OUTSTANDING UNDER 16's OVERCOME ODDS
SOUTH EAST COUNTIES YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
AMATEUR FA V SUSSEX FA
SUNDAY 28th APRIL 2019
COLNEY HEATH FC KO 13.00
It was a cloudy, overcast afternoon for our last youth representative match of the season and the gloom was not just in the weather as late cry offs with injury meant that the AFA had to play their match against this season's champions with only 10 men.
Clearly this was going to test the spirit and abilities of the management and the players and it is no exaggeration to say that all passed with flying colours.
Indeed the AFA had the best of the opening minutes with Wesley Lekes and Josh Gunter were prominent down their left whilst Sussex managed a couple of breaks inspired by Tegan Freeman in their midfield.
In fact it was the AFA that created the first clear chance on 20 minutes. Gunter earned them a free kick on the left and the resultant cross shot from Charlie Powell was tipped onto the bar and over by Sussex keeper, Lockyer. Powell took the corner and was again foiled by Lockyer, who punched his cross over from close to the line.
Despite the ten men, we were gaining confidence but this proved our undoing shortly after, when possession was lost in midfield as we pushed forward, leaving us outnumbered at the back on transition. The ball found its way to the Sussex centre forward, Mitchell-Phillips, and he burst past his defender and unselfishly squared the ball to Honore, who drove a rising shot over AFA keeper Finn Rushton into the roof of the net.
To their credit the AFA players continued to battle hard and good football was being played by both sides on a hard bumpy well grassed pitch. Rayon Atkinson, Charlie Powell and skipper Aden Brazil were prominent in the AFA response, whilst at the back Kieron Lake-Bryan, Ewen Bland, Finn Conway and Wesley Lekes were working manfully to keep the Sussex forwards under control and Tomiwa Oni was covering much ground in midfield.
On 33 minutes Sussex broke again but the final shot lacked a bit of pace and was well held by Rushton. However, this proved only temporary as shortly after possession was lost in midfield and Sussex built down their left. The ball was fed through to Mitchell-Phillips and he crossed to right winger Popham who had come into the middle. He showed superb skill to beat 2 players in the penalty area before slotting past Rushton.
Still the AFA players kept responding and almost got a goal back in 1st half injury time when a free kick was played into the Sussex penalty area and Brazil spun and hit a good shot which Lockyer saved low to his left.
Their first half efforts took their toll on the AFA players early in the second and Sussex dominated the early part of the half without creating any clear cut chances and the AFA players worked hard all over the pitch to stay in touch in the match.
This brought its reward on 56 minutes when Lake-Bryan won the ball deep in his own half and played it down the line to Atkinson. He moved it on to Brazil and his pass across the Sussex penalty area found Gunter, who calmly sidefooted into the bottom corner of the net.
The adrenaline was up and an equaliser almost came shortly after when an attack down the right led to a cross which Atkinson met well with his head only for it to hit a teammate and get cleared.
Sussex now responded again as worthy champions and good interplay finished with a shot from Chalmers being well saved by Rushton low to his left. This was just one of several good saves that he made as Sussex maintained pressure.
However, the AFA players were not just defending and Lake-Bryan got forward to hit a good shot from distance just over the bar.
Shortly after the AFA started another attack down the left which was halted by a pull of the shirt leading to the second such booking for a Brighton player. The free kick was lofted forward and missed in the air by a Sussex defender. Atkinson stoke in behind him and coolly slid the ball past Lockyer for an equaliser.
Sussex then tried to regain their lead but a degree of over playing and solid defending from all the AFA players kept them at bay. A draw was probably the fair result of a match between two good sides but it felt more of a win to the AFA given their obstacles overcome.
It was an outstanding performance from all the players and coaches and augurs well for our Under 18's next season as we look to progress even further in the FA County Youth Cup than this year.
Indeed Matt Major, Chairman of Sussex FA commented afterwards that the performance typified the AFA Corinthian Spirit of endeavour and skill. Certainly all should be very proud of their performances as indeed should the young officials Josh Evans, Luke Burford and Zak Demetriades who handled the game expertly.
Gary Harrowell, Gary Casey, Anthony Cant
Referee- Josh Evans
Assistants - Luke Burford, Zak Demetriades