Essex Under 18s made the perfect start to life in the South East Counties Under 18s Championship thanks to Afolabi Soyemi-Olalade’s hat-trick, which inspired a 4-2 win over Kent at Corinthian FC.
A near-perfect first half saw Soyemi-Olalade complete his trio on the stroke of the interval as his side lead 4-1, with Tyler Richardson also on the scoresheet. Soyemi-Olalade handed Essex the lead inside 3 minutes when the ball looped over Kent goalkeeper Tom Carey and the forward stretched to poke home.
Kent swiftly levelled. Billy Lewins had two bites at a low cross, with the second volleyed home by Tom Barton. But, with still only 14 minutes played, Essex were back ahead. Richardson beat ‘keeper Carey to the ball on the edge of the area and slotted into an empty net.
As the ball pinged around the penalty area, Kent’s Lewins flashed a shot just over the top before Essex’s Jake Jolliffe cleared off the goal line from Will Palmer. Sidney Warden then saw his shot well blocked by visiting ‘keeper James Scammell.
Kent stopper Carey then made a good stop to keep out a 20-yard free kick from Callum Fitzer prior to the away side making it 3-1 on 41 minutes. Soyemi-Olalade angled a run and fired inside the far post. The Grays Athletic front man then completed his hat-trick ahead of the break, Soyemi-Olalade tapping home after Fitzer’s effort was pushed out by Carey.
A quiet start to the second half followed but, just beyond the hour mark, Essex’s Kye Brown saw his shot blocked and the ball bounced around the area before being cleared. Soyemi-Olalade then side-footed a left-hand cross just wide from six yards, followed by Brown bringing a fine, close-range save from Kent stopper Carey.
Kent pulled a goal back on 82 minutes. The ball broke to Josh Stirman inside the area and he finished well into the bottom right-hand corner. With moments left, Kent custodian Carey made an excellent diving stop to deny Misha Djemaili as the visitors looked to add a fifth to an already impressive win.
Essex: James Scammell (Thurrock), Ryan Knight (Romford), Sam Mvemba (Romford), Wyan Reid (Thurrock), Jack McQueen (Barking), Jake Jolliffe (Shenfield School), Tyler Richardson (AFC Hornchurch), Misha Djemaili (Romford), Afolabi Soyemi-Olalade (Grays Athletic), Albert Keith (Thurrock), Callum Fitzer (Chelmsford College). Substitutes (repeated): Jamie Marsh (Brentwood Town), Kye Brown (Grays Athletic).
Kent: Tom Carey (Herne Bay), Scott Jarvis (Bromley), Sam Macallum (Herne Bay), Craig Cooley (Hollands & Blair), Freddie Rumbol (Sittingbourne), Ted Nelson (Hollands & Blair), Will Palmer (Chatham Town), Dylan Riches (Sittingbourne), Billy Lewins (Ramsgate), Sudney Warden (Margate), Tom Barton (Faversham Strike Force). Substitutes (repeated): George Porter (Bromley), Dillon Cole (Hollands & Blair), Charlie Deininger (Hollands & Blair), Josh Stirman (Maidstone United), Joe Sharp (Herne Bay).
Bookings: Essex: Keith (75, foul).
Referee: Josh Smith.
Assistant Referees: Sam Eyre and Dan Baruch.