A superb performance in the second half saw the Kent FA U18 Rep Team overcome a 2-0 deficit to record a 5-2 victory against Essex in their South East Counties Youth Championship season opener.
This was the first taste of Representative Football for nearly two years for the Kent team following covid hit seasons as they travelled across the Bridge to face neighbours Essex FA at Aveley FC.
On a bright but chilly afternoon, it was the hosts who started the better with the impressive Kevin Kweik & Leur Hysaj causing the majority of the trouble for the Kent defence. Kent were finding it hard to get support to striker Jack Nelson as Essex controlled play for the first twenty minutes, and they duly took the lead in the 20th minute when Sid Walker curled home a fine finish from the edge of the box after a slick move from the hosts. Ten minutes later and the lead was doubled, Leur Hysaj was given too much time on the edge of the box and his angled drive found the bottom corner. Kent keeper Matt Larkin then kept his side in the match with a superb double save in the space of two minutes, first tipping over a dipping shot and then palming another effort round the post. With halftime looming Kent halved the deficit as Jamie Finlayson drilled a low effort beyond the Home keeper to get his side back in the match.
The second half began with Kent on the front foot keen to get the equaliser. Bleu Landau and George McIlroy began to exert some sustained pressure in the middle of the park which allowed Sam Archibald and Jeremiah Bamgbose to offer more support to Jack Nelson in attack. A triple substitution just past the hour mark from Kent added some fresh legs to the game and pushed Jayden Wilson into a more attacking role and it was Jayden who nearly drew Kent level as he broke clear only to see his shot well saved by Jake Anderson in the Essex goal. However, five minutes later and Kent did grab a deserved equaliser. Sam Archibald’s long ball saw Jack Nelson break the offside trap and he showed why he’s scored nearly 40 goals this season with a wonderfully curled effort into the far corner to score on his debut. Alfie Prior began to take charge in midfield as he brought energy and drive to the side, and with just under twenty minutes to go Kent took the lead, they were awarded a free kick around 20 yards out on the corner of the box and Reiss Skeen stepped up to curl home a delightful effort that went in fire the inside of the post. Two minutes later and Skeen repeated the trick, this time from fully 35 yards out, as he found the top corner with another free kick for what was a truly outstanding goal. A minute later and the points were wrapped up when Harry Lawrence, up from defence, dribbled through the hosts defence and slotted into the bottom corner. Jayden Wilson went close in stoppage time to adding a sixth but he saw his effort bounce back off the post. The remaining few minutes were well marshalled by Captain Michael Peate who alongside Thomas Wills were outstanding throughout the match, substitute Jensen Cromanty also did superb playing in an unfamiliar left back role on his debut coming off the bench.
Speaking after the match, Manager Matt Dixon said “The boys showed a tremendous spirit to fight back having been two goals behind, they didn’t let their heads drop and produced a fantastic second half display. I didn’t have to say much at haltime, they knew what was needed and they delivered a special performance in the second half. They should all be very proud of how well they played”.
Kent FA: Matt Larkin (Tonbridge Angels FC), Jayden Wilson (Ashford United FC), Harry Lawrence (Erith Town FC), Bleu Landau (Sheppey United FC), Michael Peate © (Sevenoaks Town FC), Thomas Wills (Dover Athletic FC), Sam Archibald (Bromley FC), Jamie Finlayson (Dover Athletic FC), Jack Nelson (Dover Athletic FC), George McIlroy (Whitstable Town FC), Jeremiah Bamgbose (Whitstable Town FC), Reiss Skeen (Sevenoaks Town FC), Jensen Cromanty (Metrogas FC), Alfie Prior (Whitstable Town FC).
Next Representative Football action is Sunday 13th February when the U18 team host Bedfordshire FA at Chatham Town FC, kick off is 3.00pm.