Essex boys end season with thrilling win
PUBLISHED: 16:30 05 May 2016
East Anglian U18s: Norfolk 2 Essex 3
Essex Under-18s completed their season with victory in Norfolk as first-half goals from Afolabi Anderson, Toby Aromolaran and Matthew Bentley se up a thrilling success at Easton & Otley College.
The visitors led 3-0 inside 38 minutes, but a quick-fire Connor Ingram double pulled two goals back for the hosts prior to the interval, meaning Essex had to withstand pressure from the home side to hold on for a first win in Norfolk since 2003.
That was despite being reduced to 10 men in the latter stages after George O’Connor received a second caution.
The win sealed second place for Essex - behind champions Suffolk - in this season’s East Anglian Counties Championship.
And it’s a fifth runners-up spot in six seasons for Essex, who continue to fall agonisingly short of a first title since 2004.
Essex will look to finally go one better in 2016/17, and will be able to call on the services of Aromolaran once more.
Having also featured for the under-16s last season, the Thurrock youngster received his county cap for 10 appearances following a game in which he had proved to be a real thorn in the opposition’s side.
It was his fine, skilful run which tempted a foul from Norfolk skipper Matthew Cook on 20 minutes and Afolabi Anderson coolly despatched the resulting penalty to hand Essex the lead.
Moments later, Anderson forced a good save from Norfolk goalkeeper Tom Wright and Hornchurch’s Matthew Bentley steered the rebound inches over the top.
Essex were suddenly dominant and Bentley arrowed a free kick narrowly wide before a good move saw the offside flag deny Aromolaran, who almost benefited from a well-timed assist by Lewis Jaggs.
The visitors made it 2-0 on 35 minutes, though, when Aromolaran strode forward and found the target with an excellent finish from 25 yards.
And it was swiftly 3-0 just three minutes later, with Anderson finding Max Harbrow who cut the ball back for Bentley to drill into the far bottom corner from 15 yards.
Despite the visitors enjoying a good spell, Norfolk hit back in the lead-up to half time as Ingram made it 3-1 on 42 minutes with a firm finish beyond Essex ‘keeper James Alborough.
Then, on the stroke of the interval, Ingram added a second, picking up a loose ball from an Alborough save and rifling home.
Essex looked to get back on the front foot after the restart as Wright made a decent save to deny Anderson, but the hosts sought a leveller and grew into the game.
A slip in the Essex defence let in Ingram and the ball found its way to Lewis Edwards, who fired wide, and dangerman Ingram soon threatened again, but his fierce shot was held well by Alborough.
Ingram then forced his way through on goal, meeting Alborough who raced off his line to smother at the forward’s feet.
The next passage was a real let-off for Essex as the ball was bundled towards goal, with Harbrow hooking off the line in the nick of time.
Ingram was in the thick of the action for the hosts again, testing Alborough before teeing-up Callum Olpin, who also brought an expert stop from the Essex custodian.
As Norfolk continued to press, a huge throw-in from Ryan Fuller saw Alborough brilliantly deny Ingram from point blank range and Essex were then forced to play out the final six minutes a player short as O’Connor was dismissed for his second booking.
They held firm, although Norfolk went close when their last chance saw the outstretched Fuller just unable to convert Lewis Edwards’ teasing left-wing cross at the far post.
Essex: James Alborough (Brentwood Town), Max Harbrow (Brentwood Town), Oliver Hanlon (Tilbury), Lewis Jaggs (Tilbury), Mwetsi Matangi (Chelmsford City), George O’Connor (Hornchurch), Toby Aromolaran (Thurrock), Jamie Price (Tilbury), Afolabi Anderson (Thurrock), Matthew Bentley (Hornchurch), Tarryn Allarakhia (Maldon & Tiptree). Substitutes (repeated): Tom Dance (Hullbridge Sports), Jake Chaplin (Aveley), Amar Lewis (Chelmsford City).