U14s overcome the Nuts & Bolts
By Jim Rowe
Excellent performance despite squad of only twelve
Angels faced Ashford at the Homelands stadium on Sunday, the first time the teams have played each other this season. Angels missing Toby Kent and Toby Lansdowne so only managing a squad of 12.
Ashford started off strongly enjoying the best of the early possession, both teams looking to knock the ball around on the excellent pitch. Angels have started with the same back four now for the last 3 games, Balcombe and Murphy starting to establish a great partnership at centre back, Austin and Smith at left and right back with Nat Gibb in goal who has been on top form all season.
The opening 20 minutes of football from both sides was a pleasure to watch, Ashford forcing a number of smart saves from Gibb and his handling from corners was superb. Gibb also starting off attacks quickly with excellent short distribution. Smith and Austin trying to start of play when they could but Ashford closing down very quickly. The midfield of Hermitage, Tyrie, Wilkins and Wates working very hard to close down and keeping some good possession. Billy Kent and Howie were playing up top and had started to stretch the Ashford defence, some fine play from Wates down the right hand side who was putting some dangerous balls into the box.
Both teams showed some wonderful passing moves but the opener came from a corner, Ashford failing to clear and the ball being put back into the box, Wates with a great flick and Hermitage with an overhead kick to open the scoring. Angels had their heads up Wilkins was everywhere and some good interchange lead to Kent being sent through who smashed his shot towards the top corner but the Ashford keeper pulled off a wonder save to tip onto the bar. Raffelt had now come on for Tyrie after a head injury. Raffelt slotted in behind Kent and Howie dropped back in midfield. Angels gave everything first half, Ashford looking for the equaliser but some fantastic defending from the back four and Gibb made sure Angels came in at half time in front.
Half time and Angels 1-0 up they had given everything. The boys knew the first 15 would be important and again defended brilliantly, Ashford had real pace down the left hand side and Smith made a couple of unbelievable tackles thwarting attacks. Murphy and Balcombe reading everything in behind fullbacks brilliantly. Gibbs starting position in goal was exemplary sweeping up anything played in behind.
Wilkins and Howie continued to buzz in the middle and Raffelt and Kent were combining very well up front both playing off each other. Kent continued to be a thorn in the Ashford defence chasing everything down. The second goal coming midway through the half a lovely ball from Raffelt to Kent lead to him slotting away superbly to give the Angels some breathing space and go 2-0 up. Angels somehow managed to keep up their fitness levels from the first half Wilkins in particular covering every blade and Howie dominating the tackles. The third goal arrived shortly after another great passing movement leaving Hermitage with a clever pass to Kent who rounded the keeper to slot away. Ashford continued to press for a goal but Gibb and his defence wanted that third clean sheet in a row! Murphy and Austin both clearing off the line. Kent then broke clear through on goal again looking for the hatrick but was brought down right on the edge of the box. Up stepped Howie for the free kick and he brought out a brilliant save from the keeper, who then pulled off a point blank save from Kent from the rebound.
Ashford then losing a man for a 2nd yellow for the last period allowed Angels to see out the final period safely. It was a fantastic game of football both sides playing football the way it should be played.
Team Gibb, Smith, Murphy, Balcombe, Austin, Hermitage, Tyrie, Wilkins, Wates, Howie, Kent B, Raffelt
Angels have no game Easter week and then are at home for the return against Ashford on the 7th April.