St Peter FC U18’s battle to another thrilling victory in the Kent FA County Youth Cup beating Faversham Town FC 1-0 in the second round on a rain sodden pitch.

After travelling to Gatwick on Sunday morning and whilst en-route to Faversham, the St Peter FC U18 squad received a call to say that 24 hours of continuous rainfall had placed the game in doubt. Understanding the cost/logistical pressures, the Faversham club would do everything possible to enable the game to be played but the referee has the final say and planned to inspect the pitch at noon.

Closure of the M23, related to surface water and the resultant cross country diversion meant a late arrival for the warm up and a 12:30 KO. The game was re scheduled for 1pm KO if it received clearance from the referee.  15 minutes after the teams arrival at 12:25pm the game was given a ‘green light’ to proceed just 20 minutes before KO.

Thanks to the hard work of the groundsman the game was underway at the re-scheduled 1pm. The pitch was just playable but very wet indeed. Faversham Town FC came out of the blocks the quicker of the two sides and had most of the possession in the first 10 minutes without troubling Harry Gladdish in the St Peter goal. It was clear that the teams had to adapt to the conditions as the heavy conditions underfoot and the high winds, would not allow St Peter to play their normal fast flowing passing game. St Peter gradually adapted to the style that was likely to be effective, giving the opposition little time on the ball and winning back possession as swiftly as possible.

Faversham were looking dangerous down their left flank and some skilful play resulted in Harry Gladdish making a great save from their wide player. St Peter’s then started to take control of the midfield with James Murphy, Lewis Steel and Gillingham FC trialist Harry Scott working hard and playing the ball around confidently. Finn Hougardy playing wide right, looked particularly dangerous, taking on and beating his marker on a number of occasions but was unable to deliver the accurate, pinpoint final pass. St Peter created 3/4 good opportunities to take the lead but couldn’t convert and it was beginning to look as if the conditions were having a major effect.

Around the 30 minute mark Harry Scott made a sensational run from inside his own half going past five players taking him into the opposition penalty area before slipping the ball to striker Sam Harvey who found the space to get a fierce shot away  but unfortunately straight at the keeper. With St Peter now dominating possession Faversham were still

looking dangerous on the counter attack but were finding it difficult to create many opportunities, due to the dominance of St Peter’s back four, David Highfield , Jake Stanton , Harry McManus and skipper Noah Risby who were commanding and looking in total control.

The 35th minute produced the key moment of the game,  a free kick awarded 10 yards inside the halfway line and 10yards in from the reds right hand touchline, saw dead-ball specialist Noah Risby vacate is left full back responsibilities to whip the ball in clearing all the players in the box to reach ‘man of the match’, centre back Harry McManus who had skilfully lost his marker, to open his body and side foot a volley to give the Faversham keeper no chance and give the Cross Keys  a precious 1-0 lead. The momentum was now with St Peter and they nearly snatched a second when a fierce Harvey shot was blocked on the line just before the half time whistle.

Half time: At just 1-0 the match was still wide open and it remained to be seen if the heavy state of the pitch would effect one side more than the other.

The briefing to the Jersey team was to prevent Faversham having time on the ball and to win back possession as swiftly as possible.

The Faversham Manager clearly had his team well motivated during half time and this together with some tactical changes and pushing more men forward seemed to change the complexion of the game. St Peter’s midfield were now finding it difficult to get hold of the ball. After 55 minutes the Faversham striker had a fierce shot which went narrowly wide and two minutes later their left full back had a strike which came back off the woodwork.

St Peter Manager Karl Benest and the coaching team had now figured how to counter the increased possession Faversham were enjoying and made some tactical changes of their own. Joel McKinley slotted into midfield and brought renewed energy to the task. Tom Proffitt did likewise playing wide left. The final scare for St Peter was around the 75th minute when Harry Gladdish made a great double save bravely diving to take the ball off the toes of the Faversham striker.  St Peter then had two real chances to add to their score when Ethan Hutchinson’s powerful shot from 5 yards was brilliantly blocked on the line by the oppositions full back and Tom Proffitt over hit his final touch after brilliantly going past two defenders down the left flank.

The final whistle went with the score 1-0 to St Peter’s the same result as last season’s semi- final score-line in May of this year.

Although the heavy surface changed the nature of the game it was a first class performance by both sides to put on such an exciting and enthralling encounter.  In summary this was a committed and battling performance by the St Peter team who thoroughly deserved to win the game. Remarkably this was their 11th win in 12th games in the Kent FA County Youth Cup over two and a half seasons  most of them against some of the strongest youth teams in the South of England. The team now know their next opponents will be Sheppey United in the last 16 of the tournament playing for a place in the Quarter Final. Sheppey play in the same Kent Premier Youth league as Faversham but with a better league record at the time of writing, having won 6 and drawn one of the 9 match’s to-date. The date for this fixture has still to be agreed.

Man of the Match: Harry MacManus for his brilliant all round performance and his match winning goal.

Manager Karl Benest was delighted.

”The player’s commitment and performance was outstanding. We knew that it would be hard to replicate last season’s performances, when we won the competition. Nine of those players have moved on to play senior football but this squad has stepped into their shoes.

The hard work we have put into our training sessions is beginning to present us with another talented group of players and if we all continue to work hard who knows where it can take us.

The first step was to ensure we didn’t go out of the competition at an early stage, we are now in the 3rd round and looking forward to confronting the next challenge at the end of November”

Team: Harry Gladdish: David Highfield, Noah Risby, Jacob Stanton, Harry McManus: James Murphy, Lewis Steel, Harry Scott, Ethan Hutchinson, Finn Hougardy, Sam Harvey.

Subs (all played) Joel McKinley, Tom Proffitt, Calvin Atunes, Leo Barker.

Coaching team: Manager: Karl Benest. Coaches: Jody Byrne and Joe Byrne

12th November 21