On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, the AFA Under-18s journeyed to Lancing to meet their Sussex counterparts on their excellent 4G pitch and came up against a very good side, which comprehensively beat them 6-1.
Right from the outset Sussex were the dominant team, being half a yard quicker to the ball and perhaps benefitting from knowing the surface better. They were particularly effective down their right wing and created two chances in the first two minutes before almost going ahead in the 3rd minute when their centre forward, Hayden Skerry, was just unable to reach another cross from their right wing.
It was no real surprise when they took the lead in the 17th minute, however it was disappointing that it came via our keeper throwing the ball out for a throw following an injury to a Sussex player, whilst in turn it was thrown for goal kick and not back to the ‘keeper. Their left back, Harrison Parker, worked the ball down the left before crossing to the edge of the penalty area, where Josh Gould was first to the ball to side-foot home for a deserved lead. Sussex were working well as a team and whilst there was some good work from the AFA side, it tended to be on more of an individual basis.
Half way through the half Jack Barton replaced Gideon Sarpong at left back and he went on to have a good performance, both defensively and in prompting attacks.
Unfortunately, the AFA were surrendering possession too easily and almost went further behind on 25 minutes when they lost the ball in midfield. It was quickly swept to Gould on the Sussex left. He advanced on goal and drove a shot to the far post but ‘keeper, Joseph Gunning, got down well to save.
However, we didn't learn and just two minutes later got caught in possession on the edge of the penalty area following more good work from Gould. A quick forward pass found Darius Goldsmith and he coolly drew Gunning before sliding the ball past him to increase the lead.
Sussex broke through again on the half hour and were only stopped by a foul on the edge of the area. The resultant free kick was well saved by Gunning.
Mentor Ramadani was then introduced and he inspired and contributed to better build up play for the AFA, who were starting to get more of a foothold into the game and it looked likely that they would get a goal back.
However, a double blast from Sussex just before half time killed this optimism. On 41 minutes, Skerry got behind the AFA defence down the left and crossed into the box where Gould got ahead of a defender to slot home. Then, three minutes later, the ball was dribbled across the AFA box and passed back to Gould on the edge of the penalty area and he looped his shot over Gunning to complete his hat trick and give Sussex a 4-0 half time lead.
Both sides made changes at the start of the second half, with Sussex resting Gould. Any plans the AFA made at half time were soon disrupted. Sussex won the ball down their left flank and a cross found Jack Parkinson, who had just come on, and he beat a defender to the ball and knocked goalwards. A covering defender could only help the ball into the net.
Sarpong returned for Adriano Kumanova and, to their credit, the AFA started to have more of the game. Maybe Sussex were disrupted by more substitutions but the AFA deservedly got a goal back on 55 minutes when they broke from defence, via an excellent pass from Junior Mubiayi. The pass found Ramadani and he skilfully put in Kacper Strzala, who struck a fine shot into the far corner of the goal. Shortly after he almost scored again when his shot was deflected for a corner, after being put in by Barton.
We were now much more into the game and Ellis Routledge had his shot saved after a corner was half-cleared to him.
Sussex came back again and had a couple of chances; one went over the bar and the other was saved with his legs by Gunning.
The game continued on an even basis until, in injury time, a good AFA move broke down and the ball was swept upfield to Tyler Pearson, who looked suspiciously offside, and he went on to shoot past substitute keeper Miguel Martinez into the far corner to complete the scoring.
It was, however, a much improved performance in the second half and although there were some good patches of play from the AFA, the ruthlessness of Sussex in front of goal was ultimately decisive.
Despite the possible lapse on the last goal, the match was excellently refereed by David Joseph and his team.
1. Joseph Gunning (Norsemen)
2. Adriano Kumanova (Enfield Town)
3. Gideon Sarpong (Norsemen)
4. Hashim Ahmed (Winchmore Hill)
5. Joe Toscani (Wingate & Finchley)
6. Isaac Ebelebe (Wingate & Finchley)
7. Raekwon D'Cruz (Enfield Town)
8. Kacper Strzala (Wingate & Finchley)
9. Christian Gyasi-Tuffour (Unattached)
10. Adnan Jaamac (Enfield Town)
11. Ellis Routledge (Old Owens)
12. Calvin Donkor (Norsemen)
14. Junior Mubiayi (Norsemen)
15. Jack Barton (St. Ignatius)
16. Mentor Ramadani (Enfield Town)
23. Miguel Martinez (Enfield Town)
Pat Folan - Manager
Bob Leeds - Coach
Jamil Shah - Physiology