Young Cooks dazzle against the Diamonds.
Monday 4th October 2021
NORTHANTS F.A DAVID JOYCE U18 CUP-1ST ROUND
AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS U18 (0) 1 COGENHOE UNITED U18 (1) 3
Gary Fletcher made one change to the starting line-up that beat Biggleswade Town last Thursday with Archie Shaw coming in at centre-back in place of Bradley Burbidge with Ollie Sljivic taking the captain’s armband. New signing Tenea Simon came in on the bench along with Andis Vigants.
The game was scheduled to get underway at 8pm, but as the three officials didn’t actually start the long trek from the changing rooms to the artificial pitch until that time, we got underway five minutes late. Diamonds started the game at 100 miles an hour as they opted to dictate the pace and made for one of the most frenetic first halves I have ever seen with nobody having any time on the ball as they were often met by two opponents the moment they received it. The first shot of the game came on nine minutes when Lucas Moore hit one sweetly from the right corner of the box, but Kai Hanley was behind it all the way and took the ball cleanly. Manny Asante, who was superb throughout, battled to keep the ball against two defenders, slid the ball into the box for Freddie Shaw, but it skidded through on the wet plastic and the keeper was able to get there before the Cooks forward.
Moore managed to get himself a yard of space in the box as he took a pass in his stride, but great defending from James McGrath forced him go wider than he would have hoped and when he did try to shoot from a tight angle the Cooks’ defender blocked his effort with Hanley covering the near post behind him. Shad Reza played the ball into Luca Iaciofano’s feet on the edge of the box and as he turned he was bundled over by one of the two defenders on his back. It looked like Reza territory, but Iaciofano was having this one, although he hit it straight at the wall.
We came the closest to a goal so far when Yannis Hamilton hit a beauty from a few yards outside the box that had the keeper beaten, but the ball hit the face of the bar and Moore probably should have done better with the rebound, but his header looped into the arms of Hanley. Charlie McAuley hit a low shot from the corner of the box that the keeper saved comfortably after some good work on the right by Iaciofano. Five minutes from the break the deadlock was broken and it was the Cooks who were celebrating. A free-kick 35-yards out saw Diamonds set a token two-man wall assuming it was too far out for a shot, but Reza lined it up and hit a great effort that thudded against the post, but Sljivic reacted quickest inside the box on the right and fired a low angled-shot past the keeper to give the Cooks the lead.
A strange half with not too much football being played if I’m honest, but the Cooks knuckled down and matched the frantic pace set by Diamonds with the goal coming at the perfect time to make the half-time talk somewhat different for the two sets of coaches.
Half-time; Diamonds 0 Cooks 1
I don’t think there was any way that Diamonds could keep up that sort of tempo for the whole ninety minutes and the Cooks started the second half with a little more time on the ball and they made this pay almost immediately. McAuley robbed the right-back and cut inside to find Reza and he in turn set up Iaciofano in front of goal on the right and he stepped inside before rolling home the second from 6-yards out to open up a two-goal cushion with 46 minutes played.
Great play from Reza found McAuley and he tried to put Teddy clear, but a great interception saved the day for the Diamonds, then the impressive Reza played a great ball into Shaw in the box, but the keeper reacted well to come off his line and block his shot in the centre of the box. McAuley had a shot on the turn from just inside the box on the right deflect off a defender and go wide of the far post, before we saw the Cooks start to make changes to their line-up. Firstly Ben Hassan-Hussein came on for Reza, then Simon came on for his debut in place of Iaciofano.
Diamonds had to try to do something different if they were to get back into this game, but despite a little more of the possession now they struggled to create anything against resolute defending and good pressure in the midfield. Vigants replaced McAuley up top for Cogenhoe as we moved into the final 20 minutes, while a great challenge from Sljivic inside the box the box denied a chance for the home side. The final change saw Fletcher bring on Aiden Hawes for Josh Wootton who had been subject to a heavy challenge a couple of minutes earlier and was struggling a little after the foul.
With the game seemingly petering out, Diamonds threw a spanner in the works ten minutes from time when a long throw found its way to Sam Giddens in the centre of the box and he looped his header over the despairing reach of Hanley and just inside the far post. The home side were obviously raised by their goal, but Cogenhoe were resilient and tried to keep the ball in their opponents half as much as they could to see the game out, whilst defending their own half when they needed too. With 88 minutes on the clock Hawes made a great run through the middle and slipped it outside to Simon on his left and the debutant dinked a superb shot over the keeper and into the far corner the net. Great goal followed by a great double somersault before being swamped by his delighted teammates.
The referee blew bang on 90 minutes and Cogenhoe progressed to the 2nd round from this tricky away tie. It was a very different game to that we are used to with the U18s, especially in that first half where Diamonds gave us little space and time as they hassled, hurried and snapped at the ankles of any Cogenhoe player who had the ball. We matched them during that time though and bided our time until the chances came along and when they did we took them well. Second half was better to watch and far more comfortable for the Cooks as they had a little more time to play their normal passing game as the home side tired. As you would expect the Diamonds did put some pressure on us as the game went on, but apart from the goal we protected Kai Hanley really well during this time. Manny Asante was absolutely colossal today, covering every blade…sorry piece of plastic on the park making vital tackles all over the place and if there was a man-of-the-match he would get my nod. Good debut from Tenea Simon and a great goal to cap it off too.
Next up is another Monday night game as we head to Kempston Rovers in a week’s time.
1 = Kai Hanley
2 = Ollie Sljivic ©
3 = Elijah Noel
4 = Archie Shaw
5 = James McGrath
6 = Josh Wootton
7 = Luca Iaciofano
8 = Manny Asante
9 = Charlie McAuley
10 = Shad Reza
11 = Freddie Shaw
12 = Tenea Simon *(62-7)
14 = Kieran Ashman
15 = Aiden Hawes *(89-6)
16 = Ben Hassan-Hussein *(58-10)
17 = Andis Vigants
Referee; David Froom
Assts; Ben Bright & Kieron Hawthorn.