Friday, 7 November 2014


The under 18 sides of League Two Stevenage FC and Ryman Division One (North) Needham Market played out a tremendous game at The Lamex Stadium on Thursday evening. The 255 people present witnessed an action packed encounter in the FA Youth Cup First Round Proper that entertained from the very start to the final kick of the game.

Stevenage lined up with a 4-5-1/4-4-2 formation with Jamie Sylvester helped up front by Jack Storer, Nathan Kerr and Ben Kennedy who interchanged from centre midfield to attack at various stages of the game.

Needham played 3-5-1-1 with full backs Deryn Clarke and Ragnar Callan pushing on from defence into the five man midfield. Ace Howell (what a great name!) roamed in between midfield and striker Ryan Rampley.

It couldn't of got any better for the home side in the opening minute of the game as Brandon Carney got in down the left hand side putting in an inviting cross into the middle which Jack Storer accepted heading beyond James Bradbrook in the Needham goal. Boro were on top for the first fifteen minutes or so playing some good passing football with Robbie Sweeney's impressive forward runs standing out.

Needham came back into the game when Taylor Bannister found himself free just outside the box. His shot was well saved by Tyler Reading in the home goal who tipped the ball around the post.

It was 1-1 after eighteen minutes when Adam Mills, who impressed at centre-back for Needham, was fouled inside the box. He got up and converted the resulting spot kick.

Just two minutes later Boro scored again when more good work down the left hand side got the ball in the box allowing Sylvester to finish well to make it 2-1.

Needham's midfielder Bannister looked dangerous whenever he got the ball and he set up Rampley next whose shot never troubled Reading and went over the bar. Every player worked very hard with Sylvester and Needham's Captain Jack Newman having a good battle resulting in a coming together in the forty-second minute. They went forehead to forehead and some verbals were exchanged which was quickly sorted out by the referee.

Stevenage's right back George Casey made several impressive attacking forward runs towards the end of the half which caused some panic in the Needham box.

At half time it was 2-1 with Stevenage looking comfortable at the back aside from one or two chances Needham had. They deserved their lead but you always thought Needham were still in the game. Boro's powerfully built and strong left footed central defender Norley Botaka was controlling things at the back well. 

It was 3-1 just after the break when a mix-up at the back allowed Brandon Carney to score. Casey continued making forward runs from right-back which set up several scoring chances.

The game changed for Needham in the fifty-fourth minute when Ryan Rampley was replaced by Bill Holland who looked a more physical and powerful attacker. Holland mixed things up and it was he who set up Mills for his second goal after a corner was floated over causing some panic in the Stevenage box.

Stevenage's back line which had looked strong, composed and sturdy up to this point were visibly rattled and looked all over the place for a number of minutes as the pace of Howell and Bannister along with the strength of Holland caused them all sorts of problems. On 67 minutes it was 3-3 when Holland pounced on a misplaced pass to give the ball to Bannister who looped a shot past Reading to the delight of his team mates and the Needham people in the crowd.

Needham pressed for a fourth goal but the game settled down and it looked like it was going to extra-time until Boro's pacey substitute Louis Yamfam got in down the left hand side to cross to Carney to head home to send the home team, bench and supporter's delirious. It was very tough on the Needham youngsters who had done so well to come back into the game. They can return to Suffolk with their heads held high as they ran Stevenage very close and deserved the game to go to an extra 30 minutes.

Stevenage u18s play Wealdstone u18s in the next round. The two clubs have some close links over the past six months with Tom Pett and Jerome Okimo joining Graham Westley's side from The Stones in the summer. Another Boro signing from non-league in forward Connor Calcutt has recently signed on loan for Wealdstone in order to get some first team football experience in the Conference South division. He joined after scoring many goals for Berkhamsted in Spartan South Midlands Premier Division last season.

Tyler Reading, George Casey, Norley Botaka, Jack Jones, Ross Millard, Nathan Kerr, Robbie Sweeney, Jack Storer, Jamie Sylvester, Ben Kennedy (C), Brandon Carney.
Subs - Louis Yamfam (for Kennedy on 78mins) and Edward Jackson (on for Botaka on 85 mins)
Subs unused - Zakary Guerfi, Kavel Patel (GK) and Morgan Bruce-De-Rouche

Needham Market 
James Bradbrook, Ragnar Callan, Deryn Clarke, Jack Newman (C), Jack Dye,Adam Mills, Tobie Stollery, Connor Ward, Ryan Rampley, Ace Howell, Taylor Bannister.
Subs - Bill Holland (for Rampley on 54 mins) and Kyran Field (for Clarke on 85 mins)
Subs unused - Luke Tynan (GK), Cory Gittens and Ryan Sparrow.

