Our Under 18 players completed their season’s programme on Sunday last with a trip to Essex. This, our last group match in the South East Counties Youth Championship, was played on the 3G pitch at Aveley FC’s splendid new Parkside stadium.
We lost a closely fought and entertaining match by 2 goals to 1. This victory confirmed Essex’s top place in Group A and they now play the, as yet undecided, winners of Group B for the title. They won all 3 of their group matches, also beating Kent 4-2 and London 4-1.
We had a rather mixed record in the competition this season, scoring 8 goals without reply against London but losing 2-1 to both Kent and Essex.
Our hosts had the better of the chances in the early stages. Zayn Daniels headed a shot out from under our crossbar and then, in the 20th minute, our keeper, Filip Chalupniczak made a great double save. He dived to push out Misha Djemaili’s low shot and then saved at close range from Callum Fitzer, who had taken possession of the rebound.
Essex took the lead after 26 minutes. Rawn Seale cleared a shot off of our goal line and the ball went to Callum Fitzer on the Essex left. Zayn got to Callum’s low drive but could only divert it into the net.
Our best chance of the first half came from a long corner kick by Alex Hadjithemistou. Rawn nodded the ball back into the middle for Zayn, whose header was well saved by James Scammell.
Rawn produced a timely tackle to intercept Albert Keith, who was through on goal and Filip saved an awkwardly bouncing shot from Afolabi Soyenmi-Ololade.
Half time score: Essex 1 Middlesex 0
We took the initiative at the start of the second half and equalised in the 50th minute, through our excellent skipper, Malachy McGovern, who lobbed the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Unfortunately for us, Essex regained the lead within 3 minutes. Callum Fitzer cut in from the right and fed Albert Keith, who netted from close range.
We hit back and Felix Amoah was narrowly wide with a fierce drive, following good approach work by Malachy. Then a well -truck effort by Alex was well saved by James Scammell.
Harvey Hayes, who had taken over between our posts for the second half, pulled off a fantastic save from Afolabi. The Essex striker powered through our middle and smashed in a close-range shot, which Harvey somehow diverted over his crossbar.
We pressed for an equaliser without success. James Scammell leapt high in the congested goalmouth to impressively collect a dangerous high corner from Alex. He then saved low down from Rawn Seale.
Our final chance came after Lucas Jimack won the ball in a tackle in midfield and made ground until he was brought down just outside the home penalty area. The resulting free kick by Alex was charged down.
Final Score: Essex 2 Middlesex 1
James Scammell (Thurrock), Ryan Knight, Sam Mvemba (both Romford), Jack McQueen (Barking), Tajiwleen Salawa, Wyan Reid (Thurrock), Callum Fitzer (Billericay Town), Misha Djemaili Romford), Kieran Southgate (Aveley), Albert Keith (Thurrock) and Afolabi Soyenmi-Ololade (Grays Athletic).
Substitutes (repeat subs were used): Conor Tyrel, Jack Jolliffe (both Shenfield School), Tyler Richardson (AFC Hornchurch) and Dantai Demontagnac.
Manager: Graham Hall Coach: Andy Tickner
Filip Chalupniczak (Victoria College), Simeon Olarein (Hayes & Yeading United), Miles Dumba (Wealdstone), Malachy McGovern (Hendon) (capt), Zayn Daniels (Hayes & Yeading United), Rawn Seale (Wealdstone), Felix Amoah (Wembley), Luke Alfano (Wingate & Finchley), Sean Giordmina (Wealdstone), Alex Hadjithemistou (Cheshunt) and Lucas Jimack (NW London).
Substitutes : Pierre Morim (Hampton & Richmond Borough), Jack Roper (Hayes & Yeading United), Harvey Hayes (Bedfont Sports) (reserve goalkeeper played for second half).
Manager: John Fletcher Assistant Manager: Vince Purdue Physio: Gary Strudwick.
Referee: Reece Pinchback Assistant Referees: Matthew Bacon and Grant Conway (all Essex FA).
Our thanks are due to Essex FA and Aveley FC for their kind hospitality.
Matchday photos are available below courtesy of match day photographer, Chris Benn.