September saw the ESFA conclude the 2020/21 season hosting 5 finals over consecutive weekends at the Sixways Stadium in Worcester and at the EBB Stadium, home of Aldershot Town FC. This report, written by our official photographer ThreeFiveThree Photography will take you through all five finals and highlight how national champions were crowned.
ESFA Boys Under 13 Inter-District National Final – Liverpool 3 Aldershot & Farnborough 3
The first of two finals at Sixways Stadium proved to be a classic as Aldershot recovered from two goals down twice to take the match to penalties and edge past Liverpool.
Player of the match Paola Mariani put Liverpool two goals in front early and was denied a first half hat-trick by Dominic West in the Aldershot goal before the arrears were reduced shortly before the break when Alex Faux steered the ball home from a cross into the box.
Mariani did complete his treble shortly after the break and it looked to have settled the game in Liverpool’s favour before Alfie Thornett pulled one back with a header from a corner and then, with the last seconds ticking away, Faux fired home a volley to level at 3-3 and send the game to penalties.
Just a solitary missed penalty was the difference as Aldershot completed an incredible comeback to take home the trophy, holding their nerve to score all of their spot kicks.
ESFA Girls Under 16 Inter-County Cup Final – Lancashire 3 Middlesex 0
Our second game of the day saw Lancashire ease to a 3-0 win over Middlesex with an impressive display although it was the southern side who almost snatched the lead when awarded an early penalty.
Grace Pilling in the Lancashire goal saved the spot kick from Lenna Gunning Williams to keep the scores level and Lancashire took full advantage with a spectacular long range goal from Emma Siddall giving them the lead a few minutes later and a Megan Sofield strike putting them in control at the break.
Try as they might, Middlesex had no answer and the forward threat from their opponents always threatened to increase the lead in the second half which they did early on with Jess Simpson completing the scoring and also hitting the post as the game entered its closing stages.
ESFA Girls Under 14 Inter County Cup Final – Middlesex 3 Gloucestershire 0
The EBB Stadium, home of Aldershot Town, was the venue as Middlesex and Gloucestershire went toe to toe in a back and forth contest in the lunchtime sunshine.
With little to choose between the sides in a tight first half, Mia Obeng put Middlesex ahead, breaking clear and finishing calmly into the bottom corner.
Fearne Slocombe came close with a free-kick on the edge of the box but her shot just wouldn’t dip enough and shortly after it was 2-0 after Ella Stowell did well to save a long range shot but Obeng pounced on the rebound for her second of the game.
Obeng turned provider to put the result beyond doubt, crossing the ball for Ryessa Sekhon to side foot home and a 3-0 lead and confirm her player of the match status.
The scoreline was harsh on Gloucestershire who more than contributed to a competitive final, Middlesex’s finishing in front of goal the difference on the day.
ESFA Boys Under 16 Inter County Final – Kent 3 Cleveland 0
A fast start from Kent put them on the front foot in this final, Jack Saunders sweet early strike from the edge of the box making it 1-0 after just 7 minutes.
While Cleveland came more into the game as the half wore on Kent always looked dangerous going forward. A quick second half break following a Cleveland corner led to their second, Harvey Welford somehow squeezing the ball past the keeper at the far post from a Rasheed Tijani cross to double the lead.
Just five minutes later it was 3-0 as Tijani turned goal getter as he smashed home from inside the box after finding plenty of space to control the ball and pick his spot.
Oscar Fletcher, player of the match, almost immediately had Cleveland’s best attempt of the game, his long range shot crashing back off the crossbar to signal that it might just not be the north easterners day.
Sam Taylor’s fine late save prevented a fourth Kent goal and Welford somehow hitting the crossbar when clear through on goal proved to be the last action of the game as Kent were left to pick up the trophy with a deserved victory in a competitive final.
Boys Under 15 Chester le Street, Washington & Derwentside 1 Croydon 3
A really exciting end to the 2020-2021 cup final campaign with an energetic game that saw Chester-le-Street get off to a fast start that looked sure to see them edge ahead.
However, despite the early pressure and player of the match Josh Donaldson proving a real handful, the first goal fell to Croydon’s Xavier George shortly before half time, firing home from the edge of the box after being played in by Kavali Heywood.
The other side of the break saw Donaldson grab the equaliser with a powerful left foot shot into the back of the Croydon net.
Chester-le-Street’s Daniel Robinson had a shot well saved by Ramses Angoua shortly after Croydon’s Kavali Haywood had shot narrowly over but with 6 minutes to go, the deadlock was broken.
A Josh Lawson shot rebounded off the post and Khyro Lacey was on hand to smash the ball home from 12 yards.
Lawson finally bagged his goal just 2 minutes from time, firing home a rebound to confirm the title would be heading to Croydon and ending Chester le Street’s long unbeaten record.
Congratulations to all teams for reaching the final and a big thank you to the spectators who came to cheer on their teams – I am sure you will all agree that we have have seen some great entertainment with no shortage of skill and effort!
All of these national finals can be watched back on our YouTube channel ESFA TV with full match commentary.
A big thank you to Garry from 353 Photography for writing this report and capturing these games so beautifully. If you would like to purchase any of the pictures in this report or any others taken on the day please contact ThreeFiveThree photography.
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.