All square in county final

East Anglian Counties Under 18s Championship.Essex 0-0 NorfolkTHE destination of the East Anglian Counties Under 18s Championship remains firmly in the balance after Essex and Norfolk couldn't be separated in the host county's final fixture of the 2008/09 campaign at the Royal Oak.

East Anglian Counties Under 18s Championship.

Essex 0-0 Norfolk

THE destination of the East Anglian Counties Under 18s Championship remains firmly in the balance after Essex and Norfolk couldn't be separated in the host county's final fixture of the 2008/09 campaign at the Royal Oak.

A victory for Howard Mackler's Essex would have been sufficient to claim the title, but instead they will have to wait on the result of the upcoming fixture between Norfolk and Suffolk before learning of their fate following a goalless draw at Harwich & Parkeston Football Club. Should Norfolk fail to win that match, then Essex will claim the championship for the first time since 2004. There are a number of permutations should Norfolk emerge victorious, although only a 1-0 scoreline would see Essex finish top. If last Thursday's opponents succeed 2-1, then the drawing of lots would be used to determine a title-winner.


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“I would prefer to play Norfolk again given the opportunity if their game does end up 2-1,” stated Mackler after his team's hard-fought goalless draw. “I would have liked to have won it tonight, though. We had the better of the first half but they improved in the second. I thought that our defence did really well throughout, and I'm very happy with the players that I will have available to me next season. We did play it around nicely at times, but sometimes you have to try a few different things to make it happen.”

Brad Warner made a sparkling start on the left-hand side, although it was central midfielder Dan Gibbons who carved open the first opportunity just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark when he threaded the ball in for Tyrone Scarlett. The Chelmsford City forward's shot was blocked by Patrick Yates, with the ball rebounding off of Scarlett for a goal-kick.

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The visitors' Luke Winter was unfortunate at the mid-way point of the first half when he glanced a header from Joel Brien's left-wing delivery onto the crossbar, but it was Essex who ended the half the stronger following a prolonged period of treatment for Norfolk shot-stopper Kyle Talbot. He had been cluttered by Brad Hunter in collecting Gibbons' teasing right-wing cross, although he was able to watch as first Gibbons had a shot deflected wide having cut inside then Scarlett sent an effort past the post.

Alex Fitzgerald went close to netting for Norfolk either side of the half-time break as he flashed a shot inches over the crossbar from the edge of the box and then began the second period by lobbing Lewis Batchford. Fortunately for the hosts, Adam Reakes managed to get back to scoop the ball off of the goalline.

Essex forced a succession of corners, and Lee Branson and Warner combined well on the left-hand side to probe at the Norfolk defence, but the closest Mackler's team could come was a Jamie Moore effort that was stabbed wide. The final ten minutes saw Norfolk pile on the pressure as Batchford saved from Winter's header and substitute Liam Stockell then wasted a glorious opportunity, blazing over after Brien drilled across the face of goal.

A goalmouth scramble concluded with Stockell sending a shot into the side-netting as Batchford raced off of his line to narrow the angle and the frenetic nature to the closing stages continued when Batchford denied Fitzgerald and Winter chipped the rebound over. However, arguably the defining moment of the season arrived in the third minute of stoppage time when Branson made a potentially championship-saving clearance with the last kick of the match. A Winter effort was palmed out by Batchford, but Stockell was in position to seemingly slide the ball into an empty net when the left-back raced across to make a desperate challenge in front of the right-hand post and keep Essex's hopes alive.

Essex: Lewis Batchford (Chelmsford City), Nathan Church (Thurrock), Lee Branson (Colne Community College), Adam Reakes (Stanway Rovers), Lee Sharp (Little Oakley), Dan Gibbons (Maldon Town) (Perry McIntyre [Thurrock], 72), Jamie Moore (Barking Abbey College), Gavin Cameron (Chelmsford City), Brad Hunter (Chelmsford City), Tyrone Scarlett (Chelmsford City), Brad Warner (Thurrock). Unused Substitutes: Billy Byrne (Thurrock), Darryl McNamara (Thurrock), James Ainslie (Thurrock).

Norfolk: Kyle Talbot (Dereham Town), John Carrier (Easton College), Sam Goff (Wroxham), Michael Sommerfield (Easton College), Patrick Yates (Downham Town), James Hadley (Dereham Town), Chris Hall (Easton College) (Liam Stockell [Dereham Town], 81], Daniel Cook (Wroxham), Alex Fitzgerald (North Walsham), Luke Winter (Easton College), Joel Brien (Dereham Town). Unused Substitutes: Marcus Godbold (North Walsham), Jacob McCabe (Wroxham), Jordan Rocastle (Easton College).

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