The U16's Kent Youth League team travelled to play Maidstone United on Tuesday evening at the fabulous Gallagher Stadium. We have already played the Stones twice this season and honours were even. Our hosts have a Cup final to play this weekend, so their players were looking for a win to boost their confidence and to gain a place in the starting line up.
This was clearly a mouth watering game and representatives from Ebbsfleet FC, Tonbridge Angels FC and the Kent FA had attended to watch the game. The game started with both teams battling hard to control possession and the pace of the game. The Stones adapted quickly to the slick 4G pitch and the way that the ball reacted on the artificial surface.
The Oaks started a little nervously, with the midfield and defence being too close together, thus players were getting in each other’s way. However they were making good progress down both channels and Cooper was always an outlet down our left, giving the Maidstone defence a torrid time.
Suddenly on the 14th minute, Cooper was played the ball down the left flank. He ran half the length of the pitch, before passing the ball to McCarthy. Our striker McCarthy then ghosted past two defenders before unleashing a thunderous right footed shot, which looked destined for the top left hand corner of our opponent’s net. However the Stones goalkeeper pulled off a marvellous full length save, to thwart which looked like a certain goal.
The majority of the game was played in the centre of the park, with both teams being unable to exert total dominance. However the Oaks were getting some shots off from distance and there constant pressure, was forcing our opponents back into their half. Then on the 35th minute our centre back Rumbol had to be replaced due to a leg injury. This caused a little indecisiveness as Toby had to reconfigure his team, which our opponents attempted to exploit for the final minutes of the half.
However they only got one shot on our goal, which was safely collected by our goal keeper Earls. The Oaks had, had the better chances in the first half and although the Stones had played well; they were unable to breach our defence and get a shot off on target. The Stones kept attempting to put the ball over our defence for their speedy strikers to latch onto, but this was proving fruitless.
The second half started with the Stones playing at a higher tempo and attempting to move the ball around more quickly. Our opponents were enjoying a lot of possession and Toby’s boys learnt that they would have to keep focused and break up play when we could. They defended superbly as a unit and the Stones became frustrated, that with all of their excellent play; that they could not get a meaningful shot on goal. Earls had dealt with all of their long balls with excellent handling and positioning.
This was the first time this season, that we had to defend for long periods and we struggled aerially in midfield; where normally we are so strong. However it was real end to end play, with both teams being unable to make that final pass or have a clear shot on goal. Yet our boys believed that we could win this game, when everyone had thought it was to be a goal less draw. The Oaks then began holding onto the ball more and creating more chances up front. The boys kept switching play and looked for the one opportunity that could win this game.
After a Maidstone attack had failed, Earls quickly spotted McCarthy and kicked the ball long, before our opponents could get back in position. McCarthy flicked the ball onto Cooper, who had left the last defender for dead. Cooper was then faced with the goal keeper, who was not going to be easily beaten. However Cooper curled the ball around him. We all watched in anticipation as the ball hit the far post and rolled along the goal line, before spinning into the back of the net. 0-1
The official linesman timed the goal at 79 minutes and 36 seconds. However the Oaks had to endure a further five minutes of extra time, before a cheer that I am sure was heard on the run way at Biggin Hill airport. The Oaks had won by a single goal and had yet again kept a clean sheet. This was a total team performance and every boy can be proud of his contribution.
This was a good advert for the Kent Youth League and a great game between two footballing sides. We wish Maidstone FC good luck for the weekend and we look forward to our next game.