Needham Market's academy team are coached by ex West Ham United, Ipswich Town and Manchester City professional Kevin Horlock. As well as playing in the Thurlow Nunn Youth League many of the team have played in the Thurlow Nunn Division One for Needham Market's Reserve side so it looks as though the furture is bright for the Suffolk side. To get to this stage of the competition they had beaten Lowestoft Town (6-0), Woodbridge Town (3-0) and Great Yarmouth Town (3-0).

Stevenage U18s compete in the Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference. They next play Cambridge United on Saturday morning.

The Cold End last saw Stevenage u18s in the FA Youth Cup on Thursday 13th December 2007 when they played Chelsea. The visitors won 0-1 thanks to a goal from substitute Adam Phillp in front of 641 people.

The Boro team that day included goalkeeper Christopher Adams (went on to play for Bracknell Town), Ashley Grinham (played for Hitchin Town, Royston Town and now at Barton Rovers), Liam McDevitt (another to go on and play for Hitchin Town, Royston Town and Barton Rovers), Zak Burke (played in Stevenage's first team a few times before joining Hitchin Town. He spent time on loan at Forest Green Rovers in 2012), Kerran Birch (Biggleswade United, Dunstable Town, AFC Dunstable and Bedford Town), Ray Antcliff (Codicote), George Brinkman (Hitchin Town, Stotfold, Royston Town, Barton Rovers and Dunstable Town) and Jorden Gibson (Royston Town and Hoddesdon Town).

Chelsea's team included Rhys Taylor (Wales u17, u19 and u21 international who went on to play for Crewe Alexandra and Rotherham United on loan before joining Southend United, Preston North End and Macclesfield Town where he is currently playing), Jacob Mellis (currently with Blackpool after joining Barnsley in 2012 - made one appearance in the Champions League for Chelsea as a substitute in injury time), Jeffrey Bruma (now a Dutch International with PSV whom he joined in 2013 after loan spells with Leicester City and Hamburger SV. As part of the deal to PSV Chelsea have a buy-back option), Patrick Van Aanholt (joined Sunderland in the summer for £1.5 million), Ben Gordon (currently with Colchester United after playing with Ross County and Yeovil Town along with several clubs on loan), Michael Woods (joined Yeovil Town in 2012 then moved to Doncaster Rovers and dropped down into the non-league game with Harrogate Town before moving back up into the football league with Hartlepool United in 2014), Frank Nouble (currently with Coventry City after spells with Ipswich Town, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United), Lee Sawyer (currently with Conference South side Chelmsford City. Has also played for Sutton United, Woking, Southend United and Barnet amongst others), Sergio Tejera (currently with Spanish side Alavea after joining Mallorca in 2009), Gael Kakuta (still with Chelsea but has been loaned to Fulham, Bolton Wanderers, Dijon, Vitesse, Lazio and currently Rayo Vallecano in Spain), Miroslave Stoch (currently with UAE side Al Ain on loan from Turkish side Fernabahce..has played 45 times for the Slovakian national team), Tom Taiwo (now with Scottish Championship side Falkirk after joining Carlise United on 2010 and Hibernian in 2012), Nikki Ahamed (played for Wealdstone and was last with Portugesse lower league team CD Mafra), Niclas Heimann (goalkeeper who currently plays for Rot-Weiss Essen in the German Regionalliga West), Adam Phillip (now with Notts County who he joined in 2013) and Jack Saville (currently with Barnet after leaving Chelsea in 2012).

Taiwo and Woods joined Chelsea in 2006 in a transfer which received lots of national coverage which saw the West London side pay Leeds United a fee of £5,000,000. Who would of thought back then they would be playing for Falkirk and Hartlepool United in 2014?

As you can see the FA Youth Cup is an excellent and cheap way of seeing some of the stars of the future. The remaining First Round games take place next week including Hertfordshire's Leverstock Green making a trip to Roots Hall to play Southend United next Monday and Thamesmead Town taking the short journey to Dartford next Wednesday.

Non-League sides definitely through to the Second Round Proper are AFC Fylde, Kidderminster Harriers, Barnet, Maidenhead United, Torquay United, Wealdstone, Royston Town and Welling United along with the winners of the Dartford v Thamesmead Town game and possibly Leverstock Green.

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