Highlands FC under-14s win Country Championships
After winning the Southern NSW Branch Championships, the Highlands FC under-14 boys claimed the NSW Country Championship title last weekend.
The under-14s travelled to Forbes for the championships and finished their four games undefeated.
Going into the championships, the team was unsure of the competition. But the boys were prepared for a tough fight after last year’s southern representatives were heavily beaten.
The other representatives were Dubbo, from Western NSW, and Wagga, representing Riverina.
The Highlands faced off against Dubbo in their first match.
Dubbo were coming off the back of a fast-paced match against Wagga, which worked in the Highlands favour.
Highlands got off to a fast and clinical start, with Tom Dunn scoring four goals before the break.
Liam Hollywood scored the fifth for the Highlands by the half time, which effectively tied up the game.
Highlands scored another two goals in the second half, thanks to Michael Petie and Jamie Gordon.
Highlands coach Craig Ash also commended Harry Ash on quality play in the mid-field.
Ash said tactical play in the second half led the team to victory in later games.
"We were able to rest our strikers in the second half which proved invaluable later in the tournament,” he said.
The second game against Wagga was a tough battle for the Highlanders.
“Structure communication and organisation from the defence nullified any danger on goal,” Ash said.
He commended Julian Coppolino, Lachie Kennedy, Artie Anderson and Tim O'keefe on their efforts and said the dominance of Christian Giuliano in midfield gave an excellent platform for the attackers to create opportunities.
Charles Whatman in midfield was man of the match.
“When it mattered he was hammering into tackles and was decisive in transition,” Ash said.
Tom, Liam and Jamie finished off a few classy football moves to see out a 3-0 win.
The third game was played against Dubbo on Sunday morning.
The match proved a momentous task after Dubbo brought in two new, top players.
“In the first half we were second best to every ball and struggled for any control,” Ash said.
“The Dubbo team were outstanding and their large local support made the task look impossible.”
But the Highlands boys were not ready to surrender.
In the second half they started to win the one-on-one challenges and took back control of the ball with quality combinations that ran Dubbo off their feet.
“A class finish from Tom, a goal of power from Liam and the ever-improving Whatman flying header put the opposition fire out,” Ash said.
The boys finished their third match with a 3-0 victory.
With the title won the boys decided to not leave on a low, and set about the last game with the same desire as in the previous matches.
Micheal cruised through unnoticed to get the first goal in the opening minute and Tom smashed in a top goal to lead 2-0 at the break.
“The second half we fell off a bit in intensity and Wagga began to get control, but that's when the work ethic kicked in,” Ash said.
Led by Artie and Chris the defence stood tough, Mitch in goal hadn't conceded all weekend and kept a clean sheet until the end of the championships.
Even when they weren’t dominating possession, the boys were strong on the counter attack.
Harry and Charles both had headers on goal and Tim, Lachie, Michael and Jamie broke forward eventually to get the third goal.
Special mention was made to Henry Whatman who backed up from the 13s.