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Tonbridge Angels U18 1
McLeod (90')
2 Cray Valley Paper Mills

Under-18's fall to semi-final defeat

Tonbridge Angels Under-18’s Isthmian Youth League semi-final ended in disappointment as they were beaten by a strong Cray Valley PM side.

Cray Valley are a side with a great pedigree; the reigning Isthmian Youth League champions and well placed to retain their title this season. Two clinical finishes proved to be the difference between the sides as Fin McLeod’s time added goal was no more than a consolation.

With skipper Will Puffette out through injury, Casey Dudley played in an unaccustomed role in central defence but acquitted himself well against a potent Valley attack.

There was very little to choose between the teams in the opening 20 minutes with the better of the chances falling to Cray with Toby Edwards saving from a Victor Damyonov header and a speculative effort from 35 yards that the Angels goalkeeper turned over the bar.

The visitors took the lead after 23 minutes when a corner was played short to Oliver Knight whose pin point cross was met with a  powerful header from Malachy Turner that whistled past a helpless Edwards.

The Angels tried hard to mount a response and, on 34 minutes, a through ball from Felix Waring sent Sam Firman clear but his effort was smothered by the advancing goalkeeper, Oliver Devile.

Cray Valley had a great chance to double their lead before the break when Alexander Jones headed over.

Second half substitute Nijae Aberdeen tested Devile early in the half whilst Edwards was also stretched making a good low save to thwart Jones.

A rapid counter attack saw Cray add their second goal on 75 minutes when Kaion Lisbie broke down the right before crossing into the box for Damyonov to finish from six yards.

Nothing to lose in a cup semifinal, the Angels threw everything forward and the chances came but that clinical finishing exhibited by their opposition just wasn’t there.

Waring despatched a free kick from the edge of the box that struck a post; Fin McLeod brought a save from Devile and scrambles in the Cray box were numerous until with almost the last kick, McLeod poked home for a consolation goal.

Dom Welsh commented after the game: "Wasn’t to be tonight as Cray showed more composure inside the box to take their chances, we showed some attacking threat in the second half but couldn’t convert chances."

Good luck to Cray Valley PM, representing our division, in the Final in April where they will meet the winner of tonight’s second semifinal between Worthing and Woking.

On Sunday, the Under-18's have their quarteri-final of the Kent Merit Under-18 Cup, where they will meet near-neighbours Rusthall at Longmead with a 10am kick off.

Published Tuesday 20th February 2024