Phoenix Academy in thrilling come-from-behind win

FA Youth Cup – Third Qualifying Round – 17/10/18
Phoenix Academy 3-2 Hampton & Richmond
The Mayplace Ground

The slick pitch helped build the tempo of match as both sides flew into 50/50 tackles to give us an exciting opening few minutes of the game.

The first chance fell to Ryan Solon, whose left footed drive went wide. At the other end Ben James fouled his man on the edge of the box and the visitors came close as Theo Clayton hit the resulting free-kick onto the base of the post.

Hampton were looking good defensively with two tall centre-backs and an equally sizeable holding midfielder in front. This was clearly going to be tough to break this side down.

Phoenix had a few half-chances with Ben James firing over and Solon hitting just off the mark once more. Qendrim Murselaj looked to be the key and his set-piece delivery was looking dangerous.

In the 35th minute we had the first goal of the game. Jamie Hope got on to an excellent Hampton through ball, rounded the keeper and was brought down. It was an easy decision for the referee to give as he pointed to the spot. The impressive Dylan Randall stepped up, put the ball away and the visitors had the lead. 0-1

The score remained that way until the half-time whistle and although it was an very even half, that penalty was to be the difference between the sides at the break.

HALF TIME – PHOENIX ACADEMY 0-1 HAMPTON & RICHMOND

Immediately from the restart Hampton nearly scored again. Only a great double save from Harry Hepworth denied the lead from being doubled.

Two minutes later the visitors did increase that lead. Hepworth couldn’t deal with a free-kick, leaving Jamie Hope the simple task of finding the back of the net. 0-2

Another few minutes later it was nearly 3 but Randall was left distraught as he saw his long range curler come back off the inside of the post.

Changes were made to try and get Phoenix back into the game. Substitutes came on, formation tweaked and the intensity from the home side increased.

All of that soon worked as the hosts found a way back in. Qendrim whipped a free-kick into the box and Ryan Debenham rose highest to head home. 1-2. Game On!

There were chances to level the game. The best one fell to Kameron Mendez, but he could only fire over when he should have atleast troubled the keeper.

Phoenix were on top and flying and thoroughly deserved the equaliser that came in the 78th minute. From a corner Qendrim again put in the perfect ball and this time Mendez made no mistake as he acrobatically hooked the ball home from the edge of the six yard box. 2-2. Great finish, and great celebration from the young Cayman Islands International.

Phoenix did not let up and if one team were going to win now it was only going to be them. Tom Cheeseman came close to getting onto a cross towards the far post, but even he was not quite tall enough to connect well with it.

With a minute remaining the hosts received yet another free-kick not too far from goal. Qendrim was over it and that could only mean danger for Hampton. He hit it superbly with pace and although Randall leaped to try and head it away he could only flick it further backwards to where it settled firmly into the bottom corner of the net. 3-2 A great goal for Qendrim who should claim it despite the defenders touch. The comeback was complete and now they just needed to hold on a little longer.

Phoenix were now smart enough to run the clock down and with the referee having seen enough, this one was over.

It was a great come-from-behind performance that showed every quality needed to be a top class team. It would have been easy for them to drop their heads when things were going against them early in that second half but they rallied each other, showed a great team spirit and found a way to win.

M.O.M – Qendrim Murselaj – Different class as a leader, different class deliveries.

Next up around Halloween will be a First Round Proper tie at home to either Welwyn Garden City or Andover Town.

For more from Phoenix Sports and their excellent Academy visit their website here

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