At the end of and hot and sunny Sunday filled with football it was time for the Kent Reliance Under 18 Kent Reliance Final, it was K Sports who edged Hollands and Blair after a penalty shoot-out.
The third Kent Final of a Scorching Sunday sadly cooled as the game went on, as a fascinating battle between two teams developed into the early evening. It was Blair who took the lead courtesy of an amazing own goal from K’s Thomas Goodayle. He tried to clear his lines from a corner but only succeeded in sending the ball high into the air and as it was allowed to bounce it took a truly ridiculous backward bounce and flew over the keeper who was under serious pressure. Incredibly, Goodayle had redeemed himself within minutes as he played a sensation fifty-yard pass into the stride of George Robinson who gloriously drove the ball into the bottom corner to equalise.
The game couldn’t be decided in 90 or 120 minutes and so it took penalties to decide and although K’s missed their first kick, they took advantage of two Blair misses before Goodayle drilled home the decisive kick to seal K Sports triumph, which left Coach Alan Greenwood very happy when he spoke to KSN after the game.
“We didn’t stop all the way through and we were desperately unlucky to go behind. The boy’s heads went for around five seconds and they went again. The conditions didn’t help – the pitch was rock hard, and we finished with five subs who couldn’t walk let alone want to go back on which shows just how hard it was for both teams! We’re trying to develop the club through the 16s and the 18s into the first team and this is a massive day for us – I thought they played well but we just had too much
For Blair, reserve team boss Darren Blackburn admitted it wasn’t their day. Talking to KSN, he said, “The boys have put a real shift in all season and were probably favourites to win the game, but I think they felt the pressure first half especially. They left everything out there in those conditions – two teams with the same formations – classic Cup Final and I think the whole game really lacked much creativity. It’s not nice to lose a Final like that, but both teams have a lot of good young talent and whilst it is good for them to learn to win, learning to lose is also part of the journey and that’s the part that we’ve got today!”
Overall the game become more and more tactical as it went on with two wonderfully matched sides straining at the leash, but sadly neither seemed to be able as two well marshalled defences and hard-working midfields took control. Both sides created an early half chance as first K’s Beau Landau’s header had Blair keeper Mark Sitton furiously back pedalling to superbly palm the ball over the bar whilst at the other end an almighty scramble somehow Henry Lovering’s goal stayed intact. A corner that was nodded down by Damian Barley had players from both sides desperate for a clean contact only for bounces and bobbles and ricochets to send the ball around the box like a pinball before it apologetically rolled behind the goal.
Then came the two contrasting moments that were the undoubted highlights as first Goodayle’s amazing sliced clearance went it his own net before moments later the same player played the pass of the game to find Robinson and the scores were level.
They stayed that way through an increasingly frustrating second period where both sides completely cancelled each other out.
Blair’s cause wasn’t helped going into extra time when skipper Craig Cooley was shown a second yellow card for a poor challenge, but the Gillingham side held on as the extra period duly ran out and it was down to penalties.
K Sports went first and Sitton saved well from Freddie Entwistle which “allowed” Teddy Nelson to temporarily put Blair in front. Sadly, for them, they missed their next two and after K scored three in a row – Sitton desperately unlucky with the third (4th overall) as he got a hand to it, but the ball crossed the line via the left post. Shaun McLoughlin kept Blair in the shootout but when Robinson drove the ball beyond Sitton, the Cup was heading back to Aylesford.
HOLLANDS & BLAIR – Mark Sitton, Dillon Cole, Dominic Emptage, Joe Jarvis, Emilson Vathi, Teddy Nelson, Jordan Fraser, Anthony Jeffers, Ethan Stewart, Craig Cooley
Subs – Shaun McLoughlin, Bruno Rodrigues, Anshuman Thapa, Jack Bramwell, Archie Miller
K SPORTS – Henry Lovering, Ben Walker, Oliver Debnam, Callum Bonnett. Thomas Goodayle, Damian Barley, Freddie Entwhistle, Beau Landau, Alfie Newland, George Robinson, James Geear
Subs – Jack Houghton, Harry Morgan, Bevan Donohoe, Alfie Guy, Micky Mantle
Referee – Josh Smith
Assistants – Andy Brown, David Oasgood and Andrei Neda