The first ever U18 Super League Final saw Park View School and John Madejski Academy travel to St Andrews, home of Birmingham City, to battle for the right to make history and be the first to put their name on the trophy.
As expected the game got off to a frantic start with Park View initially on the front foot although clear chances were few and far between with Michael Spellman the first to call keeper Joe Whiter into action with a shot from the edge of the box palmed away for a corner.
JMA almost took advantage of a couple of loose passes in the Park View defence, firstly when Josh Crews under hit a pass on the edge of his own box, but Ezio Touray was crowded out of getting a clear shot on goal. Touray did however get a shot on target following Ben Milburn’s misplaced pass a few minutes later but James Anderson was equal to it in the Park View goal.
Midway through the half and the Berkshire side took the lead, Ollie Allen winning the ball in midfield before sliding a pass through to Wade Muttitt whose shot found its way through the legs of Anderson for a 1-0 lead.
As the half ticked on it looked like the next goal would go JMA’s way with their confidence growing, but just as the half time whistle beckoned they were pegged back. Spellman showed great pace to keep the ball in play and his cross into the box saw the fall to Cameron Brewis who fired home from 8 yards out.
Early in the second half, with the sun now shining after the first half rain, the game sparked to life with two quick goals, the first heading JMA’s way with their first attack of the half.
Ben Ramsey’s volley for Park View seconds after the re-start flew millimetres wide of Whiter’s far post and within moments there was a goal at the opposite end. Touray was played into the box by Harvey Harry and as Milburn attempted to clear the danger the ball rebounded off the JMA forward and into the net.
However, the lead was short lived as a corner for Park View was headed home at the far post by Harrison Clark just five minutes later to level the scores at 2-2 and once again put the tie in the balance.
Clark went close with a long range shot not long after as Park View were spurred on by their equaliser and went on the hunt for their first lead of the game.
Toby Raggett tried his luck from distance for JMA but Anderson saved. Shortly after Raggett had an even better opportunity after being played in by Muttitt but his shot from just inside the box was saved well again by Anderson.
Park View will wonder how Ben Ramsey did not find his way onto the scoresheet, his shot from 6 yards somehow cleared the crossbar and he was then denied by Whiter, the keeper pulling off a fine save from Ramsey after initially clearing a low cross from Johnathan Crisp.
JMA were hanging on with players playing out of position and one of those, forward Ezio Touray, making a sensational last ditch tackle to deny Joe Malone a clear strike on goal inside the final 10 minutes.
Ramsey was again in the spotlight as Clark’s low cross from a free-kick fell to him 6 yards out but he could only look on in disbelief as the ball cleared the crossbar with what would have been the winner with just 4 minutes to play.
Deep into stoppage time Ramsey’s outstretched boot denied JMA a late opportunity in the Park View box and the first ever Super League final drifted into an extra 20 minutes. With players on both sides becoming increasingly tired, the additional time brought very few clear chances for either side with a penalty shoot-out almost inevitable.
With the camera’s on them the first two players stood up to take their kicks. Ollie Allen and Player of the Match Harrison Clark confidently converted to make the score 1-1.
Touray and Ramsey converted to make it 2-2 after two penalties each before Raggett put JMA 3-2 ahead with a strike that hit the underside of the bar on its way into the net.
Joe Whiter was then the hero for JMA with back to back saves sandwiching Joe Waight’s conversion, first diving to his left to save from Joe Malone and then using his legs to deny Park View skipper Ben Milburn and confirm JMA as the first ever U18 Super League Champions.
Both teams should be congratulated for not only reaching this stage but also putting on an excellent display at St Andrews in what was a superb final, that could have gone either way throughout the entire 110 minutes.
Congratulations to the Player of the Match Harrison Clark from Park View school who was voted for by viewers on ESFA TV.
Congratulations to John Madejski Academy, U18 Super League Champions for 2019/2020.
The full match can be watched for free here and a digital programme from the final can be downloaded below.
A big thank you our official photographer Garry Griffiths from ThreeFiveThree photography for writing this report. His superb photos from the game will be available to view shortly via his website and will be shared on our twitter page ( @schoolsfootball).
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.