The Men’s Under-18s travelled north on Thursday evening to take on Redhill in the Preliminary Round of FA Youth Cup, following last week’s impressive victory against Three Bridges, writes Craig Stevens.
Dale Hurley made one enforced change for this game, goalkeeper Louie Nightingill came in for his debut in place of the unavailable Taylor Seymour.
Much like last week’s game, the young Rooks made a fast start here. In the opening eight minutes chances came and went for both George Mitchell-Phillips and Callum Jenkins –the latter again taking on the role of set piece specialist following last week’s two brilliant strikes. This time, however, he was only able to find the angle of post and crossbar from 18 yards after Brad Santos was brought down.
The hosts were also quick out of the blocks and their game plan was to counter attack the Rooks at every opportunity, not allowing them time to settle or find their rhythm in the opening period. On nine minutes, moments after Jenkins’ effort off the woodwork, Rhys Tucker, the Lobsters’ hardworking number 9, was played through one-on-one but was denied by an excellent save by Nightingill.The rebound fell kindly for Tucker and it looked as if he would open the scoring, but with the goal gaping he was only able to divert his follow up onto the crossbar.
This was a let off for the Rooks but their response was to go straight down the other end and open the scoring themselves to conclude a frantic opening ten minutes of the game. A ball in from the left by Shane Harper eventually founds it way out to James Beresford on the right-hand side. Beresford found Santos, who was just entering the penalty area – his first touch seemed to have let him down as the ball bounced up, but his second touch was to lash a finish into the net which went straight through the hosts’ keeper to make it 1-0. An instinctive finish from the wide man.
Redhill were not deterred and continued to press forward at almost every opportunity, the Rooks’ high defensive line giving them particular encouragement.
It was no surprise when the hosts did pull level on 18 minutes when a long, looping throw into the box was not dealt with by Jenkins, who seemed to misjudge the flight of the ball. The ball fell to Tucker and this time he made no mistake and slotted in the equaliser from 10 yards, giving Nightingill no chance for 1-1.
The Rooks continued to push forward to try and regain the lead; Mitchell-Phillips, Hewens and Santos all having half chances without troubling the home goalkeeper.
It was the hosts who fashioned the two most clear-cut openings approaching the halfway stage – on 37 minutes a simple header from five yards was disallowed for a clear offside and eight minutes later another free header at the backpost was headed just wide of Nightingill’s post.
With the instructions of Dale Hurley and the coaching staff ringing in their ears, the young Rooks took to the field for the second half hoping to put the first-half performance behind them and, on 52 minutes, excellent build-up play involving Freeman and Mitchell-Philips fashioned an opening for the latter, whose firm strike from 25 yards cannoned away off the crossbar.
The hosts were continuing to cause problems and ask questions of the visitors and on 55 minutes they should have gone ahead for the first time. A set piece was fired into the near post and the resulting header from the Redhill forward struck the post with Nightingill well beaten. The rebound, much like Tucker’s in the first half, fell nicely for Redhill but the advancing attacker could only strike the bar from five yards when it looked easier to score.
With that latest let off Hurley made an adjustment in midfield, with Conrad Honore making wayfor the returning bronzed Adonis Jay Popham, who slotted into the number ten role. Popham was involved ten minutes later when the Rooks created a further opening; excellent wing play from Hewens created a crossing opportunity and his excellent fizzed cross could only be touched over the bar by Popham from five yards, when it again looked easier to score.
Redhill were beginning to tire and Lewes fashioned four more opportunities to restore the lead; Santos, Mitchell-Phillips and Jenkins all going close.
It took an excellent bit of play by the impressive Beresford to finally make that breakthrough on 79 minutes. His driving run from the right committed three Redhill defenders, with the last catching him as he entered the penalty area for an easy decision for the referee who duly pointed to the spot. Penalty specialist Mitchell-Phillips stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way for his third goal in two appearances to make it 2-1.
The Rooks could nowsense the tie was in their hands with Redhill tiring further and pushed to increase their lead. A further two efforts; a header from Mitchell-Phillips on 80 minutes and a rasping 30-yard strike by Harper on 82 minutes both rattled the woodwork with the keeper beaten.
That was the end of the chances, with the young Rooks seeing out the remaining minutes much more comfortably than the previous 80.
Credit must go to Redhill and their coaching staff for an excellent performance during the 90 minutes; the young Rooks will not have many tougher tests this season and we wish the hosts all the best for this season.
This result now sets up a clash with Dorking Wanderers in the First Qualifying round, with the tie to be played on Thursday, 19th September at Wanderer’s Meadowbank Stadium, kick off at 7:45pm.
The squad will lookto put this performance behind them and turn their immediate thoughts to nex week when they face Burgess Hill Town FC at the Pan on Thursday 12th September in the Isthmian League Youth Cup. Your support will be most welcome.
Lewes:Nightingill, Beresford, Harper, Freeman, D’Arienzo, Allen©, Santos, Jenkins, Mitchell-Phillips, Honore (Popham), Hewens (Maguire)
Subs not used: Whitmore, Fernandes, Beaconsfield
MOM: James Beresford