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Action from Hertfordshire vs Sussex

Late Sussex rally secures under-18s Playoff spot

Hertfordshire 2 - 3 Sussex

A late flurry of goals secured the Sussex County FA under-18s Representative Squad their position at the top of the South East Counties Youth Championship Group B, and lined up a Playoff with Group A winners Essex County FA. 

The opening few minutes were cagey, with both teams jostling for a foothold in the game. Harrison Mott had the first chance for Sussex, but his free-kick sailed wide.

The game burst into life six minutes in, when Sussex captain Josh Gould picked up the ball deep in the right hand channel, he drifted inside and unleashed an arrow of a shot which beat Bradley Heaps in the Hertfordshire goal from 25-yards out.

On nine minutes, Hertfordshire had their first clear-cut chance, but Lawrence Burton dragged his shot just wide. They didn’t have to wait long for another chance, as on ten minutes Jack Walker picked up the ball in the left channel and his high cross drifted over the head of Sussex Goalkeeper Luke Glover and nestled into the corner of net.

Sussex looked rattled from the equaliser, and a minute later found themselves behind. Tariq Bakkali was fouled in the penalty area and the referee correctly awarded a penalty to Hertfordshire. Jack Walker calmly stepped up and slotted home to give Hertfordshire the lead.

Following the manic first fifteen minutes, the game settled down into a pattern of possession from Sussex, with Hertfordshire looking threatening on the counter attack.

With eighteen minutes gone, Harrison Mott almost got on the end of a cross from Josh Gould, but it ended up just wide. Fourteen minutes later, Lewis Broughton had his most prominent involvement, with a fierce shot going over the bar.

The most dangerous player for Sussex was Josh Gould, and he had a further attempt on thirty four minutes which bounced off the post to his frustration. The rebound was gathered by Bradley Heaps.

The pattern of the game continued in the early stages of the second-half, with Sussex probing away without success. Substitutions were made by both sides, with Tyrese Mthunzi making a positive impact with a 20-yard shot on the hour mark, which riffled just over.

The game changed following a switch by Sussex Assistant Manager, Ian Browne. Essah Jennah, who had been playing in central midfield, was moved to become the central striker, alongside young under-18s debutant Jake Hutchinson. This also freed up Josh Gould to have a more creative role.

Accordingly, Gould picked up the ball in his favourite left channel, and had a cross shot across the box, the Hertfordshire goalkeeper parried and Jennah was on hand to slide it in at the back post to equalise.

As it stood, Sussex had the point they needed to win the Group, but they wanted the win. Minutes later, Gould and Jennah almost combined identically to score again but Jennah couldn’t quite make contact this time.

Gould was now running the game, and thriving in his new role as captain. Towards the latter stages of the match he fought off a defender and smashed a shot over the bar.

With just six minutes remaining, Sussex landed the killer blow. Gould again had the ball in the left channel, and swerved a pin-point cross into the box where Hutchinson met it first time and scored with the instincts of a true goal scorer making it 3-2 to Sussex.

Sussex withstood late pressure from Hertfordshire, with Tolo Shawumni heading into the hands of Glover, and May Hutchinson shooting straight at Glover who gathered comfortably.

Sussex held on, to secure the win and cement their place at the top of Group B. It was a great game of football, with a dramatic finish. The game changed in the second-half with the tactical switch from the Sussex management team, and Sussex always looked like winning after that...

Stats: (Hertfordshire-Sussex)
Goals: 2-3; Shots: 6-11; Shots-on-target: 4-3; Corners: 4-3; Offside: 0-1; Yellow cards: 0-0; Red cards: 0-0.

Hertfordshire: Heaps, Ready, Wicker, McClelland, Adams, Huckle, Walker, Hutchingson, Showumni, Bakkali, Burton.
Subs: Jeffrey, James.

Sussex: Glover, Malia, Parker, Goldsmith, Cocoracchio, Headland, Jennah, Mott, Gould, Aguier, Broughton.
Subs: Hutchingson, Cooklin, Waters, Jelly, Mthunzi.

Match report by Ollie Powell