Two local lads were the toast of Hertfordshire as their goals fired the county’s Under-18 side to the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.
Sun Sports’ Joash Nembhard got the opener with a thumping header and Boreham Wood’s Alfie Barker netted the 81st-minute winner as Herts beat Staffordshire at the home of National League side Hednesford Town on Sunday.
The draw for the quarter-finals will be made after the rest of the ties are completed this weekend. Hertfordshire last made the final in 1989, when they lost 2-1 to Liverpool, and last won it in 1985/86 when they thumped Manchester, 4-0.
This side, coached by Ryan Brooke and John Bitting, trained once before this game but came into the match in good form after beating Wiltshire in the last round and defeating Essex in the East Anglia Counties League.
“I’ve been really pleased with how quickly the players bonded as a team so quickly, there seems to be a great unity and vibe through the squad,” said Bitting. “The boys have impressed from what I’ve seen and it’s being said by others also on the quality of football being played. The completion for places in the 16 is tough with players that are very good having to be left out because of the standards so far it’s a great position to be in and I think the players like that challenge also.”
Bitting was not able to attend the game as he was at an coaching event at St George’s Park but the football head coach at Queens’ Academy has had a positive impact on this squad.
“For a team that’s only trained once before this game, and with some of the boys playing yesterday, the squad have put in an incredible performance,” said Brooke. “The set-up this year needs to be recognised too, John Bitting has come on-board and made a huge difference. A few players deserve mentioning, but it’s really unusual to have a squad that immediately bond and play as a unit, play as a team. And its teams that win games. It’s really nice to walk away from an FA County Youth Cup competition happy, and I’m confident in this team going into the later stages.”
Squad: Joash Nembhard (Sun Sports), Luke Foster (Welwyn Garden City), George Tabor (Kings Langley), Marcus Bourne (Welwyn Garden City), Lawrence Bearman (Welwyn Garden City), Jeffrey Gyamed (Ware), Lanre Lapido (Queens’ Academy), Nathan Ishelwood (Welwyn Garden City), Feliz Ahorlu (Queens’ Academy), Harry Cruttenden (Royston Town), Jarvis Nutt (Welwyn Garden City), Alfie Barker (Boreham Wood), Scott Batchelor (Biggleswade United), Daniel Griggs (Livestock Green), Reggie Ross (Welwyn Garden City)