things were only going to get tougher as the competition progressed. Game three saw Kings of Chester take to the pitch and it was clear from the off that they were on another level. Bridgewater had little possession but Thomas and Tobias were excellent in defence. Meanwhile in goal, George was inspirational and kept out a string of shots from the Chester team. Bridgewater eventually went down 1-0 to the eventual finalists in the overall tournament.
In game four and five, a win would put Bridgewater into the Cup semi- finals, whilst a point would put them in the Plate semi-finals. The latter was achieved first as a closely fought game between Newcastle under Lyne ended in a 0-0 draw. Matteo had a great chance to win the game following a delightful Jaydon run, but both teams would have been disappointed to lose the game. In the final game of the group stages, Bridgewater needed to beat hosts Manchester Grammar to reach the Cup semi-finals. A lapse in concentration at a short corner resulted in MGS scoring the only goal of the game. Although slightly disappointed, the team progressed into the Plate semi-final and a genuine opportunity to reach a first ever hockey final.
In the semi-final, Cheadle School were expected to reach the final over the inexperienced Bridgewater team. Once again, George was fantastic in goal, whilst Thomas and Tobias were dynamic in defence. David and Regan tried to drive the team on, as Craig, Matteo and Jaydon began to tire. With time running out, Tobias tackled, Craig played a glorious ball down field for Moaed to sweep past the advancing keeper. Cheadle were distraught and could not believe what had just happened, whilst a shocked Bridgewater team had minutes to prepare for the AJIS Plate Final.
AKS of Lytham lie in wait for Bridgewater and were eyeing up the trophy as the game bullied off. In all honesty, the team were running on empty now and once more, Tobias and Thomas were awesome in defence. Bridgewater struggled to create too many chances and both teams never really dominated in normal time. With the scores level at full time, the game went into golden goal territory. At this point, Bridgewater found an extra gear and pressed for the win. Incredibly, a goal mouth scramble in the last seconds saw chances cleared off the line from Craig, Matteo and Moaed. The final whistle blew to end the game and under tournament rules, both teams were declared joint winners of the trophy. With 12 schools in attendance, to reach the final stages of the tournament and take a share in the honours is more than we could have expected before the event began. Well done boys and hopefully a few of you will have discovered a new sport to try out more in the future!