Essex under-18s edged out
PUBLISHED: 12:30 10 March 2017
Essex 2 Bedfordshire 3
Essex under-18s need wins from their last two East Anglian Championship fixtures, plus help from elsewhere, to stand a chance of a play-off spot after a late flurry of goals hit their title hopes at Bridge Avenue last night.
The game looked to be petering towards a goalless stalemate until Bedfordshire’s Sam Gibson found himself in yards of space to chip his county ahead on 71 minutes.
And Essex were 3-0 down within five minutes as Lawrence Burton and Matt Fraser added further goals, before the hosts rallied in the dying minutes and saw Toby Aromolaran and Timi Ogunuende hit the net.
In what had previously been a pretty settled squad, there were six debuts in the Essex side as Danny Hurford, Harry Smith, Jed Smith, Neil Maclean, Jake Wiggins and Ogunuende came in for their first appearances.
As a result it was, perhaps, no surprise that Essex took time to find their rhythm in the first half, despite enjoying much of the early possession.
The home side’s first effort on goal, on 14 minutes, saw Tom Dance fire wide after some good build-up play.
Harry Smith’s low shot then deflected just wide when Tyler Richardson’s corner wasn’t fully cleared and Hurford picked out Jed Smith, who flashed a shot just wide.
Bedfordshire’s first opportunities materialised just after the break, as Elliott Beevor created an opening for himself at the near post, but Essex goalkeeper Jai Lewis made a good stop.
Essex skipper Aromolaran then broke into the area and drilled over the top, while Dance also rattled the crossbar with a left-wing cross, and Essex’s Wiggins and Bedfordshire’s Gibson exchanged opportunities prior to the away side breaking the deadlock when Gibson found himself in space and chipped over Lewis.
The lead was doubled two minutes later as Gibson fed Burton and he neatly turned and fired a low drive beneath Lewis.
And it was 3-0 on 76 minutes as a good move was finished off by Fraser, who took the ball around Lewis and tapped home.
Essex were left a little shellshocked by that triple whammy, but continued to search for an opening as Aromolaran turned inside the area, but saw his firm shot well held by Gould.
Aromolaran’s endeavour, on his 15th appearance for his county, pulled a goal back on 90 minutes as he finished well after a strong, twisting run.
And there was time for Essex to grab another goal two minutes into added time, with Ogunuende looping a header over Gould following Aromolaran’s blocked shot.
But there wasn’t enough time to stage a dramatic comeback and Essex cannot afford any more slip-ups, while also needing other results to go in their favour, if they are to progress.
Essex: Jai Lewis (Rowhedge/Brightlingsea Regent), Tyler Richardson (Shenfield School), Tom Dance (Hullbridge Sports), Reece Latimer (Hullbridge Sports), Kieran Gore (Thurrock), Harry Hart (Hullbridge Sports), Danny Hurford (Concord Rangers), Toby Aromolaran (Tilbury), Harry Smith (Redbridge), Jed Smith (Concord Rangers), Max Watters (Thurrock). Substitutes (repeated): Timi Ogunuende (Thurrock), Neil Maclean (Old Southendian), Jake Wiggins (Brentwood Town).