On Tuesday evening, the U16's KYL team welcomed Ebbsfleet United FC to Greatness Park, where the Oaks have only been beaten once in the league. Toby had prepared his boys for this game with a recent training session centred on defending against set plays and attacking as a unit. However, our opponents are a top side and are undefeated in their last four games, against some of the top teams in the Central Division.
The Oaks went to work straight from kick off and our opponents had to defend deep in order to keep our boys from looking to break the deadlock. Strachan was in fine form and ghosted past a couple of tackles, before switching play to Cooper who was marauding down our right wing. Cooper, who was to give Ebbsfleet's left back a torrid evening, twisted him inside and out before hitting a dipping shot that clipped our opponent's cross bar and went out for a goal kick.
Suddenly on the 10th minute, Ebbsfleet were awarded a corner. It appeared that everyone was marked, but our opponents winger steered his header goal bound and into our net against the run of play. 0-1
On the 23rd minute, Cooper ran three quarters of the length of the pitch and cut the ball back to Chambers, whose delicate chip sailed just over our opponent's cross bar.
Cooper continued to torment the Ebbsfleet defence. Then on the 26th minute, Watkins won the ball in the centre of midfield. He rode two big challenges, before dispatching the ball to Cooper. Our right winger outpaced his counterpart before cutting the ball back to Watkins. Charlie’s first time shot, thundered over our opponent’s goalkeeper and into their goal for a well-earned equaliser. 1-1
Then on the 40th minute, our opponents mounted an attack. A defensive clearance hit an attacker and the ball was diverted back into our penalty area. Wilkins sprinted off of his line and gathered the ball bravely at the feet of an Ebbsfleet striker, who must have thought that his luck was in.
The Oaks had dominated the first 40 minutes with more possession and with the better attempts on goal. We had limited our opponents to a single shot on goal but they had been clinical and had scored with that effort. This game was to be a great advert for the Kent Youth League and why the best players around are attracted to this league.
I thought that I would pay tribute to the mums and family members who ensure that our boys are so well turned-out in training and matches. In particular, I would like to mention Sam Wilkins the official timekeeper for the Oaks and Tracy Cooper who could easily perform the duties of the fourth referee. I would also like to mention Sylvanna Earls the wife of local TV and radio celebrity Danny Earls. She ensured that her son Harry arrived and played representative football prior to tonight’s game.
The second half commenced with our opponents enjoying a lot of possession but they were unable to penetrate our defence and their shots were all off target. On the 60th minute, Earls was called upon to replace Wilkins in goal who appeared to be struggling with a thigh injury. McCarthy was running himself into the ground looking for goals to enhance his goal tally or to assist his colleagues. The boys in midfield - namely Hathway, Burden, Watkins, Chambers, Moon and McMenimen - all played their part in this very thrilling game.
On the 71st minute, Cooper delivered a corner which was driven low and which eluded our opponent's defence. Watkins, who was standing on the far post, was the first to react and he slotted the ball home to put the Oaks ahead. 2-1
Ebbsfleet then threw everything at the Oaks. They played four up front with three in midfield and three in defence, in order to get something from the game. However, our defence was proving hard to beat and we restricted our opponents to long-range speculative shots. Toby used the whole of his team to good effect to ensure that the points remained at Greatness Park.
The Oaks were disappointed to concede from a set piece. However, Travers and Baillie worked tirelessly to prevent our opponent’s wingers making any crosses and Rumbol and Wolfe ensured that their strikers did not profit from coming through the centre. Congratulations to Rumbol on his call up to the U18's Kent squad and we wish him well. Also, congratulations go to Earls who was called up to play for the U18's representative team and Cooper who played in the U16's Kent team.