Phoenix Reach Kent Cup Final
By Paul Hanmore
A brilliant team performance led to Phoenix beating Dartfords JPL Academy side to reach the Kent Cup Final where they will face Sevenoaks Town.
Dartford Academy v Phoenix Sports - Kent Cup Semi Final
Starting XI: Tom Montgommery, Jack Wall, James Ash, Euan Corbett-Smith, Charlie Hanmore, Dylan Silva (c), Jamie Hutchins, Archie Roast, Tom Dolding, James Dyer, Henry Leek
Subs: David Balogun, Ted Green, Tiago Dos Santos, Tom Ferenandes, Lucas Mvongo
Phoenix - in their changed strip of white shorts and socks - faced their biggest test of the season so far in a Dartford Academy side that had not lost a single game all season in the JPL and Kent Cup.
Manager Alan Foreman made one change from last week with Henry Leek coming in for cup-tied Oliver Boniface.
Dartford started the game well and attacked mainly down the left hand side, firing in several crosses which led to good headed chances that the Dartford players were unable to take.
After 15 frantic minutes had passed, Phoenix found their feet and settled into the game. Archie Roast seeing a superb effort hit the post.
But Dartford were still looking more likely to score and had a shot saved on the line followed by a superb save from Monty in the Phoenix goal keeping the score at 0-0.
Then came a 5 minute spell that said it just might be Phoenix's day. A Dartford shot looked to be heading in but Charlie Hanmore somehow scooped the ball off the line, despite the claims from the Dartford players and parents that it was over. No VAR in Youth Football! The follow up scramble led to a great save by Monty with his face before Phoenix cleared their lines!
Almost instantly, Dylan Silva sent a hopeful ball up into the Dartford box where the keeper seemed to lose his bearings. As he went to catch the ball he spilled it to the feet of James Dyer who slotted home with his left foot. Dartford 0 Phoenix 1
The clock said 40 mins but Phoenix couldn't see the game through the half time. Almost from the re-start, Dartford got in down the left and a teasing cross saw the Dartford striker slot home to make it 1-1.
There was no time for any further action as the referee blew for half time as soon as Phoenix kicked off.
Half Time - Dartford Academy 1 Phoenix Sports 1
After an encouraging half time team talk from the manager and coaches, Phoenix dominated the early exchanges of the second half. Monty in goal was well protected by the back 4 of Jack, Ashy, Euan and Charlie - who had been excellent all season - plus Dylan and Jamie, allowing those further forward - Tom, Archie, James and Henry - to try and create the chances.
WIth Dartford having already made a few changes, Phoenix made the first of their own which saw James Dyer go off and Ted Green come on to try and help keep the ball a bit better and give us options with his superb set-piece delivery.
The substitute made an almost instant impact. Ted picking the ball up just outside the box and slotted a cool finish to make it 2-1 to Phoenix after 60 mins.
With their noses in front again, Phoenix made a further change and brought David Balogun on to replace Tom Dolding and further bolster the midfield.
After 65 minutes, Dartford were level again. Monty - who had took a blow to the ribs not long before and was already suffering from illness - unfortunately lost flight of the ball and allowed the Dartford striker to slot home. 2-2
It was Dartford first shot on target in the second half and Phoenix could count themselves a little unlucky. The match could still go either way.
Henry had a great chance to give Phoenix back the lead but his shot went wide of the right hand post.
But he made no mistake next time around. With 75 minutes on the clock, a superb 7 pass move between Archie, Charlie, Ted and David saw the ball slipped through for Henry who cooly slotted home to make it 3-2.
Could Phoenix hold on this time?
A final couple of Phoenix changes were made - firstly as Henry was taken off for the fresh legs of Tiago to chase down the tired Dartford defence, followed by Charlie limping off and Lucas coming on with just 1 or 2 minutes left on the clock.
There were no further chances in the game and Phoenix managed to keep the ball and manage the time that remained.
The ref blew his whistle for full-time and Phoenix had done it! As the players shook hands with Dartford they then gathered in a huddle as they had done before the game to celebrate the victory.
Full Time - Dartford Academy 2 Phoenix Sports 3
Phoenix will play Sevenoaks (from KYL Central) at Faversham Town in 2 weeks time in what is sure to a great final. Sevenoaks knocked Phoenix out of the League Cup earlier in the season so Phoenix will want to right that wrong. They will also want to erase the memory of the League Cup Final last season when they narrowly lost to Bromley.
2 finals in 2 seasons now for this talented bunch who were KY North runners up last season and with a title challenge this season also still on. The future of Phoenix Sports is bright.
#COYP # magicofthecup