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Wednesday 4th October 2023 - 15:30pm Thailand / 08:30am GMT - FA CUP

A journey to the historical city of Ayutthaya for a first-round Chang FA Cup fixture ended in bitter disappointment for Futera United as they succumbed to a narrow defeat to TSP side Ayothaya Warriors. A keenly fought contest, which saw Futera hit the woodwork twice, saw the home side win by a solitary first-half strike and progress to the next round of Thailand’s most prestigious cup tournament.

Futera kicked off with a strong side, which included the returning Tewit partnering M at centre-back and the in-form Aek keeping his place after impressive recent performances. The opening stages saw Futera dominate possession as they showed no signs of fear against their higher-ranked opposition, but Futera were unable to turn superior possession into any clear opportunities and were caught by a swift counter-attack in the 19th minute. A long ball from defence saw the Ayothaya striker, Tanet, break through only to be held up by the covering Tewit. A moment of madness from Film saw him inexplicably rush out of his area which enabled Tanet to sidestep Tewit and shoot into an empty net to give the home side an undeserved lead.

Film brushed off his calamitous error moments later with a fine double save as Futera seemed clearly rattled by going behind. The away side gradually fought their way back into the tie; a teasing free-kick from Aek was inches away from Golf connecting, and the Ayothaya defence were happy to clear the ball for a corner. In the 24th minute, Golf broke free down the left wing, and his cross-come-shot deceived the Ayothaya keeper but cannoned off the crossbar for a lucky escape for the home side. Aek, having reinvented himself as an attacking full-back, produced a stunning 60-yard diagonal ball that played in Mai, whose exquisite turn sat the Ayothaya defence down, but with only the keeper to beat, he fired over. Futera continued to push forward, and on the stroke of half-time, Phu broke through down the right flank, and his fierce angled drive flew inches wide. The half-time whistle blew on an entertaining first half with Ayothaya holding a slender 1-0 lead.

The second half began, and Ayothaya were immediately on top, with Futera failing to break the home team’s intense press. Time and time again, Futera gave the ball away cheaply, and Film was called into action on numerous occasions to ensure the lead stayed at 1-0. With half an hour remaining, Futera gained some fire in their belly and took the game to Ayothaya. An inswinging free-kick from Save caused chaos in the home team defence before skipper M slid in Phu, who raced through chipping the keeper, but the ball hit the side netting. Futera were now on top as they poured forward at every opportunity. In the 64th minute, the talented Phu drove in from the right flank and unleashed a stinging drive that smashed against the underside of the crossbar with the Ayothaya keeper well beaten. The rebound fell to the feet of Beam, whose first-time shot went narrowly wide of the far post.

As Futera threw caution to the wind, they were susceptible to the swift counter-attack, and Film made a huge save in the 66th minute, diving to his right to keep out a goal-bound effort. An incisive through ball from Phu saw Mai clean through on goal, only to be halted by the linesman's flag. Driven on by the inspirational Bew, Futera continued to create chances; a delightful worked free-kick from Save saw Aek set free down the right flank, whose astute cut back was swept met by Phu, and his shot was well saved by the Ayothay keeper for what would be the last real opportunity of the game. The referee blew the whistle on a pulsating cup tie, and it was the home team who breathed a huge sigh of relief as they progressed to the second round after a 1-0 victory.

A season of “if only” saw Futera once again lose a cup tie in agonising fashion. A heroic display saw every man give their all, and we should be immensely proud of our young team. It is clear that this is the level we should be playing at regularly. Aek has been a revelation in recent weeks and put in a stunning performance, as did Bew, who in the second half, when we were under the cosh, dragged us back into contention. I think it is clear, as it has been from day one, that we are in desperate need of a striker who can not only find the net but also hold up the ball and link play. Once again, we are beaten by our own individual errors, although no blame should be laid at Film's feet, who was inconsolable at the final whistle. Our young team can only learn and get better from this season's harsh lessons, and this team has plenty to look forward to in the future.

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