from Boys to Men - by Owen Spence
Our Surrey Cup journey began with a quarter-final home fixture against Chessington & Hook, which we produced a dominant display to come out as 6-1 winners. Goals coming from Josh Phillips (2), Jacob Sewell (2), Courtney Swaby and a rare but important goal for Ryan Healy.
We were scheduled to face Leatherhead in the Semi-finals, who had defeated Whyteleafe in the previous round on penalties. We had seen that Sutton Common Rovers had secured their place in the inaugural Surrey Cup final and we wanted to follow suit. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Leatherhead were unable to participate in that fixture; which enabled us a safe route to the final.
There was a lot of anticipation before the game, as on arrival at the Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub, there was a few familiar faces in Sutton Common Rovers management team and several ex CAFC players in the playing squad, which set up a final that was going to be full of high spirits and emotions.
The game started in that exact fashion; the opening 10 mins was a very fast and frantic affair with neither side able to gain comfortable possession of the ball. SCR were the first to fire a warning shot at our goal with a raiding attack down our right side from their left winger, who drove with the ball past our full back firing a cross right across our 6-yard and out for a goal-kick. After that attack we finally woke up and started to put a few passes together, putting us on the front foot. We had won a few free-kicks on the edge of their box by direct runs from Oppong, Swaby and Davidson-Phipps. It was the latter who broke the deadlock from a direct free-kick, which was positioned centrally of the SCR goal. Davidson-Phipps drove a fierce strike past the wall and the SCR keeper got a hand to the shot, but the strike had too much power and nestle in the bottom right hand corner to put us 1-0 up after 19mins. SCR reacted in combative way and responded with an increase in their tempo and frustrating our passing passages of play with high pressing. SCR hit the bar from an indirect free kick which was met by a powerful header by a SCR player. The next 20 mins was very open with both sides showing attacking intent and intense physical battles to gain possession of the ball. It was just before the stroke of half-time that we survived a melee of strikes at our goal, which was initiate by a fantastic save by McIntosh getting down low to his right from a strike inside our area, which was followed by a great goal-line block from the follow up. The half ended with SCR on the front foot and time for CAFC to regroup and refocus.
The 2nd half started off positively for us with Swaby dazzling the SCR players with his display of fast feet, dynamic pace and creative flair on the ball. The link-up play between Josh Phillips, Davidson-Phipps and Swaby was becoming a joy to watch and real entertainment for the fans from both sides and especially the neutrals. SCR was finding it more increasingly difficult to defend against Swaby and he finally made them pay after 56mins, after a picking up the ball halfway and running past their left midfielder, interchanging the ball between his right & left foot bamboozling the SCR left back, before performing a Zidane-esq 360 turn on the ball past the oncoming centre back before firing a low-driven shot past the SCR keeper. The move lifted the crowd and motivated the CAFC players to go on and score more. The in-fact motivated SCR to launch an onslaught of direct balls onto our backline, which was dealt with effectively by our defensive line. SCR started to turn the screw which caused us to make our first change of the evening which required a change in tactics to tighten up our backline to defend against the aerial threat from their direct long balls. Abdulmalik entered the field of play coming on for Amghar causing Oppong to drop back into left back and Ogbanufe moving across to right back. This allowed us to control the aerial ball better then defence into attack, which led to our 3rd goal of the evening. On 75mins, an excellent interchange between Phillips and Swaby to play the ball out to Davidson-Phipps who delivered a whipping ball from the right wing to Phillips, who towered over the SCR centre-halves to direct a placed header into the top corner. After a valiant effort from SCR to find a way back into the game, the tie was put to bed after our 4th and final goal in the 88th mins from substitute Flavien-Howard who received a cross from Abdulmalik; Howard jinked inside past the right back to crash a powerful shot through the sea of yellow and red into the bottom right corner.
The final whistle was blown and the boys showed great jubilation in being the 1st winners of the inaugural Surrey FA U21 County Cup.
Team Line Up:
Stevie McIntosh, Mohamed Amghar (Wajid Abdulmalik), Grantas Gudonis, Charlie Alexiou, Anthony Ogbanufe, Joe Jarrett (C), Amun Quaynor (Joel Flavien-Howard), Rio Davidson-Phipps (David Salako), Courtney Swaby, David Oppong, Josh Phillips
Goals: Davidson-Phipps (19mins), Swaby (56mins), Phillips (75mins), Flavien-Howard (88mins)
Assists: Davidson-Phipps, Abdulmalik
Player of the match: Swaby