AFA UNDER 18’s HIT MAGNIFICENT SEVEN TO BLUNT SHEFFIELD STEEL
FA COUNTY YOUTH CUP 1st ROUND - AMATEUR FA v SHEFFIELD & HALLAMSHIRE FA
What a match.
By the end the spectators were as exhausted as the players of both sides who gave everything in a match that would have been first choice on a Match of the Day.
After the bitter disappointment of postponement, due to a waterlogged pitch at Potters Bar, two weeks ago, we arrived at the Herts County Ground on an overcast but dry afternoon to witness an extraordinary match. It is a compliment to the 3G playing service and the excellent officiating of Roger Whitton and his team that so much good football was played by both teams.
The game was played at a fast pace from the start and both sides went close in the opening 10 minutes. It took the AFA about this time to get into the game but then started to get on top, with Finn Harvey becoming dominant in midfield. They were, therefore a little shocked to fall behind on the quarter hour. A Sheffield free kick was lofted into the penalty area and not cleared. The ball fell to Stocks with his back to goal and he flicked it back over his head into the top of the net.
Sheffield had another opportunity shortly after when a cross from the right was not cleared but the follow up went wide. The AFA responded well to this and Kevonte Willoughby-Williams shot straight at the keeper before good buildup play was finished with a good effort from Bailey Stevenson which Sheffield keeper, Pryce, saved well low to his left.
However Stevenson was not be denied and on 26 minutes was on hand to convert, after a couple of shots had been blocked, when the ball rebounded to him and bring the AFA level.
Our tails were now up and we were dominating the game. A lead would have followed were it not for the first or last time that Pryce in the Sheffield goal thwarted AFA forwards with both hands and feet. It was only time before the pressure would tell and, in the 34th minute, an excellent long diagonal ball from Eddy Mombanza found Justin Dumfeh bursting through from the wing and he calmly slotted home to put the AFA ahead.
The pressure on the Sheffield goal continued with our full backs getting forward. Firstly a cross from Ben Bellman appeared to bounce off the Sheffield crossbar then a good run and cross by Ryan Murphy found Dumfeh but his shot was over.
Sheffield kept trying and were almost rewarded just before the interval when a defensive error let them in but the resultant shot was blazed over the bar and the AFA enjoyed a narrow half time lead. Although this lead was deserved, Sheffield had exploited some gaps in the AFA midfield and solid defending, particularly from skipper David Ola, had kept them at bay.
The team management resolved this issue during the half-time break and the second half started in the same way as the first, but with the AFA dominant from the off. Within the first 5 minutes we had 4 shots at goal either blocked or just wide. A sporadic Sheffield attack was blocked before Pryce was back in action turning a Stevenson shot away for a corner.
Back came Sheffield and an AFA mistake let them in down the right which brought a good save from Harry Hauserman, who looked very safe and assured all match. Then it was, again, the turn of Pryce in the Sheffield goal to save from Rigert Rama at his near post before a great cross field pass from Dumfeh put in Rama again but he could not make clean contact with his shot.
The AFA were now well on top and it was no surprise when we increased our lead on 58 minutes after a free kick from the left caused havoc in the Sheffield goalmouth and Dumfeh was on hand to hit the loose ball into the net.
Shortly after a great run by Stevenson finished with a good shot being deflected for a corner and in the 65th minute it was 4-1 when a high AFA presence in the Sheffield box led to the ball being seized on by Willoughby-Williams, who lobbed home. This was a fitting way for him to depart the action to be replaced by Aden Brazil on 66 minutes.
This proved to be an inspired decision by Pat Folan as just a minute later another AFA attack was half cleared to Brazil and he drove the ball into the net to make the score 5-1.
But Sheffield still battled and almost from the restart a good pass found Srour in space and he slotted home to reduce the deficit. This shook any complacency out of the AFA players and they settled to maintain possession. To aid this, in 77th minute Emeka Ukaegbu came on to replace Bellman.
A minute later came a Lionel Messi moment. A free kick was won about 25 yards from goal in the inside right position. Up stepped Mombanza and hammered the ball into the top right corner. He then turned away nonchalantly as if this was not an unusual event for him. However it was an outstanding strike. 6-1.
With 10 minutes to go it was 7. After another attack the ball broke to Dumfeh on the edge of the penalty area and he drove home to complete an excellent hat-trick.
David Nicolaj came on for Murphy on 81 minutes and shortly after another AFA attack finished with a shot by Stevenson that was, again, well saved by Pryce.
Sheffield stirred again and, after one attack came to nothing with a shot wide of the goal, they completed the scoring with an excellent near post header from Abdallah after a free kick had been driven goalwards.
So the game finished with a deserved AFA victory with every player contributing significantly to the performance but in which the spine of the team - Hauserman, Ola, Harvey & Stevenson were prominent and Dumfeh and Rama were always a threat out wide.
Sheffield never gave up and were always dangerous on the break and both sides contributed some excellent football. The spectators were highly entertained and the match was a great advert for the competition and County Youth football.
It is now off to Jersey for the next round and another challenge for the AFA to meet.
Harry Hauserman; Ryan Murphy, Miles John, David Ola, Ben Bellman; Finn Harvey, Eddy Mombanza, Kevonte Willoughby-Williams; Rigert Rama, Bailey Stevenson, Justin Dumfeh. Substitutes - Aden Brazil, Emeka Ugaegbu, David Nicolaj, Ewen Bland, Jonah Sarpong, Rayon Atkinson.
Pat Folan (Manager), Gary Harrowell & Gary Casey (Coaches)
Robert Whitton (Referee), Matthew Ball & Jack Scott ( Assistant Referees)