Sunday 22nd April 2012, Weston Homes Community Stadium, Kick-Off 2:00pm, FA County Youth Cup Final.
Essex’s Under-18 Representative Team have won The FA County Youth Cup for the first time since 1950 after a pulsating 4-2 extra time triumph over West Riding at Colchester United’s Weston Homes Community Stadium.
Graham Hall’s side raced into a two-goal lead within five minutes thanks to strikes from Ben Sartain and Dan Walshe before being steadily pegged back. Joshua Eastwood initially reduced the arrears inside the opening quarter-of-an-hour and Kayden Jackson equalised on the hour mark, but substitute Callum Ibe’s introduction proved decisive as he netted in both periods of the additional thirty minutes to seal the success.
“We were very aware of the history of the competition, but we knew we had a good squad at the start of the year. The players have come together as we’ve gone through each round and played more games but, of course, anything can happen in cup games. Having reached the final, we thought we’d be in with a chance if we played anywhere near our best. I thought we did play well today and I thought we were deserving winners,” commented Hall.
Essex could not have made a better start to the match, and they were ahead after just three minutes when a ball from the back split West Riding's defence and Sartain’s near post drive bounced off one upright before creeping inside the other.
Even better was to follow a mere two minutes later as neat play developed down the left flank and the ball was squared inside toWalshe, who couldn't fail to make it 2-0 from a few yards out.
However, West Riding’s deficit was swiftly halved in a rip-roaring start as Thackley’s Eastwood found his range. Having moments earlier carved a shot inches wide via a deflection from the edge of the box, he pinged a pearler into the top corner from almost exactly the same blade of grass.
That strike made for a fascinating contest with the tidy, passing football being played befitting of a national final. On the half-hour, Jackson galloped through for the visitors, but skipper Nathan Bertram-Cooper chased him back and averted the danger. Four minutes later, Essex had claims for a penalty shout waved away after Dan Jones went to ground. Play continued and Bertram-Cooper hit over from ten yards out.
It looked as though the next goal may be crucial, and it was West Riding who nabbed it as Ryan Hall snuck in from the right on the hour. When his shot was parried upwards, Jackson bundled over the line to level.
Amidst a tense atmosphere and, with the game on a knife edge at the midway stage of the second half, Hall replaced Tom Richardson with Ibe. The forward breathed new life into Essex’s play and, soon after the switch, Walshe tottered and struck wide from the edge of the box.
With twelve minutes remaining, Walshe had a shot saved at point-blank range by goalkeeper Paul Hagreen before Jackson twice went close at the other end, the second effort side-volleyed inches wide of the upright.
A late Ibe shot from the edge of the box squirmed low and wide in an attempt that represented the final opportunity of the regulation ninety minutes, although Hall insisted that his squad didn’t feel any added anxiety: “There wasn’t any pressure on us in terms of having not won the cup for 62 years. I think it was just nice to be in the final and enjoy the occasion and we certainly have done,” he said.
It took just two minutes after the restart for Essex to edge back in front. Bertram-Cooper pressured ‘keeper Hagreen from a deep dead ball and Ibe picked up the pieces from close range before celebrating with an extrovert, Nani-type somersault celebration.
Jones could have sealed it when Ibe slipped him through but his shot was scuffed wide shortly after the interval, and Ibe himself could have netted with the clock running down, only to unselfishly attempt to find a team-mate. The chance slipped by.
With just four minutes left, two subs combined to wrap up the victory as David Miller squared across the face from the goal line on the right so Ibe could complete his brace from close range.
Essex goalie Tim Pitman dissolved any threat of a comeback with a supreme, one-handed diving save in the final minute, allowing the county to collect the silverware for the first time in 62 years.
“It makes me feel very proud,” beamed Hall. “I know the squad were looking forward to playing in this competition and this final and they wanted to do well. I’m glad we’ve been able to keep it going through the rounds and get to this stage and do ourselves proud. It’s a fantastic day for everyone concerned.”
“The boys will enjoy the day, enjoy the season and it will be something that they’ll treasure for many years to come. It was euphoric in the dressing room afterwards. We had to bring them down to earth a little bit because there’s always another side and West Riding have done well to reach the final, but we’ll enjoy it and there’s some broad smiles in our squad and rightly so. We’ve done the county proud,” he declared.
Essex: Tim Pitman (Brentwood Town), Jack Shepherd (Billericay Town), Richard Hall (Billericay Town), Nathan Bertram-Cooper (Redbridge), Tom Vickers (Billericay Town), Albert Levett (Canvey Island), Ben Sartain (Great Wakering Rovers) (David Miller [Brentwood Town], 107), Tom Richardson (Manford Way) (Callum Ibe [Redbridge], 68), Dan Jones (Redbridge), Dan Walshe (Thurrock), Robbie Norris (Redbridge). Unused Substitutes: Joe Fowler (Maldon & Tiptree), Rob Lee (Thurstable College), Chris Harris (Heybridge Swifts).
West Riding: Paul Hasgreen (Brighouse Town), Freddie Swales (Selby Town), Harrison Bolton (Yorkshire Amateur), Joshua Eastwood (Thackley) (Alex McGurk [East End Park], 96), Aston Webster (Yorkshire Amateur), Ryan Hall (Moldgreen AFC) (Harrison McPhee [Farsley AFC], 86), Derry Robson (Selby Town), Luke Robinson (Harrogate Town), Lewis Harris (Halifax Irish), Aodhan Brownlie (Farsley AFC) (Dale Feather [Silsden AFC], 68), Kayden Jackson (Fields and Westwood). Unused Substitutes: Declan Flowers (Farsley AFC), Joe Hitch (Ossett).
Bookings: Essex: Shepherd (27, foul). West Riding: Robson (90+4, foul), Bolton (113, dissent).
Referee: Tim Robinson (Sussex).
Assistant Referees: David Avent (Northamptonshire) and Constantine Hatzidakis (Kent).
Fourth Official: Charles Breakspear (Surrey).