On Wednesday 10 May, Amateur FA U18s travelled across town to play Middlesex FA, the worthy winners of the FA County Youth Cup at The Hive last month. It has been a disappointing season for the AFA under-18s, who came in to this game bottom of the league and on the back of a thrashing away to London in their last game.
The way this match started it did not look promising for the AFA, with Middlesex dominating the first 20 minutes and creating several opportunities to take the lead. The AFA defending stoutly but were unable to keep the ball under intense pressure. Middlesex were dominating down the flanks and on at least three occasions, dangerous crosses flashed across the AFA goal with no Middlesex forward able to get a touch.
Then out of the blue the AFA scored. A through ball down the left found Louis Dillon who put in a good cross to the far post where the incoming Craig Jenkins arrived to knock home. Middlesex responded immediately but their left winger skied his shot.
AFA were now starting to play with more confidence and within two minutes of the opener scored another. Again, it was a good cross in to the box which caused trouble for the Middlesex defence, the ball came out to George Maw and he slotted the chance with aplomb.
The game was now much more even with plenty of chances at both ends. Indeed there was so much goalmouth action that the spectators could almost ignore the jets taking off overhead every minute. Middlesex almost scored when the ball ricocheted around the AFA box before going over the bar. AFA responded by creating a good chance that was unfortunately wasted with a weak shot. Middlesex got through again but Joe Cross blocked on his line, he then made an excellent save by diving to his left to turn away a snapshot from the edge of the area.
The half ended with another AFA attack down the right but Jeakin's shot was deflected for a corner.
The action continued in the second-half with early chances for both sides. The AFA built a good move down the left but the final shot was over the bar. Middlesex responded and substitute ‘keeper, Milvydas Lukosias, saved well at the foot of his left post.
Then, on 58 minutes, Middlesex got back in the game. They broke down the left channel and their left winger outfought a defender and slid the ball past the oncoming ‘keeper. After recent results it would have perhaps been understandable for the AFA to collapse. That they didn't is great credit to the players.
Six minutes later they restored their two goal advantage. They attacked down the right but Jeakins’ lob was not strong enough. A corner resulted, which was hit to the back post and a Middlesex defender, under pressure from Dillon, deflected the ball past his own ‘keeper.
Immediately, this lead was increased when the AFA broke again and a fierce shot from Jeakins flashed past the ‘keeper. This was just as well, as shortly after Middlesex scored again. Their corner was only half cleared and came out to their right winger, whose strong shot found its way past a defender on the post.
There was still some 20 minutes left but, again, the AFA showed their character and skill to retain their advantage. In fact they almost increased it when just three minutes after the Middlesex goal a cross shot from the impressive substitute, Alfie Mason, bounced of the top of the bar.
Both sides had introduced a few of their under-16 side to the fixture in preparation for next season. Middlesex continued to battle but were restricted to only a couple of chances in the remaining minutes - a header and shot both went over the bar and the AFA held out for a merited victory to end their season on a high.
After the match manager, Pat Folan, manager, was presented with the Busby Award for his contribution to the AFA. He said: “It has been a challenging season with drop outs and non-availability so it was good to end the season with a win, especially against the national champions. The U16s did well this evening and hopefully we can build for next season.”
1. Joe Cross. (Norsemen)
2. Ben Mackay. (West Wickham)
3. Ben Linter. (West Wickham)
4. Waiel Hassen. (Enfield Town)
5. Kobica Coker. (Enfield Town)
6. Max Bassington. (Bishop Stortford)
7. Craig Jeakins. (Winchmore Hill)
8. George Maw. (West Wickham)
9. Jaden Stephenson (Cockfosters)
10. Matthew Morgan (Norsemen)
11. Louis Dillon. (Old Finchleians)
12. Jack Barton. (Old Ignatians)
14. Alfie Mason. (Bishop Stortford)
15. Ethan Jones. (Bishop Stortford)
18. Ekow Coker. (Cockfosters)
23. Milvydas Lukosius (Old Finchleians)
Pat Folan - Manager
Bob Leeds - Coach
Jamel Shah - Physiology
Referee - Andrew Batten
Assistant Referees - James Field & Matthew Swinburn