5th Successive Win for U14s
By Jim Rowe
Strong second half performance means victory at Phoenix Sports
Angels made the short trip up the M25 in a bid to reverse January’s home defeat against a tough Phoenix Sports outfit, who like Angels, were eying a top 2 finish in the KYL Central division. With skipper Joe Tyrie stranded over the Atlantic and Midfield maestro Jack Wilkins stranded on the M20, the visitors approached the game with only 11 players available; with Dan Wates also missing from the squad. Phoenix on the other hand were able to start the match with a full-strength squad of 14.
The Visitors improvised line up consisted of Gibb in goal, the now familiar back line of Smith, Austin, Balcombe and Murphy – Balcombe still carrying an injury from last weeks win over Ashford. Alex Raffelt came back into the side and began the match in a central midfield position next to David Howie. Toby Kent and Ben Hermitage both started the game in wide midfield positions behind a twin attacking threat of Lansdowne and Billy Kent.
Conditions were ideal and the smaller pitch looked to suit the home side’s neat passing and high pressing game as they started the stronger of the two teams. Angels were forced onto the back foot during the early exchanges as Phoenix swarmed the midfield and probed the Angels defence with a series of slick passing moves and possession football. At the other end, Kent and Lansdowne did their best to force errors from the Phoenix defenders as they looked to play out from the back. Toby Kent playing wide on the right, started very brightly and his inch perfect cross field pass to Lansdowne ended with a smart save from the home keeper. Shortly afterwards a long ball into the Angels half fell perfectly for danger man Joe Smith who managed to find space on the left-hand side of the Angels penalty area. His speculative effort deflected and looped over Gibb and into the back of the net, breaking the deadlock. Angels were behind for the first time in a match since February.
With half time approaching and still no sign of Wilkins, Phoenix managed to maintain their high energy game by bringing on fresh runners and throwing an extra man into midfield. The next 5 minutes proved crucial, Angels collectively began to click and stopped the relentless pressure from the home side. Howie began to get on top in the midfield and his pass into Billy Kent saw the front man combine with Lansdowne before beating 3 defenders with a dazzling piece of skill and blasting the ball into the far corner of the net. 1-1 and momentum now starting to go with the away team.
The second half began with Angels dominating the early possession. Every player had stepped up a level and the tide had turned. Wilkins now on the pitch, made an immediate impact. Hermitage and Austin on the left were now a major attacking threat, as were Kent and Smith on the right. Billy Kent was causing all sorts of problems for home defence and his trademark dribble set up Lansdowne who rifled in from 6 yards and put Angels ahead. Shortly after that, Howie found Lansdowne with a slide rule pass on the left hand side. Lansdowne found another gear as he ghosted past the full pack before pulling the trigger on a sensational left footed drive into the right hand corner….what a strike and it was 1-3 to the Angels.
Gibb was majestic in goal and also brave – needing treatment to a knee in the head after a clash with the Phoenix striker. In front of him Murphy and Balcombe were winning everything and finding outlets out wide to initiate break away attacks. With Phoenix a shadow of the side that began the match, Lansdowne capitalised on a defensive mistake to complete his hat-trick with an audacious back heel from 18 yards. Billy Kent was nearly decapitated by the goalkeeper in the final moments as he ran onto another Howie through ball…narrowly escaping without serious injury.
Another fine display from the young Angels. Resilience, heart and skill all came together for their 5th win in a row. Phoenix were at times dangerous and did well to exploit their numerical advantage early on. It’s a well- earned break next Sunday before we head into the final 3 games of the season with hopefully a full squad to pick from.
The U14s are currently in third position in the table and while Ebbsfleet Utd would appear to have the title sewn up, Angels could potentially overhaul Danson Sports and claim the runner up position - a fantastic achievement. Please click here for full Kent Youth League U14 Central table.