Essex Under 18s sealed their place in the final of the South East Counties Championship when a second-half winner from Callum Fitzer ensured top spot in Group ‘A’ as Middlesex were defeated in an entertaining game at Parkside.
Fitzer’s decisive goal arrived within a minute of a stunning equaliser from Middlesex Captain Malachy McGovern after Essex had taken the lead through an own goal at the interval at Aveley FC’s brand new home.
It’s been a great fortnight for Graham Hall’s side. With the same squad representing Essex Schools, the final of the national English Schools Inter-County Trophy was reached before matching the feat in their domestic County FA competition. Having topped their group with three wins from three, Essex will play the Group ‘B’ winners - one of the Amateur Football Alliance, Hertfordshire or Sussex - to decide the title.
A fine double save from Middlesex goalkeeper Filip Chalupniczak denied Essex an opener as he prevented Afolabi Soyemi-Ololade and then Misha Djemaili. But the home county went ahead on 25 minutes. Soyemi-Ololade clipped the ball over Chalupniczak only for a superb goal line clearance from Rawn Searle to deny the Essex forward. Though Fitzer fired the loose ball back into the six-yard box and Zayn Daniel inadvertently turned it into his own net.
It was five minutes into the second period that Middlesex skipper McGovern, part of his county’s FA County Youth Cup-winning side last season, struck an excellent half-volley into the top corner from 20 yards to level the contest. But Essex edged back ahead within a minute as Albert Keith’s good run saw the ball played across the goalmouth, from where Fitzer fired in at the far post via a deflection.
Middlesex’s Felix Amoah curled just over from the edge of the area and a fierce effort from Alex Hadjithemistou brought a good save from Essex ‘keeper James Scammell. A rasping drive for Essex forward Soyemi-Ololade brought an excellent save from Middlesex ‘keeper Harvey Hayes, who tipped the ball over the bar in what proved to be the last real chance of the afternoon.
Essex: James Scammell (Thurrock), Ryan Knight (Romford), Sam Mvemba (Romford), Jack McQueen (Barking), Tajuoleen Salawa (Romford), Wyan Reid (Thurrock), Callum Fitzer (Maldon & Tiptree), Misha Djemaili (Romford), Dantai Demontagnac (Romford), Albert Keith (Tilbury), Afolabi Soyemi-Ololade (Grays Athletic). Substitutes (repeated): Connor Tyrell (Shenfield High School), Jake Jolliffe (Shenfield High School), Tyler Richardson (AFC Hornchurch), Kieran Southgate (Aveley).
Middlesex: Filip Chalupniczak (FC Victoria College), Simeon Olerin (Hayes & Yeading United), Miles Dumba (Wealdstone), Malachy McGovern (Hendon), Zayn Daniels (Hayes & Yeading United), Rawn Searle (Wealdstone), Felix Amoah (Wembley), Luke Alfano (Wingate & Finchley), Sean Giordmaina (Wealdstone), Alex Hadjithemistou (Cheshunt), Lucas Jimack (NW London). Substitutes (repeated): Pierre Morim (Hayes & Yeading United), Jack Roper (Hayes & Yeading United), Archie Morris (Unattached), Harvey Hayes (Bedfont Sports).
Referee: Reece Pinchback.
Assistant Referees: Matt Bacon and Grant Conway.