SOUTH EAST COUNTIES YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
ANOTHER GALLANT AFA FIGHTBACK FALLS SHORT
After the disappointment of our Senior Team last week against The Army, it was the turn of our Under 18 side to mount a stirring second half comeback against Middlesex on Sunday and again, on a sunny afternoon, it was to no avail.
This was the first time an AFA side had played a match at Middlesex' new home at Rectory Park on an excellent synthetic surface and, unfortunately, we couldn't mark the occasion with a win.
The game started with both sides spoiling good approach play with disappointing final passes until Middlesex started to exert some authority. They almost effected an opening in the 10th minute with a dangerous cross from the right that was very well cut out by David Ola.
However, just 4 minutes later, they did take the lead when an excellent through ball found their left winger, Azeez, in centre field. He got to the ball ahead of the onrushing AFA keeper, Harry Hauserman, before taking it round him and finding the net with his left foot.
The AFA responded with spirit and left winger, Justin Dumfeh, was prominent in exerting pressure and creating half chances but resultant shots were high or wide.
Middlesex then took control and created 3 chances in as many minutes with Hauserman saving well from Azeez, a free header hitting the crossbar and another shot from the outstanding Middlesex captain, Mason Tunbridge, hitting the side netting. This dominance brought it's reward on 28 minutes when Middlesex attacked down the inside right channel and a shrewd pass found their centre forward, Stefanoaica, who was just onside and he slotted into the far corner to increase the lead.
There was another response from the AFA and midfielder Liam Mulligan twice went close with a shot just over the bar and another from the edge of the area well saved by Middlesex keeper, Doyle, after good approach play from Mekael Williams and Dumfeh.
This pressure had an effect and shortly after Kacper Wojdyla closed down a Middlesex defender who played the ball across his penalty area where Williams intercepted and shot home to bring AFA back into the game.
Just before half time an injury to Jaden Madimba led to his being replaced by Ryan Murphy.
This change was followed at the break by Ekow Coker and Eddy Mombanza replacing Wojdyla & Mulligan for the second half. It had been a disappointing first half where defensively we had allowed our opponents too much time and space and offensively we had not looked after the ball well enough. Some changes had been made to our County Cup starting eleven to rightly give some game time to other players who had supported those efforts and this maybe upset the balance.
We started the second half with an early attack down the right which led to a header being saved, but it served only to sting Middlesex into further action and they went down the other end and produced a cross from the left which was headed onto the post. Then, in the 49th minute, they got a free kick on the edge of the penalty area and their right winger, Carvalho, hit it straight into the far corner to restore their two goal advantage.
The quality of football from both sides was now very good, with Middlesex marginally perhaps better but the AFA not giving up and going close again when Dumfeh was thwarted by the Middlesex keeper. The game was opening up and going end to end but final shots on both sides were either blocked or straight at the keepers.
Max Day came on for his debut to replace Hauserman but, unfortunately did not last long after colliding with one of his own defenders in making a save and having to depart with a bloody nose. However this was not before the AFA had got back into the game again on 31 minutes when Danny O'Leary got the ball on the left and worked his way to the goal line before cutting inside and wrong footing the keeper and knocking the ball home.
We were now pressing hard for the equaliser only to be let down by the final pass or wayward shot before a good move in injury time saw the ball reach Mulligan but his shot crashed against the bar and came out. So close but just not enough.
Overall Middlesex deserved their victory in the match, which was excellently officiated, but the AFA are to be commended for their spirited fight back and we can only hope that they will take this into their matches v Herts and Essex, where 2 wins could still see them qualify for the final.
Pat Folan - Manager
Bob Leeds - Coach
Anthony Cant - Physio
Paul Savva - Referee
Simon Cudner & Paul Mitchell - Assistant Referees