The Middlesex Under-18 team entertained their Amateur Football Alliance counterparts at Rectory Park on Sunday last (17 February), in their second South East Counties Youth Championship group match.
The end result of a fast paced and skilful match between two excellent sides was a narrow 3-2 win for Middlesex. We held a comfortable two goal advantage early in the second-half but failed to capitalise on some good approach work and finished the game hanging on to a single-goal lead.
Although manager John Fletcher was able to introduce the reliable Michael O’Neil to strengthen our defence in the 80th minute, he was not helped by the fact that, due to late withdrawals, he only had two substitutes (one of them a goalkeeper) on the bench.
After a tentative start by both teams, we took the lead in the 14th minute through Femi Azeez. Femi picked up a through ball from Jamie Fulton, eluded a challenging defender and calmly netted.
The speedy AFA winger, Justin Dufeh was proving to be a danger and a timely challenge by centre-back Ricardo Matos denied him a good scoring opportunity, at the expense of a corner.
We then had several scoring opportunities. Femi forced the visiting ‘keeper, Harry Hauserman into a low save, Ruben Carvalho headed a cross from Mason Tunbridge onto the crossbar and then Mason volleyed wide from Ruben’s corner kick.
However, we doubled our lead after 26 minutes when Radu Stefanoaica took the ball half the length of the pitch before coolly placing it wide of the ‘keeper into the corner of the goal.
Middlesex custodian, Caolan Doyle made a great save from Liam Mulligan, who was clean through on goal. Radu made another run up the middle but shot past the post and then volleyed Oliver Lawford’s centre over the bar.
A fine AFA attacking move involving Justin Dumfeh and Liam Mulligan ended with Mekeal Williams clearing our crossbar. However Mekeal reduced the deficit in the 34th minute, when he took advantage of some hesitant defending by sliding home a pass from Jeremy Ebelebe.
Half-Time Score: Middlesex 2 AFA 1
Middlesex restored their two-goal lead four minutes after the interval. Ruben fed Radu, who went on another probing run and was brought down in a dangerous position on the edge of the penalty area. Ruben placed the resulting free-kick wide of the defensive wall into the unguarded corner of the net.
We had some more good opportunities but failed to increase our lead. Ruben shot just wide when well placed and Femi set up Miles Dumba, whose low ball across the goalmouth failed to attract a touch.
The AFA hit back and Caolan saved well from both Justin Dumfeh and Mekeal Williams. Then Sukru Yildiz saved a dangerous situation in our goalmouth with a vital interception. It wasn’t a surprise when our visitors scored in the 63rd minute, through Danny O’Leary, who forced the ball home from a narrow angle.
Play continued to move rapidly up and down the field, with both sides having chances. Femi continued to cause problems for the visiting defenders. He finished a penetrating run with a low cross, which wasn’t converted. He drove a shot just wide and the ‘keeper saved another with his feet.
AFA custodian, Maximus Day, who had substituted for Harry Hauserman, was hurt saving at Oliver Lawford’s feet but fortunately he recovered after receiving attention. Then Oliver broke through on the right but his shot, from a narrow angle, missed the far post with Femi well placed to receive a pass.
AFA squandered an excellent opportunity, when a free-kick, from a good position just outside the penalty area, was blazed over the bar. However they will consider themselves unfortunate when, in added time, Liam Mulligan rattled our crossbar with a shot from the edge of the box.
Final Score: Middlesex 3 AFA 2
Referee Paul Savva and his Middlesex colleagues, Simon Cudner and Paul Mitchell controlled the proceedings impeccably.
At the conclusion of the match, Middlesex FA President John Davies presented Miles Dumba with his Middlesex cap in recognition of the latter’s sixth appearance for the county. John also presented seven other members of the side with mementoes to mark their respective fourth appearances.
It was a pleasure to entertain our friends, the AFA players and officials at Rectory Park. Our thanks are again due to Andy Perren and the Centre Staff for facilitating this so well.
Caolan Doyle (Northwood), Babjide Shittu (Hanwell Town), Miles Dumba (Wealdstone), Mason Tunbridge (Enfield Town) (capt), Sukru Yildiz (Potters Bar Town), Ricardo Matos, Ruben Carvalho (both Wingate & Finchley), Jamie Fulton (Northwood), Radu Stefanoaica (Uxbridge), Oliver Lawford (Northwood) and Femi Azeez (Wealdstone)
Substitutes: (repeat substitutions are used in this competition) Michael O’Neil (Hayes & Yeading United) and Jonti Purdon (Wingate & Finchley) (gk)
Manager: John Fletcher
Assistant Manager: Darrel Gyngell
Coaches: Wayne Little, Remi Bignall and Danny Gyngell
Physio: Gary Strudwick
AMATEUR FOOTBALL ALLIANCE
Harry Hauserman (Old Owens), Jaden Madimba (Alexandra Park), Ben Bellman (Old Finchleians), Jeremy Ebelebe (Alexandra Park), Max Brassington (Norseman) (capt), David Ola (Old Owens), Cameron McAdam (Old Finchleians), Liam Mulligan (Old Stationers), Kacper Wojdyla (Beolonians), Mekael Williams (Old Finchleians) and Justin Dumfeh (Old Owens)
Substitutes: (repeat substitutions were used) Ryan Murphy, Eddy Mombanza, Danny O’Leary (all Norseman), Ekow Coker (Old Finchleians) and Maximus Day (Nottsborough) (gk).
Maximus took over in goal in the 68th minute.
Manager: Bob Leeds
Coach: Pat Folan
Physio: Andrew Cant