After a three week break over the Christmas and New Year period Ilford Town Football Academy (ITFA) returned to action in the Echo League. The lack of match practice and training showed in the early exchanges with the opposition having the majority of the ball and pressing ITFA back. That pressure converted to an opening goal midway through the first half where a perfectly flighted ball into the box was met by an opposition head to score the opening goal. It was a wakeup call and needed a reaction from ITFA.
That reaction came as the first half progressed with ITFA winning more possession, more of the second balls and started to get opportunities in front of goal. That possession paid dividend and a long ball from one of the centre backs was controlled by our striker who calmly lobbed the goalkeeper just before half time to equalise. A super finish!
The second half started evenly, however a challenge in our penalty area led to the referee awarding a penalty to the opposition. The penalty was struck towards the bottom left corner but was stopped by an outstanding save by the ITFA goalkeeper and safely gathered.
As the second half progressed ITFA strength and greater fitness showed, leading to determined and dogged display to hold the opposition at bay. This battling spirit led to a breakaway chance which was snapped up by the same ITFA striker who had scored the first.
The final 15 minutes saw ITFA defending resolutely as the opposition pressed hard for the equaliser. With a number of players missing due to the Christmas break, there was no opportunity to bring on fresh legs. Each of the ITFA players fought with great spirit and determination to maintain the lead and despite the opposition hitting the cross bar in the final minutes, managed to see out time and secure a vital 3 points in our chase to win the league title.