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Manager Paul Hamilton described his Burnham Ramblers side’s Essex Cassels Under 16s Cup final victory as “massive” as they defeated Frenford (Lions) at Great Wakering Rovers FC.
Adam Gold and Calum Scott had given Ramblers an early two-goal lead but Brayden Johnson’s reply to Frenford threatened a comeback until Henry Clark restored the cushion, which they maintained. “I’m immensely proud of them all,” said Hamilton after the conclusion.
“We rode a storm for 15 minutes before half time when Frenford pulled one back, but started the second half on the front foot again and got a deserved third. Each and every member of the squad contributed to getting us to the final and winning the trophy. It’s fair to say that, for Paul [Massenhove], Mark [Baldock] and I, this is the greatest football achievement we have ever had.”
It was a dream start for Burnham, as they got an early breakthrough in the 4th minute. Clark’s free kick was deflected off the defensive wall and into the path of Gold, who fired a low, angled shot into the net. They came close again shortly afterwards as Clark’s corner-kick was headed just over the crossbar by Scott.
Burnham continued their pressure, resulting in a second goal after a brilliant lob by Scott which dropped into the far corner of the goal. “Getting the first goal and then getting the second after 20 minutes were both key moments,” Hamilton recalled. “The high press really caused Frenford issues and made them play a different way they weren’t used too.”
It took a while for Frenford to have their first real opportunity, but William Darkwah attempted to bring his side back into the contest with a curled shot which went just wide in 31st minute. And their pressure achieved results as they got a goal, Johnson and Zishan Amin playing a neat one-two and Johnson emerging with the ball, drilling it in from eight yards.
Frenford threatened an equaliser just three minutes later as Johnson tried his luck from the edge of the box, but it took 20 minutes of the second half for the first real attempt on goal from either side. Tommy Parish’s corner for Burnham was cleared, then Leo Baldock had a miscued shot, with the ball falling Clark, who smacked it into the top corner, giving them a two-goal cushion.
Clark then had another chance three minutes later, as he brought a brilliant close-range save out of the Frenford goalkeeper. At the other end, Frenford were awarded a penalty in the 69th minute after Kosisochukwu Fontilio was brought down in the box, though George Edwards’ effort sailed over the bar, keeping the score at 3-1.
The final chance of the game came in the fourth minute of additional time, as a frantic scramble in the box resulted in Frenford’s Edwards sending his shot too high, which was their final chance to salvage something. Speaking of his players after the game, Hamilton reacted: “Without a doubt they deserved the win. We were, on the night, the better of two exceptional sides.”
“Everything we asked of the lads they did 100%, and it won them the game. They can spend the rest of their football careers saying: ‘I won the Under 16s Essex County Cup’. That’s massive for them, and not many players can say that. Each and every one of them has the ability and drive to continue and play at a high level, in youth and men’s football.”
Burnham Ramblers: Charlee Jackson, Henry Clark, Jude Hamilton, Sam Chesney, Freddie Massenhove, Callum McSpadden, Harry Moss, Calum Scott, Adam Gold, Tyler Chapman, Leo Baldock. Substitutes (repeated): Tommy Parish, Stan Sewell, Charlie Webber, Aaron Barker, Mo Shorney.
Frenford (Lions): Kasey Clark, Kearon Caynes, George Edwards, Brayden Johnson, Fiaz Akhtar, Kosisochukwu Fontilio, Tijsuni Taiwo, Zishan Amin, Ronnie Sapsford, Brooklyn King, William Darkwah. Substitutes (repeated): Diego Arjonilla, Jesse Francis, Christiano Joao, Ayden Patel, Mustafa Sohail.
Referee: Toby Andrews.
Assistant Referees: Ryan Bennett and Joseph Lynch.
Fourth Official: Alfie Treacher.