Liam Isaac’s first half goal proved decisive as a below-par Cooks beat Bedford Town at Compton Park.
Thursday 18th November 2021
NORTHANTS SENIOR YOUTH LEAGUE-SOUTH
COGENHOE UNITED U18 (1) 1 BEDFORD TOWN (YOUTH DEVELOPMENT) U18 (0) 0
The evening didn’t get off to the best of starts when the visitors turned up with blue shorts and socks, but after a quick discussion with the match officials, it was agreed that they could keep the shorts as long as the socks were different, so Martin headed for the store cupboard and the Eagles came out with a yellow, blue and orange ensemble that is unlikely to became the height of fashion this season. Will Sapwell returned in goal with starts for Aiden Hawes, Ben Hassan-Hussein and Liam Isaac as well and although James McGrath was named as starting, no. 16 Bradley Burbidge actually partnered skipper Nat Allam in the centre of the defence.
As expected the Cooks started out on the front foot and a decent Ollie Sljivic cross had to be headed behind for a corner, then Luca Iaciofano cut inside the box on the left and tried to find the far corner, but he sliced it a little and it didn’t trouble the keeper. Isaac saw a shot blocked from the edge of the box as we mounted some early pressure that saw us win three corners in the first four minutes of the game, then Matt Fletcher almost got onto a short backpass and would have been clear through if it hadn’t been for a great challenge a yard into the box. Isaac saw a volley go over from 20-yards. Hassan-Hussein cut in from the right and although the keeper initially fumbled his cross, he recovered well to claim the ball.
The first shot on target came after 22 minutes and it was Sapwell who dived to his right to save a low strike from the edge of the box. Fletcher played a low ball in from the right and Iaciofano turned and shot, but he put it the wrong side of the post. Fletcher made a good run that was equalled by the tackle as he got into the box just before Hassan-Hussein fired well over from outside the box. As we reached the half-hour mark we finally tested the Bedford keeper when Elijah Noel’s corner was met by a sweet half-volley from Iaciofano and the keeper made a very good save to keep it out, but on 33 minutes our possession paid off with the opening goal. Iaciofano laid the ball right to Fletcher who went past his man before going for goal from an angle. The ball hit the underside of the bar and fell to Liam Isaac eight yards out and he coolly placed his shot between the keeper and the covering defender to open his account for the club.
A quick break from the Eagles down our right saw a good ball played in for their striker, but Noel made a great challenge deep inside the box to clear the danger. Noel won a 50-50 in the middle of the Bedford half before playing the ball through to Isaac on the left of the box, but his shot across the keeper went wide of the far post and the Cooks went into half-time with a slender one goal lead.
Gary Fletcher made two changes at the break with Shad Reza and Archie Shaw replacing Iaciofano and Sljivic in direct positional swaps. Reza was quickly in the action as he saw his shot blocked just inside the box and then he went for a goal with a free-kick on the left and wasn’t too far over the top with his effort. Reza was then tripped on the left after beating his man and he took the free-kick himself, sending a curling effort towards the far post, but nobody managed to get their head to it and it went just the wide untouched. Fletcher’s run through the middle saw him lay it wide to Reza and he returned a great ball to Fletcher, but he hit his shot straight at the keeper from the centre of the box. The ball came back out to Reza who whipped in a cross that Fletcher couldn’t get his head to and as the ball was half-cleared, Isaac tried to hit it first time, but the awkward bounce in front of him made it difficult and he couldn’t get a clean connection.
Fletcher ran on to a through ball and was clearly pushed in the back on the edge of the area by the Bedford no.8 to allow his keeper to claim, but no foul was given, then moments later a similar scenario saw Fletcher give the 8 a push in the back that was penalised, with the Bedford player reacting and punching the Cooks player in the chest. The assistant referee flagged, but instead of digging out the red-card, the referee chose a paler colour and we carried on eleven-a-side.
Burbidge was replaced by Charlie McAuley just after the hour with the striker taking up position in the centre of the defence. Manny Asante made a good run before finding Fletcher on the edge of the area, but his first-time shot was blocked and our next change saw goalscorer Isaac given a rest with Kieran Ashman taking his place. The sub was fouled wide on the right and Reza sent the free-kick into the danger area, but the keeper caught it cleanly over the head of Asante on the edge of the 6-yard box. A Reza throw from the left picked on Asante in the middle and his turn and shot was heading just inside the far post, but a great save by the keeper kept the margin of deficit at just the one goal.
The points were far from safe though even though we still had the lion’s share of the play as Bedford were looking a little dangerous on their breaks and Sapwell was forced into action once more as he got down to save a low strike from the edge of the box, the good defending from McAuley saw him caught hard and late as he played the ball up field. This one could well have been a red card, but I feel it wasn’t malicious and Kevin Seckington took the yellow option again. Iaciofano returned to the action in place of Fletcher with eleven minutes remaining and he nearly made it two from Noel’s corner, but as he headed it from a close range his marker got a touch to take it behind for a corner. Noel sent it in again and Hassan-Hussein won it in the air, but didn’t trouble the keeper.
Iaciofano dispossessed a defender on the right side of the box, but a great recovery saw the actions reversed before he could shoot, but this time’s Noel’s in-swinging corner landed on the roof of the net. Reza tried to pick out Ashman’s run into the box, but despite a bit of a fumble, the keeper got their first and gathered the ball at the second attempt. Sapwell had to come off his line quickly and dive at a forward’s feet on the right of the box after a defensive slip almost opened us up. Isaac returned on 86 minutes as Hassan-Hussein made way. Noel played a short free-kick to Reza on the right and he cut inside before picking out Iaciofano on the edge of the box and he forced another good save out of the keeper and when the rebound fell to Isaac just inside the box, he could only put his volley over the bar.
Certainly not the flowing performances we have seen in recent games, but we had a majority of the play and deserved to take the three points when the final whistle blew. We didn’t look particularly sharp tonight and there were elements of thinking we only had to turn up to win, but Bedford closed and battled all game and Will Sapwell had to make a few saves that could have seen the Eagles snatch something from the game. With Irchester postponing next week’s game, we don’t take to the field again until the first Thursday of November where we will need to be fully back on our game as we travel to Bugbrooke.
1- Will Sapwell
2- Ollie Sljivic
3- Elijah Noel
4- Aiden Hawes
5- Nat Allam ©
16- Bradley Burbidge
7- Luca Iacofano
8- Manny Asante
9- Matt Fletcher
10- Ben Hassan-Hussein
11- Lee Isaac
12- Archie Shaw *(ht-2)
14- Shad Reza *(ht-7)
15- Charlie McAuley *(62-16)
6- James McGrath
17- Kieran Ashman *(65-11)
Referee; Kevin Seckington
Assts; Matthew Parry & Steve Hoare.