Sussex County FA Under-16s win the South East Counties Youth Championship

Invincible Sussex lift league trophy

AFA 2 - 2 Sussex

The Sussex County FA Under-16s Representative Squad, who were already assured of the South East Counties Youth Championship title, earned a 2-2 draw against Amateur FA (AFA) on Sunday afternoon at Colney Heath.

Two first-half goals from Conrad Honore and Jay Popham ensured Sussex remained unbeaten in the league this season.

With both teams already missing players, Sussex were dealt an early blow as debutant Sam Scott injured his ankle in first ten minutes of the fixture.

It wasn’t until the 16th minute that either team created their first chance. Reggie Ward, who was now playing in a more advanced role after the earlier injury to his teammate, cut in from the left-channel, into the AFA penalty area, creating space for a right-footed shot. However, his effort lacked power and was comfortably saved by Finn Rushton.

This seemed to spark AFA into life. Josh Gunter quickly past Dan Ferriera and used his pace to go around Max Blencowe, forcing the Sussex captain into committing a foul. With the option to test the goalkeeper or delivering a cross, Charlie Powell went direct with the resulting free-kick. His effort was athletically tipped over the bar by Oskar Lockyer. 

From the subsequent corner, Lockyer was called into action again, punching the delivery into the box clear of the goal and the approaching AFA players.

The deadlock was broken in the 24th minute by the visitors. Striker, George Mitchell-Phillips, originally held off Finn Conway on the edge of the penalty area, before turning the defender. He laid the ball off to Honore, who finished high into the roof of the net.

Both teams were finding retaining possession challenging on the uneven pitch, but, in the 34th minute the league champions almost doubled their lead. Great play between Blencowe and Honore down the right-wing resulted in space for the former to deliver a cross. The ball in was met by Mitchell-Phillips near the penalty spot, but he saw his right-footed volley saved impressively by Rushton.

With no more than a minute from their previous chance, Sussex capitalised. With AFA losing possession in midfield, the ball reached Mitchell-Phillips. The striker fought off the challenge from Ewan Bland before his square pass found Popham, he cruised past three AFA defenders in their own penalty area before slotting the ball in at the near post.

A change in formation for the visitors resulted in them dominating the opening 15 minutes of the second-half. Tom Chalmers regained possession in central-midfield before quickly finding Mitchell-Phillips who was able to turn the defender again before his shot went straight at the goalkeeper.

The hosts broke Sussex’s dominance in the 56th minute. Good work down the AFA right channel between Rayon Atkinson and Keiron Lake-Brown saw the latter’s cross met by an unmarked Gunter in the six-yard box, and he made no mistake with a low finished,  past Lockyer, to half the deficit.

Moments later, the home side almost equalised with two opportunities from the head of Atkinson. The first was blocked, with the striker’s second effort easily saved by goalkeeper.

Sussex almost restored their two-goal lead in the 62nd minute. An intricate one-two between Chalmers and Mitchell-Phillips created space in the penalty area for Chalmers. Although, his shot, low to the goalkeeper’s left, was well saved by the diving Rushton.

Five minutes later, the same two players were involved again, but this time it was Mitchell-Phillips with the effort, however, it drew the same outcome as his shot across the goal, to the far post, was again well saved.

AFA were efficient in taking their second-half chances and duly equalised with only seven minutes remaining. A free-kick from the left-channel, delivered into the penalty area was met at the far-post by Atkinson, who calmly slotted home.

The league champions tried to restore their lead, but failed to create any meaningful chances, as the final fixture of the Under-16s South East Counties Youth Championship finished 2-2, and Sussex were presented with the trophy!

(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Kyle Hemsley Photography)

Stats: (AFA-Sussex)
Goals: 2-2; Shots: 5-14; Shots-on-target: 4-6; Corners: 2-4; Offside: 2-4; Fouls: 16-11; Yellow cards: 0-2; Red cards: 0-0.

AFA: Rushton, Lake-Bryan, Lekes, Bland, Conway, Oni, Gunter, Powell, Atkinson, Brazil, Zukowski.
Subs: Jeffrey, Goater.

Sussex: Lockyer, Ferriera, Ward, Freeman, Blencowe ©, McSwiney, Popham, Chalmers, Mitchell-Phillips, Honore, Scott.
Subs: Whitmore, Mitchell, Summers.

Match report by Dan Bartlett

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