Essex Under 18s Hold On To Secure Runner-Up Spot
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Essex Under 18s withheld a late onslaught to seal runners-up spot in the South-East Counties Championship with an entertaining 3-2 victory in Bedfordshire.
Idriss Koroma, Mekhi Standford-Clarke and Sidney Walker were the goalscorers for Joint-Managers Tom Harding and Eamonn Kearney, though two second-half Bedfordshire strikes in the last 20 minutes made for a nail-biting end to the contest.
The visitors took an early 8th-minute lead as Standford-Clarke’s shot was pushed out by Bedfordshire goalkeeper Elliot Duffy, but Koroma slotted home the loose ball. Standford-Clarke soon brought another good save from Duffy, who pushed the ball around the post before the Bedfordshire custodian raced off his line to deny Andre Anderson.
Duffy made another fine save to tip Koroma’s long-range effort over the top, but the home stopper was beaten for a second time on 36 minutes. A cross-field ball found Standford-Clarke, who sprinted through and finished well with a clipped strike.
The hosts’ best chance of the first half arrived five minutes before the interval, Brennan Oliver’s free kick bringing an impressive save from Essex ‘keeper Jake Anderson. Six minutes after the re-start, Essex made in 3-0 as Andre Anderson cut the ball back at the near post for Walker to stab home.
Moments later, Andre Anderson twisted inside the penalty area and brought a sharp stop from substitute ‘keeper Arun Khan. Another chance for the away side saw Standford-Clarke roll an effort just wide before Bedfordshire pulled a goal back on 72 minutes. Oliver’s free kick was nodded in by Jack Young.
Essex responded well, and they were inches from a fourth as Standford-Clarke’s goalbound shot was cleared off the line by Jahmarl Johnson. The visitors thought they may rue the miss when Bedfordshire added a second seven minutes from time.
A terrific Joshua Hatton drive found the net from close range. Then, six minutes into added time, the last action of the game saw Mikael Edubatey miss a glorious opportunity, heading over from close range following another set-piece from Oliver.
Essex: Jake Anderson (Walthamstow), Finn Wilkes (Chelmsford City), Reiss Hatwell (Brentwood Town), Jack Turner (Grays Athletic), Brandon Chapman (Hashtag United), Osazee Osas (Grays Athletic), Andre Anderson (Barking), Sidney Walker (Brentwood Town), Mehki Standford-Clarke (Grays Athletic), Leuer Hysaj (Grays Athletic), Idriss Koroma (Walthamstow). Substitutes: Sam Wade (Chelmsford City), Emmanuel Sergio (Chelmsford City), Tommy Kilcast (Hashtag United).
Bedfordshire: Elliot Duffy (Bedford Town), Evans Peprah (Stotfold), Richard Blankson (Boreham Wood), Jack Young (Kempston Rovers), Jahmarl Johnson (Royston Town), Jack Kent (Leighton Town), Terry Offeh (Potton United), Oliver Brennan (Crawley Green), Plamedi Bomolo (Kempston Rovers), Harvey Williams (Barton Rovers), Joshua Hatton (Leighton Town). Substitutes: Rhys Lee (Barton Rovers), Arun Khan (Bedford), Mikael Edubatey (Biggleswade United), L’shiay Aguh (St Albans City).
Referee: Simon Castleton.
Assistant Referees: Todd Walker and Ryan Coxhead.