Essex Under 18s reached the Third Round of the FA County Youth Cup for the seventh successive season as a clinical performance saw Bedfordshire defeated 5-1 at Aveley FC’s brand new Parkside home.
Graham Hall’s team led by three goals at the break through Afolabi Soyemi-Olabade, Albert Keith and Junior Armando before a second from Armando and a strike from Enock Soganile completed the win beyond the interval, despite a late penalty from Matt Fraser pulling a goal back for the visitors.
Essex came close with a duo of free kicks in the opening exchanges as Armando’s swinging set-piece saw Tyler Richardson head at Bedfordshire goalkeeper Charlie Milton, with Soganile’s curling free kick dropping inches wide moments later.
In-between those two opportunities, Armando almost forced the ball home via the post but, with 24 minutes played, Essex grabbed the lead. Soyemi-Olabade raced clear and progressed past Milton and firing in. The lead was doubled on the half-hour, skipper Keith making space for a shot inside the area and arrowing a low drive into the far corner.
A stunning third two minutes into first half added time all but sealed the home side’s win. Armando curled a fine free kick in off the top of the left-hand post. Essex came closer to adding a fourth 20 minutes into the second period when Soyemi-Olabade turned and fired inches over the top before the goal did arrive with 69 played. The ball broke to Armando in the area, who confidently rifled in.
With eight minutes to play, Soganile added a fifth as his shot beat Milton, despite the stopper getting a glove to the shot. With 90 seconds left, Bedfordshire grabbed their reply as Fraser converted from the spot following a foul by Essex substitute Jack Martin.
Essex: James Scammell (Thurrock), Ryan Knight (Barking Abbey School), Sam Mvemba (Romford) (Jack Martin [Braintree Town], 67), Wyan Reid (Thurrock) (Darnell Bromfield [Barking Abbey School], 69), Jack McQueen (Barking Abbey School), Shadrack Ogie (AFC Hornchurch), Tyler Richardson (AFC Hornchurch), Albert Keith (Thurrock), Afolabi Soyemi-Olabade (Grays Athletic) (Kieran Southgate [Aveley], 74), Junior Armando (AFC Hornchurch), Enock Soganile (Shenfield School). Unused Substitutes: Misha Djemaili (Barking Abbey School).
Bedfordshire: Charlie Milton (Barton Rovers), Kane O’Neill (Barton Rovers), Dylan Baker (AFC Dunstable), Sonny Newbury-Barr (AFC Dunstable), Zubhar Rahman (Barton Rovers), Kyle Ajayi (Barton Rovers), Aaron Hudson (Dunstable Town), Alex Rennie (Barton Rovers), Matt Fraser (Biggleswade Town), Joe Ryan (Stotfold), Ashley Ingham (Barton Rovers). Substitutes: George Fitter (Biggleswade Town), Kieran Chance (Kempston Rovers Colts Lions), Tyler Goode (Barton Rovers).
Bookings: Essex: Martin (88, foul). Bedfordshire: Fitter (45, foul).
Referee: Kieran Haywood (Stevenage).
Assistant Referees: Edward Stone (Letchworth) and Geoffrey Blackmore (Baldock).