The U18’s finally got to play their first competitive match since the 9th December, away, against Saltdean in the Youth League Cup.
The pitch had survived the recent wet weather although it was very heavy and likely to cut up as the game progressed. A team was chosen to play to our strengths of quick passing and movement against a team that is known for it’s competitive and long ball style of play.
We played against an increasing wind from kick off and quickly got into our style creating our first chance after 5 minutes when, following good approach play through the centre, Harry Millar had a good shot well saved by their keeper. The pattern of play continued and despite constructive play from the back our final pass too often went astray breaking down the moves.
Then on 15 minutes Saltdean took the lead in what appeared rather contentious circumstances. They were awarded an indirect free kick for offside and the player took the kick launching it into our penalty area and somehow the ball ended up in the back of our net. We were convinced that as no player had touched the ball the goal shouldn’t stand but, when questioned, the Referee stated that he had heard a contact and allowed the goal.
We continued to press and created several more chances before half time, Millar sent a shot wide after good approach play down our left flank. 1-0 down at half time.
The half time talk was very positive and the players were told to continue as before making sure that our final passes were accurate but to watch overplaying the ball now that we were kicking with the wind. We were very quickly on the attack with Millar having another shot going wide after just a couple of minutes.
Most of the play was in Saltdean’s half with them having rare attacks. Ian Robinson then created a great chance by taking on the full back and getting into a shooting position but decided to pass instead and the opportunity went begging.
Max Stevens then played a good ball to Millar who, after going forward, played Robinson in for a shot that went just wide. Robinson then had another shot just wide a few minutes later.
Indeed we did have the ball in the net but it was ruled out for an offside decision given earlier in the attack. Saltdean mounted few attacks and these were dealt with very well by our defence.
During the second half three substitutions were made, Jay Thornton being replaced by Toby Cane, Joss Slowey by Jonathan Bennett and Max Stevens by William Herriott. Time was running out and our cause was not helped when an injury to Thomas Turner caused him to leave the pitch, down to 10 players.
Then deep into injury time the ball was bouncing around in the Saltdean penalty area only for Millar to lob the keeper and get the equalizer. The match finished shortly afterwards so, being a cup game, extra time was now to be played.
We played with the wind first half and the match was following a similar pattern, as before, when Robinson pressed the self destruct button. He launched into a dangerous tackle causing the referee to brandish the red card and the team found themselves down to 9 players.
Despite this the players continued to play very well but Saltdean’s extra numbers slowly made the difference and they scored 2 further goals to seal a 3-1 win.
This was a disappointing result but the whole squad showed great character, discipline, resilience and effort during this match and if they show all of these attributes in the remaining League games they should gain valuable points.
The man of the match was Daniel Green for his great overall play in defence.
A footnote – Luke Vidler’s sweeping role late in the game when he foiled the same forward twice, the second being a great tackle.
Luke Vidler, Thomas Turner, Fenton Boaks (C), Jay Thornton (Toby Cane), Daniel Green, Kieran Austin, Harry Millar, Frazer Johnstone, Joss Slowey (Johnathan Bennett), Ian Robinson, Max Stevens (William Herriott).