U14s Suffer First League Defeat
By Ben Snook
A crisp, but sunny Sunday morning brought the visit of last season’s League 'A' winners, East Grinstead. This top of the table clash brought 1st v 2nd place and the game kicked off after both teams paid their respects to former Oakwood chairman and president, Alf Bridges, with a minutes applause. Alf, who was a huge figure at Oakwood, sadly passed away this week and everyone from the under 14 side passes on their condolences to his family and friends.
The game kicked off with Oakwood seemingly still asleep - too many 2am Fortnite finishes on the Xbox the night before no doubt to blame!
In only the 5th minute, East Grinstead's constant pressure paid dividends and a lovely cross from the right hand side found their striker who sent a half volley into the top corner, 0-1. And in the 6th minute, it went from bad to worse, with Oakwood struggling to clear their lines, the ball dropped to an East Grinstead player who slotted the ball in the bottom left corner, 0-2.
The pressure was constant until the 15 minute mark, when Oakwood finally rose from their slumbers and started to string a few passes together. A lovely move from defence, through midfield released Kaiden Hummerston who just dragged his shot wide but he was not to be denied for long and, in the 19th minute, he was put through from our throw in and stroked the ball beyond the opposing keeper and Oakwood now had a foot in the game, 1-2.
Oakwood now had the upper hand and Farai Maswera won a free kick with which James hit the target, followed by close efforts from Liam Jones just pulling a shot wide and Kaiden Hummerston having another shot just the wrong side of the post but none of them finding the net.
It was not all Oakwood though, another dangerous cross from the East Grinstead right winger being cleared by Lee Truman and the exciting first half drew to a close with the match finely poised.
Just 14 seconds into the 2nd half, pressure from the East Grinstead front line gave them a chance to increase their lead which they duly did, a soft goal, with Oakwood starting the 2nd half in much the same vein as the 1st.
The game became a midfield battle for the next 10 minutes although one scramble resulted in Riley Snook being in the right place at the right time to clear off the line and George Edgley producing a fine save from an East Grinstead free kick.
From there, Oakwood started to dominate, with East Grinstead's manager becoming particularly vocal towards the match officials whenever a decision went against them. This attitude seemed to flow through to the East Grinstead players, a marauding run down the left hand side from Finlay Sturgeon left the right back for dead, who responded with a filthy, chopping challenge that he was lucky not to receive a yellow card for. From the resulting free-kick, Morgan whipped in a delicious ball which eluded everyone and snuck in at the back post in the 54th minute, 2-3.
3 minutes later and Oakwood were level. A wicked corner from James Archard to the back post found Kaiden Hummerston, who buried a header into corner for 3-3. The game was now end to end with both teams pushing for a winner. A fine save with his feet from George Edgley when the striker was one on one kept the scores level, but the game was getting niggly.
A few words and shoves were being handed out by the East Grinstead team, intimidation tactics that did not really work, and Oakwood seemed the more likely to get a winner. What happened next was the first in a succession of ugly incidents. With the ball firmly in both hands and looking to release Oakwood for a counter attack, George Edgley was viciously wiped out, knee high with Studs showing. How the East Grinstead player escaped a red, let alone a booking is anyone's guess, but sadly, that was the end of George Edgley's game as he was rushed to hospital.
Kaiden Hummerston bravely took the gloves and went in goal. With East Grinstead happy with the draw, they started to time waste. A fairly innocuous challenge led to their player going down, then getting up but being told to go down again by his manager as “their (Oakwood's) keeper stayed down for 20 minutes!!”. Disgraceful behaviour from their management team.
In the last minute, East Grinstead got a free kick on the edge of the box, which was rifled into the top corner. To be fair, it was a great free kick which no keeper would have stopped, 3-4.
The final whistle blew soon after for a defeat which left a sour taste in the mouth. As Oakwood's manager Mark Archard put it, "If East Grinstead really want to stoop as low as they did to win a football match, then maybe we should just have given them the points before the game".
Oakwood showed class throughout, there was no lowering to their standards and the whole team put in a performance, George Edgley and the backline of Ben Plumridge, Lee Truman, Riley Snook and Nathaniel Dryden were a great barrier again and started a lot of the play. The centre of the park of Luqman Makeem and player of the match Morgan Prill put in strong performances, the wingers James Archard, Faria Maswera and Finlay Sturgeon looked menacing and Kaiden Hummerston and Liam Jones up top showed their class as always.
Oakwood can be proud of their performance and discipline, with maybe just starting each half slowly costing us in the end.
Next week sees the visit of Westerham Reds, where Oakwood must strive to put this weeks disappointment behind them to get back to winning ways.